Marketing experts have preached for years the importance of businesses having a Web presence. Yet nearly half of small businesses nationally still do not have a Web site. Why is that? We know that some simply don’t believe in the power of the Web — at least as it relates to their own businesses. I won’t try to change their minds (at least not today). Instead, let’s focus on the small-business owners who do believe in the Web, but view creating a Web site as a complicated, time-consuming project that they are afraid to outsource. Yet they don’t have the time to do it themselves either.
“The number one issue for a business owner, that I’ve found, is that he doesn’t want to outsource the work. Most business owners are hands-on and just used to doing things their own way,” says Erin Ferree, a brand identity and marketing strategist in Belmont, Calif. “But they don’t have the time themselves to write the pages, develop site navigation, and do the other things necessary to build a Web site. So it doesn’t get done.”
For this group, the answer may be a one-page “starter” Web site. It gives a business an immediate Web presence, but does not require extensive planning, writing, or designing — or lots of cash. You can expand your site over time, as your business grows or you determine a need for more pages.
The expense is minimal if you sign up for a service such as Microsoft Office Live, which offers a free Web site and design tools, a free domain name, business e-mail, and hosting and storage.
After that, you may need help in writing concise and compelling information about your company. But the return may be well worth this limited investment, the Web consultants I interviewed say.
They note that a one-page site can:
- Get your business on search engines and directories. This is big. With keyword-relevant content and links to any Web pages where your company may be mentioned by name — such as local news articles and business directories — you can start showing up in the results of targeted searches. You need to register your site for major search engines such as Windows Live Search, Google, and Yahoo!. Also, request that any directories include a link back to your Web site.
- Increase your company’s legitimacy and credibility. With a provider such as Microsoft Office Live, your business name can be incorporated into your Web site domain and e-mail address.
- Increase brand recognition for your business. Your Web site should include your business logo and other graphics, colors, and visual elements you use in your marketing materials. By giving your site a consistent look and feel with the rest of your materials, you will increase your brand identity with your target audience.
- Put your contact and location info in front of more people. One of the most tangible benefits of a Web site is helping potential customers contact your business, via e-mail or phone, and locate your office or brick-and-mortar store.
- Get you started so that you can add new pages over time. Erin Ferree started with a one-page site when she started her business, Elf Design, in 2001. Now her site has nearly 500 pages. “But you don’t have to go from one to 500 yourself,” she says. “You can go from one to five, and then maybe from five to 10 over a period of several years.”
One-page sites won’t work for every business. They are generally most suitable in industries where the product or service is easy to describe and the key content is the value proposition and contact information, says Kelly Cutler, chief executive of Marcel Media, a Chicago-based Web advisory firm. Small professional services firms such as law and accounting, small medical clinics, and niche retail businesses are examples of where a one-pager could work, she says. “Most people already know what they want from these businesses,” she says.
And one-page sites are usually not the best vehicle for selling online due to obvious space constraints. But don’t let that limit your creativity, says Sarah Spencer, owner and head instructor at Got Clicks?, a Richmond, Vt., firm that teaches courses in Web development and marketing. One-page sites enable you to link to podcasts, blogs, or even downloadable CDs about your specialty, she says.
A good example, Spencer says, is someone she knows who built a one-page Web site to promote her horse-training activities locally, and included a free podcast offering tips on how to train horses. “You want to include something that allows people to take action immediately, even if it is just being able to contact you by e-mail,” Spencer says.
Here are five things the experts say you should include in your one-page site:
- A high-resolution logo and other visual materials you use in your marketing. Consider including a picture of yourself or your team.
- Short descriptions of your product or service offerings. Keep these to a few paragraphs at most. The more people have to scroll, the less they may read. Avoid blatant hype, superlatives, and exclamation points that may raise questions about your believability.
- Your contact and location information. Think of it as handing out a business card to every viewer. If you want people to come to your office or store, consider including a small map with directions. Include an e-mail link not only for direct contact, but also to add people to your newsletter list.
- Testimonials from clients. Include up to three of these, to enhance your business’s credibility. By including links to the clients’ Web sites, they can link to you in return, improving your search rankings.
- Links to any news articles and directories where your business is mentioned. These too will improve your search rankings, but also increase the legitimacy and credibility of your business. One directory to get listed on is CitySearch.com; chamber of commerce, downtown associations, and industry associations are others worth considering.
A one-page site needs to economize on words and images, but should be designed with the ability to add future pages, Ferree says. “Once you get a site up, adding pages is not as big a deal,” she says.
“A lot of business owners are scared about the writing, but it doesn’t have to be that hard,” Ferree adds. “And nothing has to be set in stone. Pages can be edited and things can be changed after they go live.”
About the author
Monte Enbysk is a senior editor at Microsoft Office Live, and writes about Web-related issues for small businesses. He previously was a columnist and managing editor of the Microsoft.com Small Business Center, and before that a writer and editor at MSN Money, Washington CEO magazine, and daily newspapers in Washington and Oregon. When he’s not writing and editing, he’s often running. Monte has completed 12 marathons and more than 70 road races since 2001.