8 Keys to a Small Business Website That Works
The purpose of a business website is to provide your potential clients or customers who use the Internet to access your business and make doing business with you, rather than someone else, an attractive proposition. The trick to getting what you want out of your site, such as leads and sales, is to have a site design that attracts the visitors you want and encourages them to do what you want them to do. To create a business website that works look at your site design (or your plans for one) and make sure it has these qualities.
Your website design needs to look professional. Some cookie-cutter website templates and/or home-made websites stand out like sore thumbs, and do nothing to encourage anyone to do business with you. Unless you are an experienced website designer, you should hire one to design a website for your company.
The endless sales pitch approach is vastly overdone and an instant turn-off for visitors. People come to your business website to see information about your business, and your products and/or services. They are already interested, so provide more relevant, additional content for them.
For instance, if you offer bookkeeping services, additional information on keeping records or tax tips are great value-added content. If you sell tiles, provide not only detailed information on your product lines but how-to information on installation.
Easy for Doing Business
Somewhere on your website, you need to have a page that has your full contact information, including your mailing address and your phone number(s). It's not good enough to just have an e-mail address, especially one that starts "webmaster@". Carrying contact information on every page is even better.
Online Payment Options
If you want people to buy your product, you have to make it easy for them. Invest in a good shopping cart, and make sure that you offer payment options such as credit cards and other online payment options, such as PayPal. People don't want to have to bother to print off and mail in a form and a cheque.
Address Your Visitor's Security Concerns
Customers are concerned about transmitting personal information, such as credit card numbers, over the Web. You need to not only have the appropriate technology (such as SSL) in place, but let your potential customers know about it, by putting your Secure Site certificates in prominent locations, and having a page that addresses your visitor's concerns, such as an FAQ.
Now your site showcases your business and the products or services you offer in a way that makes doing business with your company attractive. What's next? Signage; showing the prospective customer the path to your business website's door.
How do you show prospective customers the path to your business website's online door? Primarily through good search engine placement, which means spending time on search engine optimization.
You need to give every page of your business website the best chance of ranking well in the search engines. Search engine optimization means that every page of your site has title tags and meta tags that are appropriate in terms of the keywords you have chosen for that page and that you've used each page's keywords or phrases the ‘right’ number of times throughout each page.
Integrate Social Media
Nowadays most business websites are integrated with social media. Having a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. adds further legitimacy to your business and can drive more traffic to your business website. The more tweets or Facebook likes your site gets the higher your website will rank in the search engines.
While there are some free web hosts out there, many visitors will turn up their nose at your site when they see that your business is using one. The assumption is that a quality business will have quality website hosting.
Most free hosting services do not allow you to use your own domain name so if your company name is Acme Inc. your website URL will be a subfolder of the provider-supplied domain name, e.g. www.freehosting.com/acme. Using a free or 'inexpensive' web hosting service can also cause you problems because of excessive downtime––periods of time when no one can access your small business website at all.