As consumers increasingly turn to digital platforms for services and products that traditionally required an in-store purchase or in-person appointment, maintaining a website for your small business has become a non-negotiable. If you’re still operating under the belief that a website is a nice-to-have rather than a must-have, it’s time to change that position. These days, your website is the first point of contact many potential customers will have with your company, and you only get one chance to make a first impression.
These tips for optimizing your small business website will ensure customers can readily find you on the web — and that you’ll make a positive impression when they do.
1. Optimize for Search Engines
Incorporating search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to build your small business website will ensure that people searching topics relevant to your industry will find your site in their search engine results.
The main elements you need to include on a website for small business are descriptive page titles, meta descriptions, headings, image titles, and image alt text. You will need to conduct some research to determine the most relevant keywords to your field, then use them throughout your site to gain search visibility. This will help search engines recognize that the content on your site is relevant to whatever the user is seeking.
2. Design for Mobile
Mobile has long outranked desktop as the primary source of web traffic. People are glued to handheld screens everywhere they go, and Google now gives preference to sites designed specifically for mobile devices.
You have to make sure your site works seamlessly on mobile devices if you want it to have the best possible chance not just of attracting new users, but of keeping them there once they land on your site. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. Ideally, your site will be built specifically to be viewed on smartphones. Alternatively, you can embrace responsive design so it looks good on desktop computers as well as mobile devices. Either way, think mobile first.
3. Maintain an Updated Site Map
Site maps give search engines logical paths to follow when they index sites. This makes it faster and easier for them to digest your content and direct users to it when they conduct relevant searches.
Site mapping has benefits for your end users as well. It will help you present the information on your site in a logical fashion, which gives users a clearly defined path to follow when looking for information. If you’re selling products, this approach can be tailored to cater to each level of the purchasing funnel, leading shoppers to take the action you desire.
To this end, give each of your products or profit centers their own page. You should also make sure your physical locations have separate pages if you’re operating a brick-and-mortar business with multiple locations.
4. Prominently Feature Contact Information
Let’s look at things from the customer’s perspective for a moment.
You have a question about a product, or some aspect of a service, and you’d like to communicate with a live human being to get an answer. Scouring the entire website in an outsized game of “Where’s Waldo?,” you’re at a complete loss as to how to get in touch with someone.
A. Make the purchase anyway?
B. Look for another site through which you can get your question answered?
C. Give up on the idea altogether?
If you’re like most people, you’ll choose B, which means the selling opportunity you (the small business owner) worked so hard to create will come to naught. Meanwhile, all you had to do was make it easy for the shopper to get their question answered.
Another plus: this practice can help your site appear in the search engine results when someone is searching in your local area.
5. Make Load Time a Priority
Mobile users are an impatient lot. Typically multitasking, they have little patience for slow sites. In fact, studies have consistently shown load times in excess of three seconds are the kiss of death for any website.
In other words, you’ll be the sad owner of a very high bounce rate if it takes your site longer than three seconds to load content and render images. Potential customers will leave before you even have a chance to pitch them.
Use image compression, kick Flash to the curb, and be judicious in your usage of music and animation to ensure your site runs as quickly as possible.
6. Prioritize Logical, Easy Navigation
The more work you make a shopper do to find something on your site, the less likely they will be to follow a transaction all the way through to conversion. People want what they want when they want it, and they have very little patience for unnecessary complexity. So, even if that innovative navigation scheme your designer came up with is fresh and interesting, it’s going to cost you money if it confuses people.
Stick to these established protocols: menus should use clear and succinct titles so users know exactly what to expect from each click. All links should be active. Primary navigation should be at the top of each screen and remain in place when users scroll. A search feature is indispensable and should be designated with the magnifying glass icon and a window into which terms can be typed.
7. Make Your Site Eye-Pleasing
Getting back to that first impressions thing: Users are looking for clues to establish your veracity when they arrive at your site for the first time. How professional your small business website design looks on the screen is one of their main considerations.
Each page should echo the overall theme of the site. Your logo should be crisp and reflective of your area of expertise. Your branding should be evident so if they’ve seen something of yours elsewhere, they’ll know the site is yours.
Make your color selections carefully and keep your palette to a maximum of three or four colors at the most. Original photography and graphics are a plus — however, they must be relevant and well-executed.
These elements should be carefully balanced against your written content. Make sure your copy flows well to the reader and is free of grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors. Choose your font style for ease of reading, while ensuring it complements the your brand identity and preferred clientele.
8. Strategically Place Calls to Action…
Prominent in appearance and logically placed, calls to action on a website for a small business will lead shoppers to purchasing pages — which is the overall goal for the website. Place them in context with the rest of the page, so clicking them is the only logical thing to do after consuming the information presented.
9. …and Lead Capture Opportunities
This one can be tricky. On the one hand, you want people to respond to your lead captures, but on the other, you want to avoid annoying or distracting users. If you have an ecommerce site, rather than asking people to register to make a purchase, give them the option of checking out as a guest — then offer the opportunity to register after they complete the transaction.
If your site contains more informational content, give them time to digest the information, then present a popup when it looks like they’re going on to another page or leaving the site. In other words, give them time to get to know you before your pressure them into any sort of commitment.
These tips for optimizing your small business website will help customers find your site and give them the best possible experience once they do.
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