How well is your website performing for your business?
I'm not asking how nice it looks, i'm asking how well does it perform in the way it's supposed to perform….as a tool to attract and gain new customers.
Most (not all) small business websites are nice to look at. They have pretty graphics, maybe a fancy flash into……..but the way your website looks is only one part of having an effective website. If your website cannot be found online, does not drive potential customers to take action and is frustrating to navigate…..then what's the point?
I see so many small business websites that act as nothing more than a digital brochure. Many are static html sites that virtually stay the same…….forever. After you've seen the site once, why would anyone go back? Your website should be a place where you can start the relationship and trust building process, where you can educate your customers and where you can show them that you're an authority in your industry. It should be a place that they see as a resource, not another advertisement for your business.
Though there are hundreds of things that you can do to improve your website, below are some relatively easy to understand ideas that you can start implementing today. Hopefully, you're already doing several of these and are well on your way to building a great website.
Thing you can do on your website
Install Google Analytics. You'll find it very hard to improve your website if you don't know what's happening on it. Google Analytics will allow you to see how many visitors your getting, where they are located and how they are getting to your website. That's in addition to about a hundred other useful things it can tell you about your website and how it's performing. Google Analytics is free and is installed by placing a small strip of code onto your website. You'll probably need someone familiar with the back end of your website to install this, unless you're using WordPress, then you can use this simple plugin.
Add your business contact information on every page. Having your contact information such as your business name, address and telephone number is not only a good idea from a customer standpoint, it helps the search engines determine that you are a local business in that area. You can place this information in the header, footer or sidebar of each page. With the heavy emphasis Google is putting on local search results, it's something every location based business should have. Having your business information prominently on your website tells the search engines that this is a real business with a real location.
Have a clear call to action. What do you want visitors to do before they leave your website? If you're not sure, then it's safe to say that your visitors are not sure either. Think about what you'd like them to do…..is it to fill out a contact form? Sign up for your mailing list and receive a coupon or a free report? Give you a call for more information? Once you determine what you'd like them to do, you can then think about what incentives you will put in place in order for them to complete the desired action. Bottom line, if you want results, you have to ask your visitors to take some sort of action.
Have valuable content. Adding engaging, educational content to your website is a powerful way to not only be seen as a thought leader in your industry, but as a trusted source in the eyes of the search engines. The more valuable content you can provide to your customers on your website, the easier it is for the search engines to determine that you have something useful to offer. I highly recommend having a blog for your website, but even if you are against it, at least have several pages of locally targeted content via articles, white papers and research reports that both visitors and search engines can use.
Optimize you images. Did you know that you can optimize the images on your website and that can help you in your search engine rankings? There are two things you should focus on. One, the name of the image file…..make it descriptive to what the image is, not just a random collection of letters and numbers. Two, the alt tag for the image. The alt tag is alternative text that is displayed when an image cannot load or if someone that is visually impaired and is using a screen reading program. You can learn more about using alt tags here.
Use descriptive URL's. If you have a page on your website that talks about “how to arrange flowers for a wedding”, a descriptive URL would look something like “www. yoursamplewebsite.com/how-arrange-flowers-wedding”. If you were not using descriptive URL's, it might look something like “www. yoursamplewebsite.com/?page_id=14” or some other weird looking URL. As you can see, the first one is much easier for both people and search engines to understand. If you have alot of pages and content on your website, it may be tricky to make a change, but for newer or new websites, descriptive URL's should be standard. Don't try to change this yourself, please get someone that knows what their doing. You can find out more about changing your URL structure here.
Make your content shareable with Social Media buttons. Now this only really works when you have content worthy of sharing on your site. If your website acts like an extension of your printed brochure, don't expect much to happen. But when you do have valuable content on your website, Social Media can do wonderful things in spreading the news that you're business rocks. All of the major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook let you grab the necessary code to put on your website. If you're on WordPress, you can do it using plugins.
Things you can do outside of your website
Setup a Google Places page. If you haven't done this already and you're a local business, please make this the first thing you do on this list. Google gives every business (whether you have a website or not), a free local webpage that they can customize with images, video and descriptions of products and services. Google let's you link this page to your website and your Google Places listing will often times show up higher in the local search results than your actual website. Bing and Yahoo also offer small businesses a local listing, though they are not as powerful as Google Places.
Add local citations. A local citation is a “mention” of your business on another website. The easiest way to explain this is the Yellow Pages website displaying your business information, including all of your contact info. These “mentions” serve as a sign of trust that your local business is legitimate. The most important thing to know is that you should always write in your contact information exactly the way it is on your website. If you abbreviate your state, or spell it out, make sure you do the same when adding your information to other websites, like online directories. The easier it is for the search engines to match your business on other websites, the easier it is for them to give you that added trust. Click here for a list of local websites you can add your listing to.
Get links from other relevant websites. Having another website link to your website sends a signal to the search engines saying that you have some sort of relevance. If you are linked to from an authoritative website, say The New York Times, and they link to you in an article……you're not only going to get loads of traffic, but the search engines will deem you somewhat of an authority (on whatever topic you are mentioned in) and increase your online rankings. Writing guest articles on blogs, news websites and getting one of your articles cited by another website are ways to gain links. You can also gain links through online directories and from buying advertising space, but these are far less effective.
As you can see, there are lots of things you can do to create a better website experience for your visitors and to increase your likelihood of getting found online. Some are easy to implement and others will require the help of someone who knows what they're doing. You don't have to do all of the above, but I strongly suggest you do at least a few (especially Google Places and Google Analytics). You most likely spent alot of time and money on your website, why not make a few tweaks and get some more mileage out of it?
A free tool you can use to get a high level overview of your website, is Website Grader, by Hubspot. It'll act as a good starting point to see where you can start improving your website's performance.
If you have any questions on any of the above, feel free to contact me here. I reply to all requests. Cheers
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