If you’re a small business, a well-designed, up-to-date and mobile-optimised website can be the single most valuable asset if you’re hoping to build a brand and make a profit (and who isn’t?).
In an earlier post, we identified some of the common pitfalls small businesses often fall into when creating their own website. These are our tips on avoiding those mistakes and the essential jobs you should invest your time in to make sure your website stands out from the crowd…
1. Get a content plan together
Content is one of the most important parts of a website. Without good content, there is no purpose to the website. Reviewing the content available to you is the best place to start with any website build or redesign project. Working out an outline of what content you will require and the information you need to give people about your business or products is essential if you want your customers to have the very best experience of your brand. Putting this information into a content plan at the start of a project can save on time and costly revisions later in the design project.
2. Get to know your audience
If you’re redesigning an old website, you should be using Google Analytics to see what content is and isn’t working for you. Analytics can give you amazing insights about your audience: how many people visit your site, your most popular pages, and what visitors are searching for when they come to your website. Armed with this information, you can build a picture of your customers by creating buyer persona profiles. Being able to visualise exactly who your ideal customers are and what they are looking for will help you to produce a website design and marketing messages that people will respond to.
3. Leave the design and development to the professionals
Seriously. Out-of-the-box website builders are great for blogs or small websites, but there are a LOT of things that web builders can’t do that web designers can. At SHO, we listen to your ideas and help you make informed decisions on how your website should look, based on years of experience and knowledge in designing for the web. Your website should be an extension of your brand, as well as a tool for your marketing and sales; if it doesn’t look professional, it will impact on your business’s success. Visitors can quickly spot whether a site has been put together by professionals or thrown together in a DIY manner, so think about the impression your customer will get of your business.
4. Hire a great copywriter
If you don’t have the skills in-house, it is really worth investing in a professional copywriter to help make sure your web copy is done well. Your story and the words you use to tell it are an extension of your brand. With a good clear brief, copywriters can write in a style and tone that your customers will understand, respond to, and appreciate. “Using a copywriter for website or advertorial content is a fantastic way of ensuring that sharp, snappy, persuasive writing is associated with your brand,” says Lizzie Ferrar, founder of ProofreadingLondon.com. “It can mean more potential customers clicking through to read about your services, which will ultimately result in more business.” Good copywriters will also know how to make sure your copy is optimised for search engines, with your key terms and phrases incorporated in a way that doesn’t sound spammy.
5. Source stunning images that stand out
We understand that not all budgets can stretch to cover the cost of a professional photographer or stock library fees, but there are other ways to make your imagery look professional. Are there any budding photographers working for your business, or family members who can help out? Get in touch with your local colleges or universities – photography students will jump at the chance to earn some cash and build up their portfolios. Stock images are fine too, as long as you do your research. One great premium stock image from contemporary image sites such as Stocksy or Death to the Stock Photo will do much more for your brand than a dozen uninspired and cliched images from the traditional stock agencies.
6. Get mobile-optimised
If your analytics show that your audience views your site across a range of screens and devices, you really should have mobile optimisation in your online and marketing strategy. But don’t fall for the scaremongers who say you’ll lose out if you don’t get mobile-optimised. If the majority of your audience accesses your site via desktop, you are just as well staying there and putting the effort into making your desktop website work better for you. If you do have a growing mobile audience, then go for it. As well as improving your Google search rankings on mobile, it will be more convenient for your customers and could open you up to a larger customer base.
7. Update your website content regularly
Once your website is up and running, stick to your content plan (which you will have put together at the start of your project – see tip no.1) and make sure you post frequent and regular updates to your website. This will ensure your service offerings and news are current and Google will rank you more favourably. If time is an issue, get someone to help you with additional content or editorial support. It’s cheaper than you think.
If you’ve got a clunky old site that’s difficult to update, look to address the technical problems first as modern content management systems make the task of editing and administering the website easy and quick. Whatever happens, don’t give up!