Having an online presence helps potential customers find your business, but how do you decide if you need a website? Building and maintaining a website is a large undertaking for any small business owner, and making sure it’s set up to best appeal to your customers can be even more challenging. Having a well-organized and easy to navigate website lets visitors find what they’re looking for right away so they can make a decision instead of abandoning your page.

Google reports that four out of five people are using the internet like they would a phone book—to find your business’ phone number, hours, contact information and get a general sense of whether your products or services can meet their needs. A study by the Center of Generational Kinetics also suggests that consumers read between 30 and 40 reviews before making a purchase decision. So having a website that prioritizes your company’s basic information, your product’s benefits and consumer feedback is critical.

As small business owners, we have seen an evolving relationship between in-store and online shopping.  Many are concerned about showrooming—the phenomenon where potential customers research items in-store and then ultimately purchase online but a 2016 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that the exact opposite is happening. Consumers are doing research online, reading peer reviews for a product or service and then purchasing in their local store. This habit has been termed webrooming or ROBO (research online, buy offline). These findings only underscore the importance of having the right information readily available to online consumers.

So how do you get started? There are many different options out there to overcome all time, skill and financial restraints. Get started by creating online directory listings for your business with major search engines like Google and Bing. This will put your business on the map and begin to optimize your local search results. Google offers a free, one-page informational website to go along with your directory listing. This option gives you a professional-looking page to add more information about your business, but there are limitations to what you can do. If you’re willing to spend more time (and some resources) on your website, there are several DIY platforms that offer you an all-in-one packages—like WIX,  Squarespace or WordPress— which have several templates to choose from and require no coding knowledge to set up. Another option, for those with limited time, is getting help from a web designer.

The Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network can help you evaluate your options and come up with a step-by-step plan to get an effective website started or to optimize your current layout. Then, once your website is up and running, our Market Research Center can provide an online audit to look at how the site is performing. To get started, give me a call at 307-851-2029 or send an email to sarah.hamlin@uwyo.edu

Sarah Hamlin is the regional director for Fremont and Teton Counties. Sarah has a marketing and operations background with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver and an MBA from Colorado State University. Her love for helping small businesses started when she was in high school working for the local, family-owned sporting goods store in northeast Ohio. Sarah specializes in social media and digital marketing, working with clients statewide to get their businesses online.

When she’s not meeting with clients or on the road, Sarah is plotting mountain and river adventures with her husband and three-legged pup, experimenting in the kitchen and volunteering in the Lander community.

The Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) is a partnership between the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council and the U.S. Small Business Administration, offering an enormous amount of business expertise to help Wyoming residents think about, launch, grow, reinvent or exit their business.

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