I regularly run into small businesses that are grossing seven figures or more. Which is great.
But they’re driving all of their traffic through AdWords, or they’re paying a third party like Yelp or HometownLocal for marketing leads.
Most of these businesses are spending at least $10k a year on leads, because if they stop paying, their marketing funnel will dry up.
But many of these same businesses are hesitant to invest in their website.
Nine times out of ten, these businesses have spent the bare minimum on their website. Most often, the selection process involves grabbing a local eighteen-year old, a relative, a low-cost developer, or business coach to build their site.
Shockingly, the resulting website normally gains zero ground in search results, or even loses ground.
Considering this scenario, it makes sense (kind of) why they would drop $10k or more a year on AdWords.
But AdWords is a short-term fix. And if you never address the underlying problem (your website doesn’t help you generate qualified leads), you will never be able to quit shoveling money into AdWords.
Why Are You Paying For Leads In The First Place?
The answer to this question is no one is finding you in organic search. But your customers are finding someone.
Why isn’t it you?
Obviously, it’s in your best interest to figure out how to move up the search rankings, or you’ll be paying Google or other sites for leads forever.
Let’s do the math. ($10,000 a year * however many years you been doing this already) = a whole lot of money.
The second half this equation is even more alarming. You’re spending truckloads of money on AdWords, but where are you driving those leads?
Either you are sending people to your website or to call you on the phone. But most people, before they pick up the phone, go to your website and check it out. They want to see if it’s worth their time to call you in the first place.
“We Don’t Get Our Business From Our Website”
Many businesses believe (or at least say) that people aren’t judging their business by the quality of their website. If you still believe that, you’re dead wrong.
A study by Stanford University of 2,684 participants set out to determine how consumers judge the credibility of a website.
Here were the factors that the study participants listed as leading credibility factors on a business website:
- 1. Design and Look – 46.1%
- 2. Information Design and Structure – 28.5%
- 3. Information Focus – 25.1%
- 4. Company Motive – 15.5%
- 5. Information Usefulness – 14.8%
- 6. Information Accuracy – 14.3%
- 7. Name Recognition or Reputation – 14.1%
- 8. Advertising – 13.8%
- 9. Information Bias – 11.6%
- 10. Writing Tone – 9.0%
- 11. Identity of Site Operator – 8.8%
- 12. Site Functionality – 8.6%
- 13. Customer Service – 6.4%
- 14. Past Experience With Site – 4.6%
- 15. Information Clarity – 3.7%
- 16. Performance – 3.6%
- 17. Readability – 3.6%
- 18. Affiliations – 3.4%
What I notice from this list is that customers judge the quality of your business by the clues you are giving them on your website. Notably, how it looks, how useful and well organized is the information found there, and how reputable your brand is outside of your website.
I’ve lost count of the number of friends who Google a business and don’t even bother picking up the phone to call them. Why? Because the state of the website is so atrocious. Especially when compared to the other businesses in that field. What they tell me is always the same thing.
“If their website looks like this, then their service must also be a shambles.”
So even if you are paying for AdWords and people are clicking through and calling, you’re probably losing a ton more if you’re driving them to an outdated, not-even-close-to-mobile-friendly website.
You don’t blindly do business with someone without researching their business. And neither do your customers.
Where Does The Reluctance Come From?
So what are some reasons for this apprehension to invest in a company website?
Like I said before, a lot of businesses that have terrible looking websites can still be doing pretty decent business. In certain industries, most everyone has a website straight out of the late 1990s, so there’s no external pressure to compete. These can still be seven or eight figure a year businesses, depending on the industry. People usually don’t take action unless their competitors are taking action, or if they start to notice a big drop off in business.
But it’s fair to say if you’re dropping close to $1000 a month on AdWords, you’re feeling some sort of pressure to generate business. You just don’t know any other way to get people in the door that isn’t a sure thing.
The sad irony is not every customer will click on ads, because they’re suspicious of ads. Many customers that are far more trusting of the top organic search results.
Another source of resistance in website investment (especially at the small business / local level) is many people are used to having their sites built by freelancers. These are usually people who are younger and less experienced, who are willing to work for peanuts.
While it’s possible to find a diamond in the rough, it is unlikely. Especially with an unproven freelancer.
Our Personal Habits Have Changed
If you look at how people are consuming information now, it’s almost entirely on your phone. So if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, that’s already a big strike against you. If you add to the fact that your site might look like it hasn’t changed since the Internet debuted, or it’s not very user-friendly, that’s another strike against you.
Google and the other search engines want to deliver the best results possible, and are actively “downvoting” sites that aren’t mobile-friendly or user-friendly.
Looks Matter, Usability Matters
Consider industries where people make high ticket purchases — like construction, finance, insurance, and health. People are looking for every assurance that your business is going to be able to take care of their needs.
The appearance of your website matters a ton when establishing trust with a new customer.
When people are looking to drop a lot of money on something, and they look at your site and it looks like it’s from 1995 — and they look at your competitors and their sites are user-friendly, mobile friendly, and it look like they were designed in the last year or two, who are they going to choose?
A study by Carelton University showed that users make a judgement about the quality of your website in about 50 milliseconds.
A Pew Research Center study shows that 58% of Americans do an online search before making a B2C purchase, and 85% Google a business before making a B2B purchase.
Does it matter what your site looks like? Does it matter what information is on your site?
You Could Still Be Making More Money
I get it. You can be a long established business and be successful, and get by with a terrible looking website. But how much extra business would you be getting if your site represented your business as something special, and not something run-of-the-mill?
The main argument I hear from business owners is, “We don’t get any business from our website.” (Really?) Or, “We get all our business through networking”.
I think this is a half-truth at best. Because if you don’t get any business from your website, why do you have a website at all?
Why do you invest money into AdWords if you don’t get business from your website?
And I love networking, too. But I know that the folks I’m networking with will go check my website later to see if my business looks legitimate or not.
The truth is you can be successful, and still be leaving money on the table.
What I mean by that is, you can be successful for a long time — and slowly, quietly, you can see other people sneak up on you, and take some of your business away from you.
It never happens all at once. It just happens over time, because you don’t reinvest in things (like your website or site content or online marketing) that keep you at the forefront of people’s minds.
In today’s landscape, a strong brand is indistinguishable from SEO.
You can trick Google for a little while, with things like link schemes, over-optimized anchor text, or black-hat SEO. But over the long haul, it’s the strong brands that will rise to the top and continue to be at the top the search.
Those people may invest in AdWords. But not before they invest in a great looking website with mountains of useful information. They don’t live and die by AdWords.
They are already at the top of Google and their phone rings off the freaking hook.
You Have To Spend Money To Make Money
If you run a business you’re constantly reinvesting in it. The businesses that reinvest in equipment, and personnel, and upgrading their infrastructure are the ones that grow bigger and bigger.
Your website is part of that infrastructure. Your website is a lead generating magnet, but only if you allow it to be.
Some More Tips
Here’s an obvious rule that many people forget to look at. If you’re choosing someone to help you rank higher in Google, check and see if their own site ranks reasonably high.
If your prospective companies pass that test, the next step is to see if they can demonstrate a history of making other businesses move up the search engine ranks.
Another thing that’s true is the prettiest sites don’t always ranked the highest. The sites that blog now and again don’t always rank the highest. The businesses that are the best match for the search query don’t always rank the highest.
There is a lot of work that is involved in making a site jump from the third page to the first. Some of it is on-page SEO, some of it is technical aspects of the website, and a lot of it is off-page SEO.
Beware of agencies that only want to sell you AdWords. They get a small commission from that, and there is no risk on them to try and make you rank in organic search. (Translation: selling AdWords is a walk in the park compared to making you rank higher in unpaid search results.)
Paid advertising has a place, for sure, but it’s one piece of the puzzle, not the entire puzzle.
Remember that your only renting a spot in the search results when you pay for AdWords. As soon as you stop paying, you stop showing up in those slots Google reserves for paid ads.
Is it easier to just keep shoveling money into the paid advertising machine? Of course it is. But you could probably take the same investment and work with a good local SEO consultant on a solid game plan and a new website. This would help you save Adwords money in the long term, and still get business rolling in the door.