Whether you’re building your first website or optimizing a current one, there comes a time for every entrepreneur to revisit what makes an outstanding small business website.
That’s why it’s so (so) important to set yourself up for success before you get neck-deep in building the site itself.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through the 10 proven tips that will help take you from ‘I need a website’ to ‘my website does wonders for my business.’
First, Why Do Small Business Websites Matter?
Small business websites are the bread and butter for budding entrepreneurs… They are the “hub” of all business activity. All “spokes,” like a small business’ social media accounts, email marketing, print collateral, and other marketing channels should lead potential customers there.
Many small business owners fear that because they don’t know code, they can’t have a website presence. Thanks to modern-day tools, there are multiple website builders out there with drag and drop functionality, so no coding skills are required. Zilch. Zero. Nada.
Your website is far too important to your small businesses growth to be put off or put together in a hurry.
In fact, G2Crowd’s 2019 Small Business Statistics reports that:
- 92% of business owners believe that having a website is the most effective digital marketing strategy
- 83% of small business owners with a website feel a competitive advantage to those without one
So, whether you’re starting, managing, or growing any type of business online today, or are successful off-line businesses coming online for the first time… jump on it! Never forego or skimp on creating a lead-generating website for your business. It can capture leads and give you the online presence you need to make an impact with your core audience.
And if you don’t grasp what’s at stake when you don’t think through your web strategy, you could be missing out on the real money makers: generating leads, selling your product or services, demo requests, consultation scheduling, and more.
For the purposes of this post, let’s assume you have already determined that you need to build a new website, or significantly overhaul your existing one… You already discovered a website builder that best suits your needs (because, sheesh, you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to dole out to a web design firm) and have already set up a domain and website host.
To start off on the right foot, here are 10 key small business website tips you can easily put to practice yourself without outsourcing potentially expensive agencies or contractors. Here you go!
1 – Start with preparing a website strategy
Any successful small business website has one commonality: a well thought through strategy. With a plan in place, you’re teed off for success when it comes to supporting lead generation goals. Your website plan should answer the following ten questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What is your website’s goal or goals? (Rank and prioritize them!)
- What functionality will your website have? (what’s critical and what’s a ‘nice to have’?)
- What information do you need/want to give website visitors?
- What other web properties will your site connect to? (Think about landing pages, social media profiles, blog articles, and other third-party publications.)
- How will you measure your success? (Make sure you have the proper web analytics in place.)
2 – Set a clear page hierarchy
After you have developed the overall goals and a blueprint with tips on creating a website for your business, the next step is making it easy for website visitors to find content. To do this, make sure your page hierarchy is clear.
Social Media Today suggests bucketing your content by theme and importance. Try physically drawing a plan as you create a high-level outline. Most people freeze up at this point so it’s important to visualize your website structure!
Here’s a strategy to do this:
Each website should have a homepage – that’s a give in, right? Then, stemming from each homepage should be top-level pages. These pages help group similar content. “About Us,” “Product/Service,” “Contact Us” and “Resources/Blog” are all examples of top-level pages. More robust and detailed content will fall under each of these categories. Then, whiteboard it so it makes sense before you put the plan to work!
Having breadcrumb navigation at the top of your small business website will also help visitors as they navigate through your website and find the content they are seeking.
3 – Keep it (so so) simple
Simple design and text are essential to an effective small business website. An overly complicated website doesn’t convert. Too many page elements lead to website visitor confusion.
So, long story short, uncluttered visuals and text have the most significant impact on your audience. And, while we’re on the subject of simplicity, keeping your color scheme minimal is key, too. Two to three colors
Be pragmatic in your color selection and fortify the use of white space within your small business website design. Design experts point out that one of the biggest mistakes in website design is painting your website like a rainbow.
“This is not the time to show off your design acumen, with lots of distracting sounds and lights on the site and every icon known to web-kind,” says Nationwide. You want to keep it simple and make it easy for customers to discover what you’re all about while navigating the site.
4 – Maintain well-defined calls to action
As a small business, you don’t need to be coy, Roy. Clearly state what you want people to do.
Use phrases like, “Subscribe to our newsletter,” “Book your reservation now” or “Email us for a free quote today.” After you identify your page structure, sketch out your content sections and maintain well-defined CTAs, then layer in conversion opportunities like pop-ups, alert bars, and more! Your lead forms should be prominent and enticing as well.
5 – Make your design stand out:
Gather your multimedia assets, define your design aesthetic and make sure your branding is buttoned up.
From variable fonts to minimalist layouts, website design matters. But it also takes time. Get down and dirty with your website design, and test out which trends work best for your product or service. We recently shared a few website design predictions for 2019. Among them were these tips:
- Have dynamic typography
- Geometric shapes
6 – Make your design responsive
Did you know 90% of small business websites don’t keep the smaller devices’ screen size in mind when creating websites? And around 30% of all website traffic is mobile.
Before publishing anything on the web, always consider desktop and mobile devices. “Having a site that isn’t mobile optimized can drive away customers, hurt your SEO and look unprofessional,” notes Small Business Trends writer Ann Pilon.
Because if this it’s important to choose a website builder that allows you to preview your page on different devices.
To tell if your small business website is responsive, or needs a little work, use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool where you can enter any URL and it will tell you whether your page is mobile-friendly or not. This tool is
7 – Add social sharing icons
Social sharing buttons are key for a small business website. Why? Social channels give potential customers added information about your small business, including customer reviews, location, pictures, and more. Social Media Today says, “Do add your social buttons and link to your business blog to grow your brand awareness and generate fresh content on your site.”
Blogs and social content give small business owners the opportunity to produce fresh content on their website. Unlike stagnant home and top-level pages that typically stay the same content for months or years at a time, blogs and social feeds freshen up a page.
In fact, of Google’s organic search ranking factors is the “freshness” of content, which is why fresh content is a good user experience but is also effective from an organic search perspective.
8 – Optimize for organic search
Google has a complex algorithm with more than 200 Google ranking factors to rank websites on the web. So, as a small business owner, what can you do to boost your chances of ranking in top organic search positions in spite of increased complexity and competition? Here are a few on-page SEO strategies:
1 – Have 250 words per page. Copy length matters for SEO. Text gives website crawlers data to review and index for search engines!
2 – Focus on keywords. First, focus on optimizing each page of your site with one primary keyword target per page, using a different keyword each time. Perform research using Google’s Keyword Planner to find high-volume, low competition keywords.
3 – Include SEO elements, like metadata and keywords. Then, integrate the primary keyword on the following elements:
- Metadata: meta-title, meta-description, and keywords
- Header tags (H1, H2, H3…)
- Body copy
- Alt tags (images)
It fulfills a legal requirement to protect a web user’s privacy and is especially critical with recent GDPR legislation passing in the EU. Not only does it potentially save your butt from potential lawsuits or fines, it can also establish trust with your audience because you’re being totally transparent about how you use their personal data.
10 – Have a 404 page:
Have you ever tried to go to a website you get a weird message that reads 404 in big block letters? Whether you recognize it or not, 404 pages can easily become one of the most frequently visited places on your site. A 404 page appears in a few cases. Either someone types in the wrong URL, a webpage moved locations, or your server goes down for a bit.
But most small businesses settle for a run-of-the-mill ‘oops’ page when it could really delight visitors and offer a lead-capture opportunity. Here’s how some companies are using 404 pages on their small business website:
- Infuse personality
- Include a lead form
- Add helpful resource links
- Offer a discount
BONUS – Know the difference between “http” vs. “https”:
Have you noticed that some websites start with “http” while others start with “https”? There is a difference between the two, and it lies in the “s”, which stands for “secure”. So, “for all intents and purposes, https is http, it’s just the secure version,” says Ahrefs.
Security is a hot topic in this day in age, due to data breaches galore. Because of this, consumers trust websites that are more secure. Having a secure website is also good for organic search, too. In fact, Google announced that switching your business’ website to https:// will give you a minor ranking boost.
The finale: last tidbits on small business website tips
So there you have it… we hope these 10 tips for building an effective business website were consumable and prompt action as you embark on creating your small business website.
But before you go off and start this endeavor, realize that the steps involved in how to make an effective website take time and energy. A successful small business website takes intentional and intelligent planning, design, development, and optimizing. If you feel that you can’t dedicate the time to these areas, consider using drag-and-drop website builders and tools like Leadpages to help you out.