Matt Mullenweg recently published We Call It Gutenberg for a Reason, an article that discussed, among other things, the future of WordPress. WordPress is the most popular content management system: there’s a big gap between the number of WordPress sites and the number of sites based on its nearest competitor. But Mullenweg thinks WordPress has room to grow. One of the figures he quoted to support that claim caught me by surprise.
“the 157 million small businesses without sites, aka the next big market we should be serving”
Mullenweg doesn’t say where that figure comes from, but I find it astonishing that tens of millions of businesses have failed to equip themselves with the principal tool of modern marketing. After all, it has never been easier or less expensive to publish a website, and the benefits of a website have never been more obvious.
I expect that many small businesses without a site limit their web presence to social media, building an audience on Facebook rather than using it as a means to publicize a site they control. No doubt that works for some small businesses — at least until Facebook changes its Newsfeed algorithms and sharing policies. But it is unwise to rely on a platform controlled by a company whose motivations are not always aligned with those of its users.
When you want to buy a product, what do you do? For hundreds of millions of people, the answer is Google. Without a website, there is no way for a business to gain a prominent position in the search engine results. Small business owners may think they can’t compete with larger businesses for a prominent position in search engine results, but Google search results are often localized, especially on mobile devices. A small business with a website and proper optimization has every chance of being seen in local searches.
A website isn’t just about search; it is also about building a presence on an information and communication platform that every potential customer can be expected to interact with. In 2017, not having a website is equivalent to lacking both a phone number and a storefront in 1957. Most people look at a business without a website with suspicion (if they know it exists at all).
A micro-business that relies on word-of-mouth marketing and only serves older customers may not a need a website, but for the majority of potential customers in the US, if a small business does not have a website, it may as well not exist.
Building a website for your small business is not difficult. You need three things: a domain name, web hosting, and a content management system like WordPress or its competitors. A business without a site puts itself at an unnecessary disadvantage when it is easy and expensive to build a presence on the web.