What Can a Website Do For Your Business?
“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?
A website for small business should be a critical resources that is well built and maintained.
A New Era for Small Business Websites
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.