The Sad State of the Small Biz Web

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UK Web hosting provider Streamline.net's latest "Small Business Bytes Survey" has revealed some discouraging information. 

Despite two thirds of those surveyed having had a business website for 2 years or more, only 1 in 10 firms made updates on a daily basis.

That is a pretty sad statistics for the small business Web workers and signifies that many companies continue to struggle in maintaining their web presence. Some other alarming results from the survey:

- 1 in 4 companies admit to updating their websites on a monthly basis,
 
- over half (54 per cent) admitted to making technical tweaks only 'infrequently,'
 
- one third of companies surveyed use only a single domain name, and three quarters own less than 6 domains
 
- nearly half of firms (48 per cent) are not currently advertising on search engines
 
- 1 in 3 (34 per cent) are unable to quantify the popularity of their website as they do not look at their visitor numbers

Are you a small business website owner, manager or marketer? How often do you update your website with new content? When is the last time you made a technical tweak and how often do you do so? How many domains do you own? Are you advertising on search engines? Are you able to quantify the popularity of your website? Share your comments with Website Magazine readers and editors below. 

 

 
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8 comments

Michelle O'Hagan 09-07-2010 2:17 PM

Regarding the 1 in 3 small business owners who do not look at their own visitor numbers: There is no excuse! If you're not measuring your efforts, you are just guessing about what is working and what is not working.

I'm presenting a webinar with NFIB tomorrow about this very thing, and will provide a list of free, or freemium, web-based analytics/measurement tools blogs.imaginepub.com/.../freemium-resources so that small business owners can get started with the business of getting to know their own customers. Let's get measuring, people!

GaryS 09-08-2010 5:13 AM

I think many small business owners never really learn how to use their websites and rely too heavily on web develepers.  Web developer tend to do all of the work and never fully train the business owner on how manage and add content to their sites.  When a web developer holds all of the "keys" to the site, the business owner must contact them for any changes to the site.  Two things happen.  One, the small business owner does not want to keep bugging the web developer and two, the small business owner does not want to get a bill everytime they want to make a change on their site.  Good communication between web developer and small business owner is vital for a vibrant and frequently updated website.

www.garyshouldis.com

BrettH 09-08-2010 10:18 AM

I agree with GaryS.  Developers/Designers NEED to give better training to their customers.  The more their customers use their own site, the more they'll want to add features and tweak.  Good for both the customer and the developer.  

RobertC 09-09-2010 3:28 PM

Also agree with GaryS, and let's also consider the business owner, who may not really consider themselves in "ecommerce". And most of them aren't. Thousands of small pool service guys and pool builders have a small brochure site - and if that works for them, fine.

But if you want to see a website succeed (depending on your definition of success), you will have to benchmark, and track progress with solid KPI's.

It's fairly complicated, what pure play ecommerce sites do - and it really falls beyond the comprehension or interest of most website owners. In this regard, the numbers don't really surprise. The goal of every website is not the same!

MarjorieC 09-09-2010 3:30 PM

Now that static sites are pretty much dead, maintaining a company website is much easier.  The key is training and giving them a rough plan for the very least they need to do, breaking it down into bite-sized actionable pieces. I include training, not only for the CMS/WordPress, but Facebook/Twitter, email marketing and SEO best practices, and how all that action creates buzz.  For the majority of my clients, talking about their business from a customer's perspective in text, doesn't come naturally and they need help with that, too.  Just keep teaching; they'll get it eventually.

NickC 09-14-2010 8:36 AM

I understand GaryS's viewpoint, but I think the problem runs deeper. There are too many web professionals that view their work with a "one off" approach.

I agree that a business owner should be able to easily update their site. I agree that too many web pros don't educate their clients. However, I see this as a growing pain in our industry.

As the web grows more complex it will require that web pros and business owners form stronger ongoing relationships. A business owner has enough to deal with inside of their own business. It's unrealistic to  expect a business owner to become a web guru as well.

It's like my relationship with my car mechanic. Sure, I can put gas in the tank, air in the tires and pay attention to strange noises. But you won't find me under the hood of a modern vehicle trying to troubleshoot or make major improvements. I'll call a professional for that.

As our industry matures I hope that more business owners will view their relationship with web pros as an ongoing partnership. It's no different than building a relationship with a lawyer, cpa, or janitorial service.

DonnaD 09-17-2010 3:31 PM

Let's not forget that the small business owner doesn't want to pay more than a few hundred dollars for a Web site. We all know that when we average out the time it takes to build and maintain a Web site that it is not possible to produce something effective that will meet the tight budget of a small business.

TerryF 09-17-2010 10:02 PM

The first question I ask a small business owner is "why do you want a web site?" Many have this notion that the mere existence of the site will deliver value. And, has already been suggested,most SMB owners are not well educated on how to take advantage of this new channel or they are not prepared to do the ongoing work to make it successful.

Of more concern to me is the number of web designers who produce "pretty" websites that are neither findable nor usable. Pretty is over-rated - you only have to look at craigslist (50M visitors a month) to know that useful is much more important than it is often given credit for.

Most of these SMB websites don't actually fail because they never had a chance for success in the first place.

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