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Websites are vital to getting clients, but it can’t be just any old website!

Let me give you a few statistics here…

According to Yelp, 85% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses.

50% of people who search for a local business on their smart phone, visit a store within 24 hours?

If you don’t have a website, especially one that is mobile responsive, you’re missing out on a ton of potential clients. And I don’t mean just a basic website you got for free. As convenient as those free sites are, they’re not doing you any favors when it comes to search engine optimization and setting you apart from the competition. They could just be a waste of time.

Here’s the thing…

yourdomain.weebly.com yourdomain.wix.com yourdomain.massagetherapy.com yourdomain.amtamembers.com yourdomain.anythingelse.com

does NOT give the impression of professionalism. And the sites associated with those domains are usually pretty generic looking to boot. They have preset templates that are your only choices, so it’s not your fault. You’re trapped in a box with that kind of site.

Now you may think…”I can’t afford a website and a web designer!” But I promise, it’s far more affordable than most people would have you believe. You can get a domain name for about $15/year and hosting for your site as low as $5/month. If you get a single client per year from your website, it pays for itself!

When it comes to the design, most hosting companies have a pretty simple site builder that they are happy to help you navigate. You can usually have a very nice, informational website designed in a matter of a couple hours. I recommend GoDaddy. I’m not an affiliate, it’s simply because I’ve had an amazing experience with them. Their customer service has always been impeccable for me, and they’ve helped several therapists I’ve mentored to put together beautiful, unique websites in no time. Plus you can keep my domain name, hosting, and design all with one company to keep things simple. There are countless options out there though, so do some research on what you want in a site and pick a company. And don’t be afraid to call their customer service and have them walk you through the steps.

So why pay for a site when you can have one for free?

#1 Professionalism Those free sites just don’t cut it. The domain doesn’t look professional and even gives off the impression that you’re not willing to invest in your business. And if you’re not willing to invest in it, why would a client? When your domain is something simple like janesmith.com, you appear much more legitimate to the people searching in your area for a massage therapist.

#2 Easier to Remember Clients and potential clients will be able to find you much easier if your name or your business name is in the domain, and therefore all they have to remember. Keep things simple for your clients. They won’t remember that it’s janesmith.amtamembers.com. But they will easily remember janesmith.com.

#3 Search Engine Optimization This can often sound scary but it’s a pretty simple concept. You want your site to appear as high as possible on search engine results when someone searches for “Massage” and “Your City”. With a custom built site, you can use several ways to boost your ranking on all search engines; and the higher you rank on search engines, the more people will find your website. The more people who find your website, the more who will become clients. Plus, if your name or your business name is the only thing in the domain, that immediately helps your SEO.

#4 Professional Email Address With a custom, professional website you can also get an email address like info@janesmith.com. This immediately gives you more legitimacy over janesmith@gmail.com. Any email address like that is taken a lot less seriously than one that has your domain name in it.

#5 Customization You have complete control over how you want your site to look. You don’t need to know how to code or get super technical. Although there might be a learning curve with some site builders, most are very user friendly and you have a ton of options to choose from when it comes to themes, menu layouts, and plugin options. You can even check out YouTube for tutorials on just about everything when it comes to website design if you don’t want to use your hosting company’s customer service. If you want to have additional features on your site like scrolling testimonials, Facebook like boxes, email list sign-up boxes, retail items for sale, or anything else you can think up as your business grows, you really need a custom site. Some of those free sites offer a few features, but not many. With a custom site you really can let your imagination go wild and make it exactly what you want.

The key takeaway here is to walk the walk. If you want to be seen as a professional, you have to present yourself as such. There is no shame in using those free sites. I’m not trying to call anyone out for using them. I just want to express how much better it is to have a professional, custom website and a professional domain name.

With smartphones and constant internet access, we carry the world in our pockets. And with that access, we’re bombarded with all the noise of ads, news stories, social media, and everything else. Stand out from all that noise and make it easy for your dream clients to find you.

*Don’t forget to register your site with Google, Bing, and Yahoo! It’s a simple process where they confirm your business is at the address you list – then you can link to your website and add all your contact info so people can more easily find you in a local search.