In the not-so-distant past, if you had a working website for your business with even basic information, you were ahead of the curve. As traditional business directories and discovery methods fell out of favor and it became essential to have a web presence, simply being online no longer differentiated a business.
Today, web users are sophisticated and carry high expectations. If your website doesn’t deliver the experience and information a customer is expecting, your competitors are just a couple of clicks away. To ensure that your website is performing, here are three essentials to keep in mind:
A professional look gains consumer confidence.
Your website will likely be viewed far more than your lobby or salesroom, so a customer’s impression (sometimes their only impression) of you is based on what they see in their browser. All of the elements that go into your business’ brand must be relayed online, from the look and feel to the words used to describe your products and services. A clean, professional design adds a layer of trust and a sloppy design is hard to overlook.
Make sure your layout is well thought-out and navigation is intuitive. Your colors and style should be consistent with your marketing materials, and throughout the website. Mobile devices should render your site in a readable way, either using transitional styles or with a dedicated mobile design.
Your website needs to allow interaction.
E-commerce sites are not the only way to drive sales through your online presence. All businesses can and should be increasing customer engagement and asking for some sort of action on their part to bring them closer to being buyers.
You don’t need a “buy now” button on your site to give customers a way to connect. Something as simple as an e-mail link can at least give your customers a way to get in touch. Even better than a link is a dedicated contact form, which allows you to create fields of essential information you’d like to collect with all inquiries (contact information, department to route to, et al).
Another essential piece of interaction is a prominent connection to social media sites, either through a “widget” that displays feeds directly on your site or a simple icon link. Not only does social media bring your words to customers where they already are, a strong presence in social media helps your site’s search engine ranking (I’ll get to that shortly). Everyone’s on Facebook now, but most businesses will want to supplement that with at least Twitter and LinkedIn (especially for business-to-business sales). Instagram and YouTube can also be helpful in telling your brand’s story through pictures and video.
Obviously, the best website you can create is useless without traffic to it. Organic search is one of the biggest ways to get your site discovered, so you need to be prominent when a potential customer searches a term that relates to your business.
Today’s search engines rank sites using much different measures than they did even 2-3 years ago, so even if you ranked well when your site was built, you probably want to ensure you’re still getting good results.
Achieving a strong position in search is a complex exercise (one that warrants its own blog!), but central to the task are strong and relevant content, good site design and performance, and links from recognized and trusted websites. A good social media presence is part of the equation on that front.