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How to get online without a website?

By CCIWA Editor 

“Do I actually need a website?” It’s an important question. You not only have to consider the time, effort and cost to build your site, you also need to factor in ongoing costs, including marketing, boosting web rankings and content maintenance. 

While you need a web presence to be in the game against your competitors, have you considered the alternatives to a website?  

For example, some small businesses have published all the information they need and achieved good search engine rankings using a Facebook page or online directories such as Sensis or Yelp. 

Facebook 

Unknown to many, the capability of Facebook can be extended way beyond just being a promotional tool.

For example, you can use Facebook as a fully-functioning online shop complete with product categories, images, prices, description and checkout. It even shows you how many people have viewed each product.  

There are two ways you can set up an online shop: 

  • Use the Facebook business template to display products and services and connect it to a payment gateway, or 
  • Use an app that bolts onto Facebook and provides a seamless shopping experience for the user from browsing to buying.  

There are also many apps to customise the look of your page and add a wide array of functionality.

Combine this with Facebook’s ability to reach its viewers in targeted geographical areas with specific interests, and you have a very powerful online tool to grow your business.  

And it doesn’t stop there. You can also link Instagram to your Facebook account to achieve greater audience reach for each product. 

Online directories 

You can also create an online presence through listings on online directories – either free or paid. Directories generally allow you to publish limited information, such as a description, images and contact details.  

Importantly, some directories also offer the ability for customers to rate businesses, providing potential customers with valuable consensus-building data to inform their buying decision.  

It’s not recommended to use a free online directory as your only online presence. The type of information you can publish is limited and not all directories allow full control over metadata, which helps with the ranking on search engines, such as Google.  

For paid directories, the payment model, varies: 

  • Some charge a monthly or annual fee to connect with relevant jobs posted in their area. 
  • Others charge a service fee or take a commission from the customer’s payment for the service. 
  • Some platforms charge businesses for providing each lead. The business pays whether they get the job or not. 

Sensis, which publishes Yellow Pages online, offers both free and premium accounts. The free version gives you valuable online presence and adds your listing to a host of search engines as well as to the Google and Whereis online maps. However, it is limited to one suburb or town and has limited information.  

There are various plans that determine how much information you can have (such as slogans, logos, service descriptions, opening hours, promotions, video, customer reviews, image gallery) and functionality (online quotes, bookings and e-commerce).    

In a situation where a directory listing works as a website, it’s very important you do your homework and see how search-engine friendly it is.  

Some directories make claims about having high search engine rankings.  

It’s worthwhile testing any such claims by doing a Google search using keywords relevant to your business for each of your target areas (e.g. “Rockingham electricians”). See how many individual listings from that directory appear high on the first page.  

Other directories include: YelpHotFrog and True Local.   

“Do I actually need a website?” It’s an important question.

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