Why Do I Need a Website

How necessary is a website? It might not be needed as much as you think, but it can help if you have the resources to put into it.
Written by
Jennifer Chu
Published on
April 2, 2024

A couple of months ago, I met up with my friend for dinner at a restaurant where she was photographing their Monday Martini Nights to post to her 200,000 followers on Instagram. She's been contemplating on what the next steps for her are, whether continuing as a food influencer or doing something else. With all the algo changes and influx of influencers over the years, she was having a harder time achieving the same engagement. She was spending more and more time creating reels (about 2-3 hours per), which is what Instagram is currently pushing. So how does she get above all this, diversify her channels or pivot to another one? How does she leverage her real strength, which is the relationships she has with NYC restauranteurs and food purveyors? That's when we started talking about how having a website could enable this transition.

Instagram, TikTok, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Etsy, Amazon, Substack… the list of social and ecommerce platforms goes on.

These days, the question for business owners isn't "if" they should establish an online presence, but rather "how." For many entrepreneurs, the allure of these platforms is strong. These avenues can provide rapid access to massive online communities and are often lauded for their user-friendly interfaces and built-in marketing tools. But does that mean having a standalone business website is a thing of the past?

This post will explore the necessity of a business website in conjunction with or separate from social media and established e-commerce platforms. We'll consider the benefits of each, the role a website plays, the critical factors in choosing the right path for your business, and the larger impact on your online visibility, brand credibility, and customer engagement.

The Benefits of Platforms

When it comes to ease of use and ready-made communities, social media and e-commerce platforms are robust contenders.

Social Media's Sway

The immediacy and interactivity of social media can catapult a business into the spotlight. By leveraging popular platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, you have the opportunity to create virality around your brand, tap into trends, and foster a loyal following. The feedback loop is nearly instantaneous, enabling agile marketing and fostering a sense of community.

However, reliance solely on social media means playing by its rules. Platform changes frequently disrupt an established business model or require costly adjustments, as with my friend. At the time of this posting this article, Instagram is rewarding those who create reels and making it more difficult to get noticed for those who only post photos and carousels. Creators are spending more time shooting, narrating voice-overs and editing to keep up with the algorithm.

Furthermore, content on social media generally has a short lifespan. Based on an analysis of 37 sources of data[1], the average half-life of a post (or the time it takes a post to receive half of its engagement) on each platform is:

  • Tiktok: 0 minutes
  • X (Twitter): 43 minutes
  • Facebook: 76 minutes
  • Instagram: 20 hours
  • LinkedIn: 24 hours
  • YouTube: 9 days

Have you ever tried looking through past posts, scrolling endlessly at tiny thumbnails? Businesses on social media have to constantly post to keep the engagement up, which can get tiring even for the best influencers. It’s why many people and businesses hire agencies to help.

E-commerce's Empire

E-commerce platforms provide a one-stop-shop for businesses looking to sell products or services online. Etsy and Amazon offer a vast marketplace with millions of built-in shoppers. They are built for sales: they handle the nitty-gritty of transactions, product listings, inventory management, and marketing leaving business owners free to focus on growth and customer service.

Yet, these conveniences come at a high cost for some businesses, in the form of steep commissions or listing fees. Distinguishing your brand can also be challenging on a platform where you're competing for user attention within a bustling marketplace. Heavy competition can also create downward pricing pressures hurting your profit.

For those selling digital products, read out article on the pros and cons of digital product marketplaces vs standalone online shops.

A Website’s Value

A business website serves as a central point for brand identity and marketing efforts. It's a space you own and control, where you can demonstrate what your brand has to offer and convert users to customers.

Brand Central - Tell Your Story

Your website functions as an anchor, conveying the full depth of your brand story and values. This is where you can build out your brand's aesthetic and contextualize the story of your products or services; convey your mission and values to demonstrate relatable experiences that foster human connections.

Thought Leadership and Trust

Websites also carry the weight of credibility. A well-maintained blog, white papers, videos or other resources can position your business as an authority in your field, instilling trust and loyalty in customers. Case studies, customer interviews and portfolios can engage your target audience and drive conversions.

Consistent, high-quality content on your website can also attract backlinks, a critical factor in improving your search engine rankings.

SEO

Depending on your objectives, one of the most compelling arguments for a website is its impact on search engine optimization (SEO). A website, optimized for search with the right keywords, content, and structure, can significantly improve your visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). This organic traffic is a cost-effective way to reach potential customers actively looking for what you offer.

Leads and Conversions

Another advantage of having a website is its role in supporting leads and conversions. A website can be finely tuned to guide visitors through the sales funnel, from awareness and interest to decision and action. Through well-designed landing pages, clear calls-to-actions (CTA), and an intuitive user interface, a website has the unique potential to convert traffic into leads which can then be nurtured, from discovery to purchase and into customers. Additionally, by integrating e-commerce capabilities, businesses can streamline the shopping process, making it easy for customers to make purchases directly through the website. This seamless integration of informational content and shopping functionality not only enhances the user experience but also directly contributes to increasing sales figures.

Limitations of a Website

Entrepreneurs must also weigh the limitations of a website against its benefits. For one, traffic does not automatically materialize once you build the website; it requires substantial marketing efforts to attract visitors.

  • Will you be writing 5-10 pieces of long form, well-optimized content each week for the next year or two or three? Because that’s what it will take to grow organic traffic.
  • Do you have a newsletter or social media account with thousands of followers that you can refer back to your site?
  • Will you run ads to generate awareness and clicks to your site?

Second, the initial design and setup of a website may also be (unnecessarily) costly.  While there are a plethora of low-cost website hosting solutions with simple templates, many founders don’t have the time or the comfort level to build their own site. They end up spending $1500+ just to put up the site.

Some businesses may only need a few pages without a substantial amount of content. Take your local dentist. The purpose of a dentist's website would be to provide contact information, services, hours of operation, and insurance they work with.  They may need only the following pages:

  • Home (photo of team or office, testimonials)
  • About us (bio, credentials)
  • Services
  • Insurance / Forms
  • Contact (phone, address)

But could they use Google Business Profile or Facebook Page (much faster setup) instead of a full-fledged website?

The necessity and utility of a website are highly dependent on your business model, goals, and your capacity to utilize and maintain the website effectively.

Website + Social Media

It may not be a decision of one or the other. Used together, a website and social media can work hand-in-hand to yield the best results. Social media helps you attract your audience, and a website can then demonstrate your expertise and product offering, capture leads or email signups, and nurture those contacts to achieve your business goals.

Neil Patel, a well-known marketing influencers, posts his content on LinkedIn and gets hundreds of likes.  But he posts a snippet of the content with a link to his website. He achieves the desired effect of leveraging LinkedIn’s network for awareness and engagement, and he also drives visits to his website (good for SEO) where he hosts the full-length post, has multiple CTAs for booking a call and a delayed pop-up for a lead magnet.

Neil Patel's post on LinkedIn
Post on LinkedIn directing to Neil Patel's site
Neil Patel's Website with Popup Lead Magnet
Full screen popup on Neil Patel's Website

Platforms can be a great way to tap into an audience, and websites provide an immersive brand experience plus the functionality you need to achieve your objectives while building your organic channel.

Making the Right Move for Your Business

What's right for one business may not be right for another. Your unique circumstances should guide your decision.

Understanding Your Audience: Which platform does your target audience frequent, and for what purposes? How do you convert your audience into paying customers?

Business Goals: What are your long-term business goals, and which platform can help you achieve your objectives?

Expertise and Resources: Do you have what it takes to maintain a website, or is it more realistic to leverage a platform?

Relevant Articles

Top 9 Website Hosting Platforms

How to Sell Digital Products

The Ultimate Checklist for Startups and Small Businesses

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