vFlyer Offers Simple, Elegant DIY Sites for Local Merchants

Beyond generally monitoring SMB website penetration and mobile site adoption, I stopped following SMB website vendors about five years ago. However it’s safe to say, almost 15 years after the practical beginning of the digital era, websites remain a major problem for SMBs. A large percentage of SMB websites are still poorly designed and generally ineffective as marketing vehicles.

A week or so ago I had occasion to speak with Aaron Sperling, the co-founder of vFlyer, which began roughly six years ago as a way to simplify the creation and distribution of online classifieds and real-estate listings in particular. Some time ago vFlyer introduced a DIY website product: vSites. The company just released a “2.0” version of the product.

Sperling gave me  a demo of the site building process. I was impressed by the usability and polish of vSites. From my point of view they look much better than most of the sites being mass produced for SMBs today.

Assuming the merchant has some copy ready it would be possible to build a template-based vSite in well under 30 minutes. However they don’t have to be built in a single setting. To illustrate the DIY process, I’ve captured some “step-by-step” screenshots (click to enlarge).

First the merchant is asked to choose the business category and subcategory, and then the types of pages to include:

Merchants then choose a template. They populate the address and contact details and then “build” and preview the site. It takes only a few seconds to see what it looks like.

The site templates are pre-populated with copy that can be used or changed. Indeed, every element on the page can then be swapped, manipulated or otherwise edited. It’s all very WYSIWYG.

Merchants must register to save their site designs. Basic sites are free. However if you have or want a custom domain or more storage and more pages, there are two pricing levels: $12 or $18 per month. Pretty affordable and less than I pay for the hosting of this blog.

The sites are all SEO-friendly and include the ability to integrate social media posts and updates through a social media toolbar. However vSites currently don’t allow merchants to publish updates out to Facebook, Twitter or other social sites. This was a feature I suggested to Sperling.

SMBs can also incorporate a blog if they’re inclined. My memory, however, is that these sites aren’t yet optimized for mobile devices. But that capability I believe is coming.

I’m aware there are a number of free website builders out there (e.g., Wix) targeting the SMB market. Yahoo and Intuit are also big builders of SMB sites, as well as domain regitrar GoDaddy. However I was quite impressed, as I said, with vSites’ capabilities and simplicity.

I also believe these guys would be a good partner for local/SMB sales channels that aren’t currently deeply involved with another vendor or a home-grown solution.

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4 Responses to “vFlyer Offers Simple, Elegant DIY Sites for Local Merchants”

  1. Roof says at

    Greg, in your opinion how important are websites for SMB’s these days?

    My feeling is that for SMB’s (and I’m only thinking of your local plumber, painter, etc) its becoming way more important for them to get their Google + (places) page, and Yelp listing.

    The thinking here is that its all about getting exposure in the primary place that consumers are searching. So for consumers using Google to find local services they are now shown a block of Google + listings, and for consumers that prefer to use Siri they are now given the Yelp business listings.

    Given this, i really wonder whether a website is really worth anything for local businesses. A website really only seems to add value if (a) they pay for Adwords and drive paid traffic to their site, or (b) gets very seriously into to SEO to somehow get their website listed above the Google+ listings for a particular search.

    Your thoughts?

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    You’re correct that other “destinations” are more important but it’s still important to have an online presence that you control. Google+, Yelp profiles and so on are not “owned” by the SMB and subject to change without notice.

  3. Aaron Sperling says at

    For SMBs, I agree that it is incredibly important to manage and monitor the key external business profiles such as Yelp and Google+. Though, your ability to differentiate yourself of these services is limited. Most of these external profiles provide an opportunity to provide a link to your website. Businesses that do provide a link seem more credible to me. It is on the SMB’s website that a business can highlight their experience and special skills, showcase their portfolio, provide special offers, enable scheduling of appointments, and more. Websites compliment these external profiles and should be seen as the destination where you are pulling prospects away from your competition.

    Disclaimer: I am the CEO of vFlyer, referenced in the story above.

  4. Roof says at

    Greg & Aaron you both make some strong cases for Websites, and I must admit I was just “stirring the pot”.

    That said, I do genuinely believe that the days of offering “standalone websites” are well and truly behind us. The websites do need to be supported by quality SEO or SEM campaigns that help drive traffic to these sites. Similarly, businesses do need to be trained as to how to direct their own customers to view their websites.

  5. vFlyer Upgrades Mobile and Video Marketing for Realtors says at

    […] vFlyer started as a landing page and listings syndication tool for realtors back in 2006. The company has evolved into a broader small business marketing platform, with a continued emphasis on real estate professionals. In 2011 vFlyer added an impressive DIY and DIFM website capability called “vFlyer Sites.” […]

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