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Your Small Business Website Should Have These Ten Features

We’ve seen (and created) many successful small business websites, but we’ve seen far more that are, to put it nicely, “lacking.” By that I don’t just mean ugly, but sites that aren’t customer friendly and/or give visitors any good reason to do business there. So what makes the difference? Here are ten components that should be on your small business website to make it effective and outstanding.

1. A clear message stating who you are and what you do.

A visitor who finds their way to you site should immediately see who you are and what product/services you offer. If that message is unclear or not visible, the visitor is more than likely going to exit and look elsewhere. This information should be presented front and center, right on the homepage.

By confirming to visitors that, yes, they are on the right site, and this IS what they have been searching for, a clear description will grab their attention and encourage them to stay on your site and see what advantages you offer.

2. A clear and simple domain name

Overly complicated or unrelated domain names are hard to remember and add to the sense of “authority” of your website. A good domain name is easy to identify with your brand and/or services and also easy to type into an email address or web browser.

We recommend sticking with .com for the vast majority of sites. People are conditioned to put .com at the end, so it’s best not to confuse them. If you are a nonprofit or charitable organization, the .org suffix is completely appropriate and sends the right message about your brand. There are a few other scenarios which are exceptions, but for the majority, stick with these rules.

Here are some useful articles that can help you select the best domain name for your small business.

8 Tips for Selecting a Great Domain Name

Pros and Cons to Long and Short Domain Names

3. Easy navigation

Don’t make users hunt for the information they need. A clear path to the most relevant or important information is crucial so that users don’t get frustrated and back out of your site. Use dropdown menus whenever possible so that users can access any major part of your site from any page.

A “breadcrumbs” section on pages can be helpful in showing visitors how they got to whatever page they are on. This particular feature is more important on sites with a lot of content, for example this photoshop tutorial website. The “breadcrumbs” is clearly visible right below the header menu. This site also offers a sitemap (link at top) which can aid in navigation if you are trying to find a page but can’t remember how you got there the first time.

4. Make contact easy

How terrible would it be to have a customer like your product and want it but not get it just because they couldn’t get in touch with you? Don’t drop the ball one yard from the end zone.

Don’t make the visitor crawl through multiple pages in order to find your contact form or information. Keep a “contact us” link in the main menu so that it is accessible from anywhere on your site. Also, placing your name/address/phone information in the footer of every page makes contact easy AND is good for your rankings in the search engines.

Give the users several ways to contact you. Some people love filling out simple forms and waiting to hear back. Others want to be able to call you right then and there. Don’t alienate any of these potential customers by forcing them to contact you in only one way.

5. Reviews and Testimonials

It’s an interesting phenomenon that people are more likely to trust the opinions and reviews of other “laypeople” over that of “experts.” Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Opentable are all perfect examples. Honest feedback from other customers will give potential customers confidence in your product or services.

Often times, good feedback and reviews will provide information about your business that isn’t explicitly stated on your site. Plus, it’s always better to let other people sing your praises!

6. A bold call to action

This is a sales tactic that is often ignored on websites for unknown reasons. Once you’ve given your visitor the information they are looking for, tell them what to do next! Whether you want them to “Call now for a free consultation” or “Add product to your shopping cart,” show them the next steps and give them that push to make that step.

Furthermore, make this step stand out. You could use a highlighted button / link or a special graphic. Direct attention to the call to action, and watch your tire-kickers turn into customers.

7. Know the basics of SEO

A website no one can find is about as useful as a women’s apparel store in the middle of the woods. In the words of real estate agents everywhere, it’s all about location, location, location. In the context of the internet, location refers to your presence in search engine results.

We highly recommend getting professional SEO counseling and services in order to boost your web traffic, but even without that there are some simple things you can do to make sure your site is search engine friendly. Using appropriate keywords, having links to quality external content, having descriptive and easy to read page titles and URLs, and providing a quality user experience are all things you can do without having to delve into the more esoteric aspects of SEO.

For a more comprehensive look at some of the most important SEO elements of your small business website, check out our article “The Top 20 Ranking Factors for Google Local Search - In Depth.”

8. Fresh, quality content

I mentioned quality content above, but this cannot be overstated. Your website is often the first impression that a person gets of your business. You want to give them what they were originally looking for as well as give them reasons to bookmark your site and come back.

Everyone who is using Google to search for something is essentially asking a question. Give them the highest quality, most comprehensive answer to that question, and they will have no need to keep searching.

Fresh content is an extremely effective SEO tool. Many sites are now using blogs to help put out new and useful information as well as give their business a personality. If you have a blog already or are thinking about starting one, check out our article “7 Common Ways to Screw Up the Company Blog.” It has some handy pointers for blog best practices as well as a breakdown of WHY your site should have a blog in the first place.

9. Reliable and secure hosting

Website uptime is absolutely critical for gaining new customers as well as keeping old ones. Your website can go down for a few reasons, but the most common are server issues and hackers. Both can be nightmares, so it’s important to have a good hosting program that keeps your secure systems up to date and also has a reputation for good uptime.

It might cost a little extra, but also be sure to have backups made on a regular basis. If your site gets a lot of new content or user comments/interaction, then daily backups may be good idea. For more static sites, a weekly backup is probably sufficient.

10. An intuitive design

In a world where more and more people are being treated for ADD, it’s no surprise that web surfers have the attention span of overly caffeinated squirrels. A typical web surfer will go to a page, quickly scan the site to confirm that it matches what they are looking for, and then slow down and read the page in detail.

You should organize your site to make scanning the information easy. Keeping paragraphs short, using bold headers and bullet points, and highlighting important words or phrases are all conducive to easy scanning. A simple design is your best bet. Make the content the focus, not the flashing logo and dancing monkeys.

And this should go without saying, but AVOID POPUP ADS AT ALL COST!

 

Until next time,

Mocha Johnson

 

Tags: Small Business

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