“Almost overnight the internet has gone from a technical wonder to a business must” (Bill Schrader)
No matter the size of your business or what industry you are in, building and maintaining an effective website should be at the heart of all your planning. The internet has become an essential part of everyday life and having a presence online is extremely important for anyone conducting business in 2021. According to a recent survey conducted by Weebly, 56% of the consumers surveyed said they don’t trust a business without a website.
A website provides a business with numerous benefits, even those businesses who may not think this is the case. Websites expose businesses to a wider audience, provide leads to people already interested in your service, and help save on advertising costs, but only if they are done right.
A website that exists, but that is unattractive, unhelpful or simply impossible to find will instead do damage to a brand. As a customer’s most likely first port of call for a business, it is essential it reflects the service and diligence put into all other aspects of the enterprise. Here’s how you make that happen.
1) Buy a good domain name
On the surface choosing a domain name may seem like a simple thing. Most people will immediately focus on their brand name and leave it at that, but what if your brand name doesn’t make it clear what you do or has already been taken by another company?
In the instances above it might be wise to reflect your industry in the domain name. If your travel company is called Bob’s, using the domain name BobsTravel tells potential customers more about what you do, and also gives you one key word that helps the client stumble upon you when searching for their new holiday.
Apart from the simple name it’s also important to remember to keep the domain name as short as possible to make it easier to remember. Those with fewer than 15 characters or 3 words have been shown to be easier for people to memorise. It is also important to avoid using numbers, hyphens, double letters, and special characters to avoid misspelling, which also applies to making the name easy to pronounce. The simpler it is, the more likely your clients will remember what to put into their browser.
2) Focus on the platform
Choosing which platform to build your website on is going to be critical to its success. The platform you choose will depend entirely upon the kind of website you are looking for. A simple business card style website might be built using online website builders, but as soon as you need anything more it would be wise to consult a professional web design company to ensure your needs are properly met.
For starters the business owner will want to consider the platform’s ability to correctly display the website on a variety of new and old browsers. Having a website where some browsers are not supported is a good way to frustrate your potential clients.
Mobile responsiveness is also critical for a website to be effective. According to the most recent Media Nations Report by British regulator Ofcom, the average adult now spends five hours and 40 minutes looking at their phone every day. Needless to say, this means your business’ mobile website must offer a positive user experience so the platform you choose must integrate seamlessly with mobile browsers.
According to Steve Grey, Creative Director of web design company Plastic Duck Armada, other things to consider include the platform’s ability to scale at a later date. Building a site that can easily be added to as your company grows allows you to upgrade for lower cost in the future. It doesn’t make sense to build a website that needs to be thrown away a year later simply because it won’t include a feature you now desperately need.
“Maintenance is something very few people consider,” says Grey who explains that as technology advances sites will need to be updated to keep up with the new developments in browsers and web searching technologies.
“Is there a high cost involved in updating your platform? How easy is it? Can someone in-house be trained to do it? This is all going to have a long term impact on how much the site costs and how effectively it runs,” he explains.
Likewise he says people should consider how easy it is to upload new information to the site.
“Do you need a blog? Is that system intuitive? Can you update it regularly by yourself or do you need to now hire someone to do it?” asks Grey.
The final thing to consider according to Grey is the plug-ins and themes which can alter the look of your site. If you want to update the appearance of the site in a few years, do you need to scrap everything and start again, or is it simply a matter of buying a new theme?
“Ultimately this all comes down to cost and time. With a little forward planning and choosing the right platform you can actually save a lot of money,” says Grey.
3) Make it easy to find: SEO
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to practices that help your website appear and rank on search engines. This is one of the most important issues to consider when building your website as, according to WebFX, organic searches through search engines now drive more than 50 percent of all website traffic. As a comparison, paid search only drives 10 percent of site traffic, while social media takes credit for just five percent of website traffic.
Your ranking on Google is influenced by a number of factors, all of which must be considered when building a website. Perhaps the most surprising of these is the speed at which your website loads – no matter how good they are, websites filled with large images and videos are getting bumped down the rankings. Ensuring your site is enriched with meta descriptions, and that its tags, images and text are all reflective of your business and the industry will ensure it is found more easily by your potential clients.
Making sure these are optimised requires you to do keyword research on which words you should use to better help Google understand what it is you do, and therefore send the right people to your site. Correctly linking your pages and sharing your site map with Google and the other search engines, to put the site on the right searches.
4) Security is important
According to the Washington Post, global losses from cybercrime skyrocketed to nearly $1 trillion in 2020 and these losses are only growing each year. It is therefore vitally important to protect the integrity of your website and therefore your brand name.
This can be done by creating strong passwords that include random characters, capitals and numbers and are at least 15 characters long to avoid brute force attacks. Updating your site regularly will prevent hackers from exploiting weaknesses and bugs in the code, while running regular backups will allow you to quickly restore the site should it be hacked anyway. Anti-malware software will stop web scanning, DDoS attacks and remove any Malware, which does manage to infect the site. Finally installing SSL will encrypt data transferred between you and your users thereby preventing hackers from reading and exploiting it.
5) Keep it easy to use
There is nothing more intimidating for a customer visiting a new site than non-intuitive, cluttered web pages. Keeping things open, clear and easy to read will reduce the pain points for customers, while also helping them to find what they are looking for.
The ideal website has five or fewer tabs at the top to navigate and each page should also offer a clear way to get back to the homepage, as often Google searches may take your reader to a page on your website other than the homepage.
Limit the use of fonts, colours, and GIFs, which can distract and pull the eyes away from the focus of the webpage. Short paragraphs and bullet points also make the information easier to read.
The whole point of your website is to get people to contact your business or to buy something. It’s perhaps surprising then how difficult information can be to find. If your business depends on people being able to contact you or call your sales team, put that information where customers can find it easily. Don’t be afraid to put contact information where it can be found, even at the top of the homepage, so that visitors don’t have to search for a phone number or address if they want to contact your business.
Similarly, if the company uses social media to connect with customers, social media links should be in the website header or footer where they can be easily found.
On sites where ecommerce is an option, the average cart abandonment rate is a staggering 69.57%, meaning most users don’t complete their orders after setting products aside. The most common issues are all linked to complexity and a lack of information – unexpected extra costs, members-only checkout, and a lengthy checkout process. Keeping it simple is clearly the right choice in every circumstance.
6) Market your website
Marketing your website is going to be essential if you want to climb in the search rankings and increase the number of brand new clients it attracts. While social media and paid Google adverts are common ways to market sites it’s usually the more subtle things that climb a site up the rankings and ultimately affect profitability. There are numerous cheap and free tools on the internet that can help with getting the website in front of the people who need to see it as well as helping them once they are on the site. These include, Google My Business, HubSpot, BuzzSumo and MailChimp.
While social media only accounts for 5% of all web site traffic it is an area that is completely in your hands as business owner. Using a good social media management tool and properly engaging with clients and followers is a great way to attract new business and owners should not ignore it. There are numerous cheap or free social media management tools to help put up the correct posts and monitor their success, such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Buffer.
Take professional advice on formulating your business plan with a website at its core, using these simple tips to ensure that it helps drive sales and boost profitability.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.