People always want to write off this or that thing for the next, supposedly, big thing. Movies were going to be the end of books. The healthy publishing business today, 100 years later, begs to differ. TV was supposed to end movies. Uh huh. Even Tiger Woods, the famous professional golfer, was said by everyone to be finished, never to win anything again. Then he went out and won the Tour Championship at the end of last season followed by The Masters this year. Put a fork in him…not!
The same has been said about small and medium business (SMB) websites. For years, supposed experts have predicted that third party destinations such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook would replace small business websites as sources of trusted information. It was said that Google My Business would lead the way because it had grown its functionality to, in theory, make it so a potential customer never needs to visit the business website.
But a recent surge in venture capital investment for website builders and a major acquisition point to the health and necessity of small business websites. Plus, a survey of consumers shows that they still look to the business website as the trusted source of information they seek.
It seems when it comes to small business website health and viability, to quote Mark Twain, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Follow the money
While these tools such as Google My Business have value, websites are still critical for all types of small businesses, especially medical practices. That’s because a potential patient may read a review on a third party site, such as Yelp or RealSelf, but they still want more information. After all, medical or dental procedures aren’t like buying a T-shirt or going out for lunch.
That fact is underscored by the parent company of WordPress, which provides the basic underlying framework for a millions of websites. That company, Automattic, recently received a funding round of $300 million on a company valuation of $3+ billion. Also, Square, an all-in-one payment processing system, acquired website builder Weebly in April of this year for $365 million.
Yahoo recently launched a web design product for small businesses. It will have two tiers, $99 and $299 per month, and will offer various services such as design and content updates. Yahoo formerly had a good share of the web hosting market for small businesses, but during its financial and management upheaval GoDaddy and other hosting services passed it. But when Verizon bought Yahoo in 2016, it said it was interested in developing small business products and services. The increased focus on Yahoo’s web design capability is in line with that.
Small business websites = trust
With all of this money and focus being put into small business website development, it seems word of their demise is overstated, to say the least. At Advice Media, we’ve known that for over 20 years. Over those two plus decades we’ve been developing the web’s most beautiful and functional websites for the medical world. We know the value of these sites for the practices and their patients.
Money’s one thing, but what do actual consumers say about small business websites? BrightLocal, a company that surveys consumer online trends, conducted a survey in May of this year to find out how consumers used, or didn’t use, local business websites when seeking information. The results showed that local business websites remain the most trusted source of information for consumers.
The survey first polled what types of local businesses respondents searched for on Google. As you would expect, restaurants/cafes made up the #1 search, with 56% of respondents saying they search for restaurants this way. But in the #5 spot was medical practices and healthcare, with 28% of people saying they search online for these healthcare providers.
The survey then asked if or how respondents used Google My Business (GMB) when these results come up in search (right under the paid search listings). Sixty-four percent said they used GMB to find the local business’s address or phone number. Again, this makes perfect sense for restaurants, as you can instantly look up the address or phone and go there immediately. You would assume that number is much lower for medical practices, where the searcher needs to know more than simply where the practice is located.
The survey then asked, “Which source do you expect to have the most accurate and up-to-date contact information?” Here 56% of people said they expect that the local business’s website would have the most accurate contact information. Less than one third of the respondents said Google My Business would be the most accurate. That’s still a sizable amount of people, so it’s important for a practice to ensure its Google My Business information is correct and consistent, but the website is the place consumers look for information.
Finally, the survey asked, “When deciding which local business to use, how often do you visit a local business website?”
- 22% — Every time I search for a local business to use
- 30% — More than half the time
- 23% — Half the time
- 16% — Less than half of the time
- 8% — Never
This answer seems to show that, while customers use Google My Business to find contact information or the physical address of a small business, they go to the local business website for the meat and potatoes of the information they seek. When you consider that this survey was for all types of businesses — including restaurants, clothing stores, and hotels — you would expect potential patients searching for a medical practice to provide a treatment or procedure would have much higher numbers than those listed above. After all, a medical procedure is a much more involved decision and process than finding a new destination for lunch.
So, don’t trust everything you hear about the demise of anything, be it the printed book, Tiger Woods, or the local business website. Money is being invested, and people have shown these sites are where they turn for trusted information on the business. This is especially true for the medical practice world, including your practice. And that’s why we’ll just keep on doing what we’ve been doing for over two decades at Advice Media — building the internet’s most beautiful medical practice websites, providing ongoing content for these sites for our clients, and optimizing them to rise to the top in search.