Web Presence & the Survival of the Fittest
By Merrilee Hale, Lead Web & Graphic Designer, Pearl Street Consulting
Republished from Graphic News magazine, October 2015
Technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, an engine fueled by demand, cost management, advancing processes, and efficiency. The speed of the advance continues to favor the deep-pockets of larger companies, who have more room for error, while smaller businesses must learn to do more with less.
Many small and medium sized printing companies respond by lowering pricing, by offering value-added services in addition to print, and by focusing on quality production. These are all market-driven responses to difficult market conditions that are part of a well-proven strategy. It may seem like this should be sufficient to survive, and even thrive, but it comes up short with respect to important enhancements to company identity which can generate opportunities that could place them ahead of the competition.
If your business has existed for half a decade or more, consider the various parts of the whole regarding your operation: iterations of software programs, process management and efficiency protocols, equipment and material upgrades – the changes made have surely helped you compete, but have they really resolved the scope of the issue at hand?
In an age of evolving markets and digital communication, word of mouth referrals and postcard mailings alone are not an effective form of lead generation. Without an attractive web presence, you’re losing potential clients faster than you may think. Combining a dynamic, mobile responsive website with integrated social media marketing and a refreshed branding approach can do wonders for your image and your reach.
According to a Pitney Bowes survey, 76% of small businesses say their ideal marketing strategy encompasses a combination of both print and digital communication, while more than half of respondents to a Nielsen survey said they used a social media advertising campaign in conjunction with print media.
Performing a quick search on the web for “local printing companies”, I found 112,000,000 results with over ten paginations of results on Google’s search engine. At the top of the list were three advertisements for online only printers (with eCommerce or digital storefront capabilities). Without a website with these capabilities which supports SEO (search engine optimization), your business will likely be far down the list.
The fact is that the search engine and a company’s ability to master search engine term relevancy have become a market differentiator. Hubspot reports that 75% of search engine users never scroll past the first page of search results, which doesn’t bode well for many companies.
Not surprisingly, the algorithmically determined quality of a website – how attractive it is, whether or not it’s mobile responsive, whether is has eCommerce capabilities – all of these factors affect search engine scores and either help drive traffic to your website or drive traffic away.
Take a look at some interesting statistics regarding online presence, polished design, and functionality:
- 48% of users say that if they arrive on a business site that isn’t working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring. (Source: MarginMedia)
- 40% of people will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load. (Source: Econsultancy)
- $1.1 trillion of all retail sales in 2011 were “web-influenced.” (Source: Forrester Research)
- 66% of small businesses are maintaining or increasing spend on digital marketing. (Source: AT&T Small Business Technology Poll)
- 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from real people. (Source: Search Engine Land)
- 82% of small business owners have said their main source of new business is referrals. (Source: Constant Contact)
- 69% of consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information available on a social media site. (Source: comScore Networks and TMP Directional Marketing)
- 49% of sites fail to comply with basic usability principles, and 50% of online sales are lost because visitors can’t find content. (Forrester)
- 88% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours. (Google Mobile Movement Study)
The statistics above are engaging and call for action; they all demonstrate that businesses require a dynamic, mobile responsive website that works on different platforms and devices, provides relevant, current information on services and products, and the capacity to offer value-added services specific to the industry – think order placement through the website itself, cutting edge file upload technology (not FTP), and accurate on-the-fly quote generation.
Even if you created your website 2, 5 or 10 years ago, and have just made minor updates to it, Google will dock your ranking based on several factors:
- Mobile-friendly or old school: if you load your website on your smart phone and you have to zoom in to see content, your website is not “mobile friendly” and Google is sending traffic to competitors who do have a mobile-friendly website.
- Static vs Dynamic Content: If your website hasn’t been updated in months or years, Google thinks your site is boring, and will drive traffic elsewhere.
- Outdated media content: As of September 1, Flash is being blocked by default in the Google Chrome browser because of persistent security issues in Adobe’s flagship media streaming technology. Other browsers are bound to follow Google’s lead, supporting newer formats available in HTML 5.
- Slow loading pages: if your website is slow, upgrade to a better host or move your website to its own virtual private server (or VPS).
- Unloadable content: Broken links are bad for business.
If you have a non-mobile responsive site or it loads slowly, you may want to think about how you or your developer built the site – if you heavily relied on flash, now may be the time to rethink your media delivery strategy.
Businesses that don’t understand and master the unavoidable impact of the internet on sales in the 21st century will lose out in the long run to competitors that do “get it”. In this respect, there is a real Darwinism to design which creates favorable conditions for those companies that understand the importance of web presence factors.