Just cruise the web for a few minutes. So many businesses put the cart before the horse, as the old saying goes. Business owners and managers want to take advantage of the ‘must haves’ of a solid online marketing plan (email marketing, search engine optimization, social media and content marketing) without a good foundation: a solid website.
While it sounds easy to build an excellent website, but we’ve worked with quite a few business owners terrific at what they do, but challenged when organizing and prioritizing their knowledge into a customer-friendly website. That’s where we come in, helping them organize their thoughts into a website their customers and potential customers want to visit—and a solid foundation for all their online marketing efforts.
So how can you do the same? Well, you can contact us (shameless promotion) or you can use these ‘must haves’ to create a stellar business website. No matter what industry you’re in, the basic formula for an excellent website is the same.
It’s like a bad movie that plays out again and again: overcrowded websites crammed full of graphics, disjointed text, and “stuff” that leaves potential customers running to the exit. We can even tell you the rationale behind them: owners, managers, and teams all scrambling to get their customers’ attention about a million different products, services, and promotions with an overwhelming amount of graphics or information. The result is a home page that challenges even the most focused person. They don’t know where to look—or where to click.
Use the ‘KIS’ out of the old KISS adage when designing your website: keep it simple. Have a goal for your website, and keep your home page—and every internal page—simple so your customers and potential customers can focus and know what you want them to do. Remember your website is there to sell so you have to give them information they need and use, and a very simple mechanism for acting on it. Help them focus on what you want them to get out of your content and the action you would like them to take. Keep it simple.
A website with proper organization is a valuable gem, giving your customers an intuitive navigation system (menu and links to related content) that makes it easy for them to find what they are looking for. This is where you need to step outside your business and look at your company as a customer would look at it. What topics do they want to know about? Where would they look for it?
Once you have your answers, draft a chart. Don’t be afraid to use others as a sounding board to get to a finalized menu. When we say ‘others,’ we mean people who are outside of your company (when we help owners create websites, that’s us) and use your website like a customer would.
User-friendly, Optimized, Quality Content
There are two audiences you are writing for: customers and search engines. Customers get information from your site and buy from you, and search engines scan your website for information valuable to your customers. When crafting an optimized website, consider both audiences (or trust your efforts to professionals that can).
To start, you need to step into a new “pair of shoes”: your customer. Look at your content through their eyes. Ask yourself (again): what do they want to know? How can I organize information on the page so it is easy to read? Try to avoid big blocks of text. Instead, break your information into smaller, easy-to-read short paragraphs.
Now, why should you worry about search engines? Search engines are going to be one of the top sources of traffic to your site. More than 90% of users start their search for information with a search engine. Write accordingly with words that you think your users are going to use—without sounding like you’re trying—and use those words in your headlines.
If you want to add a “cherry on the top” to your website optimization, consider adding search engine optimization technology to your website that targets search engine users in cities and communities within 10, 20, or 50 miles around your company location. With professionally-written optimized content and technology, local SEO technology can get your well-built company website on the first page of search engine results. Why is that important? Because 75% of users never click on the second page of search engine results.
(Easy-to-use) Contact Page
The goal of your website is to get customers to your door, to convert them from potential to paying customers—or to make them returning customers. Make it easy for them to do so with an accessible contact form that is easy to fill out. The perfect contact form is a fine line: a form with just enough fields that you can get the contact information you need to contact the customer but not too many fields that your potential customers aren’t intimidated by the form.
In addition, your contact page needs to have a second purpose: to make it easy for search engines to find your business so that customers can find your location. Statistics have shown that more searches are being done on mobile devices than on desktops, and many of those searches are targeted at finding the location of local companies. Make sure your hours, phone number, and address are included on the contact page for search engines and customers.
Study after study has shown that social proof is a key factor in customers’ purchasing decisions, making testimonials and reviews an integral part of a good website. Your potential customers want their decision to use your company confirmed by seeing (video) or reading (text) other people’s reviews. You can approach this in two ways: 1) by adding customer feedback to your website manually, or 2) by having reviews from your social media site feed into your site. In addition to adding reviews to your website, make it easy for people to learn about your business (latest updates, specials, etc.) and leave reviews from their experience with your company (more social proof) through your social media channels.
Recent numbers clearly illustrate the reason for a mobile-friendly website: nearly two-thirds of all Americans have a smart phone—and that number is expected to rise. With the increase in mobile devices also comes another important part of marketing plan: responsiveness. Your customers and potential customers expect faster response times to their website and social media inquiries; don’t disappoint them with slow reaction times or a substandard website.