10 tips to make your small business website a success

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With billions of active internet users worldwide, websites have become a lifeline in ensuring the survival of many businesses. Websites and web technology is not only growing in industries like accounting and digital marketing, but the impact of the pandemic has only reinforced the importance of ecommerce in helping all businesses thrive, no matter which sector.

In fact, in a new study, 68% consumers say that they have higher expectations of businesses’ digital capabilities following COVID-19.

So, if you’re about to create a website for your business, what do you need to consider?

Read: Know what to ask your web developer

These 10 tips will help understand what’s involved in a website build, and make sure your website can achieve your goals.

1. Set the goals and purpose of your website before you build it

An athlete would train differently depending on whether they wanted to be a weightlifter or an endurance runner. The same goes for your website. Depending on your needs, the build will be tailored accordingly.

Rank these in order of importance to guide your designer:

  • visuals, animation and effects (how the website’s appearance will impact sales)
  • marketing calls to actions (for example “buy now”)
  • search engine optimised (SEO) content (content that helps you rank higher in search results)
  • usability for your sales team (how easy it is for them to edit)
  • usability for your customers (how easy it is for them to use)

For example, if you prioritise website loading times and SEO, your designers will prioritise function over style. If you want to wow your customers and use your website to showcase your brand, your designer might suggest a more dynamic website with videos and interactive transitions, but the compromise is the website will load a little slower.

These decisions will also affect the way you build your website – will you go full custom or will you use tools like Visual Composer to make it easier for you to edit later down the track. Each has its pros and cons. It’s all about prioritisation.

Use: Design Brief Template

2. Create a consistent brand experience

Your website can’t do all the work. It should align with your other marketing materials and in-store experience, like a matching luggage set.

81 per cent of customers said they need to be able to trust the brand to buy from them. This means that your branding, style guide, mission statements and brand personality should be reflected on your website.

Consistent brand experience can improve the way customers view your entire business. Make sure your web design team has a strong brand style guide to follow before they start.

You can continue the good work post-launch by keeping your website up to date alongside your marketing campaigns.

3. Focus on your customers’ needs

Are you designing a website that you like, or a website that your customers will like? Designing a website to meet customer needs, rather than promoting your business, is the key to creating a platform that connects with your audience.

Many small businesses are caught up using their website to promote their credentials; how many awards they’ve won, how much expertise their staff have compared to their competitors, etc. While this has worked in the past, it’s losing effectiveness with present day customers.

Shift away from the ‘show-and-tell’ perspective and instead move towards developing a relationship with the customer. Brands that thrive in this new digital climate are more self-aware, self-critical, feedback-seeking and customer-focused.

These are the questions you can ask yourself and your marketing team:

  • How can you solve your customers’ pain points?
  • What are their challenges with your competitors?
  • How can you do better than them?
  • Are they looking to be educated?
  • Are they time-poor?
  • Are inclusivity and accessibility important for your industry?
  • Can you make extra service guarantees?

It’s as simple as making sure your content speaks to the problem that you solve for the customer. A simple tweak can make a huge conversion difference.

Here’s a headline example of a business coach and consulting website that shows the power of a meaningful headline that balances the business’s purpose with what the customer gains.

4. Create meaningful and succinct content

Studies of user behaviours from the past few years demonstrate that people are often time-poor or browsing on the go, with an average session duration of 2 to 3 minutes. So, you should think of your website as an elevator pitch.

When it comes to your content and copy:

  • redefine your unique selling point and offering
  • revisit your strategy
  • review content you have written and its length

Not only should the content be quick to process, but visually engaging, using images where possibles. This not only applies to website engagement but overall trends too through the rise of visual search.

Users want to be guided with quick, skim-able content. In short, get to the point!

5. Know the difference between traffic and conversion

Many small business owners will increase their marketing spend on search engine marketing in a bid to increase sales. An example includes Google Adwords, where you pay Google to rank your webpage for specific keywords.

Without a strong website, this is like pouring water into a leaky bucket (where the water is the traffic and conversion is the bucket).

Traffic is the amount of people you bring to your website. Conversion is the percentage of people that completes a transaction or books in a service with you on your website.

Marketing will increase your traffic and number of visitors coming to your website. However, if your website looks outdated, contains broken links and has complicated navigation, chances are these visitors will drop off easily. It is a waste of your marketing dollars.

Order matters when it comes to traffic and conversion. Fix the bucket first by optimising your website. Make it more visually appealing and user-friendly, to build trust in your visitors and give them confidence in your service. This improves the conversion rate of your website. Alternatively, you can use conversion marketing software or tools to give your website a conversion head start.

Now that’s sorted, future spend on marketing will have better return on investment (ROI) as your website captures visitors more effectively, converting a bigger fraction of curious users into loyal customers.

Read: Why your website is your best salesperson

6. Optimise your website with search friendly words so people can find you

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a way of improving your website so that it appears higher in the results of search engines like Google. The better your SEO, the greater the chance people will find you online.

Josh Thomson, founder of SEO agency Calibre9, says that a key element to any business, especially small businesses, should be organic and local online visibility. Without a presence on search engines like Google, you are leaving what could be an important revenue stream untapped.

SEO planning needs to be done at the user experience (UX) stage when your web designer is outlining your sitemap and navigation.

Clean coding and well-planned site structure are important in ensuring your SEO strategies can be implemented readily, when you choose to go down that route.

The URL link structure will define your website breadcrumbs (usually a pathway of links at the top of a page) are the structural pillars of your website. Ensure that your URLs are descriptive of the page contents; redoing these is a big task.

Like the foundations of a house, you don’t want to have to touch the concrete base once you’ve laid down the flooring. It is worth consulting an SEO specialist to hash out their recommended sitemap before you get started, or to work in tandem with your web development team.

Conduct keyword or phrase searches to check where your website appears in search results. You may consider refining your web copy to improve search rankings.

7. Do research to find the best website hosting solution

Website hosting can often be glossed over. However, it is incredibly important and can cause many headaches if skimped on. A host is the provider you can trust to hold all the files and folders that make up your website, to keep it secure and project it live on the internet.

According to Ben Lim, Business Analyst at Chromatix, it only takes a few seconds to check if your hosting is up to scratch. Using tools like GTmetrix, can give you a quick snapshot to check the time to first byte (TTFB) rate.

Think of it as your plot of land on the internet. You wouldn’t leave the keys to your house with someone you don’t trust, so why would you entrust your website to an unreputable host?

If the host provides slow data speeds, has outdated security systems and shares your land with sketchy websites, your own website can be more easily hacked or compromised. And if they don’t regularly back up your content, restoring your website will be a lot more difficult and time-consuming.

8. Maintain your website

Like the infamous 2001 Nokia brick phone, if built well your website can last a very long time. However, with the rate of technological advancement, browser updates and third-party plugin updates, your website can only run fast and be its most secure with regular maintenance from web developers.

When a website is hacked or goes down, those few days of inactivity can be detrimental to your business sales and brand reputation. This is especially important for ecommerce websites and those who store clients’ and customers’ personal information or payment details.

Maintenance will help ensure that:

  • your website is better protected against hackers and malware
  • broken links are caught and redirected (no 404 error pages)
  • it is displaying correctly on different browsers and devices.

9. Give your website constant attention

Most businesses will only update their website when their existing one ‘looks outdated’ or ‘doesn’t match their current services’; every 5 to 10 years. However, the most successful businesses are those who are constantly reviewing and optimising their website every month.

Your website is working 24/7 for you and can be your best salesperson.

Understand which areas need optimisation:

  • if you want a big overview of your data, use free analytics tools such as Google Analytics, which includes data like scroll depth (how deep do users scroll on a page), number of page visits in one session (how many pages does a user go to before exiting), and average session duration (how much time does a user spend on your website before leaving)
  • if you want to see how customers interact with your website, you can use software such as “Full Story” to watch videos of their screens
  • if you want to see which areas of content are popular or overlooked, you can use “Crazy Egg” which will give you heat maps of user activity.

10. Think about who is best equipped to design, build and maintain your website

With lots of tutorials and DIY website builders available, it’s easy to think that creating a website can be a side job you tend to in non-business hours. While building your own website is easier than ever and might seem cost effective, your time is probably better spent working on your business, while leaving the website build to professionals.

The cost of fixing a poorly built website from an inexperienced one-man band is usually a lot higher than hiring a specialist web team to build it correctly. If you’ve ever messed up a home haircut, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

There is a lot of expertise to cover, from conversion-minded design to clean coding, responsive device considerations, SEO, marketing planning and Google best practices. If you don’t understand what we just said, we’ve made our point.

Even before COVID-19, it took users only 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) to form an opinion about your website, and whether they like it enough to stay or leave.

Now user expectations have increased even more given the rise of ecommerce small business websites, so, give your business the best chance to make a good impression, straight off the bat.

The bottom line

Every small business needs to be online in one form or another. Making a website is easy. Building a website that resonates with your target audience, has a straightforward user journey, creates a good impression, ranks on the first page of Google and loads quickly is a harder task.

With good planning and professionals at the helm you can trust in smoother sailing, and that your ship, so to speak, will hold up well against stormy weather.

We hope you find these 10 tips insightful and helpful in planning your website design journey. The more time and effort you invest into building your website right from the start, the better the return on investment you can expect in the future from:

  • more engaged customers
  • higher average spending in transactions
  • increased organic lead generation and traffic
  • stronger brand presence and elevated brand value.

Remember that success is measured not just the harvest you reap, but the seeds you sow today.