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«Return to Blog List Do Static, Set-it-and-Forget-it Websites Still Have Value?

It seems as though this question could be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” (I would argue “no”), but a conversation I had yesterday with Chris Madrid of New Mexico Community Capital’s IMPACT New Mexico program helped me understand two things: 1) that a static website can still have some value as an “online brochure.” and 2) how far we have to go in New Mexico in terms of businesses understanding not just “how” to leverage the web, but “why.”

Certainly I understand that for small businesses just starting up, a website may not be their first priority. In terms of cash flow and number of hours in a day, they may be at capacity in just getting their business on its feet. But businesses have to do some marketing. The problem is many business owners have little or no expertise in nor understanding of marketing. As a result, they end up with a yellow pages ad and a banner in front of their place of business. If they’re lucky and they have great products or services, they will get enough word-of-mouth to allow them to survive. Some kinds of businesses, like restaurants, can even thrive on that formula. For many (perhaps most) businesses, that’s not enough.

So what value does a static, seldom-if-ever-updated website still provide? Assuming someone knows the name of the company or the URL of their website, they can find their way to it (not likely Google will be much help in finding it by searching on anything other than the company name). To some customers, having even a static website adds credibility to the company as long as the information on the site is not obviously outdated (if things appear badly dated, however, it can have the opposite effect).

If a static website looks nice, is easy to navigate, and tells a coherent and compelling story about the company and it’s products or services, prospective customers who find their way there may, in fact, decide to do business with the company. This is the nearly two decades old “online brochure” model of online marketing. It’s better than no website, but it’s never worked great (not even in 1993, when I launched my first website) for one simple reason: it doesn’t attract much search traffic. Which means not many people ever see the website. It’s like buying a television ad that runs at 3 am.

This is a strategy that absolutely depends on driving people to your website by putting its URL on business cards, yellow pages ads, mentioning it on radio spots, etc. Those techniques, with rare exceptions, have never resulted in much traffic for business websites.

So, static websites, if kept at least marginally updated, are better than nothing. But that misses the point. Marketing, rather than a (sometimes expensive) frill, is an absolute necessity for almost all businesses: it’s what keeps the customers coming. The online marketing game isn’t about providing cred to the 5-6 people per week who see your online brochure. The online marketing game is about getting found online by the hundreds and thousands of local people searching online for local products and services offered by your company.

Fundamentally, search engines have changed the game by focusing on local search results. It used to be that in order to see local results, I had to type in “Santa Fe” after whatever I was looking for. No more. Search engines now deliver local results (if any) based on your IP address, which indicates your geographic location. This both takes advantage of and fuels a trend in the growing use of search engines in looking for local products and services. If your website is not a search engine magnet, you’re missing out on business. It’s that simple.

Static websites are rarely (if ever) search engine magnets, no matter what might be done to make them more search engine-friendly. Blogs and actively updated websites with content management systems often are, if done with search engine optimization in mind. So you tell me: do static websites still have value?

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