You might wonder whether your small business really needs a new website. Does it really need to be extensive, or will a simple site do?
Below is a list of 8 essential elements we believe every business website should have, regardless of its size.
1. A Clear Understanding of What You Do
It’s amazing to me how frequently I look at a website, and look and look, and look some more, and still have no idea what the company does. Will your customers clearly understand what you have to offer? If not, they’ll run to your competitors websites.
Several signals help visitors understand your business better.
Images: Often the first thing a visitor sees is a really large image at the top of the website. This image communicates a feeling, a tone, a general idea of your relationship to your customers. Get this right, and the first impression should be a good one.
Homepage Content: The titles and subtitles that are easily seen on your homepage should give the reader an idea of what they’ll be getting when they use your services. Those few sentences and headlines are precious real estate! Take time to craft phrases that communicate value.
About Us Page: The about us page is your best chance to explain your history, your principles, what you do and why. Great about us pages often include pictures of the owner or employees, the office or company vehicles. Seeing real faces helps readers trust you.
If you are in a confusing industry, you may want to consider dedicating some extra pages to explaining what you do, why it’s important, and so forth.
2. Contact Information and Hours
I can’t stress this enough. If you want people to contact you, make it as easy as possible to do.
Often people will come to your website specifically to look for your address or phone number, so give it to them! Make it easy to find on mobile. Have contact forms that are easy to find in many different locations.
As a general rule, we like to see phone numbers in the top right corner of the website homepage. We make this phone number large, easy to see, and clickable. A click-to-call phone number means anyone viewing your website on a mobile device can call you simply by touching that phone number.
We usually include the address in the footer and the contact page. This does not need to be large, it just needs to be easy to find.
If for some reason you don’t want your address displayed, for instance, if you run your business from your home, or have a location you don’t necessarily want people to visit, it’s okay to leave it off. However, without a location specified, you will want to be sure your content clearly lets visitors (and Google!) know what areas you serve.
Hours of operation can be listed anywhere that suits you. They are often found in headers and footers. The important thing here is that people can find them.
3. Good, Unique Content
This is probably the element that is most frequently undervalued, and not coincidentally, one of the most valuable.
What needs to be said on your website? Our basic content strategy for most service businesses is to create individual pages for each service. This is great for SEO, and for readers as well. These pages should give a general idea of what is involved in each service, and they should include a few instances of the keyword on the page. This helps you rank for several relevant keywords, and gives good signals to readers about what you can do for them.
We also recommend a good about us page, a contact page, and when appropriate, galleries or testimonials pages.
Who will write it? At Be Locally SEO, we have professional SEO writers and editors on staff. The reason we do is that we believe well-written content makes you look professional. We also know that it can be tough for many business owners to write pages that are long enough, keyword dense, with quality calls to action.
While we have had some clients write their own content, we don’t recommend it. There’s no substitute for professional expertise!
One possible exception to this rule is the about us page. No one knows your business better than you do, so writing your own about us page might just be the best way to connect with your customers.
How long should the pages be? This is the million dollar question. And the answer is, it depends.
That being said, we generally recommend shooting for 500 words per page. We target each page to be 450-500 words. However, for some less important services, or sub-services, 250-300 may be plenty. So if it’s important to rank well for that page, have around 500 words or more of good, targeted content.
Can I Just Repurpose Content from Another Site? Duplicate content is never our friend, and neither is stolen content. Taking content from another website, even with a few words changed here and there, is bad seo, and bound to hurt you. We always recommend clients have unique pages that cannot be found anywhere else.
4. Quality Images
Most people are visual learners. In fact, a full 65% of people learn visually. Good images give good impressions, communicate feelings, and showcase your work. When you are looking for images for your website, consider the following:
Stock Images are high-quality and professional. They also tend to be generic and impersonal.
Custom Images are personal and detailed, but hiring a photographer to prepare quality custom images is time-consuming and sometimes expensive.
Scraped Images that are found in a Google search or on another website are stolen. We never use stolen images on the websites we build.
If you can take good images of your work, your office, or your staff, do it! Good images are always appreciated.
What makes a good image?
- Light: Dark pictures are difficult to see and understand. Make sure there’s plenty of sunlight when you take pictures of your work!
- Sharpness: Pictures taken with older cell phones often look grainy on a big screen. Newer cell phones can take pretty good images, if you use enough light.
- Clear backdrop: Take a look at what is in the background and sides of your pictures. Try to keep it as clean and uncluttered as possible.
If you can’t swing some good custom images for your website, stock images are a great option. They are great quality and often quite beautiful. We use stock images on almost all our websites, and gives them a professional, finished look.
5. Professional Website and Logo Design
If your logo was designed back in 1941 when your grandad started the company, it might be time for an upgrade. Logos can often be updated without needing to be completely redesigned, so you can look current while still being true to the original idea. The logo is one of the first items people notice on your website, so make it a good one.
Likewise, website design trends change frequently, and staying current means doing upgrades to your website every 2-4 years. A professional design tells people you take pride in what you do, and you are willing to invest in your company, to make your business great. Old website designs are off-putting, leave bad impressions, and often make people click away.
What makes a website design great?
If your website has background images, lots of bright colors and animations, dropdown menus, light text on a dark background, or if it looks bad on a phone or tablet, it might be time to think about a redesign.
6. Sensible Navigation and Menus
Good navigation is so much more than a menu bar at the top of the page. Good navigation helps visitors flow logically from one area to the next.
Header Menus: Navigation at the top of the page is almost universal. It works, because people expect it to be there. That’s where they will go first for navigation options. It should be logical, simple, and present on every page.
Sidebar Menus: Sidebar menus help people easily navigate between main services, without having to “pogo-stick” back and forth by using the back button. On mobile devices, these usually show at the bottom of the page.
Sub-service Menus: These are often on the sidebar as well, and help people navigate to smaller sub-pages within a main service page.
Having services within services is called siloed navigation. The idea is that you create a few main silos, then fill each with relevant content. The content does not cross into other silos.
For example, a cabinet company might have main services for kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and other custom woodwork. Within the bathroom cabinets section, there would be sub-service pages for cabinet styles, drawer organizers and roll out trays, and built-ins.
You can even go deeper than that, if you want. Sub-pages could have sub-sub-pages, and so on, each of them staying within one main service silo.
If your industry is confusing or expensive, or otherwise requires a good deal of education, logically ordered, explanatory pages are a must. For example, this solar company chose to create custom icons for the bottom of the pages that help visitors navigate through the research process.
Why Solar? —> Common Questions —> Types of Systems —> Why Choose Us
Always consider your customers needs as you create your website navigation, and anticipate what they will want to know, and where they are likely to go on your website.
7. Good Hosting
Every website needs to be hosted somewhere, and plenty of choices exist. In the U.S. alone, there are thousands of hosting companies to choose from. How do you choose?
Make sure the hosting company you use is reputable. See how long they have been in business, and make sure people have heard of them. If the cost is extremely low or high, it should be a red flag. Prices vary depending on the type of plan you choose and the type of traffic you expect, but for most of our clients, plan on $60-80 per year for website hosting, and another $10-12 per year for domain registration. Be wary of the word “unlimited,” or promises 100% uptime.
Look for a hosting company with good customer service. The customer interface on their website should be clean and easy to use. They should answer the phone when you call, and have easy-to-find support on their website.
And while this isn’t a big issue for most small businesses, it’s usually a good idea to make sure their servers have plenty of space, and will keep your website running fast.
At Be Locally SEO, we usually use Go Daddy for hosting, because they are a reputable company that been around for several years, the pricing is reasonable, and they have good customer service. But other excellent hosting options can be found easily.
8. A Call to Action
Basic business practices require you to ask for the sale! This is no different on a website. End each page with an invitation to call, email, fill out a contact form, request an estimate, book an appointment, and so forth.
The best way to accomplish this, as discussed above, is to make the contact forms, phone numbers, and map to your location easy to find on every page.
But there’s more you can do. Sometimes we create buttons that invite people to contact.
This firearms safety company uses a button to encourage people to register for the class now, and a second button to be notified of future class times.
This oral surgeon uses a button that encourages readers to make an appointment.
Whatever action you want your visitors to take, make it easy to find and easy to do.
Making it Your Own
Creating a website that suits your business means incorporating a design that suits your business culture with the essential elements that make your website usable for visitors. Since a website is such a critical element of marketing success, make sure you do it right!
Trust the SEO experts at Be Locally SEO to give you a beautiful and functional small business website. Our competitive prices and knowledgeable staff make the process simple for you. Contact us today for pricing and information.
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