Websites have been the core of companies’ digital identities since the advent of the internet. But today’s world is radically different. Now brand web presences have multiplied, distributed across Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, across Glassdoor and Indeed, within the sprawling environments of an Amazon, in the App Store, and of course within Google search results. And within each of these growing channels, consumers are accessing brands across mobile, tablet and desktop — alternating between them in ways that continue to bedevil marketers. This distributed, multi-device reality presents ongoing challenges for marketers as they seek to keep up. But what does it mean for the original channel — the brand website?
Looking back, websites once had to be all those things: stores, blogs, brochures, portals for new hires and new business and two-way channels for conversations with customers. Now that most of those functions have been improved via specialized third-party sites and services, the role of websites have changed.
Websites are still the cornerstones of online presences. They are the primary nexus for news, information, content, job postings and executive profiles. The difference is that now it the websites function as archives and central repositories of this content, rather than the front pages for it. What can be found on company websites can be found elsewhere, sure, but only on the websites does the content make sense as part of coordinated business wholes.
The other benefit of inbound website traffic is that it is the best place to gain a better understanding of leads, prospects and consumers. By offering insights, research, webinars, exclusive content and/or offers, websites provide unrivaled portals through which to gather the data that then informs outbound sales and marketing efforts. It’s not as easy to gather that data through all the extensions of brands. Social platforms, in particular, have privacy policies that prevent such data from winding up in companies’ hands. Websites are still the best places for it.
Furthermore — and this can’t be understated — websites are the most definitive articulations of companies’ brand identities. The colors, fonts and overall user experiences communicate the personalities of brands in succinct and enduring fashions that can’t be accomplished within the curated environments of social platforms and other extended channels, where all content is rendered uniformly and where brands’ own content appears alongside other user-generated material that may have nothing to do with their messages.
That’s why you see so many resources going into the design of websites. Earlier web services focused on executing functioning sites with reliable back-ends, but services like Wix and Squarespace have moved all of that to the background. Today, most of the energy in creating websites goes into their design and user interfaces, which are the very things which create lasting brand impressions.
Some thought that websites wouldn’t survive the changes that have come to our digital lives. On the contrary, their role remains crucial. As long as websites are mobile-responsive, websites function today much as they have for the last two decades: as the primary digital presences for companies, the nucleus of an ever-expanding set of channels for the expression of brands.
Fortunately, there’s more opportunity than ever for SMBs to build websites, either by working directly with marketing services partners, or through a do-it-yourself (DIY) or do-it-with-me (DIWM) models. Content studios, ad agencies, local media companies and other ad services providers, including Sound Publishing, can help companies build and design websites to grow their businesses. At Sound, we can get started on a revamped, mobile-responsive website that will work across devices to reach audiences wherever they are.