When starting a small business there are many things that need your attention – finances, marketing, getting customers, taxes, etc. One area I think owners overlook is their website. A good trend that I’m seeing from people today is that they seem to understand the importance of having a website for their business, but they lack the knowledge and confidence to make it better.
A website is the center of your marketing world. It’s a place where people can visit your business 24 hours/day to learn about the services you provide. Personally, I think that many people are afraid of technology and are unfamiliar with the terms used by website designers, so they don’t reach out and contact a website professional for the fear of getting confused (which can be embarrassing) or the fear of being “taken for their money”. They then turn to GoDaddy or similar company and plunk down a couple hundred bucks and buy a very basic, generic, plain looking website.
Figuring, “Well, I have a website now. What’s next on the list?”
…Your website shouldn’t just exist…it should work for you!
Unfortunately, I believe that many people create/buy a website and then, much like a dealer at a blackjack table, wave their hands and forget about it. Would you buy a car and never get the oil changed or wash it? Would you buy a house and never clean it?
With millions, upon millions, of websites available you need to stand above the crowd. Much like finding Waldo in a sea of people, you need your website to catch a visitor’s eye. Then, once they’re there, show them what your business can offer.
Here a few tips to start getting more from your website. (This list could be very, very long so I’m going to try not only focus on the most important tips, but tips that someone with little website knowledge could do.)
Clean and Simple
So many times I visit a website and it feels like I’m having an encyclopedia thrown in my face. So much information at one time. You would have to be “Johnny 5” to get through the information. ( 80’s reference…you may need to look it up.) Your website shouldn’t look like a Wikipedia page.
Your website should be very clean and easy to use. It should feel like your living room – comfortable, relaxing and easy to move around. You should have a main navigation area listing your pages. Your content should be in a legible font, like Tahoma, Veranda and fonts without all the little curls (serifs). It’s hard because you are so close to your business you think every piece of information is important. Sit back and be objective. Think to yourself… “From an objective business perspective, what’s the most important thing that a visitor should learn about me or my business within the first minute or two?”
You can always add information in later. Think Clean and Simple.
There is nothing worse than outdated information on a website. People will leave your website so quickly it will make your head spin. People want to feel like you care about your own website as much as you would care about their business. When I see a footer of a website that says “copyright 2010”, I have to wonder…do I really want to spend my hard earned money on this website?
Having current information on your site is good practice. To add new content, you might want to add a blog where you can post articles on topics you are interested in.
Basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is very important in website design. There are people who dedicate their lives to learning about how to make websites rank better in search engines. In layman’s terms, Search Engine Optimization is a way that your website ranks in search engines so people can find your website. Google, Bing and others weigh the information on your site and rank your site so people can find information that is useful. For instance, if you have a word bolded in your text, Google thinks… “this word must be important because it’s bolded”. The same can be said if it links to a another website/web page.
Editing your text with some simple SEO techniques can actually help you rank higher without too much effort.
Let’s say you are selling hamburgers. You want to highlight the word hamburger without going crazy.
Here is a sample paragraph about hamburgers where I will illustrate some simple SEO techniques.
The History of the Hamburger (H1 or H2 tag)
The hamburger most likely first appeared in the 19th or early 20th centuries.The modern hamburger was a product of the culinary needs of a society that was rapidly changing due to industrialization, and therefore, people had less time to prepare as well as to consume meals.
Americans contend that they were the first to combine two slices of bread and a steak of ground beef into a “hamburger sandwich”. Part of the controversy over the origin of the hamburger is because the two basic ingredients, bread and beef, were prepared and consumed separately for many years before their combination. Shortly after its creation, the hamburger was prepared with all of the now typically characteristic trimmings, including onions, lettuce, and sliced pickles.
During the 20th century, there were various controversies, including a nutritional controversy in the late 1990s. The burger is now readily identified within the United States, and a particular style of cuisine, namely fast food. Along with fried chicken and apple pie, the hamburger has become a culinary icon in the United States.
Expressive Content – You are good at what you do, and you can help their business.
Not everyone is a super copywriter and that’s okay. Your website content should be written in an easy, conversation style. You don’t want your website to be a user manual … unless it is a user manual.
When writing content for your website, you need to let your visitor know how you are going to help them with their problem or make their life easier. For instance, we recently purchased a water fountain filter for our sink. Our water is good but doesn’t taste so good. The website we purchased our filter from told us how much we would enjoy our water if we bought their product. They solved a problem I had. It may sound simple, but always ask yourself when writing content, “If I was a visitor to my own website, would this language tell me how my problem will be fixed?”
Call to Action – What do You Want Me To Do?
A Call to Action button is a common term you might hear from a web designer. It’s usually a button/image that is large and colorful and links to something on your website you really want your visitor to do. You want the visitor to do something like get more information, look at something, or download something. For instance, if you were selling a book you might have a button that makes people want to click on the image to learn more.
Example image –
The only requirement for a Call To Action button is that is stands out from the content on your website.
Hopefully these simple tips will help you with your small business website.