If you’re reading this blog, it’s safe to assume you’re somewhat Web-savvy, right? You’re operating a computer, you have access to the Internet. You found a blog you were interested in reading…

So, do you have a website? If you operate a small business, how do your customers find you?

As a software company employee, I probably spend more time online than the average person. I acknowledge that. But I don’t think I’m too terribly out of the ordinary in my personal (as opposed to professional) reliance on the Internet as a source of information.

Here’s what I know. If I search for a company and can’t find them online, I make certain assumptions. Either they’re a small-time operation, they’re brand new, or they don’t want to be found.

Now, the last possibility — not wanting to be found — is the only acceptable reason to not have any Web presence. And by acceptable, I mean it’s a questionable business decision, but an acceptable rationale for not having a website. If your business plan is to NOT attract new customers or make yourself available to your existing ones, then you’re doing great by not having that website.

Let’s assume that invisibility is not your goal, though. Maybe you’re a mom and pop operation. You don’t take online orders and you don’t care if your company’s name gets in front of anyone in any other part of the country or world.

You still have customers or clients. And you want them to be able to find you. Maybe all they need to know are your hours of operation, or your phone number, or your street address. Maybe they want to look at your breakfast menu, or whether you service their make/model of car. And maybe it’s midnight… There are too many ‘maybes’ to list. The point is, when even your grandfather has a phone capable of browsing the Internet, it’s more important than ever to make sure that people can find you.

An ad in the yellow pages doesn’t cut it anymore. According to¬†MarketingCharts.com, a 2009 study showed that 63 percent of consumers and small business owners use the Internet as their first source of information. So if you’re not making yourself available to them by having a website (and according to the study, a shocking 56% of small businesses aren’t), you’re basically hiding. At best, you’re making your customers take extra steps. At worst, you’re inviting your customers and potential customers to go to your competition.

You don’t have to be a computer programmer to make a website. In fact, website design is pretty easy, with templates and step-by-step wizards available to guide you through the creation process. You don’t need to know code or be a designer to create something that will look nice and be useful. Companies like our partners at Network Solutions offer great deals on packages that include domain names and hosting, site building tool, and even personalized email addresses.

It’s 2010. Any business, of any size, without a website is simply waiting to be passed by.

-Jay Snider
Palo Alto Software