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Customers are increasingly turning to social media first to find out about your company - they’re as likely to look on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter as they are to Google the business name and visit your homepage. Your website is becoming less and less relevant but the reasons for your websites irrelevance is also the guide to the solution.

Businesses have never had it better

It’s never been easier, cheaper or faster to build an online identity for your business. LinkedIn, Google and Facebook provide any business with blog platforms, company pages, video platforms, messaging systems and much, much more, and businesses are leveraging these to do business in new global markets.

Shrewd business owners are using these completely free platforms to build brand awareness, cultivate tribes of loyal followers, communicate with potential customers (thousands at a time and individually), and ultimately build successful businesses.

It’s no surprise that these same businesses are also wondering why they need a website at all.

Unprecedented threat

But the world is changing quickly and marketing strategies that worked in 2016 often won’t work at all now – businesses that are quick to respond will find fantastic new opportunities but businesses also face unprecedented threats. Sorry to break it to you, but Google, Facebook and Microsoft are not your friends, they might have given you the platforms that have made it easier than ever before in human history to do business anywhere in the world, but they could just as easily take them away again, change what you’re allowed to do with them or even disrupt your entire industry.

Google search is changing

AI is changing the way Google delivers it’s search results. Increasingly when you search for information on Google the answer to your query is displayed at the top of the page – this isn’t coming from an enormous google database but from information that googles deep neural network has mined from a webpage – being the top webpage on Googles search results no longer guarantees a visit – if you’re the page in the image above you’ll be missing out on traffic and on customers. This is a trend that will continue as platforms continue to look for ways to keep customers on their site (unless you’re a paying advertiser).

Mobile has transformed the way people access information on websites. Devices like Alexa, Google Glass (a flop but what comes next won’t be) and a whole array of smart assistants will continue to lead the way in transforming the ways in which people access websites and whether they ever get to even see your calls to action.

The platforms are eating the world

The huge platforms that have defined the web in the last ten years continue to consolidate their power, increasingly even paid advertising on LinkedIn, Google, or Facebook is only an advert directing consumers to another page on their own platform. The big platforms as well as newer startups are disrupting whole traditional industries, Airbnb is the biggest accommodation provider in the world despite owning no properties. LinkedIn has completely disrupted the recruitment industry – today recruiters couldn’t do without LinkedIn, but tomorrow they could just turn the taps off for good – the internet hasn’t been kind to middle men so far.

Who owns your existing relationships?

Your business success or failure is defined by the quantity and quality of its relationships. In the 20th Century those relationships typically would have been managed through rolodex’s or simple databases. Ownership of the information was easily defined, even when an employee left.

Now the situation is far more clouded. On social media you don’t own your contacts, on your employees social media accounts you can’t even access their contacts. Companies that rely on social media alone (or mostly) to manage and communicate with their contacts are putting their whole business at risk. Companies need to have solutions in place to mitigate this risk and attracting contacts to your own database through assets on your website is the gentlest method.

What to do about it

A company website can be so much more than most are at the moment. At the moment (depending on the study you look at) 97% of visitors spend less than 10 seconds on a website – but if you can capture their attention in those 10 seconds the odds are in your favour that they’ll stay for 2 minutes or more. The perennial question is how do you capture a visitors attention in less than 10 seconds and then give them a reason to stay? But in fact it is the wrong question – a better revised question for most businesses is – how do you capture an ideal visitors attention in 10 seconds and then get them to leave their email address?

  1. Websites are irrelevant if they’re not an honest representation of your business. Your brand needs to be expressed on your website and in my opinion this can’t be achieved properly with a template website and stock photos.
  2. Your value statement must instantly communicate your value to your ideal client.
  3. We’re in the information age - Your website needs to contain valuable information and provide it in an interesting way.

Most established businesses make a decent stab at achieving the first two points, but the final point is lost on most companies, and it is the point which if managed well can allow your business and your website to stay relevant as the world around you is transformed.

Your website should be at the centre of an ecosystem of business assets and your digital knowledge assets are the plankton at the base of that ecosystem – free, easy to consume and attracts bigger fish. They’re probably overlooked at the moment, perhaps you’re not even aware that you have knowledge assets, but if you (or we) can think of a way to deliver your knowledge assets in a fun and useful way, preferably in exchange for an email address, your website will become a platform not unlike google or Facebook which will engage your potential clients and keep them coming back for more.

  1. Could you provide your visitors with a report that’s tailored just for them?
  2. Could you use AI or natural language chat to engage your visitors and offer them valuable information, or talk them through your ecosystem.
  3. Could you provide your visitors with access to some of your knowledge in a more palatable fashion? Video for example?
  4. Could you provide your visitors with access to information they desperately want to know – for instance recruitment candidates love to know what their market value is.

Industries, like recruitment, are built primarily on networks and relationships, but publishing content and leading the conversation can elevate the perception of a business within an industry from player to pioneer.

Even in industries that on the outside appear to be dying the future remains bright for businesses that innovate and seize new opportunities as they arise. Your website isn’t irrelevant because it’s been replaced by your corporate pages on social media sites or because people will rarely visit from Google any more, it’s irrelevant because it’s rubbish – try to be a bit more awesome

About the author

Ashley Lansdowne Goodman

Ashley has worked in the tech industry since the late 1990's. He's obsessed with new technology and it's implications for small and medium sized businesses.

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I have been very impressed with the final results and have found the process easy and straight forward

Sarah Seagar, Alan Mitchell Financial Recruitment

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