Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!
Maybe this is wrong of me to do but I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this article you’re a small business owner. Or you want to be. Perhaps you have a business website but you don’t see that it’s really doing anything to help your business. Or maybe you don’t have a website for your business yet and you’ve been told they aren’t worth the investment. Either way, when you finish reading this article, you’ll be able to spot some of the most common small business website problems. And correct or avoid them on your own site.
Doesn’t play well with mobile devices
Now, more than ever, people access the Internet from mobile devices more than they do from a desktop computer. Nearly 75% of users will return to mobile-friendly websites. Google has also made being mobile-friendly a requirement for getting good placement on the search engine. And they’re fairly picky. They want every font to be easy to read, every button and link to be large enough for fingers to tap, and they want sites to load quickly and not use excessive bandwidth.
No way to measure success
Metrics are the only way to truly measure the success of a small business website. Sadly, many business owners don’t know how to read a report from Google Analytics and settle for knowing how many people visited their website and the percentage of first-time visitors compared to returning visitors. And some business owners don’t know how to set up a Google Analytics account or install the tracking number.
It’s important to establish tracking benchmarks when a business website is launched. And equally important to review those numbers on a regular basis to know how the website is performing.
Little or no SEO on the site
We all know that SEO requirements aren’t always easy to figure out and as soon as you think you’ve got it, the rules change again. It seems the only small business owners with the time necessary to keep up with it are the ones who provide SEO services. Too many small business websites can’t be found in online searches. They don’t have enough optimization to earn a Google page rank above 0.
Content from the Dark Ages
Business websites are frequently ignored after the initial launch. In fact, 64% of small business owners say that it’s next to impossible to find the time to update their website. The cost of paying someone else to do the updates often doesn’t fit into the budget. Because of this, out-dated content is one of the most prevalent business website problems.
Entrepreneurs tend to be a hands-on group when it comes to their business and doing things for themselves comes naturally. However, this approach can result in less time to engage with customers.
Information overload is one way to turn potential prospects into website bouncers. Many small business websites try too hard to fully educate the visiting public right smack dab on the home page. These websites rely heavily on things that don’t matter to customers. A small business website should instead put the customers front and center, letting them know how this business will benefit them.
No one hired a proofreader
It seems like this one should go without saying but it can’t. Misspelled words and incorrect grammar have no place in the content of a business website. Don’t rely on a spellchecker. Instead, install an app like Grammarly that also checks grammar. Errors on a small business website disrupt the flow of information. Visitors will leave and look at the next website on the list.
Getting lost in the navigation
Have you ever gone to a favorite store outside of your home town? For some reason you expect the layout of the store to be exactly the same as the store you usually shop at. Frustration happens quickly when you can’t find what you’re looking for. Small business websites sometimes have their own version of this. Using clever words or phrases in the website navigation is good for branding if it makes sense to visitors. However, it’s important that visitors understand what they’ll find after clicking on a link.
Poor quality design
The first impression a user gets from a website is based on the design. Business website problems often stem from a design that’s boring. With great intentions, entrepreneurs make do with a DIY website and a pre-built template.
Forgot to add calls to action
This is a biggie. How is a visitor to the website supposed to know what to do if there aren’t any signposts to lead the way? To convert visitors into customers there must be a clear path for the visitor to follow. And conversions are what every business person is looking for.
Lack of social proof
Everyone knows that word-of-mouth advertising is the best (and least expensive) way to gain new clients and customers. For some reason, though, many small business websites fail to include any reviews or testimonials. While this might make sense for a new business, an established shop should have regular customers who have complementary words to share.
Branding goes beyond including the logo and using the brand colors and fonts. Above all, It says something about the business. It reflects the style, personality, and values that differentiate this business from the one down the street. This creates the brand and makes the small business memorable.
After reading through this list of business website problems, you know what to look for in your own business website. Don’t get overwhelmed if you find a few. My specialty is building successful small business websites.
Building business credibility with potential customers and clients who find you online is an important task. Your website needs to scream (or at least state clearly) that you are the company to meet their need, solve their problem, or otherwise earn their patronage. Even your current customers will appreciate the reassurances that a well thought out website and social media presence provides.
Start with your current satisfied customers
Social proof (aka testimonials, reviews, rave comments left on social media) goes a long way to build your small business’s credibility. If the customers who have already done business with you are gushing with praise, prospective customers can’t help but be impressed. Start asking your customers or clients for reviews and testimonials. Share the best of them directly on your website. If someone posts a complaint rather than a rave review, reach out to them within the same platform and ask how you can make things better. If the problem requires a more private conversation to resolve, don’t continue publicly but make sure people who see the complaint will also see that you were prompt about making the effort to improve.
Build a strong brand identity
Even while you’re expressing your unique style you still want to be perceived as professional. Take the time to develop a strong brand identity that connects your website to your social media to your email campaigns. Your customers should recognize your small business wherever they find it, not just on your website.
That said, make sure your website doesn’t let you down. Your site should look modern and professional, including the domain. Purchase a domain that clearly states who you are and/or what you do (you can have more than one). By all means, don’t make the mistake of using a domain that gives credit to the company hosting your site. You may choose to build a site on WordPress.com, Wix, or Squarespace but make sure you don’t leave their name in your domain. Make the investment to get “yourbusiness.com” rather than settling for “yourbusiness.wordpress.com.”
Let your personality shine through
Don’t hide who you are behind a veil of business lingo that your customers won’t relate to. For the small business owner, this is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd of corporate-owned shops that can’t bring the web browsing community right into the store with them. You can. Even a seriously professional office can step away from the ready-made template and expose a little of what sets them apart from their competition. Take advantage of the opportunity you have to make unique choices in your web design and online marketing strategy.
Blog, blog, blog
Don’t stop working on your website when it’s officially launched on the Internet. Create content for your site that reflects your knowledge of your industry. Just don’t be so technical that only your colleagues and peers are able to understand. Even if you don’t think your small business lends itself to good blog content, find a way to add a fresh take on what you’re doing. If you run a bakery, post some of your favorite recipes that you aren’t producing in your shop. There’s always something you can post about that will build your business credibility.
Get active on social media
Use your business social media accounts to engage with people. The more you interact with others the faster your trust and credibility will increase. Use the opportunity to be genuine and transparent. Online audiences know they have options, so use the time they give you to really connect with them. Answer their questions, without always pushing them to your website. Listen to your fans, followers, and prospects. Respond in a way that demonstrates how much you value them. Check-in on your accounts at least once a day so your responses are delivered in a timely manner.
Incorporate these techniques and tactics into your online marketing strategy and you’ll see your business credibility climb in the minds of your customers and clients. But don’t stop there. You also have to believe in yourself — that you are the person, and the business, that delivers on your promises and exceeds expectations. Your confidence is contagious. Your communication will ooze with the confidence that you’re the one who will get the job done.
There was a time when it was impressive for a small business simply to have an online presence. This is not that time. Today it’s all about using your small business website to build online connections with your customers. In many ways, we’ve become disconnected from those around us. When someone shows an interest in building a relationship with us, it makes us feel good. We feel like we’re important to them. When we get that from a shop owner we’re more likely to do business there. Here are five ways you can build a genuine online connection with your customers.
1. Engage Customers Through Various Channels
You start by including a phone number and email address on your website. An easy to use contact form will make it even easier for a customer to reach out to you. And don’t forget to add links to the social media accounts you’ve set up for your business.
Start with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Monitor these accounts so that whenever a customer leaves a question or comment you’re able to respond quickly. Although these avenues are very public, you can make the conversation private if necessary. However, by initially responding publicly other customers will see that you’re taking the time to engage in a timely way.
Consistency is important. Be sure that your response time, messaging, and follow-through are the same across all channels.
2. Get to Know Your Customers
Take time to learn who your customers are. The more you know about your customers the better you can focus your messaging to resonate with them. Google Analytics gives you insight into the demographics of your website visitors. Facebook Pixel provides in-depth information including cross-device usage and conversion habits. You can install both of these tools on your small business website yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
3. Keep It Personal
Don’t let yourself get side-tracked by the desire to make a sale. Let your website serve up the sales pitch. When you respond to inquiries from customers, keep your focus on solving the problem presented. Keep in mind that they’ll do more business with you if they feel you truly care about them. Connect with your customers first, the transactions will follow.
4. Show Your Appreciation
Everyone wants to be appreciated. Show your customers that they’re important to you and your business. Whether they follow you on social media or signed up for your mailing list, you can create special offers that are meaningful and just for them. This is another reason it pays off to know as much about your customers as you can.
5. Content Marketing
This is one of those buzz phrases you’ve probably run into more than once. Content marketing is about publishing and distributing content that speaks to your customers. It’s content that’s designed to increase their engagement. This can be accomplished through blog posts, podcasts, infographics, social media, videos, and paid advertising. Your small business website helps connect your customers to your content. Once the content is published on your site, it can be shared across multiple channels.
Now you know how to build online connections with your customers and develop a relationship with them. As the relationship grows so will customer loyalty.
Branding your business website must not be taken lightly. It will play an important role in reaching and drawing in new customers. You may want to do some planning and goal setting before you hire a web designer or in conjunction with your designer. Certainly, this should include the overall look and feel of your small business website.
Logo ~ Colors ~ Fonts ~ Images
First of all, your website should give visitors a clear idea of what to expect when they engage with your business. Use strong visual elements to impart a sense of your business atmosphere. Even within the same industry, different businesses will have different personalities. Use your business website to highlight the personality you infuse into your shop. This quote borrowed from a Forbes article says it all:
If a brand wants to make its website more appealing to potential customers, it needs strong visuals, including strong design elements (think fonts and colors) and images that showcase plenty of personality. – Joey Kercher, Air Fresh Marketing
Your business website should be working as hard for you as you’re working for your business. Your website can generate leads, demonstrate knowledge of your industry, or garner social media engagement. Because of this, you need a digital marketing plan. Let’s say you want to build up your social media engagement. To do this you’ll want to create posts that will encourage your audience to share them. This includes such as solid, timely information or a great sense of humor. These factors all play into branding your business website.
Focus On Your Customers
Finally, use your small business website to put your customers first. Tell them what you’ll do for them rather than on vague concepts like industry awards. Visitors to your site are looking to do business with someone who can solve a “problem” they have. Your website should make it clear that they’ll be satisfied with the service you provide.
Your small business website provides 24-hour access to the most important details about your business and lets you show off your products and services.
Consumers Are Doing Their Research
Have you noticed in your own life, most of your online “shopping” is focused more on researching products, services, and the providers in your area? I know, for me, this is true.
When a situation arises that I need to find a solution for, I go online and start by searching for products or services that will accomplish my goal; then I do a few searches to get an idea of what price range I should expect. Finally, I want to know if there are local resources I can call or visit. Often times, when I can’t sleep until I have my answers.
In other words, I want 24-hour access to small businesses so I can complete my information gathering whenever the need arises.
Recent studies show that roughly 81% of consumers are doing online research prior to making their purchasing decisions.
Your business website gives you the online presence necessary to be found during this critical stage of the shopping process. But does it provide what consumers are looking for?
What Are Customers Looking For?
Today’s consumers are interested in more than just your business’s name, address, and telephone number. That was enough in the days of advertising in the phone book but not anymore.
It isn’t enough to find the product or service, potential customers want to know what it will cost them. Give customers an idea of what to expect when they do business with you. This is true even if you know that a competitor offers something similar for less. Use your website to educate customers about the value they’ll get from you.
If you’re providing services, you may not be able to give a specific price because every job is different but you can offer a “starting at…” estimate.
Testimonials & Reviews
People believe what they hear from other consumers faster than what they read on a small business’s website. Potential customers will be looking at the review sites to see what’s being said about your business. They’ll check social media. They’ll talk to their friends and family. Put the best reviews and testimonials right up front on your website.
Customers will also want to be able to reach out to you for customer service. Make it easy for them to find your customer service phone number and email address. Let them know when they can reach you directly or when to expect a response to email or voicemail. If you can provide a live customer service chat option, that’s even better.
Your small business website can provide outstanding customer service even at odd hours of the night.
It’s all about giving customers 24-hour access to your business without having to actually keep your physical doors open.
Start by determining your goals and objectives
How can you tell if your website is doing any good? Every successful business website moves the business forward. Starting with specific, measurable goals puts you on the right track. This article provides examples of goals that will drive your business website to success.
Goal: Increase sales
Strategies: search engine optimization, effective calls to action, well-organized content, user-friendly website, increase conversion rate
Goal: Be an authoritative resource
Strategies: provide quality content on your website, consistently and regularly add new information and content, establish trust by marketing your site on social media and on other websites
Goal: Improve interactions with customers
Strategies: email marketing lists, live chat support, webinars, content designed to give your visitors a reason to return
Goal: Build your brand
Strategies: maintain an active social media program, offer a variety of promotions, manage your business reputation
Your goals need to match your business capabilities
You will need several hours each week to commit to creating posts and engaging with followers to be successful on social media. If you don’t, social media may not be the right path for you to create a successful business website. You may prefer press releases, an opt-in email newsletter, or a series of white papers. These can also provide the content and engagement your business needs while allowing you more control of how you invest your time.
Be able to measure your success
Setting goals for your business website isn’t enough. You need to be able to measure your progress toward those goals. This is where analytics comes into play.
Before you can track if your website is achieving results, you need to know your starting point in a few key tracking metrics.
Who’s visiting your website? This provides some interesting information about who is looking at your site but it isn’t the best measure of success.
This metric shows you how much time visitors are spending on your website, the number of pages they visited, and the bounce rate.
The bounce rate tells you the percentage of visitors who don’t get past the first page they land on and leave after only a few seconds.
- 50% is average
- 60% can be cause for concern
- >80% is a strong indication that it’s time to take a hard look at the design and content of your website
What constitutes a conversion on your website depends on the type of business you’re in and the type of engagement you want with your visitors. Some examples are:
- Form submissions
- Downloading a file
- Event registration
- Email inquiries
- Joining your email list
- Receiving more (or even fewer) phone calls
Make a record of your starting point for each of these metrics so you can compare them with the results after your new website is launched.
You have the results, now what?
Knowing how your business website is performing is nice but if you don’t use those results to continue improving your site they’re going to waste.
If all indicators show that you have a successful small business website
- Don’t lose your web designer’s contact information. You’ll want to stay in touch to keep your site up to date and optimized for performance.
If the results are less than awe-inspiring
- Contact your web designer with your concerns. There may be technical issues that are impacting the user experience.
- Meet with the entire design team — your marketing person, copywriter, and your web designer — to evaluate what has been done and what can be done to provide improved results.
Invest in a professional SEO campaign
Don’t wait for the search engines to move your business website to the top of their list. The SEO pros stay on top of what the search engine algorithms are looking for and will take the guesswork out of getting your site noticed. Plan on allowing this campaign to run for at least 12 months.
Invest in a content writer
If you have the time and inclination to write 2-4 blog posts each month that are relevant to your customers, you can skip this suggestion. However, if you’re busy running your business and don’t have time to do the writing yourself, hire someone to provide you with SEO-optimized blog content to keep your website fresh.
A final word
Your business is probably the biggest investment of your life. In this day and age, your customers are looking for you online. Having a website will open your door to eager consumers ready to trade their money for your products or services. Take the time to sit down with your web designer and marketing team to set goals for the success of your business website.