Some businesses are very well established and can survive on referrals and repeat business alone. However, for the majority of businesses, you can't afford not to have a website.
Having a good website can make a huge difference to your bottom line, driving additional revenue by casting a wider net and letting less of the traffic escape it.
If you're looking to set up a website for your small business, or carry out an overhaul to your existing one, it would be well worth bearing the following points in mind:
1. Looks Matter... to a certain extent
Having an attractive website is always a good thing, but it’s best to aim for a pleasing design whilst still keeping it simple. It's a risky business to break from widely accepted and expected trends such as a navigation bar at the top or on the left hand side. People don’t want to have to spend time learning how to use your site, so if you want them to stick around - don’t make them.
Clearly there’s a minimum standard of design that you need to meet in order to be taken seriously. If in doubt, keep it simple! This overly busy design is criminal from a company as renowned as Go-Daddy:
2. Don't let design get in the way of conversion
It's all well and good having an aesthetically pleasing or beautiful website, or having an awesome loading animation or video intro, but have you measured the impact of these features on conversion? Ultimately, you want your website to generate sales or leads for your business. The features that you think are really cool, may be annoying or irrelevant to your website visitors and could actually be turning them away to spend their money elsewhere.
The content and information on your website are more important than your design. It could be the best looking website in the world, but if the content isn't up to par, it will only please designers, not your potential customers. Your visitors might admire a visually stunning website for a moment, before moving on to one of your competitors who actually answers their questions and addresses their pain points through their website content.
Also remember to be unique! Carry out a Google search for one of your main keywords that you (hopefully) rank for. Click on your website and three or four of your competitors' sites who also rank highly for that keyword. Normally, most websites will have some kind of headline, along with subheadings or bullet points outlining the key features of their product, store or offering. If you operate in a competitive industry, you're probably all saying the same thing. Review your competitors' messaging, and make sure yours catches attention by being different. Don't blend in with your competitors. Don't use industry jargon. Don't use clichés. Don't use superlatives (unless they're a quote from a customer!)
3. Highlight your Key Differentiators
When a new visitor lands on your website, you don't have long to make an impression - so get your key messages across! Make sure your messages are prominent in the visual hierarchy, and that they highlight the key benefits a potential customer would experience if they used your product or service. Explain clearly and succinctly what it is that you offer or provide. How is it different to your competitors' offerings? How is it going to add value to the potential customer? Why is it the best?
If you answer these questions prominently and succinctly on your website, without using the same industry jargon and tired old terms that everyone else is using, you will entice your prospects to explore your site further!
4. Measure and track
Every website should, at the very minimum, have Google Analytics installed. You should be monitoring your website's conversion rate and bounce rate, and track how any changes to your website influence these.
If you want to get more advanced, you can monitor your visitors' flow through your website towards conversion, and monitor how changes that you make can influence this. You can also get a greater insight into the behaviour of your visitors, by installing a click tracking or heat mapping solution, such as Crazy Egg tracking.
Different website elements all have an impact on conversion. For example, the colours that you use for your call to action buttons, where you place them, and how they stand out from the page, can all have a significant impact on conversion rates. The style of images that you choose to use, particularly in your banner or near your call to action, can also influence conversion. Did you know that the direction of the image subject's gaze and their body language can actually impact the number of conversions that you get?
5. Demonstrate your expertise
Your website is your own dedicated space that you're in control of, use it to your advantage! Especially if you provide a service, you should use your website to demonstrate to potential customers that you are an expert in your industry. The focus here should be on producing helpful, informative or useful content, without a sales tone to it. This can be through demonstration videos, tutorials, how to guides, blog posts giving opinion on important industry news and events etc. Services are unique to the provider, so there's no way to be 100% sure of the quality of a service before you buy it. If you can successfully demonstrate expertise in your area, you go some way to reducing the element of risk that a potential customer feels when signing up for a new service. Regularly producing content like this also helps you to grow into a thought leader in your area.
You can also demonstrate your expertise and increase trust between you and your potential new customers by including quotes and reviews from your clients on your website. These gain credibility if they are accompanied by names, company logos and faces. The ultimate credibility is a "talking heads" style video testimonial montage, featuring employees from well known companies who are happy to endorse your company or product.
Leveraging reviews and testimonials in your marketing is known as "social proof".
6. Be responsive!
Specifically we're talking about responsive design. Mobile and tablet usage has exploded over the last few years, and continues to grow with mobile data transfer getting faster. Users are now expecting mobile friendly sites, no one wants to pinch, zoom and scroll sideways!
Better than a separately built mobile website, is a website that is responsive. This means that elements scale down and move around in order to fit onto smaller screens with little of the impact lost.
If you follow these tips, you'll be well placed to drive more revenue through your website. Remember to think about your website as a tool to engage potential customers as well as something that visually reflects well on your company or brand.