Your Online Presence: It Starts With a Website

An interesting conversation started on my business Facebook page the other day. My business partner posted an article about an event that Google was hosting in Honolulu to help businesses build a website, for free! The shocking statistic that pulled everyone into this post was that Google reported 68% of small businessesin Hawaii don’t have a website.


When I read that statistic, I was literally shocked. But then when I began to think about all the times I would search for a small local business online and find nothing it began to make more sense.

The catalyst for the conversation was in the details of the event that Google was hosting. They would get your business online, but use Intuit to design these free websites. While we all applaud Google for helping to lower the shocking percentage, a few of our local colleagues did not think that was the best solution.

Roxanne Darling Amazing stat. But PULLEASE do not build your website with Intuit! Google, darling, please go back to what you do well and leave the site-building to us!

Peter Liu Whether it’s called a website or anything else, you need a place for your content to live that you OWN. The technologies will evolve. But Intuit? Ew.

Jon Brown I think the vast majority of cases having any site is better than none. However if you except the premise that having a site is _valuable_ to any business then any business needs to get over the idea that it’s going to be easy and nearly free. I recommend WordPress or hiring someone to do it for you.

Gene Park I admit I was also taken aback by the promised use of Intuit. But if this is a do it yourself workshop, then I suppose it’ll do and it’s mostly just to get these small mom and pops online at all, not so much have a whizbang web presence. It’s more like a spark to start a fire, so they might want to improve their web presence even MORE and then seek out WordPress gurus.

Erik Blair As social media and blogs evolve they may become more alike and even more cross-functional. The result may one day mean less value having a hub we call a “blog”, and more value with brand reach across platforms. But for now, for most people just entering the “game”, a wordpress blog IS the best bet.

Read the full conversation on our Facebook page here.

For anyone who has experience with WordPress it comes easy. But how easy does it come for a mom and pop business owner who spends most of their time running their business? From our experience, business owners are so busy they have a hard time keeping up with their email, much less the basics of WordPress. Intuit may not be the “right” way to build a website, but isn’t anything better than nothing?

So I’m putting this question out to you. Which is better? No website, or the best website?

If you were searching for a small business online, what are your expectations for an online presence? Is it forgivable if their website looks outdated, or less forgivable that they don’t have a website at all?

Healthy Online Presence

I advocate for an online presence no matter how it’s done. It’s kind of a no brainer, if 97% of people are looking online for local products and services, you better be there. An online presence starts with a website but it is so much more. Google indexes most of your online activity including social media, so I’m leaving you with my checklist for a healthy online presence:

1) Website: should be your home base. Keep in mind it’s the ONLY place online where you make the rules. No matter what platform you use, always keep your website updated. Blogging is even better—posting regularly has a long list of benefits but requires a commitment.

2) Facebook: Fill out your profile completely; add a great cover photo and profile picture. Post regularly and always spend time in your home feed engaging off the page.

3) Twitter: is where you will make the most personal connections. Twitter is about conversation and networking and don’t be afraid to Tweet often!

4) Google +: a presence here will help your search rankings, but the content posted here won’t be too much different than what you post on Facebook. It’s safe to say you can have the same habits on Google + that you have on Facebook.

5) Instagram, Pinterest: Photos are one of the best investments you can make, so if you are a business that can tell your story using photos (that’s about 99% of you), invest in taking original photos or have someone do it for you.

Here are some other great articles from some of my local cohorts to help you have a healthy online presence:


  1. Face it, as technologists, we’d love to sell fancy websites to everyone on the planet. However, if you’re a ma & pop store owner and have no resources, an Intuit templated site is much better than nothing. Link to simple things like a Facebook fan page, or if that’s too complicated, your Yelp & Foursquare pages are good enough. For most businesses without a website, Yelp and Foursquare are their public presence. Make sure your operating hours, address, and contact information on those services are correct. But having them link back to your own website that you can control content on, built off someone’s template, is definitely better than not having a website at all.

    • Thanks so much for your feedback Derek! You bring up great points with Yelp and Foursquare profiles. Most people are searching and connecting with local businesses on their phone too, and making sure your profiles are current and updated is so important!

  2. peterliu47 says:

    Nice job, Gwen! It’s a pretty shocking statistic in this day and age, but then again, knowing some of the folks behind these small businesses personally, I’m not really surprised.

  3. I think having one of those websites is better than none. It doesn’t have to be the fanciest, but have the basics and needs to be kept current. At least get and set up Google Places for a business can control some of their search.

    • Hi Steve,
      I agree. There are several supplemental things small businesses can do to improve their search rankings such as Google Places. But a website, no matter what form is where it starts. Search rankings also depend upon where the competition is. If there is a lot of competition in the same search space, then it will require more resources to keep up.

  4. Hi Telleuchen,
    Thanks for taking the time to share your opinion! I agree that an unprofessional website is most often a turn off, but for me personally something is much better than nothing. It could be done how you described too, but I would also suggest for any brick and mortar business to take advantage of Google Places.

    Google Places is an easy way for businesses to make sure they show up on search results in people are searching for relevant items/services in their area. It’s one of most underutilized tools, and it’s so easy to use.

  5. I think it’s better to just have a online ad in a phone directory or something then to have a blog if the blog is done poorly. A lot of times a blog can look really unprofessionally and hastily done.

  6. Interesting article.

    I am one of those Mom and Pop businesses that do not have a web site. Have been wanting and thinking of one for a long time but everytime I start I get lost in all the technology.

    Being small we do not have the resources to pay to have it done for us so it is up to me to get it started. Enjoyed reading the article and comments as it shows me I am on the right tract just need to get more done.


    • Hi Barb,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I wrote this article with you in mind, and because we see the same scenario as yours all the time. While we would like to see everyone do a proper WordPress site, we have to acknowledge that not all businesses have the proper resources or time to do it this way. I’m sure that is why Google is filling this niche. I appreciate you taking the time to give us all insight from your perspective!


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