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The Small Business Website Is Dead. Here’s What Comes Nextby@techlooter
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The Small Business Website Is Dead. Here’s What Comes Next

by Andrej KovacevicSeptember 13th, 2022
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Some surveys indicate that about 27% of small businesses still don't have websites. Social media, and Facebook, in particular, obviated the need for a website in the minds of most small business owners. Facebook's user base is shrinking, with the social giant posting its first daily active user decline in its history this year. There's no single replacement emerging for professionally-built small business websites or Facebook business pages. Instead, there are a variety of somewhat niche solutions vying to occupy the top of the market.

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For years now, digital marketing experts have worked tirelessly to get small business owners to understand why they need to have professionally-built websites. It's been an uphill struggle. A key stumbling block is that plenty of small businesses thrive without one. And it's kind of hard to convince someone they need something when they feel they can point to numbers that prove they don't.

The result is that there are an awful lot of small businesses — even today — that don't have a website at all. Some surveys indicate that about 27% of small businesses still don't have websites. And as anyone that uses the internet can tell you, there are scores more that haven't updated their sites in years.

So what gives?

How is it possible that so many small businesses have gotten by for so long without a website?

And how have the ones that built websites and then let them fall into neglect not suffered consequences?

The answer is simple. Except in very specific scenarios, the small business website is all but dead. The SEO industry just hasn't acknowledged it yet. Here's what's killing the small business website and what will ultimately replace them.

First, a Caveat

Before we delve into the present and future of small business websites, it's important to note that the following logic doesn't apply in all situations. Some small businesses, particularly those in the retail sector, still rely on having their own fully-functional websites. For them, there aren't many alternatives — yet.

That's why companies like Shopify, Wix, and WooCommerce are all out there making a killing. That's not to say things won't change in the future. That day, however, isn't quite here yet. With that said, let's discuss the topic at hand.

What's Killing the Small Business Website

Although there are a variety of factors that have led to the increasing irrelevance of the small business website, there's one that most honest observers would credit with delivering the critical blow: social media.

The fact of the matter is that social media, and Facebook, in particular, obviated the need for a website in the minds of most small business owners. To wit, 93% of businesses have an active presence on Facebook. For all practical purposes, many businesses treat their Facebook pages as a de-facto business website. And there are plenty of reasons for that.

One is cost. A Facebook business page is free, unlike a custom website. And another is the presence of a large and captive audience. With the average American spending at least 38 minutes per dayon the site, it seems like an easy feat to attract attention. If that weren't enough, there's also ease of use. Since most small business owners already have personal Facebook pages, they face less of a learning curve when getting a business page up and running.

But it's worth noting that there's some trouble on the horizon. It's that Facebook's coattails aren't what they used to be. And that's one of the reasons that marketing gurus continued to push small businesses to set up websites all this time. You see, Facebook's user base is shrinking, with the social giant posting its first daily active user decline in its history this year.

That means there's a day coming — maybe soon — when the utility of Facebook business pages won't be enough to make them a complete webpage replacement. And when that happens, there's going to be an awful lot of small business owners looking for a worthwhile alternative.

What's Coming Next?

Put simply, there's no single replacement emerging for professionally-built small business websites or Facebook business pages, for that matter. Instead, there are a variety of somewhat niche solutions vying to occupy the top of the market.

All-in-One Website Builders and Template Systems

One solution is the all-in-one site builder. Some of the same companies mentioned earlier, like Wix, offer simple templated website builders. With those, just about anyone can create a credible-looking small business website in minutes — no web designer necessary. The same goes for WordPress, which offers thousands of pre-made themes to suit any business aesthetic imaginable.

But those are solutions that merely offer digital business card-like functionality. They're just a cheaper version of the professionally-built websites that small businesses have rejected for all these years. So it's reasonable to assume that a great number of small businesses will skip over those, too. Instead, they may go looking to get a bit more bang for their buck.

Small Business Web Apps

That's where the idea of the small business web app comes into play. Unlike a simple webpage, a custom web app offers a small business the opportunity to build an online portal with real utility to its customers. In other words, it provides a reason to visit beyond reading some SEO-driven blog post or finding the business's operating hours.

For example, a small business might offer a product customization builder through a web app. That would give customers a way to explore available products and options before they buy. Done right, a web app with such functionality could also allow a customer to build their desired product and order it in a single process. Then, the business's employees could use another part of the same app to manage fulfillment processes.

Perhaps the best part of small businesses choosing a web app as their main online presence is cost. Since conventional websites are on the decline, web developers are already pivoting away from them. So there are now countless web application development services working to make inroads in the small business market. And that's driving down costs at a rapid clip.

Small Business Mobile Apps

Although their cost and complexity kept small businesses away at first, mobile apps are also gaining traction as a website replacement. The key to that is a new generation of no-code, drag-and-drop app builders that simplify the process. They're getting popular because they provide a way for small businesses to build a brand presence in the lives of their customers.

It's interesting to note that the latest figures suggest that about 48% of small businesses already have their own mobile app. That puts them within striking distance of the number of small businesses with websites — and that's saying something. So, it won't be a big surprise if mobile apps emerge as the go-to website replacement for small businesses when all's said and done.

The Takeaway

To put it simply, it's quite obvious that custom, professionally-built small business websites are a dying breed. And even the latest DIY site builders don't seem like they're going to do much to alter the small business website status quo. For all intents and purposes, then, small business websites are dead.

In their place is an array of options like custom web apps and mobile apps that offer more functionality than standard websites ever could. They offer meaningful reasons for small business owners to get off the sidelines and invest. And if the mobile app statistics are correct, it looks like many already are.

So the next time someone tells you that small businesses have to have a website to succeed, tell them that you know better. And tell them that it won't be long until that particular piece of conventional wisdom is a thing of the past, too.