Building a website for your business doesn’t guarantee you’ll increase sales. Worse, the website could drive business away if it isn’t designed well. Here are 12 tips to make your website an effective marketing tool.
Are you unhappy with the results you’re getting from your website? Does the lack of sales or leads make you question the value of a website as a marketing tool?
Or, are you thinking about setting up your first website and wonder if it will be worth the time and effort? Why not just rely on social media or traditional networking? Will it really pay to build or improve your business website?
Why Do You Need a Website for Your Business?
The fact is that business websites are critically important today for small businesses. When someone’s researching something to buy, the first place they turn is usually the Internet. And if they’ve met someone through networking, or found them on social media, they’re likely to look at the company’s website before making a call or purchase.
The impression the website leaves — or the absence of a website — affects what customers and prospects think about the business. A website that looks attractive and is easy to use helps establish a feeling of professionalism and confidence in the business. A website that doesn’t do those things or the lack of a website can drive away potential customers.
12 Website Tips for Generating Business
What does it take to make your small business website an effective marketing tool? Many factors are involved, but the list below highlights key strategies and best practices for creating effective websites.
1. Make sure your site looks professional.
Take a hard, cold look at your site — or ask a brutally honest friend to look at the site. Does it look professional? Are the graphics professional-quality and clear? Is your website color scheme attractive and appropriate for your content? Are the fonts, font sizes, and font colors used in a consistent way? Or does your site include design flaws like the following that mark it as an amateur production?
- Photos that are squeezed or stretched out of proportion
- Multiple elements on the page that are blinking, bouncing, scrolling, or turning in circles
- Multiple styles of type used for headlines and body copy
- Colored background graphics or textures that make it difficult to read the type
- Background graphics that are inappropriate for the content of the site (for example, bubbles on a site selling bookkeeping services)
- Text blocks that are out of alignment
First impressions matter on the web, just as they do anywhere else. And the first impression your site makes should be one of professionalism and appropriateness for the markets you serve.
RELATED: 10 Website Design Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make
2. Don’t use the name of your company as the web page title.
Every web page has a Windows-style title bar. The title that appears in that title bar is determined by what you include in the title “tag” in the HTML code for the page, and it’s important for SEO (search engine optimization).
You or your website designer may be tempted to make the name of your company the title of the page, or at least to put the name of your company first in the title. After all, it’s nice to see your name in “lights,” even if it’s just on the web.
That’s not necessarily a good idea, though. Search engines place heavy emphasis on the words in the title bar. The closer your title bar text matches the term someone’s searching for, the better the chances are for your site appearing in their search results.
Unless your business name is widely known or includes a descriptive term (called a keyword or key phrase) people search for, don’t put your business name at the beginning of the title bar on your homepage or other pages on the site.
Instead, use it at the end of the title bar. For example, Dan’s Body Shop could use a title tag such as Auto Collision Repair – Dan’s Body Shop. Another option for local businesses is to include a location in the title tag like this: Springfield Pool and Deck | Jackson Contractors.
Equally important, give every page on your website a different title tag. Each title tag should be representative of the specific content on the individual page.
RELATED: How to Advertise Your Website for Free
3. Don’t let an image or an old Flash presentation be the only thing on your homepage.
Search engines feed on the text on your pages. Although images are important for catching a visitor’s eye and may show up in image search results, you need enough text on the page for visitors and search engines to know what the page is about. Image “alt tags” (text in the website coding that describes the image) are useful but don’t eliminate the need for informative text.
Flash is no longer supported by most web browsers, so if your site is old and has a flash presentation, it might be blocked, preventing people from reaching the site at all.
4. Focus the homepage and product pages on your customers’ interests, not yours.
You are justifiably proud of your business and your accomplishments. So, it’s tempting to write a lengthy description of your business accomplishments and run it on your homepage with a big photo of yourself, your building, and/or your employees, saying, “We’re here to serve you.”
But prospects and customers aren’t coming to your site to learn about all the great things you’ve accomplished. They’re coming to your site to find out if and how what you sell will help them.
RELATED: What Should You Put on Your Website?
To get visitors’ attention and interest, use benefits-oriented headlines and text. The headline and subheads should make clear what you do that will meet their needs. For example, “Fast, Accurate Medical Transcription” or “Phone systems that grow with your business.”
Don’t toss out that company information, though. It does have a place on your website — just not on your homepage. Once you have the customer’s interest, they may want to know more about your company before deciding to do business with you.
So, if the purpose of your website is to sell your products or services, make the company information a menu link or tab on your homepage instead of its focal point.
5. Invite customers and prospects to join an email list.
Just because someone got to your site once doesn’t mean they’ll remember it or find it again. To get customers and prospects to remember you and your website, ask them to give you their email address so you can stay in contact with them.
As an incentive to join your email list, offer them something they’ll find useful, such as a free newsletter you’ll send regularly, a special report, coupons, or notices about new products.
Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing methods available to small businesses, so it’s wise to do everything you can to get more people to subscribe to your email list.
6. Avoid a cluttered look.
If you sell multiple products, you want them all to be found. And if you are being billed by the number of “pages” on your website, you may want to keep costs down. But don’t try to squeeze dozens of images or product descriptions on a single page. The page will look cluttered and make it difficult for visitors to find the products or information they want.
Instead, put small photos of a few of your best-sellers or most representative products on the homepage, and then have links to other products in your catalog. Break up the links into logical categories.
For instance, if you sell sandals, you might have categories for women’s sandals, men’s sandals, and children’s sandals. If you sell footwear, you might have pages for men’s footwear, women’s footwear, and children’s footwear, and then break down each of those pages into categories such as sneakers, shoes, sandals.
Remember to give each separate page a separate title tag, as discussed above.
7. Minimize graphic sizes to make sure your pages load quickly.
Photos and other graphic images make your pages look appealing and help illustrate what you sell. So, they’re important to include. But if you have a very large image or too many images on a page, it can make the page slow to load (that is, become visible).
To prevent pages from loading too slowly, format (adjust the size of) your images to match the size of the content holder (space allowed) in the page template you are using in your content management system. If you aren’t sure, ask your web developer, or look for information in a DIY website builder support files.
To avoid having an image look misshapen, be sure you adjust the size proportionately. That means that if the width of the original image is twice as long as the length when you adjust the size, the image should still be twice as wide as it is long. If that shape doesn’t fit into your space holder on the site, you’ll need to use an image editor to crop (remove) portions of the top or side of the photo. If you don’t own an image editor, there are online tools available.
In addition to the actual dimensions of the image, you have to watch the file size of the image. Ideally, the file size of any image you put on your website should be under 70 KB. Smaller file sizes load faster. If your file sizes are large, use one of the free image compression sites to shrink the image size before uploading it to your website.
8. Be sure you’ve included important supporting information.
To turn site visitors into customers, you’ll want to provide enough supporting information about what you sell to make them feel comfortable buying from you.
If you sell software, for instance, you’ll need information about what platform the software uses, compatibility with other products, system requirements, and links to press reviews, if any. If you sell graphic design services, the “supporting information” you need should include a portfolio of work you’ve done.
If you provide consulting services, it would be a good idea to include case studies describing client problems, what you did to solve them, and how they benefited as a result. (Be sure to get the client’s permission before using their name in this way on your site.) A page with testimonials from satisfied customers helps, too.
9. Make sure it’s easy to place an order.
Imagine how annoyed you’d be if you ran into the supermarket to pick up a container of milk and couldn’t find the checkout counter? Website visitors are no different. They’ll get annoyed if they have to scroll up and down or side to side to find a place to order from you.
Avoid the problem by keeping pages short and including a “buy now” button or link in the same location on every page. A good location is just below the text that describes any product or service.
10. Be sure your contact information is easy to find.
Customers not only want to know what you sell and who you are, they want to know how to reach you. They may have questions about the merchandise you are selling, want to know who they can contact if there is a problem with their order, or prefer talking to a “real person” instead of ordering online.
Avoid losing sales by including your phone number, store location (if you have one), and email address on every page.
11. Include your website link in all your social media profiles.
Once you’ve followed the tips above and are happy with your website, you can include a link to it in all your social media profiles. If prospects like what you’re saying in social media conversations, chances are they’ll take a look at your website before they contact you for more information.
12. Share links with other businesses in your community.
The tips above can help you get found in search engines and make your pages more appealing to potential customers. But even in the Internet age, business still has as much to do with who you know as what you do.
So, talk to business owners who sell different products and services than you do, but serve the same market. Help get each other’s pages found by swapping links and giving each other referrals.
How We Can Help
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about creating and managing a website, we can help. Our business website service lets you choose from a variety of templates and lets you easily customize and update your website. And, they look great on any device.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.