Many small business websites look rather… home made – and unprofessional. However, the functionality is even more of an issue than the appearance. If important website elements are missing from your website, it will not be user-oriented, and it won’t inspire them to do business with you.
There are many important elements that can have a beneficial effect on even the cheapest of websites. Making these elements visible by placing them, or links to them, in prominent spots will be in yours and your visitors’ best interest.
Here are some of the essentials of a successful small business website:
1. Secure Hosting Plan
While having a secure hosting plan is not visible, the lack thereof is highly visible. If your site is not secure, it will be hacked. Therefore, whenever you buy hosting, don’t be afraid to spend a little bit extra for a secure hosting package with a trustworthy, reliable hosting company.
Using a quality web host will keep hackers away and your website up and running. Learn how to choose a hosting provider here.
Tip: Keep your content management system (CMS) updated to increase security.
2. A user-friendly design
Internet users these days have extremely short attention spans. They will open a site and scan it to see if they feel comfortable there. If, after 3-5 seconds, the site has not grabbed their attention, they will close it and move over to the next site. For that reason, your site must be designed to be visually appealing and attractive.
Great tools to use in terms of design, include:
- Simple, basic color schemes [Learn how to design a website color scheme in 3 simple steps…here]
- Short paragraphs with headers
- Bulleted lists
Tip: Be sure to design your content in such a way that users can quickly scan it to see whether it is relevant. It should be punchy and well-organized, guiding the reader toward your calls-to-action. Your design should ideally be responsive.
3. A clear Unique Sales Proposition
Many small businesses make the mistake of inventing business descriptions that are meaningless these days. Instead of calling yourself an “e-commerce cosmetology retailer” use simple terminology, such as “online make-up shop.” Looking through the career descriptions of your LinkedIn contacts will show you exactly what I am talking about. While it is cool to be unique, it is pointless if people are using a simple term to search for people who do what you do, and as a result, miss you.
Tip: On your website, be clear about what you do, and how you do it. The internet is supposed to make things quick, so make it quick for your audience to see what you do and to connect with you.
4. A Short and Simple URL
Your website’s domain name, just like your brand, should be easy to remember, and easy to type into their browsers. It is usually best to stick with .com extensions, as that’s what people are programmed to enter.
Tip: Avoid long names, dashes, numbers and strange spelling.
5. A Simple Sitemap
Your home page should contain clear links to the most important pages on your site. The site map will guide your visitors to the information they require.
Tip: Drop-down menus on the navigation bar enable visitors to quickly and easily see what content to find under each of the headings on each page of your site.
6. Accessible Contact Details
Most online visitors don’t have the patience to search your website for contact details, and most small business website owners can’t afford to lose potential customers to competitors just because their sites lack this integral piece of information.
Tip: Place your contact information in the footer of every page of your site, in the side bar, or where it is easy to see.
7. SEO Basics
SEO makes your website accessible to the search engines. By correctly coding your website using legitimate SEO techniques it will be indexed on the search engines and users will be able to find it, using relevant search terms.
Tip: Include plenty of links, images, and videos on your site. Also be sure to use the correct, relevant keywords in your page titles, URLs, and in the website text.
8. Quality, Captivating Content
A small business website is your business’ public face. It’s important to leave potential clients with the right impression when they visit your site.
The best kind of website content is the type that ensures that your visitors keep coming back for more. Quality, fresh content is an SEO goldmine, and it keeps your site from becoming stale.
Tip: Use quality, fresh content to portray your business’ personality. A blog is a great way to regularly update your website’s content and to connect with your social media accounts. Find out how to write quality website content.
9. A Clear Call to Action
Website visitors need to be guided to do what you want them to do. If you want them to call you for a free quote, or to sign up to your email newsletter for exclusive deals, tell them!
Tip: Draw attention to your call to action using bright colors, special buttons or other effects.
If they are hovering on the fence, unsure about whether they should buy from you, a few testimonials might just sway the scales in your favor. Testimonials make your services or products more tangible and appealing. It helps visitors connect, using a third party to do the convincing.
Tip: As with your call to action and contact details, your testimonials should be visible, clear, and glowing. If you don’t have any testimonials, ask your happy customers to tell you how they would rate their experience with your company.
Before you worry about adding bells and whistles to your website, be sure that you have incorporated these elements. They are simple and can be added to the simplest websites, including free sites. Make the most of your online presence and enjoy the benefits. A website is not the same for any two businesses so these essentials may differ how you use them based on your business model and website strategy.