Feel like your website is behind the times? Ready to revamp your site and do it right, taking into account modern design trends and the resources available for marketing online?
My name is Mitch Free, and my company bizdetail has successfully launched 400+ customized small business websites for clients in many different industries, from all over the San Francisco Bay Area and United States.
Over the past few years, we have worked to refine our system for building small business websites to balance technology with what businesses want and need most out of their site.
Regardless of what you have going on currently, I’ve put together some actionable advice to help you launch a professional, modern, mobile-friendly business website that does what you need it to do.
Of course, If you are looking for some help with your site or marketing, I’d love to speak with you. Feel free to give me a call at 925.963.1377 during normal business hours, or contact us
Go Responsive (or Else!)
Responsive design is a way of tailoring the experience to the device of your website visitor, whether they are sitting on a beach using an iPhone or sitting in an office in front of a widescreen desktop. One website serves all customers, and adjusts automatically based on the screen size they happen to be using.
If your site is not yet responsive, it isn’t mobile-friendly and this problem needs to be addressed, as soon as possible.
On the mobile side, zooming is completely eliminated, content and images adjust automatically to the width of the browser, and menus are organized into a single dropdown.
Compared to a non-responsive site, the difference is drastic. When you look at a non-responsive website on a phone, at best, it will look exactly the same, require zooming, and present a poor user experience compared to a mobile-friendly one. At worst, it will not function properly, and will make your site and business look behind the times.
Web design trends come and go, but responsive design isn’t going anywhere anytime soon because it is the most efficient way to build a single website that looks and works great across all devices and screen sizes.
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, or you are currently running a separate mobile website, a responsive website revamp is absolutely necessary. You should talk to a experienced small business web designer and get your site redesigned, as soon as possible.
Use What The Pros Use
There are many different programs and services that will help you launch a website, including basic site builders, to WIX, Shopify, SquareSpace, to open source content management systems like WordPress and Drupal. Not all solutions are created equal.
Over the last few years, WordPress has evolved into the platform of choice for most small business and web designers. By current estimates, sites built on the WordPress platform account for between 20-25% of all sites on the web. So, what makes WordPress the preferred choice for those in the know?
One of the biggest benefits of WordPress is the fact it is open source, which means the code is available for free for public use and improvement.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can leverage the work that thousands of developers have already put into developing the WordPress platform, theme, and plugin ecosystem.
Once WordPress is installed on your server, you are up in running in minutes, own your site and code, and can do with it whatever you wish. Complete freedom and flexibility.
Compared to being bound to a specific host, or by the capabilities of some less popular, less mature, content management system, WordPress is much smarter and more predictable bet for your small business website.
If you were going to start today and build a website from scratch, you should use the best tool for the job, the one that the pros use. That tool is WordPress.
Build for Conversion
For most small businesses, the goal of their website is to educate customers and generate business. So how do you convert more site visitors to leads and real customers?
It truly starts with the design and layout of your site.
As you put together or analyze the layout of your site, you should be thinking most about what visitors are looking for and what action you want them to take, then design your site accordingly.
Make sure the things you want everyone to see, and your customers expect to see, are featured prominently on the homepage. Most people land on the home and won’t go much further if they don’t immediately see what they expect to see.
If your goal is to get the phones ringing, make sure to display your phone number in prominent locations, such as the header, footer, and sidebar.
Always add a “contact” link to your main navigation, and make sure you have a form that makes it easy for people to email you directly from the website.
Consider adding a contact form to every page of your site, where it will be impossible for visitors to miss, if your design allows it.
Add “call to action” buttons that direct visitors to specific locations, for example, your contact page, a service you want to promote, or something else you want to feature.
Consider a real-time chat widget from a company like olark, or even a pop-up message that directs people to take a specific action you want them to take.
Every element in your web design should have a purpose. It really depends on your business and goals, but a few tweaks can greatly increase the number of clicks, calls, emails, in-person visits, sales, subscribers, and page views generated by your website.
Not Just Mobile-Friendly, Mobile-Optimized
As you analyze and critique the mobile layout of your site, think most about what information a person browsing your site using a phone is looking for.
For most small businesses, this might be a phone number, address, or other important details related to what you do. Make sure this information can be found above the fold on your homepage.
The goal of your site, whether someone is visiting on their desktop, phone or tablet, is to take the action you want them to take, and to make it easy for them.
Working with an experienced small business web designer is the best way to help you build out a truly mobile-optimized, conversion-focused experience.
Authenticity is Everything
A website that accurately reflects your business and generates leads consists of content that speaks to your target audience. There are no shortcuts!
If your site can’t answer the basics of who you are and what you do, people will leave quickly regardless of what device they are using and what action you want them to take.
Whether you are analyzing your existing site or committing to a full redesign, take the time to write an authentic “About” page that explains who you are and what you do differently than your competitors.
Always gather real photos, integrate good online reviews, and think critically about what you want people to take away from your website. Look critically at your text content, and don’t be scared to switch it up if it isn’t working. Content tends to grow stale over time, so if it has been awhile since the copy was written, considering revamping it.
Be willing to write, contribute, get involved, and provide constructive feedback to help your designer understand how you do business, and what makes your company unique. Nobody knows or can write about your business the way YOU can, so make sure your site is authentic, and accurately reflects your way of doing things.
Own Your Local Presence
For businesses that target a local audience, Yelp has proven itself to attract customers that are ready to do business. For certain industries, such as restaurants, a Yelp ranking can virtually make or break you, and many go to great lengths to make customers happy, cultivate good reviews, and respond publically or privately to bad ones.
Those in industries less dominated by Yelp may have no time or interest, but if your page already exists, it is a good idea to claim your profile and cultivate some positive reviews.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed too many business owners stick their head in the sand, unwilling to hear the feedback from Yelp, or to do anything about customers unhappy enough with their experience to be vocal about it. A few bad reviews, even if they represent a miniscule portion of your client base, can and will cost you money if you don’t insulate yourself with a few positive ones.
At a bare minimum, creating a profile on popular social networks, review sites, and directory sites can help you protect your brand, and dominate the first page of search results when people search your company by name.
Google Plus is another site that is important to local traffic, since some contact information displayed in search results pulls directly from it. Google Plus also features reviews and star rankings, which also show up in search results.
It may not always be called Google Plus (there have been rumors about changes with Plus for years, since it has not been widely adopted by consumers, and is generally viewed as an embarrassment), it will always exist in some format.
Since it is owned by Google, you should buy into it enough to claim your profile, add your business information, and make your listing look good.
Craigslist is another site known for targeting a hyper-local audience. For certain industries, it can be a great place to connect with customers looking for what you provide. The challenge with craigslist is always posting enough to elicit a response without getting blocked for breaking TOS. If you can figure it out, there are definitely customers lurking in the depths of craigslist.
Depending on your business, there may be a host of other sites that capture a localized audience, including Angie’s List, Patch, Groupon, Thumbtack, Backpage, and more.
The more ways you have to get real exposure and drive targeted traffic to your website, the better.
Leverage Social Networks, Efficiently
For small businesses, social networking can be a useful way to connect with customers. It can also be a giant waste of time and money.
It takes focus, hard work, time, and (the intangible) good content to build a social following from scratch. A lot of that effort is probably better spent building your actual business, rather than your following on someone else’s network, but we will get to that, later.
Some small business owners have no interest in social networking, and that is one perspective. Another perspective is to selectively focus your efforts on a few social networks that play to your strengths. Go where your customers are, or where the tools help you connect with them, and do it right.
A company that targets millennial-aged females might invest time into developing their Facebook presence, and pay to have their posts promoted. A local company offering a home service like flooring, roofing, window replacement or landscaping might use Facebook much the same way.
An eLiquid brand might invest significant effort into posting on Instagram using specific hashtags to increase exposure, and also pay popular models with lots of followers to make sponsored posts.
A dentist with good Yelp reviews might invest in Yelp Advertising. Another dentist might forgo paid advertising entirely, and simply embed their Facebook or Twitter feed on their NEWS page so they can make updates without ever having to log into their website or contact their website manager to handle it for them.
There are many different ways to leverage social networks efficiently, both to reach new customers, and to stay connected with current ones. Figure out what you are trying to accomplish, and put together an efficient plan.
Automate Whenever Possible
Automation can also help you save time, plus provide better communication and customer service. Put your website and the right tools to work for you to work smarter, not harder.
A medical office might send an automated follow up email to anyone who uses their website contact form to let them know to call 911 if it is an emergency, as well as a time frame for expecting a reply. A web designer might use an automated reply to send out a link to get more information on how to get started, plus a link to their portfolio.
An eCommerce site might create a post-purchase automated follow up to direct customers to follow their Instagram account.
A sales department might use automated emails to deliver proposals or promotional materials to new leads at set intervals.
A photographer might add photos to Instagram, and then embed their feed on their website PORTFOLIO page to create a real time portfolio, they can update from their phone.
Adding automated features to your website and your social profiles is a great way to make your site “smarter,” saving time and effort, and with enough focus, providing quantifiable results. An experienced web designer will always help you make the most of the tools available to you, and help clue you in to possibilities you may not have known existed.
Invest in What you Own
Google is not your friend. Neither is Facebook or Yelp. That is not to say that these platforms can’t help you reach new customers, just that you should always focus most on building the things you own and have complete control over.
Things like your website, auto-responder series, promotional materials, product, service, app, customer list, mailing list, customer on-boarding process, last forever, while “going viral” is fleeting.
No matter how much work you put into, say your business Facebook page, Facebook owns it, and can take it away, or change their terms at any time. Many businesses found this out the hard way, investing time and money to buy fans on Facebook, only to have to turn around and pay again to reach these same people when the newsfeed changed.
While it is certainly within Facebook’s rights to change how they operate, this highlights the point that these companies care about building themselves and their network first, and your needs as a small business show up way down their priority list. You need to do the same, and invest most in what you own, starting with your website.
Don’t automatically buy into the marketing hype, and know that best practices over the long term is the way to success. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
If a company puts a bunch of effort into highlighting some “metric of success” that doesn’t translate to your bottom line, you likely don’t need what they are offering.
Always consider how you define success with the time and money you invest into marketing. If a strategy isn’t generating any leads, is it really worth investing in?
Make sure to add tracking to website contact forms that tells you how people found your site, what device and browser they are using, and which page they submitted the contact form.
If someone calls or stops in and you don’t know how they found you or your website, ask. A little bit of info goes a long way, and will help you make the best marketing decisions moving forward.
Make sure your designer adds Google Analytics, and hooks your site up with Search Console, which helps your contented get indexed, and helps you learn how visitors find and use your site.
Never forget, you are after leads, sales and dollars, not followers. Don’t lose sight of this fact as you take in the latest marketing pitch.
More than anything, don’t expect technology or your website to replace good old-fashioned hard work, building, networking, marketing, and relationship building.
If your website isn’t working, isn’t modern, isn’t mobile-friendly and doesn’t do your business justice, it is time to do something about that! Please visit bizdetail.com to learn more about how we can help your business, or fill out our questionnaire to tell us more about your business and your website goals.
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