This Buzz of the Month was contributed by Anne Dudley, MA
For many small business owners, the company website is a bit neglected. But, the website remains an important part of small business success. For small business owners operating in target markets or selling products or services primarily to a local audience, word of mouth, networking and referrals may still be the “bread and butter” that drives business growth.
Still, the website is a critical channel for communication and engagement – whether due to referral or web search. Making it as easy as possible for people to find you, and addressing their needs while on your site will help you engage and keep that customer.
Here are some things to think about:
- Make the contact information easy to find on every page. Who is your audience and what are the top tasks that they need to complete on your website? Measuring Usability suggests conducting a Top Task Analysis to find out. For many, simply finding a clickable phone number, email address or street address is a key task. Include these in the header or footer of your website so that they appear on each page.
- Think about the way people search. – As search functionality changes, most of the key themes of optimization have stayed the same. Include keywords in the content, page descriptions and tags, link from one page or social platform to another and provide regular content updates. However, helping the user navigate through your website is key. Website users now expect your website to be easy to use. PR Daily suggests you avoid things like using pop-ups, skipping the footer links or using optimized content.
- Use calls to action – SmallBusinessTrends.com found that 70 percent of small business websites lacked a call to action (among other things mentioned above). A call to action gives your potential customer a reason to stay on the site. Think about the Staples Easy Button. How can you make the action you want your potential customers to take easier? Would adding a “Call us for a free consultation” or “Buy now” button help? According to the article, others might be an invitation to connect on social media, subscribe to a newsletter, view a product demo or take advantage of a special offer.
- What about a blog? Think about the option to add a blog with diverse topics that serve the user, especially if the product you offer is unique and requires an educational component, or the service you offer requires that you be recognized as an expert.
- Make one website edit every week. This may seem like a lofty goal, but once you’ve made it a habit, you’ll quickly see the benefits reflected in website function and customer response. This will keep your website fresh and help you work toward larger website development goals. Start by making sure all the information you want is on the website and easy to find. Then, you can update photos and calls to action, or remove outdated content.
- Get creative, but be authentic. Websites (and social media) are unique because they allow a business to showcase its personality, its services and its people (including customers and fans). Make it fun and authentic. For example, the recent Chipotle™ scarecrow advertisement and application has been called “the future of business communication” by PR Tips for Startups. Why? Because it’s engaging, tells a story and it makes a point in a fun and interesting way.
- Always keep your customer in mind. Make the end goal as easy as possible for your customer to complete by keeping it uncluttered.
“When considering the needs of your customer, consider the emotional need as well as the immediate need,” says Nathan Boyd, of InTheRound Design Group’s Radius Webtools team. “For example, the folks at Neo Now offer a connecting point for internship opportunities. The prospective intern has a need to find an internship, but this can often be an intimidating, time consuming and complicated process. So, Neo Now speaks to the benefits of their site by reassuring site visitors that their site makes this a simple, stress-free process.”
- Connect with social media. Integrate your website into your social platforms to drive people to it. This is incentive to update it as regularly as possible.
- Check it out on mobile. Make sure that your website functions on mobile as well as it functions on a desktop, laptop or tablet.
- Think like your visitor. To engage your visitors, provide content that is relevant, useful or entertaining to them, and do it often.
“When thinking about engaging visitors, remember that compelling images are vital to story telling and emotional connection,” continued Boyd. “Try to use your own high quality images when you can, but if you’re like most small business owners, you’ll need to use some stock images, too. Check out the stock image sites, but make sure they are royalty free and ready for your use. Some offer images for free, and some for a modest fee. Take your time and choose the images that help you tell your story well, rather than the first ones you see.”
Anne Dudley is Communications Manager at Health Sciences Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and is a graduate of Kent State University. Follow her at @AnneCDuds or connect on LinkedIn.