If you are a small business owner, especially in the retail industry today, you need a website! Not only does it help spread awareness of your business by making you more credible, but studies show that 81% of retail shoppers spend time researching online before actually making a purchase. In addition, 84% of consumers believe that a website makes a company more legitimate than solely having a social media presence. It also serves as an informational tool about the products or services you offer. Background information about your business, how it was founded, who founded it, your principles, and mission further invoke feelings of trust and legitimacy. Testimonials or reviews from previous or current customers should also be incorporated. A serious deterrent is when a potential customer feels like they are the first brave person to hire you or buy your product. Whether your website is designed as more information about your wonderful services or set up for e-commerce to purchase a product online, a website properly designed and maintained is sure to increase your revenue and take your business to the next level! We are highlighting 7 ways to improve your website performance because simply having a website is not enough these days.
So many small business owners get drawn in by the build-your-own-website platforms out there. It sounds great on the surface – a low monthly fee and you design it yourself using a boilerplate template they have. Anyone can do this, right?! Not always. What good are a website if (1) no one sees it because it is buried hundreds of pages back in Google and/or (2) people don’t have a good user experience and form a negative opinion about your business? If you can’t find your customers and your customers can’t find you, then your website is not doing its job. Then if you do find each other, did you know that it takes a person .005 seconds to form an opinion about your website and thus your business? Our list below is all the things you as a business owner need to know to incorporate, build, and maintain a competitive website that serves you and your business authentically and effectively.
Step 1) Create a Well Thought out Website Structure
The best website design is one that is thought out and prepared before the actual building starts. User experience (“UX”) and user interface (“UI”) design comes from understanding your perfect customer and then creating a clean, clear, and visually appealing website for them. 77% of website development companies report that poor design is the most significant weakness in a website causing businesses to lose revenue. 38% of people will stop engaging with a website and leave if the content or layout of a website is unattractive to them. This is referred to as your bounce rate and with the help of a website tracking tool, such as Google Analytics, we can identify how long a person stays on a website or specific page as well as what page they were on right before they left. If you have an existing website that is underperforming and you don’t know why heat mapping is a great way to understand the existing user flow. It tracks where the user’s mouse is going on the website identifying any hot/cold spots showing interest/lack of interest.
So how do you create a well thought out structure? Creating a sitemap to plan your website is the first step a website designer takes. This basically means developing a blueprint of your website that includes a list of the pages you intend to have and an outline of the content for each page. This will ensure you are not missing any important content while also not being repetitive. A sitemap is a helpful tool to really understand how your customers will navigate the site. Remember, UX/UI design is taking information and presenting it in a digestible format that is visually appealing to your audience. That gets us to our next point, developing a content strategy!
Step 2) Develop a Website Content Strategy
Content strategy for a website takes into consideration what information you want to present but also how. One of the biggest mistakes our industry sees is websites with too much text that stylistically is not visually appealing and impacts their bounce rate. Too much text on website landing pages, homepages, about us, and other pages causes people to feel overwhelmed or lose interest. We get that you have a ton of information about your business to share and at the same time too little text will hurt SEO. Less block heavy text, shorter sentences, smaller paragraphs, bullet-point lists, and bolding important words and sentences help to break up the content and get the reader’s attention. It is all about finding the right balance between optimizing your website for SEO and distributing the content in an easily digestible and stylistically appealing format.
Visuals – photos, videos, and other design elements – help break up text and enhance the UI/UX. Instead of using words to describe your product, show the customer what it looks like. Instead of using words to describe your services, show the customer what you do in a photo or video. Visuals provide information but also invoke feelings, so use them to your advantage. Videos are a growing trend in digital marketing strategies. The online world can seem so impersonal and with artificial intelligence on the rise, videos humanize a business and put a face and personality behind a brand.
Depending on your industry, you should consider also incorporating other forms of media into your website as part of your content strategy. Other forms of media include info-graphics, charts, slideshows, webinars, and podcasts. These forms of media will help make your website content be more informative while not overloading text and compromising the UI/UX design.
Step 3) Establish Clear Calls to Action
When someone visits your website, what do you want them to do? Fill out a contact form? Buy a product? Book a call with you? Subscribe to your newsletter? Donate money to your nonprofit? Whatever your end goal is, you want to drive traffic to take that action. Think of your website visitor’s (hopefully) seamless journey through your site – learning about you, your business, the products or services you offer – the purpose of all of this is to funnel them towards an ultimate end goal. We use Call to Action (“CTA”) buttons throughout the website to encourage the website visitor to complete that action. Content is king but without clear CTAs your website will not convert, meaning people will leave without doing the action you desire.
There are three important things to consider when creating CTAs: (1) Placement – where it is, (2) Design – what it looks like, and (3) Text – what it says. For placement, you should have CTAs spread throughout your website. Each page should have CTAs and they should be in a strategically prominent place so they catch the attention of the website visitor. When designing a CTA we want it to be recognizable as something they should click on. We want it to visually stand out from the text and imagery on the page. Word choice for CTAs can greatly inhibit or enhance conversions on your website. Your CTA text must be clear so that the visitor knows what will happen when they click the button. You have limited space and you want to invite action so using verbs like “start, join, build, learn, discover, connect.”
Step 4) Mobile Friendly Everything
Have you checked to see if your website is optimized for mobile devices? Did you know that a website can look great on a laptop or desktop computer but then look awful on a cell phone or tablet? Unfortunately, many websites are not designed to adjust to different screen sizes and load times. This is a huge problem because 81% of Americans own a smartphone and 87% of smartphone owners do a minimum of one google search per day on their smartphone. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you are losing business every day. So, not only will you lose the interest of potential customers if your website loads slowly or aesthetically, text and images are off on their smartphone, but search engines like Google also put a ton of emphasis on mobile-optimized websites. If your site fails on mobile, then it is not going to rank well on Google.
First, assess if there is an issue with the mobile-friendliness of your website. Here is how to check on Google to see if your website is mobile friendly and the good news is, it’s free! You can pull up your website manually on different devices yourself to look at it but you should also use the Mobile-Friendly Test. This free test will analyze your website, give you feedback about how mobile-friendly it is, and then provide resources on how to fix any errors.
If you don’t know how to optimize your website for mobile, you can always use certain plugins. Plugins are essentially apps for a website. When we build a website for a client, we always use WordPress as it is the best content management system (“CMS”) in our opinion, with a wide range of enhancing plugins. Just be advised that too much of a good thing can hurt your website’s performance and cause security issues. You do not want to over-install plugins and always need to be monitoring to keep the installed plugins up-to-date. Some of the plugins we recommend for clients to enhance the mobile-friendliness of their websites include WPTouch, WP Super Cache, Jetpack, Auto Optimize, and Hummingbird.
Step 5) SEO Basics
Search engine optimization (“SEO”) is the process by which a website increases its visibility in the organic (unpaid) rankings in search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, MSN, etc. Merely building a website and hitting “launch” is not going to land you on the first page of Google. It takes a consistent digital marketing strategy to improve your ranking and visibility to reach your customers. This goes back to content strategy, as the actual text and photographs you use on your website influence how well your website performs. Thoroughly researched keywords and consistent blog postings are other examples of content that improve SEO for your website as well.
SEO is about knowing your target audience: understanding what people are searching for, the answers they are seeking, the words they are using to search, and the type of content they are looking for. If you don’t know where to start, we can help you define your perfect client and narrow your content to that specific target audience. Search engines like Google are a giant answering machine. You want to tailor your content to catch the attention of the search engine crawlers (robots) that index and rank websites based on relevance: which website best answers a question or words typed into the search bar. Be patient! SEO requires consistency and time. You can expect to see positive results after 6-12 months.
Step 6) Boosting SEO Using Schema Markups
Just having good content on your website is not enough. To get an edge over your competition, your content has to be in a format that search engines can understand and present in a more user-friendly, informative way in a google search. Schema Markups is the way to go. As one of the latest developments in SEO, it is one of the most powerful but least utilized forms of SEO currently! Next time you are scrolling through a Google search, pay attention to what appears underneath a website listing – is just the website listed with a small blurb underneath or does it display a schedule of upcoming events, products, services, reviews, etc? To see an example, type into the Google search bar: “upcoming concerts near me” and you will likely see a list of concert venues and websites that sell tickets with a schedule of upcoming events listed under each URL – they are using Schema Markups, which have been described as a virtual business card. That information draws you in and you already have information about what is on that website before you click on the URL.
How do you insert schema markups on your website? Go to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper and select which type of data you want to markup, paste the URL of the page you want to markup, highlight the elements you want to markup, create the HTML, and then add the Schema to your webpage. We recommend using Schema Markups for FAQs, products, and their prices, and reviews to catch the eye of potential customers. Search engines rank pages with Schema Markups higher because they are more user friendly. Currently, only one-third of websites are incorporating Schema Markups so this will put you at a huge advantage when you start inserting them on your website. According to schema.org the more content, you mark up the better!
Step 7) Pay Per Click Landing Page
If you really want to take your small business to the next level, organic SEO alone is not going to cut it. Depending on your industry and business goals, we usually recommend a combination of organic SEO and also paid to advertise. Pay-per-click (“PPC”) is a digital advertising method to increase traffic to your website. As the name says, you pay a certain amount based on the number of times an advertisement gets clicked. Paid advertising tends to yield a higher conversion rate, as website visitors who arrive on a website from a paid ad are 50% more likely to click a CTA. PPC targets people who are searching to make a purchase and over 60% of people intending to make a purchase will click on a PPC ad even when presented with organic search results too.
When you develop your digital marketing strategy, be sure to consider including PPC campaigns. Setting up PPC campaigns is a two-step process of (1) creating the advertisement by drafting the messaging after doing keyword research for your target audience and (2) sending people to click on your ad to a post-click PPC landing page (depending on your goal). When an ad is clicked on you choose where it sends the person. To get the most out of your PPC ad, it would be ideal to have a PPC landing page on your website. Sending them to an optimized landing page that has specifically matched messaging to your ad, employs clear CTAs, and tracks data including conversion rate is crucial to know if your ad is working and to fine-tune it over time.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of work that goes into creating and maintaining a high functioning website for a small business. Just creating a website and having it out there on the internet is not sufficient. It will not be visible to your potential customers out there who may even be searching for you but cannot find you. The purpose of your website is to bring in business. Visibility is crucial but so is designed so that you can draw in and keep your potential customers.
As a web development company, Mountain Mojo Group is dedicated to helping small businesses create and maintain highly successful websites through content strategy, improving the design to improve UI/UX, and running targeted marketing campaigns. We understand the digital marketing world is foreign to you and staying on top of cutting edge changes in technology while also running a business can leave you to spread thin and feeling like you are pushing a boulder up a mountain. Message us, we are here to help!
Mary Schneider is a digital marketing specialist at Mountain Mojo Group. When she is not at work she loves to cook, run, and go hiking with her dog Max.