Let’s face it. If you run a business today, it is crucial for you to have a presence on the web – your company must be accessible via an informative website. Your small business website can not only brings in new business but also helps to keep current customers happy (and returning!), here is what you need to know.

 

Why Does Your Business Need a Website?

Especially if your company only wants to attract customers or clients in your geographic area, it’s still essential for you to create a digital footprint. Your small business website becomes even more pivotal when your business is local as you can benefit from some favoritism doled out by Google. What follows are some of the most important reasons why your company should have a website, no matter what your purpose, function, product or service may be:

People Spend a Significant Amount of Time on the Internet

When you choose to advertise your business, you want to do it where the most pairs of eyes will see it. Today, there are a lot of people looking at the internet. In fact, about 290 million people in the U.S. are currently internet users. So, by putting a website for your company online, you are ensuring that you are visible where a lot of people are spending time.

It Helps You Build Credibility

They say that first impressions are often the ones that stick. These days, initial judgements about how knowledgeable and technologically with-it your company is aren’t made during interactions with you or your product — they’re made online. Studies on web credibility show that 75 percent of web users make judgments about a business’s credibility based on its website, and 84 percent of customers believe that a business with a website is more credible than one that only has social media pages.

It’s Always Open

You can’t easily communicate with customers, or potential customers, when your brick-and-mortar business is closed. However, your business’s website is always open, acting as a digital storefront where people can obtain important information and get in touch with you should they have a question or issue.

 

Tips for Creating Your Small Business Website

Now that you’re convinced of the importance of having your small business website, it’s time to get started on building one. While the task may seem overwhelming at first, you can break it down into several steps to help guarantee that both the process and the product are enjoyable and effective.

Map Out the User Experience Before You Start to Design

When it comes to having a successful site, a good User Experience (UX) is key. People want your site to work intuitively, and they want to be able to find the things they are looking for without having to hunt for them.

As you begin your design process, map out the User Experience, and plan your navigation and menus based on that map. Consider what pages and information potential customers will be looking for (and in what order), which pages you really want them to find, and keep all of that in mind when you start laying out your menus, buttons, tabs and more.

Choose a Design That Is Responsive (or a Platform That Allows for Responsive Design)

The internet is everywhere these days – including on people’s phones. People are using mobile devices more than ever before to browse the web, and studies show that mobile searchers typically visit a local business within one day of doing a search (source: Vivial’s PPT). So, you need to start with a platform that allows for responsive design.

Responsive sites look good and function well no matter what size screen an internet user is viewing them on. Therefore, they can help bring in business even when consumers are browsing the web on-the-go. Also, Google now favors local businesses when searchers are using a mobile device, so having a mobile-friendly site will ensure that it is accessible when Google directs people to it.

See examples and learn more about why and how to create a responsive website in the February 2016 edition of the Vivial Webinar Series: “Website Fundamentals: Attract more customers to your local business”. Register for the webinar!

Focus on Making the Design Professional

Your website is the first impression you give to customers who discover you on the web. Therefore, it’s essential to focus on creating a design that looks professional and impressive.

If you’re going to create the site yourself, you can use a platform like Squarespace or Wix to help you design professional-looking pages. However, while DIY tools are inexpensive, they don’t provide useful customer service or SEO help when you need it. Keep in mind that sometimes template options are limited, and you may not be able to lay out your site exactly how you want to.

Instead of using a DIY tool, you can also reach out to and hire a pro designer who will help you ensure that your site looks great to visitors. Getting a pro to design a custom site for you will produce an awesome result, but it can be expensive and inconvenient to update over time.

Think About Natural Navigation

Once you lay out your UX plan and begin to build menus, focus on making the navigation of your website as natural as possible. Make sure you use visual cues, such as boxes and tabs, to help people understand where they want to go and how they will get there. Also, limit the number of top-level navigation items so you don’t overwhelm people (four to seven is ideal). Finally, organize your navigation by content types (e.g. a Services Page, About Us Page, Contact Page, etc.).

Make Your Calls to Action Clear

You want people to do something specific when they come to your page – that’s why you created it. Thus, it’s important that you include calls to action (CTAs) on your website and that you make them clear and unmissable.

If you have a business that offers reservations, for example, you would include a prominent reservations link displayed in a bright, noticeable format and in an easy to find location on the page. You would also want to include your phone number and address where people can easily see them. These CTAs should be clickable, so internet users can quickly call you or map to your address via their web browser.

Embed Social Media Feeds

In addition to making your contact information easy to find and interact with, it’s important to include links to social media pages, as well. Visitors to your social profiles can not only learn more and engage with your business, they can become followers and advocates for your business.

On your web pages, it’s possible to embed feeds straight from your social media pages so that the activity on social gets previewed on your main site – in real time. Make sure to include embeds of things like your Facebook posts, Instagram photos and Tweets. By embedding social media feeds into your company website, you can integrate all of your online properties and ultimately grow your social media footprint.

Create a Contact Page That Makes It Easy for People to Reach Out

The contact page on your website should make it easy for your customers to reach out to you. Again, make phone numbers and addresses clickable, and include a clickable email address so that people can easily send you a note. After all, your website is about making conversions, so you want to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to make a connection.

In addition to including links to addresses and phone numbers, you may also consider including a contact form on your site. Contact forms, which ask users to enter their name, contact info and a message, can start conversations with potential customers. These forms not only serve as a connection tool, they encourage feedback (which can be very helpful when you’re trying to improve your business) and allow you to track contact information of interested customers who you can follow up with later.

Create Content That Is Rich With SEO Keywords

Maintaining a high profile on major search engines is the number-one reason for your company to have a website. For this reason, all of the content you put on your site should be optimized and rich with keywords. Website pages that are great opportunities to use specific keywords include your FAQs page, your About Us page and your Contact Us page.

The importance of optimizing your small business website for search can’t be overstated: SEO leads have a 14.6-percent close rate, while those from outbound advertising only close at a rate of about 1.7 percent. Focusing on SEO helps you generate more business for less money.

Keep Your Content Updated for SEO Benefits

In order for your page to consistently rank well in search results, it needs to stay updated and relevant. Keep information about special events prominently displayed on the page, and replace items when they become outdated.

When providing information about your business and what it does, make sure you incorporate keywords relating to your field and location. This will help ensure that people who are searching online for a business like yours can easily find your company, instead of your competitors.

Choose a Good Web Host

Once your site is designed, you must choose a good web host. The web host you use can determine the speed of your website – speed is important when it comes to keeping customers happy.

Did you know that a consumer expects a site to load in two seconds and that they will abandon a webpage to look for a competitor’s if your site does not load within three seconds?

Choosing a good host will ensure pages load quickly, which doesn’t only help with impatient web users, but it can also boost your SEO ranking. Google takes loading speeds into account, and slow load times can lower your score.

 

Key Errors to Avoid When Designing Your Small Business Website

You can be creative and expressive when you design your website, but there are some crucial errors you should not make in order to ensure its success. Here are some things to be mindful of during the creation process.

Don’t Fill All the ‘White Space’

When you are creating your website design, do not try to fill in all the white space on your pages. White space helps draw attention to the information that’s really important, and it can create a clean, minimal look that helps your site look professional.

Don’t Ignore SEO

Having a great SEO score is key for getting discovered by internet users. Did you know that 75 percent of people won’t scroll past the first page of results when using a search engine? Instead of ignoring SEO, make a list of 25 keywords that have to do with your business and location, and then build them into the content on your page. You should also include keywords when creating your social media posts and listing your business in local directories.

Don’t Forget to Update

Most likely, your business is doing new things all the time. Make sure you keep your website useful by removing irrelevant or outdated information and adding new information regularly.

Don’t Bury Your Contact Info

You want your customers to get in touch, right? If so, make sure you don’t bury your name, address or phone number. Make your contact info easy to spot – and clickable – to make the connection process as easy as possible.

Don’t Leave It Empty

Don’t just throw a website up on the web and not put anything on it. An empty website does nothing to boost SEO or impress customers, and it can look like you are a company that is negligent or does not pay attention to detail. Make sure you have your content and design ready before you make your website live on the internet.

Don’t Include Dead Links

When you change things on your website or remove pages, remove the links to those pages as well. Dead links lead users to error messages, which can be both annoying and distracting. You can run a broken or dead link check on your site by using a tool like Dead Link Checker; it will scan your site and let you know if there are any links that don’t work.

 

If you’re looking to build or grow a business in today’s digital age, it’s essential to have a company website. By keeping these tips in mind when you design and write content, you can help new customers discover you on the web and ensure that your current customers always feel informed and well taken care of.