Trending Now

Are local websites like the internet’s old gray mare?

You know that I talk a lot about local marketing. But more and more what I am noticing is that huge changes occur for local websites so quickly in this industry that itself is not very old. Speaking of old, I hate to admit that I know this song, but it’s more because I was a big Bugs Bunny fan growing up rather than me simply being old enough to know the tune and the words to “The Old Gray Mare.” But I do know the song, and it’s got me to thinking lately.

Here is the first verse of the song as taken from Wikipedia:

Oh, the old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,
Ain’t what she used to be, ain’t what she used to be.
The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,
Many long years ago.

Well, now there may be a modern take on this ode to aging. Here is the new version:

Oh, the old gray website ain’t what it used to be,
Ain’t what it used to be, ain’t what it used to be.
The old gray website ain’t what she used to be,
Many long years ago.

So why, might you ask am I being so harsh in my judgment of the modern day local merchant website? Well, some data I picked up from a post over at Search Engine Land regarding a Harris Interactive study conducted with CityGridMedia said the primary way that people get local information is through search. OK. No surprise there. What was a surprise though is the finding that only 8% of the people surveyed went to a merchant’s website to get information regarding their need.

Why is that? Why would one era’s online image and presence of a merchant suddenly be the information source of last resort?

I have a few thoughts and they are as unscientific as they get so if you disagree, well, you disagree, and we’ll just have to learn to get along.

1. Local websites are often of low quality – Unfortunately, local businesses don’t do websites real well. They are either outdated visually or their content hasn’t been refreshed in forever. Either way this is not a good way to get people to come learn about your business. If they do come to the website AND it is of inferior quality, guess what? Your chances of getting their business fall off exponentially.

2. People are wary of being sold – The last place that people expect to get unbiased and completely honest information about a merchant or business is from that actual merchant or business. Why? Because people know that business people need to sell things so they also need to make sure nothing bad is ever suggested about their business, service, product or whatever. Conventional wisdom is that you would never discuss your shortcomings with a potential or existing customer. A hint for you: things aren’t quite as conventional as they used to be ;-).

3. Websites are limited – Unlike the fast paced world of social media information exchange, websites are relatively static thus perceived as being boring. Even with a blog there is no guarantee that a visitor will even pay attention. Lest you think I am anti-blogging, please remember that most business blogs serve a greater SEO service than they do a customer communication one. I’m just saying.

4. People want opinions – If you wanted an opinion about a business who would you ask? An objective third party who had experience with the business or a biased representative of the company? Very much like point #2 but this doesn’t require any more thought. Consumers are MUCH smarter than they were even 10 short years ago.

5. Websites age in Internet years – You know that one human year is the same as seven dog years, right? Well, the same basic principle applies regarding things aging on the Internet. The trouble is that the rate of aging occurs much quicker and is more intense. Even if you did a complete redesign of your site one year ago, it is likely to no longer be cool or hip like your designer promised it would be. It’s old and gray already. It’s the old gray website.

So what do you do?

1. Set the right expectations for your site – Your website cannot be the be all and end all for your web presence. It is still foundational and important but it needs to be given tasks that it can handle. One of the best ones is to give people something for visiting in return for the right to contact them in some other fashion. Start the sales process with the site, don’t expect your site to end it.

2. Stay on top of the site – Update it regularly even if it means an annual refresh on the design. It’s money well spent. Don’t forget that while only 8% of the people go to a merchant’s website first, they ARE going to do searches. Your site could be visited via Google or Bing rather than directly, so you better be ready. Which leads to the next point.

3. SEO – If you do not do at least basic (and consistent) search engine optimization to your site, then you might as well not even have one. SEO the heck out of your site (without kicking the sleeping tiger that is Google, of course). Invest the time or money into this being a regular part of your marketing routine.

4. Be active elsewhere on the Internet – If your website isn’t going to be your “go to” guy, then you need to actually go to where the people are. Social media blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. Once again, this is not a silver bullet but it is another one in the chamber as you go out and fight the competition.

So don’t let your site look like the old gray mare. There’s nothing worse than watching a website fade into the woodwork from neglect. It doesn’t have to happen this way, but unless you take definitive action to avoid it, it will. It’s your call.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top