In 2019 everyone is looking online for a local business, it has never been so competitive. Here are some stats for you, 97% of people search online in order to find a local business and 88% either call or visit that businesses within 24 hours.
In order to make your business succeed you need your website to stand out. This blog identifies five features that are essential for helping any small business website get noticed. Use this blog as a checklist; does your current website have all of these features or have they been included in your new website design?
Before we go into what these five features are, we are going to assume that your current or new website has the following:
- Paid professional hosting and a dedicated URL.
Make sure your site is www.example.com not www.example.wordpress.org or www.example.wix.com/example
- A relatable name, reflected in the URL
Choose something that reflects your business and is easy for people to remember.
www.dorsetbuilders.com not www.jamesandsonspeoplethatcanmakethingsforyou.com
1. An SSL certificate
At its most basic, an SSL certificate is what changes your website’s address from http:// to https://.
More importantly, the SSL certificate keeps data input into your website such as payment details, forms and login details secure.
You might be thinking that your website doesn’t need an SSL certificate because you don’t take payments or sell goods. Even if this is the case, an SSL certificate is still important.
- The https:// shows visitors that they can trust your website.
- Google likes secure sites and will take that into account in search rankings.
- Some browsers, such as Chrome, will show warning signs when people are about to visit a website that doesn’t have an SSL certificate. That’s enough to put most people off clicking through to your site. You’ve lost a potential customer before you’ve even had a chance to engage with them.
In order to get an SSL Certificate and to ensure that it is used properly, it is best to contact a web designer. Not only can they help you to get a certificate for the most reasonable cost they can also advise if there are any other security issues on your website.
2. Visitor friendly design
Visitor friendly design is the key to a successful website. Good design achieves many things, perhaps most importantly telling visitors what you do, and giving them an easy action to take.
Good design shows first-time visitors immediately what you do and gives them one clear action to take. This keeps people on your site for longer and allows them to easily find out more information. All of this is more likely to convert them into a customer.
While it might be tempting to put up walls of text about the history of your company or the people that work there, don’t. At least not on the first page. Think about what you would want to see as a first time visitor to your site. Ask yourself, is your business area immediately obvious? Is there just one action a visitor can take? Does taking this action make sense? Remember, actions should be as simple as, ‘find out more’, ‘view our products’, or ‘buy now’.
3. Clear contact information
Contact information includes everything that a potential customer might need to start talking to you. Think not only in terms of email addresses and telephone numbers but also social media links and contact forms.
It is important that potential customers can contact you. That’s obvious, but they should be allowed to contact you using whatever channel that they choose. Provide an email address, telephone number, a contact form, and social media links. This is important because if someone would rather email you than phone, or Facebook message rather than email then they are going to want to do that immediately. Rather than looking around for their preferred method of contact, they are more likely to go and find another business who they can communicate with using the channel of their choice.
This means that you have to stay on top of all your channels of communication. Missing messages from your customers, or not replying in a timely fashion is likely to be equally, if not more, damaging to your business as not giving them the option to communicate in the first place.
Talk to your friendly freelance web designer today. They will help you to set up GDPR compliant contact forms and ensure that you can find the messages you receive. If you do try to make these changes to the website yourself then make sure that they are easily accessible, in an obvious location, and not bunched together.
4. Fast loading speed
Loading speed is, for the sake of simplicity, how fast your page appears for visitors. Properly, what you want to be looking at is ‘page speed’. Page Speed is described either as ‘page load time’ - how long it takes to display all the content on that page, or ‘time to first byte’ - how long it takes to receive one byte of information.
Page speed (and for that matter site speed) is important to Google. Slow site speeds and page speeds will probably have a negative impact on how your site is ranked. Slower page loading times typically mean that the visitor will leave the page, rather than wait. There’s a great case study which shows that a 100-millisecond delay in loading of Amazon could lead to revenues dropping by 1%. In Amazon’s case that would be about $745 million. While you might not be Amazon, this example does show how important page speed is. Think about how long you would want to wait for a website to load, most of us don’t even wait two seconds!
5. An SEO strategy
What is SEO? It means Search Engine Optimisation and, essentially, is how your site can be optimised to appear top of the list of results for relevant searches. Still not clear? Google a term that customers might be using to find your website, if you are not on the first page of search results then you need to be.
An SEO strategy should be part of your website, after all, there is no point in a website customers can’t find. If you are not convinced, consider that 92% of people click on a result on page one, only 6% click on a result on page 2. What percentage do you estimate click on a result on the third or fifth page?
SEO is, at best, complicated. It involves altering what is actually visible on your website and what visitors can’t see - the code behind it all. It’s actually much more complicated than that, it also involves choosing which keywords you want to rank for, encouraging other relevant sites to link back to you, creating shareable content, and an awful lot more.
There are a couple of things that you can do to improve your SEO:
- Think about the keywords that you want to rank for
- Create content that is based on those keywords
- Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and relevant to what people are looking for.