A business’s website is its shop window and it quickly needs to convince visitors to stay. Half of a website’s visitors leave within the first 8 seconds of landing on a site.
A website should be a priority for all business professions. Even if a business receives most of its new work through referrals, potential clients will still be influenced by a business’s online presence and are likely to visit a site before making their final decision.
What do your clients want?
Your website should be built around what your clients actually need to know. It should explain your unique selling point and list the services you provide. It should also clearly show how to contact you. Having examples of previous work and other clients can be useful too.
One of the best ways to demonstrate what your business and brand is about, is to have a blog on the website. A blog page (also known as a news page) can show that you have expertise in your profession and is great for building trust with potential clients. Once you have added blog posts, it’s a good idea to share links to them on Social Media. By sharing links, rather than re-posting, you are encouraging people to visit your website, rather than remaining on Social Media.
Clients also need to be able to find things quickly on your site and easily find their way around. This can be achieved by using clear headings and menus which are labeled thinking of the perspective client, and avoiding confusing jargon or acronyms.
The key is to think about what clients who visit your website are trying to do you and making it as easy as possible for them to do it.
Mistakes to avoid
Regardless of the size of the website, or the type of business, there are some common issues which apply to websites which are important to avoid. It’s worth reviewing your own website to see if any of these are true for yours.
Design over content. This is an issue for quite a few websites. They can look pretty but aren’t easy to use or navigate. This issue can also have a negative impact on how quickly a website loads. If sites include a large number of images, or a video which shows in the background, this can prevent people getting to the information they need. People tend to visit a site to do one thing and then leave; complicated designs can prevent visitors from doing that.
Not saying what the business actually does. You can have the prettiest website in the world, but if it doesn’t clearly say what your business actually does then it has little value.
No reason to stay. It’s important to have an attention grabber, or a call to action, visible without having to scroll. People have a short attention span and will quickly move onto a competitor’s site if they are not engaged.
Not mobile friendly. Almost half of all website traffic comes from mobile phones or other small screen devices. It’s vital that all websites are design to be responsive, i.e. work properly on all devices and on different screen sizes.
Slow to load. A website which loads slowly is frustrating for visitors and also impacts on the site’s search engine rankings. Site speed is one of the factors search engine’s use to determine how high a page ranks.
The same as everyone else. Through the use of stock images and website templates, websites can end up looking dull and not stand out from the competition. Ideally the site should be designed to complement your brand; using colours, fonts and unique images to reflect your business in a positive way. If you can work out a niche subject and add regular content on that subject this will help with SEO.
Getting found online (SEO)
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is about making sure your website comes up as high as possible in a search engine’s organic (i.e. unpaid) results.
Until fairly recently it was possible to “cheat” the system and a whole industry was created to artifically rank people’s sites highly. However now you cannot trick search engines as they all follow Google’s ethos of “focus on the user and everything else will follow”, i.e. build the site based around the user rather than what you think search engine’s want.
Sites which “cheat” by having duplicate content and “spammy” backlinks (i.e. paying for lots of links to your site) are now penalised by Google. Sites with new, original content, with a good design and helpful links are rewarded.
Base your site around a phrase. A good idea is to chose a phrase people will search for (e.g. “locksmith Raunds”) and base your site around it.
Having a secure website
Make sure your site is HTTPS. Google has started negatively ranking websites which are not. Also having a secure site helps reassure visitors that your business is security conscious. An HTTPS website means that all data transferred to it (including clients details) is encrypted which helps protect against hackers.
Keep your software updated. Most website software (e.g. WordPress) constantly release patches and new plug-ins (these are add-ons to the main software), part of which are in response to known security threats. If a latest version isn’t in use on a site then that site is more susceptible to attacks. It’s also important to remove any old or unused plugins as they are prone to attacks from hackers.
Website top tips
Don’t just build your website and leave it sitting there. It will need updating regularly; both the software itself and the actual content.
Ensure it is linked to social media platforms to help drive traffic to the website and to have a coordinated marketing approach.
Get the basics right – your business phone number, address and email, and what you do, should be simple to find.
Check how long it takes to load a page of your site on different devices.
Look at what your competitors are doing on their websites and take inspiration from them.
Remember, first impressions count and quite often the first time a potential client will hear about your business is from your website.