How You Can Build a Small Business Website That Attracts and Converts Online Consumers!
You Need These Small Business Website Essentials!
In 2017 having a business website is a bare necessity, much like having a phone or a computer. Even if you have a physical location or are a well-established brand already, there are people looking for your business right now! In order to satisfy their needs you need to have all of these small business website essentials.
Of course, the first thing you need is a small business website. According to this Clutch.co, in 2016 71% of small businesses had a website. But 17% of all small business websites are not mobile-friendly, and over half of the existing small business websites are missing out on one or more small business website essentials.
In 2016 71% of small businesses had a website! Clutch.co
Most small business owners we talk to here at the highly caffeinated agency actually know what they would like their small business website to do for them and their business. They just don’t know how and where to get started. To keep it simple here is a list of small business website essentials you must have.
None of our small business website essentials require expensive solutions or setups. Many of them you can easily handle yourself. A few, such as adding a contact form or newsletter opt-in, may require the help of your web developer. If you are getting a new business website be sure all of these small business website essentials are included.
Small Business Website Essentials
1 – Unique and Simple Website Address (URL)
The first of our small business website essentials is an effective domain. Unless you are an organization or educational institution you really must get a .com domain. I know others are very popular these days. But a .net or .biz website URL just doesn’t have the same SEO benefits and air of professionalism.
You might have to play around a little, but try to include your business name and product or service. Your business location can help as well. Keep it as short as possible, but try not to abbreviate. Avoid any “kute” or different spellings, and any special characters. Most people will get those wrong in any case, and end up at your competitor. And be sure to register your domain with a reputable domain registrar like GoDaddy.
And you may want to look into getting a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate while you are at it. Already essential for e-commerce sites, an SSL certificate will become a Google requirement for page rank as well. Why not be ahead of the curve for a change?
2 – Paid, Professional Hosting
Don’t go cheap or free with your small business website hosting. No WordPress.org sites, no Wix or Weebly, no hosted solutions, no sites laden with unrelated advertising, or slowed down by sharing the server with 10,000 other sites. Fast reliable hosting is a key small business website essential.
You can learn more about different options for small business website hosting here. Depending on your specific needs you will end up paying between $ 15.00 to $ 100.00+ a month, but your website will run better!
3 – Fast Page Load Speed
A slow site annoys users and makes people want to leave. Make sure all your pages download within three seconds, maximum, and ideally have it load in under two seconds. Use a service like Google Page Speed Insights, GTMetrix, or Pingdom to help you determine your page load speed. Nice bonus; all of these identify bottlenecks and how to remove them as well.
4 – Mobile-Friendly Design
This is another one of our key small business website essentials. A responsive small business website has been a requirement since the Google Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Update of April 21, 2015. Yet according to SCORE.org, 93.8% of all small business websites are not responsive.
In other words, your mobile visitors will have a less than engaging experience. And that will do what? Drive them to your competitors! You can use this cool tool to see how your business website performs on a variety of mobile devices in real-time.
93.8% of all small business websites are not responsive! SCORE.org
Being mobile-friendly means using a “responsive” design – a design that adjusts itself nicely to different screen sizes. It also means using a typeface that’s large enough for older viewers to read and that has good contrast against the background. There are other considerations for responsive design that a professional web designer can help you with.
And here is another reason why having a responsive website is one of our key small business website essentials! Google announced that they will boost the Mobile-Friendly Algorithm in May 2016. Before you panic, this is not expected to lead to another Mobilegeddon. If your site is already mobile-friendly you have nothing to worry about. But if you are among the 93.8% who are not yet mobile-friendly this should be your wake-up call!
5 – Your Brand Logo
Often overlooked, your brand logo is another one of our small business website essentials! If you don’t have a brand logo, it’s high time to get one. Be sure to avoid cheap alternatives like Fiverr or 99 Designs; they will not be able to create the unique logo your business deserves. And don’t simply use existing clip art, or (gasp!) copy someone else’s logo!
Instead consider this an important investment in your business, and hire a professional brand designer. Find out more about the elements of an effective brand logo, and learn more about 2016 logo design trends you may want to keep in mind.
Ensure your logo is in the top left or center of your header. This is where users look first when they visit your page and where they expect to see your logo. By placing your logo where it’s expected to be you can establish immediate trust and gain instant brand recognition before the user’s journey continues.
You should also make sure your website logo links to your home page. That has been a common practice long enough to make it standard. If your logo doesn’t link then it may well appear broken. There is another benefit; it gives you more room in your navigation menu.
6 – Consistent Design and Navigation
While it may seem like a good idea to liven up your website by changing up the design of your pages it really isn’t. Inconsistent design, and especially inconsistent navigation menus are extremely irritating to online visitors. Be sure to keep all major design elements of your small business website consistent. That includes your header, menu, main page layout, and footer.
7 – A Readable Page Font
Yes, I know there are about one gazillion web fonts available. But that doesn’t mean you should use all, or even many of them! Stay with a font or fonts that are simple, and easy to read. Sans serif fonts tend to work better than serif or especially handwritten fonts. That is especially true for mobile devices. Keep the font size to at least 14px, and ensure sufficient contrast between text and background.
8 – Avoid Distractions
As part of our small business website essentials I should point out that more is less when it comes to annoying distractions on your website. The primary purpose of your small business website is to attract visitors, tell them about your awesome products and services, and convert them into consumers. So why would you want to distract them from that? I know they are mistakenly popular, but pop ups and other forms of advertising have absolutely no place on a small business website!
9 – A Page Footer
10 – Business Phone Number
This is possibly the single most important of our small business website essentials! After your company name and what you do, your business phone number is often the most-wanted piece of information. Yet many small business websites either don’t have the phone number at all, or it is hidden on some sub page. No wonder your phone doesn’t ring!
Be sure to include your business phone number prominently. At the top and bottom of every page on your business website is ideal. But if not include it in the footer of every page, and prominently list it on your contact page as well.
11 – An Email Address
Some people will prefer to email you, so be sure to list your business email prominently. You do not need to list your own email address. A simple hello@ or info@ email is perfect. But no free email addresses, please. firstname.lastname@example.org just doesn’t do it! Get an email that matches your website domain address. G Suite for Business Solutions are a great alternative if this is not included in your hosting package.
12 – Business Address
There are two reasons why your business address is one of our small business website essentials. The first is your website is there to attract traffic to your business, including foot traffic. That works so much better if people know where to go!
The second is transparency. If you are a legit business your potential and existing customers have a right to know where you are, even if they don’t plan to actually visit you. By listing your actual business address, or at least a PO Box mailing address. Here is a tip: Using a UPS Store near you gives you an actual street address for your business, and they sign for deliveries as well!
13 – A Map of Your Location
A map makes it easier for people to find you. It gives people context and lets them see where you are located. Google Maps can be integrated into most business websites. For WordPress websites there is even a great Google Maps Plugin.
14 – Your Business Hours
If you are a local business this is an essential piece of information. The hours are so important that it also belongs at the top and bottom of every page on your site. Be sure to update the hours for special events, promotions, or holidays. And confirm your business hours match across all your online listings!
15 – An “About Us” Page
People will want to know that you are a real business and not some shady operation. So give them enough information to know, like and trust you. That includes a little about the business and why you do what you do at a minimum. Include some additional info about your team if you can. And don’t forget a few images of your business, team members, and even your happy customers.
16 – Your Story
Every business has a story behind it. What made you go into business, why you are in the business you are in, even your business name and location are all of interest to your potential clients. If your story is something they can relate to they are much more likely to become paying customers. Remember, all of us love a great story!
17 – A Page for Each Service You Offer
People come to your site to check out your business. They want to know if you can help them. So explain to them, in detail, how you can help them. Include tons of photos. And since Google allows only one focus keyword per page be sure to have a separate page for each service you offer. Make sure to include between 300 – 500 words and an appropriate image if you want Google to love you!
18 – A Page for Each Product You Sell
Your website visitors will want to see if you offer the products they are looking for, before they decide to come to your store. So be sure to provide them with detailed product info, including a variety of different product views. Include photos of people using your products if possible. And remember the content minimum from above!
20 – Photographs of Your Work
People will want to see what exactly you do. Even if you don’t sell a product it is important to show pictures of your work. You know how “a picture is worth a thousand words,” right? It applies to your business website, too. Before and after pictures are especially interesting, but whether you’re a landscape designer, a home delivery service, a construction company, or a beauty spa, adding a few images makes people far more likely to do business with you.
If you offer creative services, such as an architect, a car detailing service, or a web design agency like us, having a portfolio page is an excellent way to showcase your work. Be sure to include as many project details and images as possible. Once again, extra points if your project titles, content, and image alt tags include your focus keyword or phrase.
21 – Photographs of Your Business
This is another way to make it easier for people to find you by helping them identify your business. Plus it is another demonstration that you’re a real business. Adding a photo of your business storefront or entrance also helps with marketing. If your storefront or your business address looks nice and inviting, people are more likely to want to do business with you.
A quick note here: You will need the best possible images in order for your online visitors to have the experience they deserve. Low light and out-of-focus snapshots from your cell phone just won’t do it, sorry! If you are unable to take high-quality images yourself you really should hire a professional photographer. Even a one day shoot can provide you with enough images for your website and digital marketing for up to a year.
22 – A FAQs Page
A Frequently Asked Questions page is a great way to provide additional information and start conversations with your online audience. Mix it up a little and include a variety of questions and answers. In addition to those detailing your methods and policies be sure to include some quirky little details. Want to find out why we are the highly caffeinated agency? Here you go!
23 – Testimonials and Reviews
People often don’t believe what we say about ourselves. But they do believe what other people say about us. Even if you’ve got just one testimonial, put it up on your site. It will get you more business, and hopefully more testimonials. If you only have a few testimonials scatter them around your site. If you have more than six you can place them on a separate testimonials page.
24 – Professional Logos and Affiliations
Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or other business association? Are you reviewed on Angie’s List? Perhaps you need professional accreditation in your line of work. Whatever it is, include any credentials, associations, or certifications you have. Use the logo images of these verifications and link back to their sites. It all helps you appear the trusted professional people are searching for!
25 – Unique Product Descriptions
If you actually sell products on your website be sure to include a detailed and unique product description for each. Include info such as size, weight, dimensions, available options, colors, and sizes, and show appropriate product images. Make sure the product descriptions and image alt tags contain the product keyword or phrase for maximum SEO mojo.
26 – Product Reviews
If you sell products on your website or in your store you should include at least a few product reviews. No matter what you say about your own products, most people want to hear what other people have to say. By allowing and including product reviews on your site you satisfy that need and add a layer of transparency at the same time.
27 – Your Exchange and Return Policy
If you sell products on your website or in your store this is one of the most important small business website essentials. Telling potential consumers right up front how you deal with exchanges and returns can often be a deciding factor. Don’t turn business away; develop and display a transparent exchange and return policy instead.
28 – A Call-to-Action (CTA)
This is where you stop giving information and ask for their business. Your website needs one focused call to action, whether this is “Come visit our store,” or “Make a reservation,” or just “Contact us.” Linking your CTA to a basic contact form is very effective, as is a newsletter sign-up form. Place your call to action either in the header area or in the navigation menu. Make it stand out by using colors, icons, or graphics to focus attention.
29 – A Contact Form
A basic contact form is another of our small business website essentials. Some visitors may not feel like calling your business. Providing them with an alternative option such as a basic contact form is a nice way to encourage them. Keep in mind that the more info required the less likely they are to provide, so keep your forms simple. Adding CAPTCHA functionality will greatly reduce the amount of spam you will receive.
30 – An Email Sign-Up Form
Email marketing is one of the most effective small business marketing tactics around. Studies show that about 45% – 60% of small businesses use email marketing as part of their digital marketing strategy. If you are new to email marketing you can check out these essential email marketing tips.
You can get started with a free MailChimp account and grow your list from there. If you require more extensive services, or have a bigger email list you may want to consider Constant Contact. Adding an opt-in form to your business website should not your web designer or developer more than an hour.
31 – Links to Your Social Profiles
Some small business owners overlook the importance of social media. They should know that 76% of customers expect a business to have at least a Facebook page. Being on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, and Instagram is even better. So be sure that your small business can be found on the same social media channels your consumers frequent.
According to a recent Hubspot report, The Social Lifecycle: Consumer Insights to Improve Your Business, 70% of consumers aged 45 to 60 think a brand should be on Facebook. 95% of Millennials expect a Facebook page. Those expectations may be lower for local businesses, but not by much. Our social media starter kit provides more tips and ideas to get you started.
32 – Unique Title Tags
Title tags are pieces of HTML (the code that makes up your website pages.) These HTML title tags appear as the first row of information in the search engine results. Don’t be lazy and cut and paste! Every page on your site needs a unique title tag. The title tags should include words and phrases people might use if they were looking for that page. Use this free Meta Tag tool to see how your title tags will look.
33 – Meta Descriptions
These are almost exactly like title tags, except they create the two black lines of description copy in the search results. Think of these both as a way to describe your pages, and almost like sales copy, they need to incite people to click. So try to make them as exciting as you can!
Why You Need Small Business Website Essentials
Our small business website essentials may not contain everything that you’ll want for your small business website. But in most cases they are more than enough to get you started. And they will make your website into a more user-friendly and informative online presence that provides actual business results.
If you’re the owner of a business without an effective small business website, maybe you’re not that concerned because you think most people don’t search the web for your local businesses. I really urge you to reconsider: 97% of mobile consumers search online for products and services, preferably close to them. And if they don’t find your small business they will simply go to a competitor.
Maybe you know people search online to get information about local businesses, but you think a website won’t be important to your particular business. To be fair, that can be true. We have a few clients who don’t really need or even want to get more business through their website. Lucky for them, isn’t it? But we only have one or two clients like that!
Most of the small businesses owners we talk to said their business website was important to their ongoing business success. About two-thirds said their website was, “extremely important,” “very important,” or “important.” Only about one in ten businesses indicated that their business website was not an immediate or major concern. So everyone pretty much agrees on the importance of a small business website.
Unfortunately having an ineffective small business website is a common problem. Getting a website can sound expensive, complicated, and technical. Just figuring out what you want on your website can be daunting. But it is absolutely essential, especially for small business owners. You are already fighting the bigger brands. Why not tilt the odds in your favor a bit more?
Our small business website essential include links to applicable resources and additional information. Feel free to use those to start creating the small business website you really need. There are many other online and local resources available for small businesses. See which ones are available in your local business community.
Personally, I am a big fan of Townsquared, and the highly caffeinated agency is an active contributor on this small business forum. So check them out! You may also find similar resources and support groups on places like Meetup.
Can We Check Off Some Essentials for You?
I realize that dealing with small business website essentials may not be high on your priority list right now. Or maybe you are already working on a new or redesign of your business website. In either case I encourage you to consider how these small business website essentials can benefit your business website. Don’t forget; this is not just about you, this is about your website visitors!
If you would like to know more about how we can help you cross off all the items on our small business website essentials checklist through our small business web design, content marketing, commercial photography, and search engine optimization services please feel free to say hello. We love starting new conversations.
If you have any other ideas or thoughts on essential items for any small business website please leave your comments below so our audience can benefit as well. And grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! Please help your audience maximize the effectiveness of their website by sharing our small business website essentials with them!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!