Small Businesses Forgoing Websites Because of Time and Expense — But Is It Costing Them in the Long Run?

websiteDespite the ease of setting up a website these days, many small business owners confess that they don’t have their own homepage — something that experts would say is a serious risk for a business in the 21st century.

A 2013 survey by Google and research company Ipsos found that 55 percent of more than 3,800 small businesses didn’t have their own website. In 2012, 58 percent reported that they didn’t have their own websites.

Although the number has gone done, though, that’s still over half of small businesses without any sort of web presence.

Many small business owners say that they don’t have the time to set up or run a website. Cost is also a big concern.

Yet others, who are satisfied with the sizes of their companies, say that having a website would bring another disadvantage: too many customers.

Steve Love has never had a website for LoveLand Farms, the handmade sausage and meat business he established in 1988. A website, he says, would increase sales, yet he doesn’t have the ability to obtain more farmland to raise more hogs and Black Angus cattle.

Love, who sells his goods at a farmer’s market in Bloomington, Ind., and in his shop, the Sausage Shack, once a week, said of starting a website, “I’m already maxed out. I’m scared it would blow up on me.”

When asked by farmer’s market customers if he has a website, Love gives them a card with a phone number and map to his shop instead. However, he does admit that a website could exist in the future, if his children take over his business.

For other small business owners, time is a big motivator in the decision to forgo a website.

Although Bill Peatman writes blog posts, emails and other content for his corporate clients’ websites, he doesn’t have one of his own for his business.

“I’ve just been too busy. I haven’t come up with a plan with what I want to do,” said Peatman, who has had his Napa, Calif., business for over a year.

The problem, Peatman said, is that people don’t think a company exists without a web presence. He has plans to hire a web developer in the future, but admits it could take a few more months to get that site off the ground.

Some companies can set up a website in as little as a day using a template that requires little or no coding skills. Others may choose to hire a company to develop a custom web design and maintain the site for them.

“It used to be that advertising helped to legitimize a business,” states Scott Trueblood, President of BrandVision Marketing, a full-service marketing agency which offers customized website development. “Now, it is having a website. After all, in this information-driven consumer culture, the ‘surf-before-you-shop’ consumer looks to a web presence to legitimate a business. So, even if it’s little more than a web brochure, a website is a big factor for small business owners…especially if growth is the key.”

And business owners who do run their own websites have seen significant increases in sales. With more users searching on smartphones and other mobile devices, too, business owners without websites could be missing out on a lot of potential revenue.

One business owner, Cyndi Grasman, began selling food-related T-shirts with her company, Bad Pickle Tees, in 2012 and started selling online a year ago.

Where she once only sold her “Oh Kale Yeah!” and “I Heart Bacon” tees at food festivals, selling online, too, she says, has allowed her to reach “a larger audience” all thanks to her website.

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