“Websites for Small Business” may sound like a cheesy infomercial, but I promise we’re serious about the topic.
Your website is either helping or hurting your business. Sadly, it’s the later for many of the businesses that need it most – small businesses. A website for small business should be much more than a brochure, an online menu, or some contact information and a fancy logo.
It’s your calling card. Your brand. It’s your 24x7x365 sales/ customer service employee. It can take messages, greet potential customers, or even welcome back current customers. It might persuade prospects to use your products and services instead of your competition.
Your website can answer questions or track and manage inventory. It can reach out to search engines to bring you more traffic from prospective clients. It can even tell you how people are finding it. Did I mention it can sell things 24 hours a day?
The fact is, the web has entered an era where a website can—and should be—a primary part of your business model. Customers shop based on how easily they can find information on your site and how it looks. Consumers investigate businesses online before stepping foot in a retail establishment or office. Today, people look for phone numbers and addresses on Google far more than they reach for a phone book (for you young folk this is a giant book they used to leave on your doorstep that had the phone number for all the businesses and people in your area).
With this in mind, here are five questions to ask yourself about your website—and these apply whether you have a site already or are planning on making one.
How can websites for small business make Life easier?
Sometimes, it’s as easy as building a Frequently Asked Questions page to help cut down time spent answering common questions. Sometimes it’s a more complex solution, like e-commerce, real-time inventory tracking, or something built around your business model. It could even be as simple as a forum where customers can help one another.
For restaurants, a well built site can take an order or reservation saving you both time and the potential for errors. Plus you get paid before you make anything…
Remember, your website works 24 hours a day. What could it be doing while you are at home with your family, enjoying a good movie?
Websites for small business should improve the overall operation of your company.
Does your website really represent the business?
Your business is your brand. When designing websites for small business it’s important that it authentically represents your business. If there is a difference between what your website communicates and what your customer ultimately experiences it can cost you. If your website sucks, they may not ever do business with you. Conversely, if your website sets high expectations and the customer experience underwhelms, you could lose future business.
Your website should accurately represent what a customer would feel if they walked into your business.
Is your website easy to use?
Actually, don’t ask yourself this question. Ask your customers. Ask your mother. Your grandmother. Next time you’re at your in-laws’ house for dinner, ask them to sit down on your web site and perform a specific task, such as finding a certain product, locating some specific information, or just surfing through it. Do not intervene. Just watch quietly and note where the stumbling blocks are. For your customers, send them an offer to get a 10% off coupon if they test your site and provide answers to a questionnaire about your site. You will begin to notice commonalities in the feedback you get, and those are where you want to start.
Do the search engines like websites for small business?
Search engines have become much more sophisticated over the years. It used to be that “clean” code and a bunch of links to your site could get you a higher rank. To a certain extent that’s still true, but as website builders have grown in popularity, their user friendly nature can come at a cost.
WordPress was among the first website builders and now powers tens of millions of websites – many of them small business. However, there are other platforms that have grown in popularity in recent years. Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, and Webflow are a few of the most popular.
Choosing the right platform for your small business website should be based on what you need it to do. The considerations range from technological competence to whether you plan on selling online, or not. Each service comes with it’s own strengths and limitations, so being clear on what you are trying to achieve is critical.
Among those strengths and limitations is how easily and effectively the SEO aspects of a website can me managed. Most of the platforms we listed do a decent job of the basics, but there are big disparities once you get beyond the rudimentary stuff.
How are people finding your site?
Once your site is up and running, there are a number of things you can do to help drive traffic to your site, many of them being quite simple. Search engine optimization is great, but it can take a while, and/ or incur a significant cost for a new website to generate meaningful traffic. Although this is an excellent way to build a long term stream of potential customers, there are other things you can do in the short term to help.
Start a business blog, making sure to keep it updated with real, useful information and content related to your business or industry. Make sure your blog has a link back to your site and vice-versa. Make sure your content is not just selling your business, but is useful and keyword-rich.
Get linked to (and link to) other sites. Google likes this and will ultimately improve where your site shows up in search engine rankings. Using Google My Business is like a secret weapon for increasing traffic to your website. Another option is to get you business listed on legitimate online business and industry directories. Just be sure to add your website links with links back to your site. Avoid getting into any arrangements with SPAM directories.
Share Your Website
Cross-pollinate with other sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or any of the other social networking sites your customers use. More and more businesses are creating profiles on social networking and Web 2.0 sites. These profiles can ultimately act as another springboard to get more traffic to your site and to help you appeal to entirely new demographics.
Track your traffic. Take advantage of Google’s Webmaster Tools. Their Analytics product is simply powerful and there are multiple ways to display the data right on your WordPress website. Oh- and they are free. You can track your web site traffic, sources of traffic, paths users are taking through your site and even set up conversion goals to see how many people are following through with specific purchase paths. Did I mention it’s free?
So that’s it—a great starting point for you to use as a barometer to make your web site not only more useful to your customers, but also to you. If you would like a more in-depth consultation on how your web site may be able to help your business more, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
As I’ve counseled, coached, and consulted with local businesses, there’s a common challenge that many of them face, mostly without realizing it: They haven’t clarified why they are in business and what they are trying to accomplish.
I’m not an advocate of “corporate” mission statements and other lip service declarations, but I do believe in developing a clear sense of Why, Who, What, and How for your company.
“When Values Are Clear, Decisions Are Easy”
Once you’ve identified your reasons for being in existence, decide on a goal to point your company at each year (or quarter, or some other reasonable cadence). After creating a defined and aligned objective, the last step is to determine how you’ll measure success.
I’ll share a condensed version of what I’ve learned and read about into simple principles you can start with, as well as a recommended reading list at the end of the post.
“Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends.”
A useful “mission” statement is simply a declaration of why you are in business and what you hope to accomplish, stated consistently with your company culture & communications. The simpler, the better. Your “Why” is the basis for everything your business will do. If you don’t have a mission yet – stated or otherwise, get started. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it can change, but if you don’t know why you are doing what you are doing – how will you know if your actions are effective?
Here’s a few “why” prompts to get you started:
Why are you in business?
What are you trying to accomplish?
What change are you trying to make?
What problems are you trying to solve?
Once you’ve got an idea of Why you are in business, who is your company intended to serve? Who are your customers? If your instinct is to say “anyone who will pay” you are not alone, and sometimes we have to do what we have to do to survive. However, it’s not a sustainable strategy for your business. Part of deciding who you serve – is to determine who you will not serve. Creating a “customer experience” is only possible if you know who that person is and how they’d prefer to interact with your company.
Here’s a few “who’s your customer” prompts to get started:
Who are your favorite customers to work with
Who are your most profitable customers
What customers refer you to other customers
Who are your repeat customers
To Be Continued…
Part 2 will continue our journey into better defining what we do and how we do it – followed by a deeper dive into aligning and defining organizational focus to make progress on your mission.
“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
Hosting Deficiency Syndrome (HDS) is a serious problem plaguing the WordPress community. Symptoms include slow page load times, the need for caching plugins, poor security, out of date WP installations, terrible customer service, and more.
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If you, or a company you know suffers from HDS, please contact them today.
Flywheel is an amazing WordPress hosting company based in Omaha, Nebraska (AKA The Silicon Prairie). They do an awesome job of managing WordPress hosting for design firms like us at Workshed.com. If your website is built on WordPress, check them out (Also they do free migrations, which is very, very, helpful). CONTACT FLYWHEEL
We approach design, marketing, and websites from a business owners perspective. Sure, we love cool tech just as much as the next geek, but we know that providing solutions to real business problems is a better way to provide value.
Back when I first started as a financial adviser, Van Kampen mutual funds was doing a big ‘value add’ push to attract more business. I’m not sure how successful their effort was for them, but one of the positive outcomes I received was an introduction to their office audit (along with a few books like “Storyselling for Financial Advisers” and “Millionaire’s Advisor“) which helped advisers understand the non verbal messages an office can communicate to clients and prospects. The typical suggestions usually consisted of things like “remove clutter,” “add pictures of family,” and “display your hobbies.” All of which were intended to instill confidence and make connections. The same is true (perhaps more so) of your website.
Financial Advisor Websites Audit
Pull up your website and pretend it’s one of your competitors. If you were looking at it for the first time what would it say about you and your company? Does it help someone learn anything meaningful about your firm or differentiate you from all the other advisors out there?
Here are a few questions to help you conduct an audit on your firm’s website:
How often to you add content?
Is the content written by you or someone at your firm?
Does your home page answer the WIFM question for prospects?
Is your website build to be search engine friendly?
How does your website look on a mobile phone or tablet?
Write down your answers to these questions. Have your staff do the same. Unless your answers were weekly, yes, yes yes, and great, there is room for improvement. Enhancements to anyone of these areas can lead to significant improvement in the conversion of visitors (or getting more visitors) into clients.
In reality there are many factors that go into building great looking, high performing financial advisor websites, but by starting with these 5 you’ll have an advantage (assuming you do something after asking the questions) over your competition. I’d also recommend reading Storyselling for Financial Advisers and Millionaire’s Advisor, they are great books that will help you connect with clients and run your practice more efficiently. If you need help or have questions, you can get them answered with a quick message here:
UPDATE: For the rest of March, we’re offering our social media makeover for 50% off!
Social media is one of the first places prospective clients are going to “meet” you and your company. What will their first impression be? Make sure your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube accounts (yes you should have an account on each) are sending the right message, by letting the Workshed team create a custom profile and background image for each.
What’s it cost?
Typically we charge $500-$600 for this service, but through the end of March we’re “slashing our prices” (imagine the guy with the crazy radio voice) and offering it for $300. For those within the range of our photographer, that’s an epic deal, for the rest of you…you’ll have to settle for a great deal!
What about the free giveaway?
To enter the “Great Social Media Makeover Giveaway” is easy. Just tell us in the comments below how you currently use social media (if at all) to market your business and share this post to the social network of your choice.
Share the social media makeover
[clear]If you are selected we’ll contact you with the rest of the details.
For the forward thinking types who want to proceed with the social media makeover anyway (because it’s such a great deal, and you know how important it is) we’ll refund your payment if you are selected.
If you are within 30 miles of our office, we’ll send Brady over with his fancy camera to take pictures! If you’ve ever had professional pictures taken, you know this is a screaming deal. If you are not within range of our visual arts master, we take what you have and work with it. If it’s rubbish, we’ll do something with graphics instead.
Not only is it important to be posting big beautiful photos, it is equally important that they are properly optimized for the web. Not having properly optimized photos means you are probably missing out on potential visitors and sales.
Do your images provide Google and other search engines with the relevant information they need to be properly indexed? If not, how are people going to find them?
Are your photos too big? If so, they could be taking longer than necessary to load on phones and other mobile devices.
Why optimize your images?
Google can’t read photos… at least not very well. This is why you need to tell Google what the image is so that Google can correctly index and organize it.
Is that another photo of your cat with sunglasses? Or is that a photo of your Grandma’s famous green jello recipe? Google doesn’t know. You need to tell it.
Here are 5 important steps to optimize images for the web:
1. Image sizes
Before your photo is posted to the world wide web, it’s important that it be the right file size. If your images are too large, your visitors are not going to wait around for your website to load; especially mobile visitors. Images that are small in file size are essential for fast page load times. Unless you have access to expensive image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, there are plenty of free online tools to help optimize image size; here is a great one.
2. Image Title Tag
Give your image a good title tag. The title tag is what the visitor is going to see when they highlight over the image with the cursor. Wordpress makes uploading and tagging images a piece of cake. Simply type in the title tag after uploading your image:
If you’re not using wordpress, and are updating your website like a dinosaur, the format goes like this:
<img src=”cat.jpg” title=”My Cute Cat”>
3. Image Caption
Add a caption tag to give your visitors a nice description or insight about your image. In WordPress, the caption is added directly underneath your image. Image captions are not used by Google, so only add if you want to give your visitors additional information.
4. Image Alt Tag
The Alt tag is especially important for SEO and Google indexing. Make a habit of always putting relevant keywords that describe your image in your alt tags. The alt tag will also be displayed in place of the image if the image link breaks and cannot be displayed. WordPress also has a handy field to add an alt tag:
<img src=”cat.jpg” title=”My Cute Cat” alt=”cute brown cat”>
5. Image File Name
When uploading any image, make sure it has a descriptive file name. A year from now when you or a visitor are searching for a particular image, which one do you think will be easier to find? IMG_8692.jpg or cute-brown-cat.jpg?
These are 5 great ways to help optimize your website and get more traffic. Interested in more information on maintaining an effective website, sign up for our newsletter in the right sidebar.
Have any more image optimization tips? Please leave them in the comments below!