As any small business owner knows, your website is one of the most vital components of your business. Whether you’re in e-commerce or not, it’s the first place potential customers will go to discover and decide if they want to do business with you.
Luckily, building an engaging, inspirational, and profitable website doesn’t have to be a complicated process.
Here’s a list of ten ways to take your small business site from average to one of the best websites in your industry.
1. Focus on your website’s goal
“Start by really identifying who your customers are and why they would use your site,” says Tish Gance, who helps small businesses improve their online presence.
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That helps you drill down to the purpose of your site: the reason it exists in the first place.
Are customers meeting you in-person first, then validating your business online? Or, are they discovering you exclusively through Google as they search for solutions to problems? Are they visiting to make a purchase or primarily to find background and educational materials?
To make sure you’re hitting the mark, tools like Google Analytics provide valuable data about how people currently find and then use your website.
Examine metrics like traffic sources, top pages, bounce rate, and session duration to determine if your site is hitting the mark … or falling short.
2. Make it easy to navigate
Whenever someone visits your website you want them to have a seamless and uncomplicated experience. The more difficult it is to navigate, the higher the chance that a visitor will leave out of frustration before finding the information they were looking for.
Seriously examine what the intent is behind your average website visitor and the best way to provide them with the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
For a restaurant, most visitors are looking for menus, location details, and how to make reservations. For contractors, visitors want to know things like your typical projects, pricing, and timeline. In real estate, it’s all about trust and then finding the right home.
Whatever your customers want, place it upfront on your homepage or create a separate page linked through a visually dominate call-to-action.
Much like good design, the best way to create a good user experience is to keep everything as simple as possible. One good rule of thumb is that it shouldn’t take your visitor no more than three clicks to find out what they want to know.
At most, limit yourself to four or five top-level pages, with supporting pages under those as needed.
3. Follow simple design best practices
“Visitors who find websites to be visually appealing associate that aesthetic quality with professionalism, usability, and trustworthiness,” says Michael Wagner, web designer at Markon Brands.
In fact, according to a study by Kinesis Inc, 75% of customers will judge a business’s credibility based on their website’s design. With that in mind, take a moment to consider if you’re following best practices in website design; namely …
- Plenty of whitespaces
- Responsive design for mobile
- Consistent use of colors and fonts
When it comes to design, it’s always best to take a “less is more” approach. Don’t try to cram all the information onto a single page. Instead, spread it out evenly and take advantage of whitespace to give your website a clean and minimalist aesthetic that prizes readability.
Choose a website design tool that is easy to maintain, suggests Ruta Puistomaa of LiquidBlox. “Hiring a web developer for every little change you need to make will cost you both time and money,” she points out, which means you might put off important updates to your website.Another way to make the design of your website more memorable is to take advantage of the right graphics. Use images that feature people as the human eye is naturally drawn to people’s faces and make sure that those images are of high-quality and viewable on every type of device.
4. Create a content strategy
A description of your product or services is just the beginning.
Today’s successful websites also include information that can help customers learn more, whether through blog posts, case studies, video tutorials, infographics or FAQs. The important thing is that it’s the kind of content that your audience wants.
Creating a few articles is a great start, but not enough.
One easy way to approach this is by applying a hub-and-spoke model to your content strategy. The idea is that you create one authoritative piece of content and then link to other relevant pieces of content from the same page.As soon as your audience is done consuming one piece of content they’ll immediately be presented with something else that interests them.
This is a great way to keep your audience engaged with your site, as well as optimizing your website’s SEO by building your internal linking architecture.
5. Add social proof everywhere
Credible and trust are at a premium in any business. This is all the more crucial online, where misinformation and scams abound.
“To convert the person browsing your website to a lead, you need to make them feel comfortable about giving you a call, sharing their contact information, or making a purchase,” explains Earl White, co-founder of House Heroes LLC.
Especially on your about or contact page.How? Create written or video testimonials from your best customers. Display positive reviews from Facebook, Yelp, and Google Business. Share industry awards, recognitions, and certifications specific to your niche. Do anything and everything to make it easy for potential clients to see themselves doing business with you.
“Many businesses have a vague ‘About’ page full of marketing speak,” says John Locke, SEO consultant and founder of Lockedown Design & SEO.
But people want to do business with people. A great place to start building a connection is by sharing a compelling story about the origin of your business. Get rid of usual stock photos and use personal shots of your actual team and office.
“Showing who is behind the business will inspire more trust in your future customers,” Locke says.
6. Optimize for search engines (SEO)
Of course, all of this content and social proof also helps with “search engine optimization,” provided you are using the right keywords.
“Using high-volume and industry-relevant keywords and phrases,” explains Chris Williams, digital marketing strategist and founder of Clock In Marketing, “allows you to pop up when people are searching for the product or service you offer.” A keyword research tool like Wordtracker or Keyword Tool can help you decide which ones to focus on.
While SEO once meant stuffing your site full of keywords, that strategy doesn’t work anymore, and might even get you dinged by the major engines.
7. Get your onsite search … on point“
SEO is constantly evolving—think of the new importance of local SEO and voice search—so brush up on current methods or enlist help in optimizing your site,” says digital marketing consultant Mike Khorev.
Many companies pay so much attention to SEO that they never consider whether their internal search is easy to use. But overlooking that can cost you sales.
Jordan Harling, multimedia manager at Interior Goods Limited, says the company recently improved the customer experience—and increased their sales—by making it quicker and easier to find the product they were looking for.
After doing a deep dive into their website data, Harling said he found customers were navigating through the site manually, using filters to refine the products on each page, rather than deploying the search bar.
The team discovered that the search function was only returning products that had the keyword in their title or description, rather than the other attributes that the design team had tagged.
Tweaking the search engine was a simple task that produced immediate results, he says, with a greater percentage of people using the search bar and increased conversions.
8. Speed up your website
Speed rules when it comes to webpage design. In fact, the probability of a customer abandoning your page increases 90 percent when page load time goes from one second to five seconds, according to Google research.
(You can check your own page’s speed by running a Google Speed Test.)
He recommends WebPageTest, which provides insight into a wide variety of metrics and can be originated from a number of locations around the world using different phones and computers.
“Audit your pages against an average phone, like a Nexus 5 over a 3G connection, to get a true feel for performance issues,” he says.
Another key way to optimize site speed is by compressing overly large media files. Smaller-sized imagery can make a big difference in page speed.
9. Offer something interactive
Instead of giving your audience a passive experience whenever they visit your website, give them opportunities to actively engage through interactive content.
According to a DemandGen Report, 59% of marketers believe that interactive content is highly effective at engaging an audience and a further 81% of agree that interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content.
Likewise, chatbots offer a way for you to engage with your audience in real-time by answering questions, guiding them to the information they’re looking for, or just demonstrating that you’re available to listen and talk.A simple tactic is to offer visitors the chance to enter a contest or giveaway by sharing something via social media (along with a branded hashtag) or by entering in their contact details onsite.
Beyond using a chatbot as a customer service tool, you can even use your chatbot to help you with your marketing and sales. With some businesses using their chatbots to help set up sales meetings and appointments, and others even using chatbots make direct sales to customers.
10. Call visitors to ‘action’
Finally, you want to engage with your visitor, so don’t overlook clear calls to action so your visitor knows what to do next—whether that’s downloading a resource, completing a transaction, or using live chat for more information.
For best results don’t just use a web form on the contact page, recommends Locke. “Also include your physical address, phone number, and email.”
If you do use a contact form, try the process yourself to make sure it works and delivers email to your inbox.
After all, the entire goal of the website is to start a conversation with your potential customers, so make sure it’s easy and inviting for them to do so.
From average to the best small business website
To stay competitive in today’s market you need to be able to make your website a place that your audience enjoys visiting.
Whether you’re opening a new store or revamping your website, take advantage of the tips we’ve outlined above to help you reach out and engage with customers in a way that they appreciate.
Improving your website can seem daunting, but it’s one of the most worthwhile projects you can tackle. After all, a well-designed website is a gift that keeps on giving, selling you and your company to potential customers you don’t even know are looking.
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This article originally appeared on the QuickBooks Resource Center and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.
Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.