For small-business owners about to embark on the journey of building a website for the first time, I want you to be armed with some good information before you start. Before you spend a dime, be sure to know exactly how your website will support your business goals and not how pretty it will be.
So here’s the thing…
Websites can be used in a lot of different ways for your business. Typically, a website has multiple pages linked together to allow people to download stuff, read information, watch videos, scroll through photos, leave reviews, join a mailing list, donate, fill out a contact form, or purchase products or order services.
Some small businesses don’t have many pages on their website and utilize a “landing page”; which is a single page website used primarily for marketing campaigns, in order to drive customers to a complete specific “call-to-actions” or “opt-in” for some sort of promotional item.
No matter the type of site you create, you will need some sort of web service provider such as GoDaddy, SquareSpace or BlueHost to make it all happen. Although these are three very different web service providers, offering a wide range of services, all three providers do one thing in common: they make sure your website gets online.
But before you start anything take a moment to listen to three pieces of advice!
FIRST: Understand Your Business.
A professional looking website does add a level of credibility for a small-business. It acts as an online brochure, much like the printed marketing materials your clients already receive. Your website should focus on sharing key information about your business: the who, what, when, where, why and how and it’s information should be broken down into individual pages of relevant content -mixed with some imagery or video to make things visual.
Potential customers need to know who you are, where your company is headed, what you do and what specific services/products you provide. Share when you decided to start your business and why you started it. It is also important to share where you’re located, the region you primarily serve and how people can get in contact with you. Incorporating a captivating story about the inspiration behind your business, can help potential customers know that you are focused on servicing their needs.
It’s a common feeling to want to get started on colors, words, pictures, fonts, and finding someone who will work at the lowest cost possible to GET IT ALL DONE for the CHEAP.
FOCUS on working with the right agency or consultant who understands how to communicate about your business and ensure the website supports the goals of the business and its’ customers. Before signing up for that FREE web service, joining the WIX.COM bandwagon, or writing a check to a “buddy” that says they can put a website together for $500.00, make sure you start off on the right foundations.
SECOND: Know Your Customer.
- ONE: define your customer – If you don’t know who you’re speaking to, you won’t know how to communicate to them. Do research in order to understand who your customer is beyond basic information such as age, gender and income. Get further insights into how your customers spend money, what motivates them and what separates them from other types of customers by developing a “customer persona”.
- TWO: define the customer problem -What benefits can your customers receive if they choose you? Figure out “your tribe”, what they struggle with, and how your business is not only different from the competition, but how it plans to solve their challenges in a unique way. In “business language” this is called a value proposition.
- THREE: craft your message – take time to craft a company message that re-enforces the value proposition you developed. Consider what may make potential customers relate to your brand, inspire them, and motivate them to want to buy your product or service. Choose words and phrases that connect authentically to your potential customer without sounding like a salesperson.
- FOUR: think about the user experience – your potential customers will be the users of your website, so it’s important to understand what type of experience you want them to have. A successful user experience happens naturally when “you” the business owner, make decisions about it through the eye of the “user” – not yourself. Go on the internet and make intelligent observations about what your customers need to see when they visit your website. Make those decisions based on asking your potential customers what site features they would expect to see on your website. Take paper and jot down your ideas on how the website’s content will be structured, what customers will see, and how the site should feel. If this process is too overwhelming or you find yourself unsure how drawing shapes on paper can help your business and it’s bottom line, work with a professional that has user experience, product design or customer experience design backgrounds.
THIRD: Let’s Talk Content & Web Visibility.
Ok so you’ve…
1. Defined the customer
2. Defined their problem
3. Crafted your message…
4. Designed the user experience…
Now you have to make sure your potential clients can actually find you on the internet organically.
I don’t dig into the process of increasing site traffic through paid advertising, but I do share 4 basic principles towards increasing search engine visibility overtime.
In order for your website to show up successfully in search results, search engines have to know what your website is about in order to know if it’s content is relevant and important. Search engines become educated about your website’s content through a healthy combination of video, photos and text structured throughout the website in a certain manner.
Just randomly adding text and photos to your website without clearly planning the content structure, will not help your chances of appearing in search engine results. Whether you’re hiring a web professional who is building your website from the ground up or using some pre-built tools, it is important that your website content is formatted a certain way.
1. Convert Site Visitors Into Customers
When users come to your website, they’re looking for specific things. By providing a clear and easy way for users to interact with your content on both mobile and computer devices, this will help keep them on your site longer, increase conversions, and allow you to build real customers over time. Here are some recommended things to include on your website:
- Call-To-Action buttons – “signup” “register now” “request a quote”
- Provide some sort of “offer” or “incentive” for coming to your website for the first time
- Provide content that can be experienced on mobile devices, laptops and desktop computers
- Include variation of sizes and weight to your fonts; don’t make all your text look the same
- Provide some sort of video on your website.
- Include high-quality photos of your business location, products, or action photos of your service experience
- Provide a mailing list subscription feature
- Integrate a blog or a news page for site visitors to know what you’re business is up to
2. Add Internal Links On Your Website
An internal link is text within your website that is connected to another relevant page on your website. For example, the process of defining customer personas within a business is discussed in this blog. I provided a link to a specific client project in my portfolio that can be of value to anyone wanting to see an example of a good customer persona. By linking the word “customer personas” to a previous project, it provides a great way to lead users to additional information on my site. As search engines crawl your website, they often move from one page to the next helping the pages on your website be understood by search engines faster.
3. Use Keywords Properly
Keywords are the terms that best describe your website and it’s content. Keywords should be unique to each page on your website and this all starts with good content. By designing relevant content, this helps search engines make the connection between your website and the terms users include in their search. You need to do some online research to understand the words, phrases and terms that are closely associated to your business or industry and be sure to include them into your website’s communication. Keywords can be added into your website either by hand coding them into the individual web pages or through a website building tool such as WordPress, WIX or SQUARESPACE.