What’s Important When It Comes to a Small Business Web Site – Guiding Principles For Your Small Business Web site

In The Website Imperative For Small Business we explained why you need a web site to represent your business, as opposed to just having a Facebook page, or other presence on social media.

Now, let’s look at what makes up a good web site, what should be on it, and how you can use it. Since there are good resources out there on the technical side of having a web site, we’ll look at issues from the business point of view.

Principles To Apply To Building A Small Business Web Site and Keeping It Valuable

  • The most important information about your business should be easy to find. Things like location, directions, type of business, type of customers need to be featured in some sort of menu on each page.
  • The content on the web site needs to be valuable to customers and potential customers. Not only should your web site answer questions about your business, but it should also have content that draws people with an interest in what your business is about.

    For example, a small law firm may post advice articles on its site. That provides value to potential customers, and helps it establish credibility and trust. Be useful to customers and your battle for business is half one. Customers can “get to know you” via your web site.
  • Content needs to be regularly updated. Your basic business information will remain relatively fixed, except for sales and events, but you need people to see that you are an active and going concern, while providing reasons to come back. That means new articles, new pictures, new videos; whatever fits your business type.
  • Visitors should have a way to get updates and notifications of new free content, sales, events, etc., via e-mail or via social media. That means you will want to maintain a mailing list, and a way for customers to add themselves to that list.

    Social media works well for this function. You can have customers follow or like you, and also be sure to allow customers to sign up from your business location. A mailing list can be an incredibly powerful tool over time.
  • Show your personality as an owner. There’s a school of thought that looks at web sites as a simple means to make information available, but in fact, you can indulge yourself, and express things about you personally on your web site. Mention your interests now and again. Use personal stories to make a point relevant to visitors. That’s not to say you lose sight of the fact that your business is….well, a business, but it humanizes you, and helps you stand out among competitors.
  • Be present. You need not run a web site yourself. A staff member can be responsible for running it, and add content, BUT you still need to establish your personal presence. Contribute regularly. Make it clear that it’s you, the owner writing content, or posting pictures. Customers who feel they “know” you will develop personal loyalty if they like what you post, and share your personal interests.

    This is one area where larger business will have trouble copying, since it’s rare that corporate big business executives will a) be present on their websites, and b) contribute and display their personalities.
  • Use social media to funnel people to your website. As pointed out in the reasons you need a website, you want to control the visitor experience, and you can’t do that as well on social media as you can on your own web site. Use social media as a means of making first contacts, but don’t put everything you have on it. Make your web site the preferred method for learning about you and your business.
  • Consider using pictures and videos generously. These days things on the Internet have moved away from words on the page, to pictures and videos. By using media as a means of providing value to customers and potential customers, you will once again stand out, and you can use platforms like YouTube and Pinterest as initial contact points that drive traffic to your site.

    For example, a plumber might create short YouTube videos on how to solve basic plumbing problems. A computer store might provide a little tour of what is inside a computer. An accountant can explain (and show) how to deal with trial balances.

    Not only will people be able to discover and view your videos on something like YouTube but you can embed the videos on your own site along with text.
  • If you want to sell directly online: have customers able to order things, pay for things, and have them delivered, be aware that this adds a new level of complexity to running a web site. You’ll need to have a shopping cart, infrastructure to record and ship orders, ways to process payment and so on.

    Generally this will involve using a third party company that can handle all of these things. We use a company called BigCommerce (you can visit our online store by clicking here), but we’ve also used others, like Esellerate. Different companies offer different features at different price points, so what you choose will depend on what you need.

    Generally, costs are quite manageable, so you may be able to get set up for as little as under a hundred dollars, but you will need basic skills in setting up the code on your web site.
  • Focus On Usability. It may be tempting to make your web site a work of art, and to add all kinds of features into the mix. Don’t. Keep things as simple as possible, in line with your business focus. Don’t use fancy backgrounds or fonts. Simple, always simple. Make it easy to read, easy to find things.

Be Undaunted

In some ways it’s become easier to have your own web site, but in other ways, it’s become way more complicated than it used to be. What is sure is that the bar for a quality web site is much higher than it was ten years ago.

It may be worthwhile to seek out help, and to interview people who you might want to hire to develop your site, and teach you or other employees to run it.

However, don’t get overwhelmed. It’s not hard, per se, but there is a learning curve. These days, though, it’s really essential that you have at least a small, content rich site so you can convey your business personality and business information.

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