One of the greatest dangers every business faces is complacency. It’s easy to understand the desire to stick with what’s worked in the past. But in the modern, highly competitive markets of today, companies that aren’t continually adapting risk being overtaken by their competition. This is especially true with websites. A common pitfall for small business owners is to forget about their website after they’ve paid someone to build it. Not that every site needs to rebuilt every other month, but it’s important to review the site every so often to make sure the business is getting the most from their piece of internet real estate. With that in mind, here are four things that a website should do for a small business.
Provide In-Depth Information About the Business
In the early days of the internet, it was common for businesses to treat their website as an online billboard. Sites that entirely consisted of one page with no further information were the norm. However, at this point in the information age, consumers expect to find just about everything about a business on its website.
When visitors come to a site, they should be able to learn about the history of the business, find out about any current specials or noteworthy events, and contact that company through email, phone, or direct message. This goes a long way toward to establishing the legitimacy of the company.
The need for basic information trumps desires for flashy intros and widgets.
“The biggest failure that people have is that they try to build the website they want, not necessarily the website they need,” says designer Josh Frankel in an article for Mashable. “Everyone wants music and this giant ‘about’ page, but they neglect the basic things [like the menu, contact information and directions].”
Make Critical Business Information Easy To Find
Being sure to provide that information is more than just a courtesy to the consumer. If people don’t find the information they are looking for quickly, they will search elsewhere, and who knows what else they will find along the way. For example, if a customer has a question about a company’s return policy before buying online, but they can’t easily find the answer on the website; they may do an online search for the answer and find a forum post from a dissatisfied past customer or an ad for a competitor where the return policy is clearer.
The simplest way to handle the issue is to make the information that people are most likely to look for prominently displayed on the website, especially if that information is favorable to the business. Does a business have the best warranty in the industry? Then they can use a image to highlight that fact and link it to the page with warranty information.
Sometimes, the critical information isn’t something that is prominently featured. There are a lot of others ways to ensure that website visitors can find the information they need. Here are three quick suggestions:
– Add a Search Bar – For ecommerce sites with a lot of pages, the answer to a question for a specific product can be lost in the catalog. Having a good search tool on the site means that users can find the answer they need without having to wade through the information from other products first.
– Clear Taxonomy – As websites grow it becomes more important that the pages are organized in a way that are easy to follow. If a business didn’t have a plan for the site and have just added pages over the years, the site may be a incomprehensible maze. A redesign with drop down menus, categories, and tags can make it possible for users to quickly maneuver the largest of websites.
– Include FAQ Section – Business owners and marketers should know what the most common questions and greatest selling points are for their business. This information should be put into a Frequently Asked Questions section that is linked to from the Home Page or on the About Us page.
Boost Your SEO Efforts
One of the main reasons that every business needs a website is that the internet has changed the way that people shop for things when they are online and offline. According to one study, 89 percent of consumers use search engines for purchasing decisions. There is a clear benefit for small business owners if their company shows up prominently in search engine results. Though it’s not the only way, having a website is the best way to start SEO efforts.
Most business owners have known about the benefits of SEO for a while, but again, they have to be wary against complacency. A website’s ranking should be regularly checked, and it’s also wise to check with consultants to be sure that the site is doing everything it can to help. The algorithms for search engines change frequently and that means that marketers need to change tactics on their websites as well. A website that produced the best search engines results a decade ago would fare far worse under modern criteria.
Even without making huge changes to the site, marketers can boost their SEO just by going through the website and removing bad external links, 404 error pages, and the like can make the site more user-friendly (human consumers hate dead links as much as search engine robots). Using Google Webmaster Tools is a good start to ensuring a site is SEO efficient.
Inspire Consumer to Take Action
Even among sites that excel in the above areas, a common mistake is that they don’t include a clear call to action. This is possibly because business owners tend to think of the call to action as implicit in the message. Though it may seem redundant to ask customers to “Call Us to Schedule a Consultation” or “Click Here to Sign Up for Email”, including a call to action has significant effects on the conversion rate of a website. In one study, headline and call to action optimization led to a 45 percent increase in conversions.
Just like with SEO, what was considered an appealing call to action has changed with time. People have become used to certain kinds of ads and marketers need to stay on the cutting edge of strategies and techniques. Marketers should also be on the look out for any research on things they can do to make their call to action more effective. Here are a few quick tips for better calls to action:
– Include the implied value of the deal
– Don’t have too many calls to action on the same page
– If there are multiple options, make sure it’s clear which one the customer should choose.
In the 21st Century, a company’s website is one of the most important pieces of their reputation. In many cases, people will a business’s website before the see the owner or the business office. Just as modern business owners don’t decorate their office or dress like it was the 1970s, its equally inappropriate for a company to let its website look old and stagnant. Using the above tips, and continuously evaluating a company’s website helps business owners stay on top, let’s them reach target audiences first, and leaves fewer openings for the competition to take away customers.