There’s no question about it. To compete in today’s uber competitive market you need a strong online presence. We are not just talking about a DIY-website and a Facebook page. Instead, you need a well thought out, optimized marketing strategy that includes online, social and mobile components. Why? Because this is where your consumers are searching. In fact, the average consumer will consult 10.4 sources before making a purchase. And for the first time EVER, digital ad spend will surpass traditional marketing efforts.

If you run a local business, regardless of your geographic target area, you’d better be thinking online, social and mobile. The first component – and perhaps the most essential – of this strategy is your company website.

Think you can squeeze by one more year without one? Or maybe the site your cousins’ brothers’ sister-in-law made will tide you over a few more years? Think again. Thirty percent of consumers won’t consider a business without a website. Consumers expect local businesses, regardless of size, to have an online presence. But not just any online presence. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.

So why do you need a website and how can you be sure it’ll convert those shoppers into buyers? Here are 10 essential reasons why you should strengthen your online presence with a mobile-responsive website.

1. You Need a Digital Business Card

Americans spend, on average, 23.6 hours online each week and nearly 5 hours every day on their mobile devices. 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. 93% of online experiences start with a search engine. And nearly half of these searches are for local businesses.

So, you need to have a search-optimized company website that can rank well in search engine results. This will ensure consumers are able to find, and connect with, your business.

3. Consumers Search with Proximity in Mind

It’s important to have an optimized website so you’ll appear 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. In fact, 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines for local information.

These searches aren’t just surfing the web either. 88% of searches for local business on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. Having a website allows searchers who are looking for a business within close proximity to discover your business and get in contact with you.

4. It Can Help You Build Credibility

When it comes to convincing consumers to buy, first impressions are important. Fifty-seven percent of people won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. That’s right consumers make judgements about your business based on the appearance of your 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.

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.

Are you thinking about tackling SEO yourself? We wouldn’t suggest it, after all you have a business to run. But there are some basic tactics that you can take to position yourself to be discovered through search.

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 36 percent of small businesses don’t have their own website, 64 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

A website is a good place to hone your brand—using your specific aesthetic, vocabulary, and more—it’s 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

Mobile is the preferred device for most online activities. In fact, 60% of Google searches are conducted on a mobile device. Because people are spending their online time on mobile devices, and because Google will penalize your website if it’s not mobile-friendly when it comes to search rankings, it’s important to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile.

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; 53% of people say that they will abandoned a site if that site doesn’t load in three seconds on their mobile device. And even more importantly, 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 70 percent of local businesses don’t have a clear call to action on their website and 27% don’t even have a phone number on the home page?! 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 it’s essential for you to have a strong online, social and mobile marketing strategy. And the best place to start – or even refresh – is your website. 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.