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The five key features that your small business website needs

Creating a small business website is a daunting task for anyone who has very little or no online experience.

Even the smallest bit of research will unleash a whole range of techno-jargon and online marketing advice from all angles – enough to make anyone’s head spin.

To avoid this overload of information, a new site should be treated like a V8 Supercar heading out to the track for the first time. It must be built on a solid framework but will be constantly tweaked throughout its life span into an efficient, customer-converting machine.

To provide this solid framework, there are five essential items that must be taken into consideration from day one:

#1 An Easy-to-Use Navigation Menu

The menu system of the site must be easy to find on the page, simple to understand and uncluttered in appearance. Refine the main options (those visible straight away) down to the bare necessities and “drop-down” menus should be used to display any extras that need to be accessed during a visitor’s time on the website.

#2 An “About Us” Page

It’s been found that today’s online consumer likes to “connect” with businesses before they purchase products or engage services.  A good “About Us” page should be jargon-free and clearly display who you are, where your business has evolved from and why it exists now. Once again, keep to the essentials but at the same time, don’t leave any important information out.

Be sure to also include a “Contact Us” page on the site with a contact form that sends directly to the site manager’s email.

#3 Helpful, free content

Another way to create a connection with your customers to provide helpful content that will improve the way they interact with your products and services. This can be achieved through a variety of ways including FAQ pages, videos, customer forums and downloadable PDFs. By adding high-quality free content to your site, visitors are more likely to return in the future to what else you have to offer them.

#4 Customer Testimonial Page

Whilst writing your own content will go a long way towards selling your products and services to site visitors, nothing works better than testimonials from your current customers.

Select a few satisfied clients that you have worked with and send them a friendly email requesting a short description of their experiences with your business. You may be surprised how quickly you will receive a response from them – most people love to reward good service.

#5 A Clear Call-To-Action

Everything above counts for nothing if you don’t provide a quick, easy to find Call-To-Action (CTA) somewhere prominent on your site. The CTA is the method by which a site visitor chooses to become a customer. For example, on a motel’s website, a “Make a Booking” button provides as the Call-To-Action. On an eCommerce site, you’ll find a shopping trolley icon marked “Checkout”.

The CTA may be different for each business but the rules for displaying them are the same – it must be eye-catching, clearly defined and be designed in such a way to encourage interaction.

Without a Call-To-Action, a website quickly becomes an online brochure.

Conclusion

There are loads of other elements that help make a successful website that converts visitors to customers. These five items will allow you to create a solid framework from which to build the remainder of your site.

In future blog posts, we will cover some of the extras that will add even further value to your site and help to build your business in both brand and bottom line.

For help getting your small business website off the ground, get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design. We’ve been working with small business since 2007.

Information Overload + High Bounce Rate = Poor Website Performance

In numerous blogs, books and forums, small business owners are told from the very beginnings of their online forays that content marketing is a must for a successful website.

Any solid marketing advice will say “You must create FAQs, blog posts, videos, podcasts, Facebook feeds, how-to sheets, free e-books, Tweets and Pins for your site to REALLY connect with your target audience.” This is good advice, after all, Google loves fresh content and so do those visitors who return to your site.

But there is inherent danger with all this information – having been told to create it, some website owners get carried away. And, unfortunately, your website visitors may not appreciate this content as much as you do – especially if it is displayed to them all at once.

By this, I mean displaying it all on the very first page of a website – known as the landing page.

In a recent blog post I mentioned Google Analytics which is an excellent tool for tracking and reporting on website traffic. One of the key statistics from Google Analytics is the “bounce rate*” for the site on which it is installed.  If your site overwhelms visitors with the information displayed on that first page, then you may find that your bounce rate is quite high.

The key to solving this problem is to always remember this simple point: your site visitors have arrived at your site seeking only one of two things, information, and engagement. Think back to any site that you have ever visited – you have sought out those sites out to either find out more about the business and their services/products or, engage them in further conversation (which can take many forms) and maybe make a purchase.

So how do we avoid information overload on key pages of your website?

Try to keep information in line with the five basics of a good home page:

  1. A catching headline that includes your keywords. If you are a plumber in Innisfail, use a title liked “Professional Plumbing Services – Ingham.” Keep Google happy by staying under its preferred title length which is 70 characters.
  2. A solid sub headline paragraph (or two) that briefly describes who you are and what you do. Visitors love a story so you could also talk about what you can do for them but don’t get use jargon, remember to apply the K.I.S.S. principle here.
  3. Display your immediate contact information in the top right-hand corner of the page. If you want people to ring you, show the phone number in a large font. If you prefer emails, show the email address. Remember to keep it all mobile friendly by ensuring that both can be clicked/tapped.
  4. Make your Call to Action noticeably clear. In most cases, this is what you prospective customers will be looking for so make it STAND OUT! Don’t make customers search for your latest deals or booking forms, make them so obvious that a blind person could find them.
  5. Everyone loves a good slideshow (that’s why every site these days has one). But don’t just use it to display pretty pictures – make it part of your marketing plan. Make it part of your HOOK* to immediately engage your visitors.

Get those things right on the front page and everything else is superfluous – put the extra information on other pages. Use your navigation effectively and your visitors can find it if they want to dig further.

With the advent of Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, there is the ability to create a multitude of cascading pages for your website so there is no excuse for not using this to your advantage.

Keep the front page of your small business site clean and simple using the five items above and monitor your Google Analytics. Done effectively, you will watch that bounce rate drop away as your prospective customers come and, most importantly, stay.

* the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.

* a hook, which is a short phrase or jingle designed to entice a customer to purchase a product or sign up for a service.

Boost your bottom line using your website!

Whether it be from service awareness, online bookings or product sales (as examples), a website must be utilised in such a way to help a business generate increased income.

After all, an income is what allows business owners to further development their companies, pay their employees and live the life that they want with their families.

To get you on the right track and start making income through your website* – here’s five simple ways that your website can make money for your business:

* no guarantees here unfortunately….

#1 – An Online Store

If you have any kind of product to sell, the “no-brainer” way to make money is to establish your website as an eCommerce store. An eCommerce store, if set up correctly, basically does all the work for you – with the exception of purchasing stock and sending packages out the door. Your customer select products in the online store, pays online via a multitude of methods and then selects the preferred shipping to their address.

Our current eCommerce solutions feature the excellent WooCommerce plugin for WordPress. WooCommerce is an affordable option for small business that is highly customisable to any individual store’s requirements.

#2 Google AdSense

For the uninitiated, Google AdSense is a system used by website owners to make money by displaying Google ads. Perfect for individuals and service operators, the ads that are displayed on your website usually compliment the services you provide so for example, our company blog could display ads for web server companies such as Digital Pacific.

The system works by crediting your Google account each time a site visitor clicks on an Ad. Once the credit in the account reaches a certain amount. depending on where you are in the world, you receive a payment into your bank account from Google.

#3 Affiliate Links

Affiliate links work in much the same way as Google AdSense however they are generally set-up by individual companies. An advertisement is displayed on an affiliate business’ website and for every sale that is made through that advertisement (i.e. on your website), the business earns a small commission. It can be very effective – Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income makes the majority of his income through his affiliate links.

#4 Online Courses

Many small business operators have a wealth of knowledge to be shared with their customers. Often this knowledge is given away for free in the form of advice and instructions.

The alternative to giving this information away is to structure it into an online course. The course can be delivered in video, audio, written, interactive or any combination of the four. Through the introduction of a simple payment gateway (monthly or overall course payments), participants can access the course material and use it at their own pace. The added advantage of this is that the information only has to be created / delivered once before being used many times over.

#5 Online Bookings

Perfect for service industries, a website with a booking system allows a business to “fill up” their time schedules without even picking up the phone. This model is used globally by hotels/motels, doctors, chiropractors, electricians and even plumbers. A simple calendar allows potential customers to see what timeslots are available and book their service to suit their own needs.

Some sites even take care of payments at the same time – removing the need for invoicing at a later date.

Please note that all the methods above need one important thing to get started – Site Traffic. Creating a steady flow of Site Traffic is a whole industry in itself but for the site manager, there are three simple keys to get right (and we’ll cover these in more detail in a future post): Effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), content that makes your site enticing and worthy of a visit and finally, good reasons for your target audience to return again in the future.

With quality offerings, effective site practices and a target audience wanting to buy, any website can start generating a passive income that can be re-invested into your small business and boost it to the next level.

What on earth is Responsive Web Design?

In the ever-changing world of the internet, there is always a lot of jargon. Some of it is clear-cut, easy to understand and some doesn’t make sense to the regular site owner at all.

One of the most talked about points in the last few years is the topic of “responsive website design”. Just a quick Google search will show that it has been the topic of many blogs and arguments over that time but with the release of some recent statistics into internet usage, it is something that needs to be addressed by all website owners and managers.

So what is it?

Put simply, Responsive website design is the ability of a website to change itself to suit whatever viewing platform it is being accessed from whether it is viewed from a desktop computer, tablet or smart phone. The goal is to provide the best viewing experience for the site visitor. Dependent on the device, all images should resize (or be removed), content should expand/contract and menu buttons must change from clicking with a mouse to touching with a finger. A site that can do this is known as being “mobile friendly”.

It’s important to note here that this is not just about creating a site that resizes. It’s about buttons, images, text size and content. Site visitors are less likely to spend as much time on a mobile site as they are on a desktop site and the amount of content needs to reflect this too.

How do I know if my site is mobile-friendly?

Simply open your webpage on any tablet or smart phone. If the site displays exactly the same as it would on a desktop computer, your site needs to be converted. Keep in mind, some sites will display the same on a tablet depending on whether you hold the tablet in portrait or landscape modes.

My site is not currently mobile friendly (non-responsive) – should I be concerned?

Yes, you should. According to online business analytics experts, comScore, mobile internet access has easily surpassed desktop access. Mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States with apps making up 47% of Internet traffic and 8% from mobile browsers. In fact, the number of mobile devices in use across the world outnumber the actual population of the planet.

Count on these statistics to keep leaning further and further in favour of mobile devices. This means, that if your site is not responsive and mobile friendly, you could potentially miss out on a lot of conversions (sales) through your business site.

Alright, you’ve convinced me. I need my site to become “mobile friendly”. Is it expensive to do?

A change to a responsive website design does not need to cost the earth. In addition, if your site has already been built with a mobile friendly framework, it can be quite easy to achieve.

If your site has been built using a CMS such as WordPress, your site may be able to be “re-themed” with an alternative mobile friendly design allowing all the content to remain exactly the same (you don’t have re-do the lot!).

If your site has not been created with a Content Management System (CMS) framework like Joomla or WordPress, your web designer “should” still be able to give you advice on the most appropriate (and cost effective) way to get your site “mobile friendly.

Who can help to get my site mobile friendly?

If your site is not currently mobile-friendly and you would like more information about your options, get in touch with us at Tropical Coast Web Design. We can take a look at your framework (free of charge) and let you know what the best course of action and the costs involved.

Tropical Coast Web Design