Where does your new business come from?
A lot of it probably comes from referrals, but that can only go so far. You need to pull in customers that you might not know in a Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon sort of way. And for that, you need a website.
In a recent survey of more than 350 small business owners, 46% admitted that they don’t have a website at all. The good news is 58% of the ones who don’t are planning on building one this year. The bad news is the survey doesn’t take into account whether or not the 64% of small business owners who have a website have an effective one.
How do you know if your website is effective?
Here are some quick questions to ask yourself:
- How old is the website?
There’s definitely some debate as to what the lifespan of a website is, but it’s somewhere between two and seven years.
- Does the website look good on mobile?
This speaks to the previous question in a big way. Mobile web surfing surpassed desktop usage for the first time in 2016, and it’s still increasing. If your website isn’t mobile responsive, you’re probably losing business.
- Can you find what you’re looking for on it? This seems like an obvious question, but it’s shocking how many websites are so hard to use that the one person who really, really should know how to find everything quickly just can’t.
Oh, wait, you don’t need a website because you’re on Facebook?
If you’re doing it well (posting useful content 3-10 times a week), you’ve probably got a loyal following. Of course, the only people who see your post are the people who follow you and maybe their friends, so we’re really back at the original problem of not reaching the guy you don’t know at all. That being said, consider this: the average Facebook user in the U.S. is just over 40 years old. If that’s your target demographic, that’s great — keep doing what you’re doing! But if you’re looking to get a piece of that coveted millennial dollar, you’re probably in the wrong place altogether.
You know what? I’m not hating on Facebook.
It’s a great way to keep people up-to-date on what’s going on with your business and to interact with them on a daily basis. Twitter is great for sharing professional content and promoting yourself as an expert in your field. Instagram is perfect for showing off an attractive product or sharing the great things you see everyday. But those are your online presence, and that’s just not an adequate substitute for a website.
A website makes you look professional, it makes you look accessible, and it makes you look like you’re not going to be around tomorrow.
Let me break that down for you.
You look professional.
Your mama told you not to just a book by its cover, but your daddy told you that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your website can give you the best of both worlds. Make a great first impression with a beautiful, clean homepage, while also giving your potential customer helpful information.
You look accessible.
Your customer wants to know what you’re all about. Give him the answers to his most basic questions and he’ll start thinking of deeper ones, all of them tied to you, your products, and your services. Add a picture of you, your team, or your business front, and suddenly they know who you are.
You look look like you’re going to be here tomorrow.
You’re a fourth generation family business that’s been operating just fine for 80 years? Congratulations, and I mean that. I bet you have a great story, and I’d love to hear it – so would you potential customers. But if you don’t have a website, you could be a fly-by-night operation for all anyone knows.
But how do you make a website effective?
Make it responsive.
I already touched on this, but your website needs to be mobile friendly. A couple of years ago, that meant having a separate, smaller “m.domain.com” site that readers were automatically redirected to on their phones. Honestly, they weren’t that great, but they were significantly better than trying to view an entire website that was designed for a full laptop or desktop monitor on a tiny phone screen. Nowadays, you want what’s called a responsive website. That means that you’ll get the same website whether you’re viewing it from a computer, tablet, or laptop (although elements may be altered to improve readability).
Make it easy to navigate.
There are several schools of thought as to what our menu should look like, but everyone agrees that it should exist to make things easier for your customer. Don’t hide the menu, label items clearly, and make sure all your content is hosted on a webpage unless you’re specifically informing them that a click means a download.
Make it informative.
I firmly believe that every business website needs several specific pages (or at least homepage sections, if you’re going for a super modern single page design):
- Homepage – This is your business’ overview. It must include your value proposition and obvious quick links to the most important elements of your website.
- About Us – This is usually a short history of your company, and is where your vision statement lives. It’s where your customers get to know you.
- FAQ – Taking the time to set up a frequently asked questions page saves you time in the long run, and has the added benefit of being great for your SEO.
Make it easy to read.
I don’t just mean the font, I mean speak simply. If you’re a shop that’s looking to bring in both professional mechanics and the weekend hobbyist, go easy on the lingo. Technical terms are fine, but if you have to be in the business to know what something means, it probably belongs in your day-to-day conversations, not your website. While you’re at it, make sure everything is grammatically correct and spelled right. Not a great writer? Not a problem, loads of people are and there’s one out there who would be happy to help you.
Make it easy to read.
That thing I said before about SEO? It refers to Search Engine Optimization, and it’s what makes search engines (not just google, but, c’mon, google) rank you higher than other sites in their results. It can be a slow process to get it going since your site may only be crawled (visited by the search engine) every month or two, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run because more people will be seeing your site.