Small Business Websites Survey: Insights Into 2022
As 2022 kicks off, more small businesses are creating websites and establishing an online presence. However, the process of building a website from scratch can be complex, time-consuming, and overwhelming.
With so many options available, does one work with an agency or take matters into their own hands? If so, which website builder should they choose? What approach will best help them meet their overall goals?
Here at UpCity, we surveyed 600 respondents from small businesses across the United States and Canada to gather insight about their websites and related processes. We learned about which types of industries are most inclined to have a website, how they allocate their resources, what their most common web development methods are, and what their top website priorities are for the new year.
Our findings will address the following aspects:
- Geographic regions
- Industry results
- Small business resources
- Website development methods
- Website features and priorities
We’ve also featured thoughts directly from the web development experts themselves. They’ve shared their own experiences, tips, and ideas for small businesses striving to create successful websites.
Southern-Owned Small Businesses Are Less Likely to Have a Website
As we surveyed our respondents from across the United States, we found a sizable difference in the small businesses that have websites versus the ones that don’t based on the region they’re in. Of the 30% of small businesses that don’t have websites, the largest portion of them comes from the southern U.S. The full breakdown is as follows:
• 42% South | • 32% Midwest | • 22% Northeast | • 22% West
Northeastern- and Western-Based Small Businesses are Quicker to Build Websites
In contrast, out of the 69% of U.S. small businesses that have websites, a majority of them are located in the northeast and west, along with the following:
• 78% Northeast | • 78% West | • 68% Midwest | • 58% South
Website Ownership is Less Likely For Prairie Provinces-Based Businesses
Moving into Canada, the percentage of small businesses without websites is even higher at 48%. Out of that total, 67% of those businesses are based out of the Prairie Provinces region, along with 60% in the Northern Territories.
• 67% Prairie Provinces | • 60% Northern Territories | • 56% Atlantic Provinces | • 29% Central Canada
Central Canada-based Business Are Most Likely to Have a Website
On the other hand, out of the 52% of Canadian small businesses with websites, the largest portion of them is located in the Central Canada region.
• 33% Prairie Provinces | • 40% Northern Territories | • 44% Atlantic Provinces | • 71% Central Canada | • 50% West Coast
Overall breakdown of the Canada regions that have a website:
Next, we’ll be discussing the different ways that small businesses without websites currently allocate their resources. The areas we’ll cover include:
- Industry type
- Years in operation
- Business size
- Total annual revenue
The graph below represents the businesses that are most likely to have an active website compared to the ones that aren’t, based on their industry.
Companies With an Annual Revenue Below $500,000 Are Less Likely to Own Websites
72% of small businesses that are least likely to have a website work in an unspecified industry, followed by 34% in the retail industry.
32% of businesses without websites have been operating for less than 1 year.
59% of businesses without a website have 1-5 employees.
68% of them earn annual revenue of less than $500,000.
Websites With the Highest Annual Revenue (10M+) Built Their Websites Before 2010
of small businesses that are most likely to have a website are in the marketing/technology industry.
of businesses with websites have been in business for 10+ years.
of businesses built their website between 2011-2015.
of businesses with a website have 100-250 employees.
of them earn annual revenue of $500,000-$2M
As shown above, small businesses that have been in operation for 6-10 years with 100+ team members are more likely to have an established website. It’s also no surprise that these businesses typically earn higher annual revenue than businesses with fewer resources available. From the data we’ve gathered, businesses with higher annual revenues also have significantly larger monthly budgets to spend on their websites.
|Percentage||Annual Revenue||Monthly Budget|
Note: The above figure shows the most common monthly website budget for businesses with the defined annual revenue. Example: 37% of businesses with annual revenue between $3M and $5M spend $1,500-$1,999 monthly for their website.
As an increasing amount of customers rely on the internet to find new businesses, having an up-to-date, high-performing website is essential for attracting new audiences, capturing leads, and driving conversions. Businesses should dedicate their monthly budgets and resources towards creating and maintaining a strong online presence.
“We work in IT and we provide web development services. Our marketing team of five is mostly focused on promoting our website with SEO and content. In addition to that, one programmer and one QA specialist dedicate a couple of hours a month to maintaining our website. Currently, we do not outsource anything and don’t use paid advertising. At the moment we use two paid tools for marketing. The first is Ahrefs, which costs us $179 per month. We also use Canva for $119 per year.”
—Kateryna Reshetilo, Head of Marketing, Greenice.net
Next, we’ll dive deeper into the small businesses that currently don’t have a live website. We’ll uncover whether or not they plan to build a website in the future, what their reasoning is, and what their target monthly budget is for website maintenance.
Small Business Resources
Businesses That Plan to Build Websites Hope to Spend Less Than $500 Per Month
Out of the 32% of small businesses across the United States and Canada that don’t have a website, 31% of those businesses say they want to create a website in the future. Once their websites go live, 77% of respondents hope to spend less than $500 per month on website services and upkeep.
40% of Businesses Won’t Create a Website Because it Isn’t Relevant to Their Industry
From the 69% of small businesses that don’t plan to create a website, a majority of respondents simply don’t feel that having a website is necessary for their business to succeed. A few of the industry types that they noted are:
- Medical Businesses
Their additional reasons are due to a lack of resources, expertise, and utilizing website alternatives like social media.
40% don’t think a website is relevant to their business/industry
21% use social media in place of a website
21% don’t have the technical expertise needed to
18% lack the financial ability or human resources to do so
Businesses Without Websites Rely Most Heavily on Facebook to Reach Their Audience
Our studies show that 46% of businesses that use social media in place of a website leverage Facebook most heavily, along with Instagram and TikTok as runner-ups.
Which social media platform do you use most?
• 46% Facebook | • 18% TikTok | • 18% Instagram | • 11% Twitter | • 4% LinkedIn | • 4% Other |
Although social media has its own list of benefits, it’s more efficient to use social media platforms in addition to a website. Having an official website offers an array of advantages and features that social media doesn’t.
Online Housing For Your Website
While social media provides ample opportunities to reach your audience, your business presence is fully reliant on the platform’s ability to operate. This means that if the platform is ever removed, your business page will be eliminated.
With a website, you fully control the ownership of your platform. In fact, think of your website as a permanent home for your brand. With the right practices and optimization in place, your customers will be able to easily locate your business and interact with your brand at any time.
Unlike social media, you can fully customize your website in the best way you see fit. Potential website customizations include but aren’t limited to:
- Conversion-focused landing pages
- Online testimonials and reviews
- Interactive content, videos, and graphics
- Forums and communities
- UI/UX design
Your business website should act as your go-to place for users to convert into customers. Build strategic landing pages that inspire users to take action by booking a demo, completing a request form, subscribing to a newsletter, or making a purchase.
Website Development Methods
Once you’ve decided to create your business website, then comes the next step – selecting a development method. Get started by asking yourself a series of questions:
- Do I have enough team members to handle website development in-house?
- If not, what type of agency do I prefer to partner with?
- Would a DIY website builder be the best option? If so, which one?
- Alternatively, how can I find a quality freelance developer to work with?
In this section, we’ll walk you through the website development methods that small business owners most commonly find success with.
The Largest Percentage of Businesses Prefer to Have an In-House Development Team
82% of small businesses across the U.S. and Canada opt to leverage an in-house team, the most widely used choice. While 31% of respondents have a team size of 6-10 web developers, only 15% work with a larger team of 20+ in-house developers.
“I decided to use an in-house team when I noticed how much time it saves in the process. If you’ve tried to express your vision for the site and the other party runs with a different idea severally, it can try your patience and budget. Also, being able to translate your vision for your website from the abstract to the screen is both gratifying and time-saving.”
—Jon Torres, Founder, Jontorres.com
How many in-house developers?
• 31% 6-10 in-house developers
• 30% 11-19 in-house developers
• 24% 1-5 in-house developers
• 15% 20+ in-house developers
46% of Businesses Would Rather Hire a Design or Development Agency
Outsourcing web development services through a third-party agency is the second most popular method on our list with 46% of small businesses choosing this method. Thirty-six percent of respondents revealed that they would rather partner with a full-service agency over niche agency types.
What type of agency?
• 36% Full-Service Agency
• 13% UX/UI Agency
• 10% Other
“We’ve worked with a digital marketing and web design agency rolled into one which was great. One of the things that drew us to them was the fact that they had an SEO first approach to the design and build of the website. This means that while they create something that looks great, they also create something that works well on an ongoing basis. There is no point have a good-looking website if it ends up getting lost low in the rankings and not serving its purpose. If you’re interested in working with an agency you should have a look at their previous clients, maybe even reach out to them and ask what the agency was like to deal with. It’s best to do this with a few clients so that you can get an overall opinion and see if they’re right for you.”
—Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive, Imaginaire Digital
It’s important to note, however, that not all agencies are created equal. To find an agency that will best suit your needs, you must first conduct thorough research. Start by doing a simple Google search for agencies that specialize in the types of design and development services you need. To narrow down your search even further, an online marketplace like UpCity will bring you extensive lists of agencies based on their locations and specialties.
We also highly recommend reading online reviews, ratings, and testimonials from past and present clients. This will give you a clearer idea of the company’s reputation, credibility, and expertise before you make a decision.
Most Small Businesses Select an Agency Based On Affordability
We asked small business owners to rate a variety of traits on a scale of 1-5 (1 being the highest) to see which traits they value the most when choosing an agency to partner with. Affordable services came out as our respondents’ top priority, along with our full breakdown below:
Positive online reviews
A diverse range of services
Number of years in business
“It’s been our experience that local businesses attempting in-house web development projects tend to spend more time and effort than those that outsource this service. Why? Because, generally speaking, the company’s mission is not to build and maintain websites, it is to sell products or offer services as a solution. In today’s market, business resources are limited; business owners must weigh not only the budget but the employee hours necessary to complete tasks internally vs. outsourcing. Web development is a task that can quickly turn into an all-consuming activity when least expected. My advice is to partner with an agency that allocates monthly hours to keep your website content fresh and your structure updated with changes in Google algorithms.”
—Laura Cole, Vice President, Marketing, Vivial
Third-party agencies allow businesses to refocus their in-house resources on other areas which ultimately help improve workflow, time management, and overall task efficiency.
DIY Website Builder
For the 60% of small businesses that don’t use an in-house team or agency, leveraging a DIY website builder is their top choice. Although working with a website builder can pose its own unique sets of challenges, it also has noteworthy advantages.
As noted in our website development company hiring guide, partnering with an agency is an expensive undertaking, with hourly rates ranging from $100-$180 and flat rates starting anywhere from $6,750. By opting for a DIY platform, you can save hundreds to thousands of dollars on building your website. For instance, WordPress.com currently only charges $33 per month for their Business plan, leaving you with significantly more wiggle room in your budget.
Built-In Security Features
Fortunately, many website builders include built-in security features right off the bat. Important features include but aren’t limited to:
- Two-factor authentication
- Website backup
- Managed SSL certificates
- Malware scanning
- Disaster recovery
Faster to Launch
By going the DIY route, you may be able to finish and launch your website in a shorter amount of time than working with an agency or in-house team. That being said, it’s still recommended to allow a minimum of 12-16 weeks to build your website. Create a checklist and ensure that all steps are fully completed before your site goes live.
“I chose to go with a DIY website builder because it saves a lot of money. As a small business, I couldn’t afford to invest so much in in-house web developers. The amount I spend on a website builder like WordPress each month is significantly less than what I would have to pay for a web developer.”
—Dror Zaifman, Personal Finance Expert & Director of Digital Marketing, iCASH
WordPress.com Is the Top Choice for a Website Builder
“This statistic is not surprising because WordPress is a free and open-source content management system that’s both easy to use and also powerful enough to grow with. WordPress has a thriving community that continuously helps improve the platform. As a small business owner, you will have no problems finding professional and affordable help for your WordPress site.”
—Michael Melen, Co-Founder, SmartSites
• 22% WordPress.com
• 19% Squarespace
• 19% GoDaddy
• 15% Other
• 11% BigCommerce
• 7% Wix
• 4% Weebly
• 4% Shopify
• 0% Hostgator
We then corresponded with additional experts to gather their thoughts and opinions on the platforms shown above, including those in the lower percentiles.
“I prefer to use WordPress.com among other website builders. WordPress is an easy-to-use website builder for any amateur. Moreover, it has customizable features and themes available. The cost of domains, themes, plugins, and running is between $15 to $25. It has simplified the process of creating a website from scratch. This is because pre-designed templates are available. Moreover, maintaining my website is much easier, and I do not need to hire a programmer to constantly update it.”
—Brice Gump, Digital Marketing Expert, Major Impact Media
“Weebly is one of my favorite website builders. Weebly helps beginners to create a simple interface. It’s good for bloggers and small business owners to start their businesses with ease. Weebly also provides security features to protect your website from malware with a TLS certificate (an upgraded version of SSL) for free. It starts from $6/month.”
—Elisa Bender, Co-founder, RevenueGeeks
“I prefer GoDaddy because it is very easy to use as compared to other website builders. It also allows me to oversee domains and websites from the same interface. GoDaddy also offers unlimited bandwidth and unlimited disk space. I use the Deluxe plan and I pay $8.99 monthly. The deluxe plan allows me to build unlimited websites.”
—Paula Glynn, Business Coach and Director of Search Marketing & Digital Strategy, Pixelstorm
Overall, the key takeaway is that small businesses are searching for affordable website builders that are easy to use, monitor, and update as needed.
Hiring a Freelance Developer
Lastly, 44% of businesses that currently have a website or are in the process of building a website prefer hiring a freelance developer over the previously mentioned options. We asked them about the top freelancing platforms they use to outsource reliable development experts.
38% of Small Businesses Use TopTal As Their Go-To Freelance Sourcing Platform
• 38% Toptal
• 25% PeoplePerHour
• 25% Self-sourced freelancer
• 12% Other
• 0% Fiverr
• 0% Upwork
“The freelance dev platform that in my opinion is head and shoulders above the rest is Toptal. The reason for this is two-fold, despite the added expense. First is that Toptal’s screening process honestly ends up saving us a lot of time because it is much more in-depth than any of the other services I’ve seen. Rather than us needing to spend time vetting a potential freelancer, Toptal and the listed developers do the majority of the legwork for us when it comes to getting a good match. Second is their risk-free trial format, which makes it even safer and cheaper in the long run for us if a particular candidate just isn’t working out for whatever reason.”
—Alex Kus, CMO, Buddy
Although working with a freelancer offers lower costs, allows for flexibility, and creates time-saving benefits, it’s vital to be selective about who you hire. During your initial correspondences with a prospective developer, consider asking them a series of questions to determine if their skillsets match your criteria:
- What types of development services do you offer?
- What industries do you specialize in building websites for?
- What is your past experience?
- What type of input will you need from me?
- How long will the project take to complete?
- How much will the total project cost?
We also recommend evaluating them based on the following traits:
Communication and Professionalism
Observe their levels of communication and professionalism during your initial emails. Are their emails riddled with typos? Are they communicating to you in a clear, concise, respectful manner? Do they respond to you within a timely fashion and answer all of your questions? Your early conversations will give you insight into a freelancer’s communication style and overall professionalism.
Ask for recent portfolio samples to evaluate the quality of their work before making a decision. Most often, a development professional will be more than happy to send you a portfolio of their past projects, along with online customer reviews, ratings, or testimonials.
A well-versed freelance developer needs strong time-management skills to ensure that all deadlines are met. When discussing your project needs, ask them if they can provide you with estimated due dates, as well as a project timeline.
“In our experience, very few small or even medium businesses have the budget or ability to maintain top-tier talent specific to website development. About 15-20% of our customers have in-house technical resources, but they are typically dedicated to IT, backend systems, and databases. Significant website developments are generally done every 2-3 years, during which time the technology and best practice standards are constantly evolving. This makes it hard for in-house staff to stay proficient technically. Hiring an up-to-date freelance web developer is not only highly cost-effective, but it typically delivers better results.”
—James Turner, Managing Partner, Guaranteed SEO
In the following section, we discuss the most sought-after website features, capabilities, and goals that small businesses are prioritizing for the new year.
Website Features and Priorities
With user experience becoming increasingly vital, having a mobile-friendly website is a must. Out of the 425 respondents that have websites, an overwhelming majority of them agreed.
91% of Small Businesses Have a Mobile-Friendly Website
We asked our respondents to rate an assortment of website priorities on a scale of 1-6 (1 being the most important) for them and their business needs. Site speed and mobile-friendliness were ranked as the second-most important priority on the list.
SEO and Content Ranked as The Top Priority in 2022
SEO/high-quality web content
Better online customer service
Increased Market Expansion is the Number One Goal For Small Businesses
Small business owners disclosed their overall website goals for their business in 2022 with market expansion coming in the highest at 66%. The complete breakdown addresses a variety of areas ranging from better marketing and advertising, customer service, and greater online recognition.
“This is not surprising at all for multiple reasons. The obvious one being that people are spending more time online because of the pandemic. Secondly, search engines, particularly Google, are putting more emphasis on the usability and engagement on a website as ranking factors. The only way to improve that is by investing more into a website and digital initiatives to promote branding, credibility, and advertising.”
—Jessica Hennessey, Chief Executive Officer, 3 Media Web
• 66% Market expansion
• 59% Better advertising
• 55% More credibility and brand recognition
• 53% Lower costs
• 45% More online purchases
• 41% Greater online networking opportunities
• 27% Greater hiring opportunities
“The goal of our website is to continue generating leads, especially in our local area. We want to continue to add our unique services and reach a wider audience with the selection of services that we have. The most important aspect of our website is serving as the ’24/7′ salesman. We want users to be able to come to our website and have almost every question answered.”
—Jake Peterson, SEO Specialist, Atiba
“I would like for our website to be ranked higher on Google pages when searching for more generic keywords for our company so that more people would be able to find us. I would also like to expand our outreach in marketing, using more SEO tools and social media where we can. I think that a website should be something that anyone can look at and know exactly what you do, how much for, and how to get in touch with you.”
—Alex Alexakis, Founder, PixelChefs
“The top goal for my website in 2022 is to spread the word about my business even further. While I have gotten a lot of great clients you can always build your business and I’m looking into ways to get the word spread out even farther through SEO. That being said, SEO is the most important function as, through SEO, people hear about my business in the first place. Then, when they click on my site, they can decide if they want to use my services.”
—Harrison Tanner Baron, CEO & Founder, Growth Generators
Fortunately, there are several ways to create your small business website. Whether you opt to work with an in-house team, partner with an agency, use a website builder or hire a freelancer, make sure that your website is user-friendly, well-optimized, and ready to drive conversions.
UpCity’s Survey Method
UpCity used Pollfish to survey 600 small businesses owners and employees across the United States and Canada. Our respondents provided their insight based on their experiences building and running small business websites. Thirty-five percent of respondents work at businesses that have been in operation for 10+ years with a size of 100-250 employees.