I often see small business websites lagging behind when it comes to their websites. For some, it's an issue of money, and for others it's an issue of time. And some just don't have any interest in their online presence at all.
Another really common problem I see is small business owners focusing on the look of their site above all else, thinking that a better looking or more trendy website will solve all of their problems. In practice, many of these businesses would benefit from having their existing site optimized and improved upon, rather than redesigning from scratch every couple of years.
Well, this post is going to cover some of the absolute essentials for any small business website. Hopefully this will give you an idea of where your site might need some improvement.
1. Responsive Mobile Friendly Design
It's no longer an option. At this point, your website needs to be mobile friendly. Not only for any mobile users your site may be getting - and make no mistake, a good portion of your websites traffic will almost certainly be coming from mobile users - but also for Google.
As of April of 2015, Google's new mobile friendly algorithm update means that sites that perform better on mobile will rank higher in mobile search results.
What all of this means is that if your site isn't mobile friendly, your site will get less traffic from Google, and the mobile users that do use your site will have a bad time, leaving your site to go and visit one of your competitors that offers a better mobile experience. Updating your site to a responsive design is one of the best investments you can make on your site in 2016.
I really can't stress this point enough. There's a reason this point is number one on this list: It's not negotiable - and hasn't been since April of 2015. Mobile traffic has been steadily rising over the years, and will only continue to grow. Combine that with the points above, and you can see how important this is for a small business website trying to compete.
2. No Call To Action
Think about what you want your users to do once they're actually on your website. If you're an eCommerce website, you probably want them to buy something on your online store. If you offer a service, you probably want them to call or email you to enquire about this service. Maybe you want them to sign up to your newsletter.
A Call To Action is how you tell your users how and why they should do this. It could be as simple as a button saying "Shop Online!" but if it's not clear, then your users may not know exactly how to proceed.
Take a look at your own website. Does it clearly tell your users what it is they should do next? Does any of the content on your home page (or other landing pages) effectively tell your users why they should do this?
3. Fast Loading Web Pages
Much like responsive design, ensuring your website is as fast as possible is another great investment for your site.
It's something all small businesses owners should be concerned about, especially for eCommerce sites where a difference of even half a second can be the difference between making or losing a sale.
Most business owners won’t get particularly excited about saving their users a couple of seconds of loading time, but research consistently shows that almost any improvement on a websites loading time can increase conversions dramatically.
Testing exactly how long it takes for your site to load is a fairly simple task. There are loads of free tools on the internet to help you do exactly that, but one of my favourites is gtmetrix. It tells you how long it takes to load your site, and compares it with the average load time so you can see how you're doing. You can also use it to test the load times of your biggest online competitors to see how your load times stack up against theirs.
4. Make Your Contact Details Prominent
This serves multiple purposes. For one, it's a sign of trust. If your users can easily find your phone number and address, then that's a sign that your business is legitimate. For eCommerce sites, or anything that requires a user to input their credit card or PayPal details, this sign of trust can help to set aside some suspicions or concerns they may have about paying. Even today with more and more people buying online, there are many that don't trust online shopping, and this can go a long way to making these users more comfortable.
Secondly, when it comes to small business websites, many of your users will simply be looking for your contact information and may not be interested in anything else on your website. For example, when looking at restaurants or fast food delivery, the vast majority of users want to see two things - the menu, and the phone number. Making it difficult for your customers to contact you is one of the biggest issues a small business website can have.