In college I was a Psychology major until I realized I’d have to reach a PhD level education to obtain a job with any real earning potential. That meant staying in college and thousands more in student loans. With much sadness I switched career paths and moved into a world of technology.
Flash forward twenty years and I now claim to be an Internet marketer who spends many hours as a WordPress designer and an SEO expert. I love what I do, yet still miss my first love of Psychology. Recently my two loves collided as I remembered Swiss-born psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her book On Death and Dying. She outlined the five stages of grief a person and their loved ones go through when presented with death. I was reminded of this recently as I spoke with a business owner that reached out to me concerning his outdated website. The discussion and the desire to hang on to something beyond repair reminded me of the book I read so many years ago.
While letting go of your old, outdated website is not as traumatic as losing a loved one, it does represent change. Many of us tend to hang on to what is comfortable and easy and avoid a voluntary jump into the unknown. The small business owner is no different. While he may know his ten-year-old website is horribly outdated, the desire to change it seems overwhelming, unimaginable, and unnecessary. He steps into the first of five steps of grief.
A Review of the Small Business Owner’s Website and His Five Stages of Grief
- Denial – My website is fine. No one comes to it anyway, so I’m not going to waste any money changing it. Who really cares about what is looks like? It’s my product (or service) offering that makes a difference, not my website.
- Anger – If people don’t like my website than I don’t need to do business with them. I’m not spending thousands of dollars to have some web designer try and communicate my marketing message. I know what’s good for my business, not some graphic designer who spends his entire day on Twitter. SEO, local search, and Facebook. Who are these people and what the heck are they talking about? I don’t need any of that stuff.
- Bargaining – Okay maybe my website is a little dated. I think I’ll update it myself and tweak it a bit to freshen it up. If I update the pictures from 1985 and put in a few keywords, I’ll be good to go. My cousin built his fraternity’s website ten years ago, so I think I’ll take him to dinner and ask him to help. It shouldn’t be that hard. I’m sure I can just make a few changes and get a huge impact without spending any money.
- Depression – Oh my gosh, this website project is a nightmare. I don’t know HTML, I can’t locate the original website designer, and I have no idea how to strong content that people will actually read. I can’t tell the difference between CSS, PHP, and HTML. What do they mean Google doesn’t look at meta keywords anymore? I have no idea what meta is, let alone if Google reads it. What is black hat SEO? I don’t even know what SEO means, so how am I supposed to know if my website uses black hate SEO practices?
- Acceptance – Yep, completely over my head. Need some help and need it now. My competition is killing me, prospects don’t know what I do or when I’m open, and anyone I do get to look at my home page runs away laughing. The time has come to get a professional web designer to overhaul the website and start fresh. 2011 is the year of my Internet debut.
While this list may be praised by some and criticized by others, it is a reminder of why so many small businesses struggle with their web. In the Unites States, 55% of people use the Internet daily with Americans spending an average of 60 hours online each week. With the growing availability of broadband and the increased popularity of smart phones and devices like the iPad, the level of Internet usage will only continue to grow. Small businesses cannot ignore the need for a strong web presence and that having a marketing plan now means reaching prospects and customers through the Internet.
Five years ago I would have agreed with most small businesses owners. Internet marketing was still difficult and not an easy task to accomplish. While I’ve been working with SEO and website design for years, technology didn’t really get small business friendly until the world of open source kicked it up a notch. Websites were expensive, you needed a graphic designer, and you needed an SEO expert to help guide you along so someone other than your employees would find your website.
Enter WordPress, the fast growing, open source CMS package that is launching everything from blogs and small business websites to fancy portals for stars and magazines and television networks. WordPress is my passion and the software that liberated me and countless other small business owners. We are now empowered to take website design into our own hands. Or, at least outsource the creation of the website, then manage it internally if we choose. We have an option. We can create a great new website that is search engine friendly and pleasing to the eye and for a much lower budget than we could ten years ago. We have choices.
If you are a small business owner who is stuck in one of the five stages of grief, visit wordpress.org and learn more about WordPress website design and your options. WordPress will allow you to create and manage your web presence in the same software as CNN, Katy Perry, Carnival Cruises, Lexus, and The New Your Times. Best of all it is free and you only need to locate a good WordPress designer to help get you started.