As the importance of maintaining an online presence grows, more and more small businesses are coming around to the idea that a company website is a crucial resource to have. Luckily, a specialized industry has sprung up in the wake of this ongoing revelation, with talented designers like those at CleverLight Express focusing their efforts on providing small business websites that small businesses can actually afford.
The most basic package that CleverLight Express offers provides up to five pages of content. While five pages may not seem like much, the truth is that it’s all many small businesses need. When you break it down to the bare bones, there are five things that we recommend to every small business website. Not all businesses are the same, and not all businesses have the same needs. But for those in need of a starter site, looking for answers and wondering what they should include, these recommendations are for you.
1. A strong domain name.
Hopefully your domain name is some variation of your business’s name (for instance, CleverLight Media’s domain is ‘cleverlight.com’). The goal here is for your domain to be short enough to be memorable and applicable enough that consumers will equate it with your business. This means that your domain name should be no more than one to three words, and devoid of numbers, dashes, and other clunky characters that will necessitate a longer explanation of your domain name.
If at all possible, you should make sure to use a .com domain. While .net, .info, and various other types of domains might save you a few dollars, nothing beats the credibility of having a .com site. You also need to make sure to register your domain with a reputable company. Many companies, such as the well-known GoDaddy, have maintained excellent reputations for service, and even Google is jumping into the domain game with the recently-launched Google Domains.
Not sure what your domain name should be? There are a few conventions you can use. Let’s say, for example, that your company is called Coughlin Furniture Outlet, and you are located in Derry, Massachusetts. Your ideal domain name would be ‘coughlinfurniture.com’ or ‘coughlinfurnitureoutlet.com,’ but if those are taken you can get creative. You might try ‘coughlinfurniturederry.com,’ ‘furnitureoutletderry.com,’ or even ‘coughlinfurnitureMA.com.’ As long as the domain is recognizable, relatively short, and applies directly to your company, finding a suitable one shouldn’t be hard.
2. A homepage that pops.
Every site needs a homepage–in fact, some simpler sites are little more than just a homepage. They is setting yourself apart from the pack. A clean, easy-to-navigate home page that tells visitors who you are and what you do while providing them with an aesthetically pleasing design will do wonders for your bounce rate (the rate at which visitors leave your site immediately after landing there).
The key to a successful homepage is to give visitors basic information about your business while incentivizing them to complete a conversion. Whether you want visitors to call you, visit you, or even make a purchase right there on your site, your homepage should drive them towards that goal. If you have an online store, your homepage might showcase current deals or featured products. If you want them to get in touch with you, you should make sure your phone number is visible on every page. If your goal is to generate walk-in traffic, you should be emphasizing your convenient location along with simple directions and maybe even a map.
3. A clear, concise call to action.
To that end, you will need to create a clear call to action. You may not have heard the term “call to action” before, but you can probably imagine what it means. Simply put, a call to action is you telling your customers what you want from them. It should be simple and direct–think along the lines of “stop by today!” or “call now!” Put the tools your visitors need to complete your call to action at their disposal (“Visit our downtown Portsmouth location today!” or “Call today at XXX-XXX-XXXX for a free consultation!”) and make it as easy as possible for them to complete a conversion.
4. Clear contact info.
Whatever your call to action may be, chances are it involves customers knowing where to find you and how to reach you. No matter what else your site contains, you will definitely want your contact info prominently displayed on every page. For most small businesses, getting in touch with potential customers or clients is of the greatest importance. When customers find your site, you don’t want them to have to search around for contact info–that’s how people get frustrated and leave. At the very least, you should have a phone number displayed (the most popular place tends to be the upper corner or as part of your header).
Really though, you probably want a full contact page as well. This should contain your phone number, address (with a map!), and a simple contact form. When your goal is to drum up new business, you don’t want to make potential customers jump through hoops just to get ahold of you. Instead, make it as easy as possible. Chances are you’ll be rewarded.
5. Fresh content.
The best way to give your customers fresh content is to start a blog. Blogs are helpful for a variety of reasons: they demonstrate your expertise in your field, they help connect with customers, they provide an alternate route for potential visitors to find your site, and they greatly increase your potential to earn backlinks (other reputable sites linking to your site), all of which can help build your reputation not just with consumers, but with search engines as well.
If a blog isn’t for you, there are still ways you can keep your site fresh. Advertise deals on your homepage, link to articles written about your business, add photos and writeups about recent events…there are dozens of ways to give visitors a reason to return to your website and learn more about your business. Keeping your site current is important–not only does a modern and up-to-date website look nice, but it shows potential customers that you care about your image and pay attention to details.
Of course, these are just the bare essentials. The ideal small business website will have unique features and pages that suit your particular business and give customers insight into what makes you tick. Think of your website as an extension of your business. It’s more than just a billboard advertising your company, it’s a whole new way for potential customers to learn about you, interact with you, and make the decision to purchase from you.