There’s no question about it. The age of the Internet has arrived—even if you run a small, local business. Today, companies that aim to attract customers in a relatively small geographic vicinity can no longer choose to overlook the power of Internet marketing in favor of traditional advertising tactics, like billboards or television ads. Instead, it’s essential for local businesses to build themselves an online presence, and the first—and perhaps most essential—step towards doing so is creating a company website.

Not convinced that you need to go online to bring in business? You’re not alone. In fact, recent reports show that about 46 percent of small businesses in the U.S. don’t have a website.

However, if your company doesn’t have a presence on the web, you’re missing out on an extremely powerful and convenient marketing tool. Here are 10 essential reasons why you should be focused on creating a website for your company in the coming year.

1. You Need a Digital Business Card

The fact of the matter is most of the adult population is spending time on the Internet. In fact, more than 3.5 billion people currently use the web. So, if you want to be discovered where people are spending their time, it’s essential to have accurate information about your company accessible in that space.

A website acts like a digital business card for a company: people can reference it again and again for things like contact information, names of employees, services offered and more.

2. You Need to Be Discoverable in Search Engine Results

People don’t just browse the Internet to discover companies they want to do businesses with; more specifically, they visit search engines. In fact, studies show that 71 percent of B2B researchers begin their purchasing process with a search on a search engine.

So, you need to have a search-optimized company website that can rank well in search engine results. This will ensure that those B2B business decision makers who are searching for a company like yours will be able to find you from the beginning when they start to look.

3. Consumers Search with Proximity in Mind

It’s important to have an optimized website so you can come up in search results—especially because studies have shown that people tend to take to their computers or mobile devices to search for things that are close to them. Studies on local SEO show that 89 percent of people search for a business near them using their mobile device at least once a week, and 58 percent of people search for businesses near them at least once a day.

Also, 76 percent of local searches result in a phone call to a business. Having a website allows searchers who are looking for a business within close proximity to them discover your business and get in contact with you.

4. It Can Help You Build Credibility

When it comes to convincing B2B customers to buy, first impressions are important. And, according to a study on web credibility done by the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, 75 percent of web users actually make judgments about a business’ credibility based solely on the appearance of their website.

Having a professionally designed, thorough and easy-to-use website can help you to more easily convey to potential customers that you are a reputable organization, one they want to do business with.

Depending on social media pages alone will only take you so far; studies have shown that 84 percent of consumers believe that a business with a website is more credible that one that only has social media pages.

5. SEO Is a Cost Effective Marketing Strategy

Let’s face it—every company wants to optimize the dollars in their budget, ultimately getting the most amount of bang for the least amount of buck. When it comes to marketing, having a website that is optimized for search can be one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies. Companies can pay to have their websites optimized by an SEO expert—which is a one-time investment that will pay off again and again.

Alternatively, if you can learn the basic rules of SEO, then you can optimize your own site, which is a cost-effective way to consistently bring in leads without spending extra dollars.

6. Google Ranks Local Businesses Higher When Searchers Use Mobile Devices

Google assumes that a user doing a search on their mobile phone is most likely on the go, and, in turn, looking for a business in close proximity. Thus, the search engine favors local businesses when people do mobile searches.

Having a company website that is optimized for mobile gives you the chance to take advantage of Google’s preferential treatment and appear higher up on the results page. This ups your chances of consumers discovering your company in the moment that they’re looking for it and means they’re more likely to get in touch.

7. Your Website Stays Open 24 Hours Per Day

Unlike your business, which most likely does not operate or communicate with customers after-hours, your website stays open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This means that even when your staff is not available to interact with people looking to do business with you, your website is accessible and able to provide helpful information, serve as a point of contact or even allow customers to make purchases or submit orders.

8. Your Competitors Probably Have One

While 46 percent of small businesses don’t have their own website, 54 percent of them do. This means that the majority of small businesses DO have a presence online, and it’s likely that your competitors have a website that is appealing to people in your area.

If you want to stay relevant and competitive within your field, it’s important that your business have a footprint online—it not only helps you stay competitive, but it also helps cement your role as a forward-thinking, tech-savvy business.

9. It Can Help Your Business Grow

If you’re hoping to expand your business and bring in new customers, having a website is an important strategy. Small businesses who’ve experimented with launching a website report being happy with their success. Surveys on small business’ websites show that 81 percent of companies that launched sites saw their business grow, and 97 percent of small business owners would recommend having a website to other small business owners.

10. It Allows You to Hone Your Company’s Brand and Image

Having social media pages is a good way to engaged with the public, but a business website that you’re in control of is a great way to shape the image of your company to the public. A website is a good place to hone your brand—using your specific aesthetic, vocabulary, and more—its the ideal forum for you to shape the narrative about your company.

Social media pages (like Facebook) and peer review sites (like Yelp) on the other hand, allow your company’s image to be shaped via input from the public—this can be helpful but doesn’t always paint the picture you would prefer to see. By creating and managing your own company site and content, you get to paint the picture of your business.

Tips for Creating a Website for Your Local Business

So, by now, you might be convinced of the importance of having a website for your local business. But, how do you go about designing one? Here are some tips to keep in mind during the creation of your business’s site to help ensure that it functions well, looks good and helps bring in the business you desire.

1. Make Sure it is Optimized for Mobile

Today, people are using mobile devices more than ever before. In fact, 88 percent of people in the US are now using their mobile devices to conduct searches. Because people are spending their online time on mobile devices, and because Google will be giving preference to websites that are mobile-friendly when it comes to search rankings, it’s important to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile.

Consider designing responsively or, with a design that can adapt itself to look good and function well no matter what size screen a viewer is viewing your site on.

2. Make Sure It Looks Professional

As mentioned above, website design can either build or break down credibility. Thus, it’s important to make your website’s design look professional so you don’t turn potential customers away. Consider hiring a professional designer to design the site; the one-time investment may pay off big time in the long run.

3. Have a Good Web Host

Make sure you are using a good web host to host your website. A good web host is important because it allows your website to load quickly. Fast load times are important; 63 percent of people say that they will go to a competitor’s site if a site doesn’t load in three seconds on their mobile device (source: Vivial Webinar attachment), and slow load times will negatively affect your SEO ranking.

4. Feature Your Name, Address and Phone Number

One of the main purposes of your website is to encourage potential customers to get in touch with your business (did you know that more than 60 percent of local businesses don’t have their phone number on their website?!). To guarantee they can do so easily, it’s important to make your contact information – your name, address, and phone number – prominent and easy to find on your site.

Make it as easy as possible for people looking to get in touch with you to do so.

5. Embed Social Media Information

On your website, include feeds from your social media pages: your Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram photos and more. You’ll also want to include links and follow buttons to your social media so that visitors can share the attractive and informative pages you now have on your website.

Your website can help you increase your social media footprint and gain more followers, who may ultimately be converted into paying customers.

If you run a local business and you want to grow in the coming year, it’s essential for you to start building your web presence. With a well-designed, optimized site you can reach a new audience of potential leads who can not only become your customers, but who may become loyal ambassadors for your brand.