Small Business Advice

Getting online: is setting up a website more hassle than it's worth?

Jack Stratten

Is a business website worth the hassle? This article puts the question to rest.

Unless your business is based in a cave, the chances are that over the last decade you’ve either set up a website or had someone seriously suggest that you should.

But some small business owners remain sceptical of the value they could generate from a website. Common complaints are that they take time and energy to set up, or that the costs of creating them are never paid back.

It’s generally accepted that bigger businesses can shoulder the investment of setting up a website and should have one regardless of how much money they make from it. But concerned business owners argue that a small, local business that makes its trade from passing business or recommendations doesn’t need to bother.

We beg to differ. Our experience with over 130,000 small business customers tells us that not only are websites well worth having, but that even the smallest neighbourhood business can benefit from having a website in ways they might not expect. Here are five reasons why having a website is worth far more than the small cost of setting it up and running it.

1) People look for new local businesses on the internet

You might think that people only go on the web to look at the big names like Amazon or eBay, but actually people routinely use the internet at a local level. According to Ofcom’s 2012 annual report, as many as 17% of UK adults use a local website every month. Of those 17% that actively use local websites, 37% classify them as 7 out of 10 in importance. If people are using the internet to look locally, then your business needs to be there to be found.

2) People use the internet to find out more about businesses they know

It’s not just about new customers finding you for the first time. One of the most common ways to use local business websites is for research: what time does my local café open in the morning? Does my hairdresser offer manicures? Can I get dairy-free pasta dishes delivered from my favourite Italian restaurant? If you want your customers to be able to know everything that you do, a website is a great way to broadcast your wares.

3) Your competition is there already

Depending on your industry, there is every chance that local businesses near you will already have a presence on the internet. The local fried chicken franchise, the symbol-group local grocer and more will all be represented by their central marketing franchise and will be promoting themselves online. So why let them steal a trick when setting up a website is now so quick and easy?

4) Setting up a website has never been easier – or cheaper

As well as all the reasons why you should set up a website in the first place, the fact is that it has never been easier to create one. In the past you’d have had to hire a web developer and spend weeks reviewing designs; nowadays you can use easy online tools, add your payment details and in a few clicks have a new site up and running.

5) It’s easy to promote your site for free

In the early days of the internet it was common to set up a website and for it to be a graveyard – no visitors, no clicks, no custom. Or if you wanted visitors, you had to pay a fortune in cost-per-click advertising. But Google changed all that when it started improving its results at a local level. A well set up website should be optimised to appear in Google search listings when people search in your area – ‘local SEO’, as the professionals call it. Your site might not appear if people search for ‘Thai Restaurant in Glasgow’, but it might well show up if they search in your neighbourhood.

So there we go, there’s five good reasons why setting up a website is never more hassle than it’s worth. So why not take the plunge and get your business on the web today?