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«Return to Blog List 62% of Small Businesses Do Not Have a Website: the Glass is 38% Full

I stumbled onto an article on Entrepreneur’s website (Turn Web Traffic Into Foot Traffic; Justin Kitch) that changed one of my basic assumptions, which was that “most” businesses have a website. Note the imprecision in the word “most,” which is a hallmark of bad assumptions; I should have known. The survey from which the numbers were taken is recent: April 2009.

Clearly, the benefits of online marketing are not as well known to the general public as “most” of us in the online industry believe. Or maybe people have some idea of the benefits, but aren’t sure how to get started and follow through. Maybe it’s just easier to let their local Yellow Pages provider sell them an overpriced and under-performing print ad. (BTW, I called Dex to inquire about pricing for Yellow Pages advertising, and they took my information and told me they would have a “marketing consultant” contact me in 5-7 business days. I promise to share the results in a future post.) Or maybe it’s all of the above.

The business and marketing landscape is changing: advertising does not yield the same results it did even a decade ago (I looked hard for data, but was confronted with words like “colinearity” and other words I’ve never read before. My personal belief is that the difficulty of determining ROI on advertising has resulted in a great deal of obfuscation). People’s behavior when they are preparing to buy is changing: a Performics survey indicated 75% of baby boomers use search engines when looking for information to assist in the purchase of automobiles, appliances and electronics. But so far, only 38% of small businesses even have an online channel with which to speak to their customers and prospects. In 2009, that’s almost unbelievable.

As I mentioned, I had hoped to do a comparison between online marketing and Yellow Pages advertising. Sort of a “Marketing Media Smackdown.” That will have to wait until the lumbering Yellow Pages mechanism fires up enough neurons to contact me. Watch this space.

August 2009 update: I had reason to go look up the study referenced in Justin’s post. It turns out that 38% of small businesses surveyed did NOT have a website. The figure was 37%. What about the other 1%? They “weren’t sure.”

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10 Responses to 62% of Small Businesses Do Not Have a Website: the Glass is 38% Full

  1. Chris Gunn says:

    Howdy Folks,

    The large number of business enterprises that don’t have web sites is very much the same reason so few participate here. Apathy, lack of followup, and severe reading comprehension problems.

    When you have a country filled with fourth grade level readers, both the Yellow Pages and Web Pages stop being effective.

    Chris

  2. Have you seen any research, Ray, on WHY small business owners don’t have websites? Will let you know if I find anything… just found out yesterday that I’ll be writing an Internet Marketing column for my local newspaper, and these stats lend themselves well to some introductory articles.

    I’ve been looking around your blog a bit more – I really like the way you write and the information you share!

  3. Ray Gulick says:

    I found the survey (referenced in the blog post I referenced) in which 62% of small business owners say they do not have a website (last question, no. 11). Wish I had seen it earlier, because rather than 38% saying they have a website, that figure was 37%. 1% “weren’t sure.” Maybe I have a warped sense of humor, but I find that hilarious. Download the survey:
    http://www.discovercard.com/business/watch/2009/assets/SBW_Apr_2009_Data.doc

  4. Ray Gulick says:

    Thanks for the nice compliment, Diana. Glad you find some of the info useful.

    I was not able to find statistics on “why” almost 2/3 of small business owners don’t have websites. I did my own poll on LinkedIn under the “small business” category, and got 18 responses that ranged from “ignorance of benefits”, to “don’t know how to manage a website”, to “don’t need one”, to “can’t afford it”, to “don’t know what to say on a website”, to “what’s a website?” My favorite answer was “they’re being conned into buying Yellow Pages ads instead.” I don’t think most of these answers were from small business owners who do not have websites, so they are mostly speculation on the part of the responders. Nevertheless, I suspect they might have touched on the most common themes.

  5. Ray Gulick says:

    Good points, Diana. Many business websites are completely inadequate for a variety of reasons. Of the 38% of businesses that have websites, I believe (just from observation) that a much smaller percentage have websites that help their business.

  6. I finally started designing sites for local business owners – after doing my own websites & IM business since 1999 – when an attorney friend grabbed my arm and said “You do websites? Can you PLEASE tell me why nobody can find mine?”

    It was easy (no title or meta-tags at all, for one thing). And since then I’ve learned that many business people know they need a website but have no idea what to ask or who to hire, and they know people who have been “burned” by expensive sites that don’t generate leads or sales.

    I also believe there are some truly lazy or ignorant web designers out there too.

  7. Ray Gulick says:

    Thanks, Judi. Totally agree with you about need for more than brochure sites.

  8. Judi Knight says:

    This is a great article. I had no idea the numbers were that high but it does not surprise me since I started a business this year doing websites for small businesses. Having been a small business owner myself I knew what the hurdles were to getting a site done and we have built out business based on overcoming these issues.We named our business New Tricks, and our motto is, “It’s never too late!”

    There is so much new technology out there it can be overwhelming. But I feel that is is essential that small businesses utilize the new web 2.0 technology to put their best foot forward and to have the ability to communication with their customers on-line. Otherwise there site is just a brochure that no one will ever go to twice.

    We build our sites on WordRress which is known for its blog capability but actually is much much more. See http://www.wordpress.org/showcase. The cool thing about building sites in WordPress is that the small business owner does not have to completely come up with all of their specifications and so forth ahead of time. We take whatever information , graphics and so forth that exist and show the client what it would look like in different formats. It is an iterative process that can be done very easily and quickly. Once we know more about the client’s needs and preferences we build their site which can be done in days not week, and when it is complete we show them how to maintain it, which with WordPress is very easy. No more huge maintenance contracts or having to call your web designer for every little change. We can even do easy e-commerce and then tie the site into facebook and twitter.

    This may sound expensive but actually with the new design tools it is not. Many old old school web design companies who charge big bucks have gone out of business because they have not adapted to the new technologies and faster development times and therefor lower cost projects. Bad for them, good for us and great for small businesses. It’s never too late!

  9. Ray Gulick says:

    Greg – My guess is that most businesses do not see a website as a very effective marketing channel, and therefore, not worth the bother. And certainly, if a website is done badly (poor information architecture, lack of current info, poor design, inability for visitors to interact, etc.), it’s not of much value. I don’t think most business owners understand how simple it is, in 2009, to have an effective web presence.

  10. Gregory Kohs says:

    It is a pity that the majority of small businesses are so clueless about setting up a website. Even a proxy for a website takes about 10 minutes to cook up on a site like AboutUs.org or MyWikiBiz.com. In fact, on the latter site, a page gets its way in just a few days to the top five or six links on a Google search for the business name. What is it? Do some entrepreneurs not want “too much” business directed their way?

    It’s insane.