Are you a small business owner or entrepreneur who likes to have control over your own website? If so, do you constantly juggle the tasks of overseeing it as it grows into an unmanageable nightmare? Is your website not generating enough income for your business? Don't give your visitors a reason to leave your website.
The tips in this post should help push your website in the right direction and move your online presence from good to great! This piece highlights eight specific areas to strengthen your website, and I also include a section for further reading.
#1 Provide your visitors with a focus
Did you build your website for you or for your visitors? Does your website provide a clear purpose for your customers? Are you selling a product, providing a service, or asking your customers to sign up for a newsletter, or maybe you want them to contact you with an inquiry, or is it possible that you want to convey a specific message through multimedia? Many times I find the "Do IT Yourself" (DIY) small business websites are lacking in a clear vision or a clear call to action for their customers. If you cannot engage your customers within the first few seconds, they will be leaving your website and you will continue to lose business.
Focus on the area that visitors are looking for and reserve background information on the business for an About page. Make it easy to find ways to contact you, be sure to have current email addresses, telephone numbers, and your business location address listed in easy to find places such as the footer of all pages and on a Contact Us page. It could be that your customers would like to be able to make online transactions through your website, provide an eCommerce section that allows your visitors to purchase your products or services through your website.
#2 Know your audience
Doyou try to attract everyone under the sun to your website? Many small business websites try to be all things to all people, and it is very hard to manage a shotgun approach when trying to garner a loyal customer base. What you want to do is find out your primary audience profile is and target those who are most likely to make up your customer base.
#3 Less is more
Is your website cluttered, full of flashing ads, and void of any white space? Eliminate the flashy, cookie cutter, busy design style, and use the less is more approach. Maintaining a balance of content and white space between columns, headers, footers, and sidebars helps the visitor's eye to gravitate to the important things, and they will be apt to visit more often.
#4 Content is king
Have you updated your website content in the last month or in the past year? Make sure your content is up to date and current with relevant news and events. Nothing turns off a visitor more than when they go to a website that looks stale with outdated information, provides irrelevant data, or still has promotions for events that happened days, weeks, and months ago.
#5 Social Media
Does your business have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Flickr accounts? If you are not associated with social networking sites, you might be losing valuable connections and interactions with your customers. Make sure your start with just a few of the major social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, then as you get plugged in and have more time to devote with regular posts and updates, add on with other social networking accounts.
People love to get free things. Do you offer any opportunities for free products? If you are not offering a special or complimentary "gift", then you are missing an opportunity of attracting new visitors to your website and ultimately to your business sales and income. Contests, sweepstakes, eBooks, PDF cheat sheets, and a PDF recipe book if you are a food related business — anything that will entice people to visit your site will add business prospects.
#7 Online community
Does your business provide a service or product that would benefit from an online community? People like to find places to chat with others about similar interests and to ask and to answer questions. Provide an online chat or forum for your visitors to communicate with peers, associates, and professionals in your business's field of interest.
Is your website optimized for fast loading times? Does your website take more than 10 seconds to fully load in the browser? No one likes to wait for a webpage to load, so you want to make sure your website is optimized for quick loading in the browser. Front end performance designed into your website will improve response times and give you the advantage.
The resources listed below for further reading are based on several of the action points highlighted from this article.
- Small Business PR: Should You Hire a Publicist or Can You Do It Yourself? (The Huffington Post) The Blog presents a good piece on questions to ask yourself and your business team on critical PR decision points, and in particular your target audience.
- Effective design principles for web designers: Proximity (TechRepublic Web Designer Blog) Spacing and relationships, white space, and typography are all important aspects of proximity and how it can be used to better please the eye.
- Quick Tip: Make content king on your websites (TechRepublic Web Designer Blog) Tips for what to avoid and what to do in order to deliver relevant web content as well as a good user experience.
- Create social media interaction for small business websites (TechRepublic Social Media Blog) Simple tips for social media sharing that will help you build relationships with customers, drive more traffic, and work on a small budget.
- How to Run a Giveaway on a WordPress Blog (The Houston Chronicle, Small Business Section) Provides a step-by-step approach for a well-planned giveaway on a blog format, but can easily be adapted to any platform.
- The four stages of creating a successful social enterprise (TechRepublic Social Media Blog) Shows you how to use social media-style tools to help your organization share information and collaborate more effectively.
- Does your website need a browser diet? (TechRepublic Web Designer Blog) Reviews guidelines and resources for front end performance design. Applying these principles will help get rid of your website's browser bloat.
Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal government.