I first encountered this with a new liquid nitrogen ice cream shop in my area, and ran into it later with a sewing machine sales and repair shop I found in the dead tree edition of my Yellow Pages (stop laughing!). Both of these businesses built only Facebook pages to keep their customers informed of classes and events and such. That’s great as far as it goes, but it’s not quite enough if they want to build a lasting web presence.
Like Stoney deGeyter, I’m convinced that search engine optimization still matters, even though social media seems to be the dominant force today. There are tons of reasons for this, and if you’re thinking about building just a Facebook page or a Blogger blog (or even both) rather than your own website for your business, you may want to rethink that idea. There are certain things you can do with your own website that you just can’t do when you’re beholden to someone else.
That may sound like a strange way to phrase it, but in fact, if you’re using social media exclusively and don’t own your own website, it’s accurate. Do you remember MySpace? Consider what would have happened if you’d built a presence there, and watched everyone move to Facebook. If you figure you’ll just move everything over, well, you might run into some trouble. It’s the same kind of trouble Facebook users are running into when they try to move their content and contacts from there to Google Plus. Facebook isn’t exactly being helpful about it.
Individual social sites ride a wave of popularity until the next great social site comes along. Google+ may supplant Facebook…or it might not. Or something else might come along that beats them both. It’s too early to tell. Who will see your content on a social site that no one is using anymore?
If you’ve created your own website, you own your content. If you experience problems with your web host, you can take your site elsewhere. (Making sure you back everything up in case you need to do this goes without saying). You’re at nobody’s mercy but your own. As deGeyter points out, “This means the SEO you do for your site is also yours. All that work, effort and money invested is yours to keep for as long as you keep your site hosted.”
Owning your own website and performing SEO on it also helps to get you in front of searchers when they need to use your services. You can laugh at my looking for a sewing machine repair shop in the hard version of the Yellow Pages, but I just looked up “sewing machine repair” on Google, and the place I used did not come up on the first page of results. They’re on Facebook, sure, but their Facebook page didn’t show up in my search, and they don’t have a Google Places listing.
If I had searched exclusively online, I would have given my business to one of their competitors – and they would have lost out on a $130+ sale when it turned out that my machine couldn’t be repaired. As deGeyter explains, “SEO gets you in front of people who don’t already know where to get what you offer. That’s why they go to search engines.”
Another factor you should consider is that it’s much easier to convert a visitor when they’re on your website than when they’re on a Facebook page. I won’t deny that Facebook pages and other social media are great for building long-term relationships and alerting followers to events, discounts, and other useful news. But you can’t really use your Facebook page to provide in-depth information on your products and services. A properly-built website contains this information, giving the user the option to browse, do their research, and come to their own decision.
And if you’ve properly optimized your website, it’s even better than that. “One of the beautiful things about SEO is that you can also drive each searcher to the most relevant page on your site, based on the query,” deGeyter notes. It’s much easier to show a searcher you can give them exactly what they’re looking for if you’re guiding them to a relevant page on your website than if you’re trying to guide them to a Facebook page.
You can fit more relevant information about your products and services on a collection of dedicated website pages than you can in even the most complete of blogs. You can make this information easier to find than it would be on a blog, and you can set up your site so that visitors can quickly complete a purchase. Many social sites don’t have this capacity – and if they do, they take a cut of your selling price for themselves.
There are more reasons you should build your own website and perform SEO on it rather than depend exclusively on social media, but I’ll leave you with one likely to keep you awake at night. Your competition is already doing it. Don’t believe me? Go back up a few paragraphs to where I explained what I found when I looked for “sewing machine repair” in Google. Seven shops showed up in Google Places, and five of them maintain their own, separate websites. I can say with certainty that if I had not used my handy hard copy Yellow Pages, I would have called up and gone to one of those five, based on what I saw on their websites. Weigh the time and expense of building your own website for SEO against lost sales, and I think you’ll see the value of search engine optimization. Good luck!