Are Small Business Websites Really This Bad?

bad-news-sad-depressedI know there are some really bad small business websites out there, but some fresh numbers paint an alarming picture.

The stats come from “SMB DigitalScape,” a data tool that’s being jointly promoted by BIA/Kelsey and vSplash, the company that created the tool. The numbers were distributed Monday in conjunction with the beginning of BIA/Kelsey’s ILM East show.

How bad is the picture? Consider these pullouts from the news release:

  • 60 percent of small business websites don’t have a phone number listed on the home page
  • 75 percent are lacking an email link on their home page
  • 66 percent don’t have a contact form to enable consumers to request information.
  • 93 percent aren’t mobile-friendly and “will not render successfully on mobile devices or smartphones”

I can believe that last bullet point; I’m confident that the majority of small business owners haven’t given much thought to how their website looks and functions on mobile devices.

The others — especially the first two above — I just find extremely hard to believe. Having spent about nine years (1997-2006) building small business websites, I recall that even the most basic websites showed the company name, logo and phone number — and I’m talking about cases when the business owner did the website himself/herself in Front Page before ever approaching me for something better.

I’m not posting this to cast doubt or aspersion on DigitalScape, vSplash, or BIA/Kelsey and I hope they don’t view it that way. I’m posting it to start a discussion about the state of SMB websites because I really, really hope that the picture isn’t this bad.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Comments (18)

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  1. They really are that bad. I’ve worked “in house” for two small businesses and am starting to take on other clients. I have a whole folder of the god-awful sites I’ve run across just in my community. Sadly some of the worst are the web designers own sites.

    Re: phone numbers-frequently I see the phone number on the home page, but it’s part of an image that’s called “companylogo.JPEG” or something else useless. D

  2. Seth says:

    I agree with Sharon. We specialize in website design for small/local businesses, and the majority of clients that come to me for help meet all of the above (dis)qualifications.

  3. I work with a lot of local small businesses and every single one of those items you’ve listed are very true. A lot of these businesses either outsourced their first site and got “exactly what they want” but not what’s best for a business in their situation, OR they had their child build it in some type of free web building tool.

    All too often I find websites missing contact information, linking to “#” (as if they bought a template and forgot to update the navigation links), don’t have their business name in their title tags (you know, their homepage is called “Homepage” and their about page is called “About”)

    It’s hard to believe in 2012 that there are businesses still questioning whether the Internet is going to drive business to them.

  4. Oh so true! Sorry to disappoint, we spend a lot of our time explaining to small businesses that the site they built themselves or paid virtually nothing for is missing even basic info and is normally not coming up in search. Not having a contact form/email is illegal under EU law too. Worst one I’ve seen recently was an IT services guy – all the above plus half a page of white-on-white hidden text that he thought was a clever idea .

  5. Sharon says:

    If we’re sharing stories….

    Even the “good” designers can miss the SEO boat entirely. One local small business paid $15,000 for a site that was visually beautiful, but at delivery had 30+ pages all with the exact same title tag. Not to mention they never said/did anything about the disastrous directory listings that sink their local results. Rather than setting up a legit google place page, they recommended a $2,000 a month adwords spend. Adwords are great, but fix the basics first! And this is the “best” company in town!!!

  6. Yeah, it’s pretty bad out there. Another thing I’ve noticed too often is that even if they do have the info, it’s not always very prominent.

    Some don’t even have it on their home page, and require browsers to go to “About us,” and then MAYBE find it there. Not good …

  7. Roger Hicks says:

    Nothing surprises me anymore. However, these figures are pretty shocking. I spend an amazing amount of time trying to explain the benefits of landing pages. Most people think potential customers are willing to get dropped at the home page and search for what they want from there. My next quest is to get our clients updated with mobile sites.

  8. Jesse Heap says:

    Anecdotally I’d like to think things are better versus 10 years ago. Things have certainly improved with CMS systems and templates which at least have some the basics in place.

    The one stat that throws me is the one that states 93% of sites will not render successfully on a mobile device or smartphone. If they are counting sites that are not mobile optimized but still at least render on Android and IOS devices then I can understand 93%.

    But I do not believe that there is such a high of a percentage of sites do not render on the two major platforms. Other then flash intensive sites, most sites will at least render with some pinch and zooming required to experience the content.

  9. This is great research, I would love to see the list of the 60%.

    It’s amazing how often a potential client will want to promote a site without any way of converting a sale or generating a lead. That is doomed from the beginning if they aren’t able to update the site. It’s a testament to the importance of following a checklist and getting a professional involved while creating a wire frame. It’s too often that small businesses have to do it on the cheap and hire cousin Johnny to make a geocities homepage that will never generate any quantifiable revenue.

    It’s often times a barrier to SEM’s since the fixed cost of getting started requires a site overhaul.

  10. You are absolutely right here. I’ve seen quite a bit of local small to medium sized businesses, and the lack of basic contact information on most sites is crazy.

    We aren’t even talking conversion here, just basic, “hey this is how you can contact us if you more information” kind of stuff.

  11. I don’t understand why the basics are so often overlooked, either. Phone numbers are often missing, and contact pages are often ineffective. I think it may stem from the small business owner not really understanding what their website is capable of. I’ve seen many who use other forms of advertising, and when the phone rings they send the prospect to their website for additional information – completely backwards. Then they wonder why people can’t find their website. I love it when the light turns on for them :)

  12. Jay says:

    @Sharon: That’s incredibly bad! Talk about bleeding an SMB dry! Small businesses need to research before hiring web designers as there are a number, in fact a huge number of “sub-par” designers that will charge the earth for something that the small business could have done for themselves.

  13. Keri King says:

    I wish the first two (no phone or email) were higher percentages of websites that didn’t have them. In a world of information, there’s not enough staff in the world to answer every question. The website should be designed for the user to get the info they need, quickly. Not make a call or email to get that info.

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