The entrepreneur's dilemma:
Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3. — Randi Zuckerberg (@randizuckerberg) December 9, 2011
Any small business owner or entrepreneur will tell you there’s no magic formula for success outside of hard work. You save where you can and find how you can make the most bang for your buck (and lose a lot of sleep in the process). But one thing that can’t fall to the wayside is your website.
Not convinced? Let’s take a quick pop quiz. The setting: You meet a friend for lunch, and they happen to mention the newest taco place that’s sprung up in town. They aren’t exactly sure of the hours, but they heard their guacamole is incredible.
You Google the name of the restaurant, and:
A) the restaurant’s website shows up as the first search result, loads quickly, and contains clearly presented links to menus and hourly information.
B) your search turns up nothing at all, or a link to a menu that either doesn’t work or takes forever to load, until you finally give up.
In which scenario are you more likely to try the new taco place for dinner?
Small business owners, welcome to the decision-making process of your customers in 2018.
Registering for a unique domain can cost your business as little as five dollars a year. In comparison, having no website at all could cost you a huge percentage of customers who would’ve given you new business if you were searchable online. Creating a positive web experience is a low-risk, high-return scenario. All it takes is a little effort up front and automated, ongoing web tools to maintain quality control. Here are a few ways to make your small business website worth the investment.
Focus on SEO
First things first: It’s not a good investment to spend time and money creating a website that no one ever visits. According to HubSpot, 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, and 60% of all organic clicks go to the organic top three search results.
If your website isn’t coming in first in SEO under your designated keywords, it’s not a whole lot better than coming in last. Because basically, no one is clicking through to the second page of Google results unless they’re very, very determined or very, very bored.
Despite this, more than a third of small businesses don’t have a website at all, and nearly 15% of those that do are not optimized for mobile.
What does this mean for small businesses? If the majority of your website visitors are coming in through mobile phones, then your site needs to be optimized for mobile to get the best search engine rankings. Need more convincing? Google’s data suggests that 76% of mobile users who search for local businesses visit a related shop within the day, and 28% of those visits result in a purchase.
Luckily, SEO can be tackled by small businesses, even if you aren’t an “expert.” There are plenty of free resources available online on the SEO basics, including our recent post, SEO Without the Mumbo Jumbo. Although it may seem like a lot of research up front, establishing your website around SEO best practices and mobile optimization is easier than trying to retrofit your website for a better mobile experience and fight your way up the page rankings later.
Focus on User Experience
Did you know that that 50% of online sales are lost because visitors can’t find content? Don’t make your customer hunt through your website for the information they need. Like with search engine results, they may not make it to the second page. Instead, find out what information is most important to your customer and create a simple navigation structure to guide them there.
A great infographic from 99 Media Lab features 50 things small business websites should include, especially what should be presented “above the fold” and “below the fold.” What is the first thing you want your website visitors to see when they land on your website? Typically, this aligns closely with your customer/buyer personas, or researched information on your ideal customers’ specific needs and behaviors.
Customer needs vary widely by industry, but it never hurts to pay close attention to your website analytics as well. Don’t assume that what you’re providing will always be the same thing your users are looking for.
Focus on Quality vs. Quantity
Just because it seems obvious doesn’t mean that it is. Your customer may be able to find your website on the first page of Google and access a beautiful home page, but if links to contact forms or menus are broken (or worse, your own business name is misspelled in the header), that could quickly bring the buyer’s journey from prospect to customer to a complete halt. Why? Inaccurate content is one of the top three reasons consumers lose trust in a brand online.
Small business owners may feel they don't have enough content to populate their own website, but it's better to have a small, quality-driven website than no website at all. Don’t worry about constantly changing features or feeling as if you have to expand your website to be successful. Focus on presenting visitors with accurate information and your online reputation can only increase.
Focus on Your Social Media to Drive Website Visitors
Social media allows small businesses to interact with customers more than they ever were able to before. With 73% of social media users following businesses whose products or services interest them, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are a great means of driving more traffic to your business online and in real life. You can include links to your website in your profile or “about me” section and promote exclusive offers to your followers online that others may not be able to access outside of your website.
Social media is also a great opportunity to show the “behind the scenes” of your business and make customer interaction more authentic. Not only can they dine in and eat incredible guacamole, but they can watch a video of how the guacamole is made on Instagram or view images of the latest trip to meet local growers who produce the delicious avocados. Then, you can invite them to visit your website for more information.
Want to make sure potential customers can find you online? Unlock your site’s full potential with our free guide, 17 Killers of Your SEO Efforts and How to Fix Them.
This post was originally published April 14, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.