Is One Good Web Site Enough for a Local Business?

No doubt about it, every business should derive value from its Web site.

A Web site can make consumers aware of your company’s goods and services. If they already know about your business, it can provide additional information and reinforce your credibility. But there’s more to consider.

Virtually every midsize to large chain, franchise, manufacturer, and retailer has a dealer-locator site that lists every location and includes information about each one. Information at dealer-locator sites varies from very basic to robust.

Typically, these sites provide additional information, such as hours of operation, to consumers who are already aware of the location. But very few dealer-locator sites provide enough information to compete in the local SERPs (define). When was the last time you saw a large retailer’s locator site compete with an Internet yellow pages (IYP) provider, vertical aggregator, or niche directory in the local SERPs?

This vulnerability provides an opportunity for local independent business owners to compete effectively against much larger counterparts for both organic and paid local search results. Many local independents have been capitalizing.

How many? According to most published sources, about 60 percent of local businesses have Web sites. Additionally, about 12 million business locations are represented in print yellow pages in the U.S. Of the 12 million locations, about 9 million are local independent businesses, including 1 million of whom have invested in publishing their site addresses in their yellow pages advertisement.

Clearly, a significant number of local businesses think their sites provide additional information worthy of promotion. And the trend becomes even clearer when you consider that only one third of these 9 million businesses have a paid display ad that allows them to publish a URL.

Gauging Local Web Sites’ Impact

At a Kelsey Group conference last week, one discussion focused on the fact that about half of all consumers who click on a local business site within the local profile at an IYP site or search engine hit the “back” button. Why? Most likely because of the lack of meaningful contained within the local business owner’s site.

Another observation: local businesses that invested in profile pages didn’t see that happen. A profile page is typically, a one-page Web site with well-organized and structured content. Though the number was never clearly quantified, it was noted that the number was meaningful.

According to Brian Kraff, CEO of Market Hardware, a Web-building and -hosting company, more than half of all businesses his firm contacts have a site but aren’t happy with its performance. Is having a good site not good enough today?

Evidence increasingly says “yes.” At the Kelsey Conference, discussion touched on how local businesses that invest in profiles page don’t see the same number of consumers clicking the “back” button as those whose listings go to their own sites. These profile pages may then have a place in local search.

I don’t think these profile pages are meant to — or can — replace a well-built Web site. But for some business categories, where in-depth product details, services, or inventory are necessary, profile pages can help drive traffic.

Another Product Category for Local Business Owners?

Does this mean to compete as a local business, one must have both an exceptionally good standalone site and an exceptionally good profile page?

Has the industry created another category of online tools to consider if you’re a local business owner?

When evaluating local search objectives, ask this question: does my online published listing have the necessary content that succinctly describes my business’s critical facets?

Simply having a Web site or profile page won’t generate the same results as having deep, descriptive content within your business listing profile. IYPs and search engines treat profile pages separately, or at least view them differently.

Consider what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to be informative, or are you focusing on driving site traffic and awareness of your business? The answer will determine how important a profile page can be to your local business.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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