Inject some kapow! into your website ­­– 10 tips for small business websites

Let’s make a list of marketing rules small businesses need to follow.
  1. Create an effective online presence        
  2.  There is only one rule.
Okay, there is more to marketing than just online, but I wanted to emphasise the importance of online marketing efforts.
Mastering your online presence is more important now than ever.
When I say online presence, I am talking about your small business website and social media platforms and activities.
One of the goals of your online and social media activities should be to drive traffic back to your website. But there isn’t much point in steering traffic to your website if it isn’t up to scratch. A well designed and well-managed website is essential in this ever-increasing online world.
Fortunately, you don’t need to spend oodles of dollars to get a website that makes an impact.  I have a few pointers to help you inject some kapow! into your small business website, without blowing your marketing budget.
1.    Secure your domain name
If you don’t already have a domain, it is time to choose a name unique to your business. Preferably the domain name should mirror your business name as closely as possible without being longwinded. Type your domain name ideas into Google and see how the name may already be used (you don’t want to be mistaken for another business with a similar domain).
Once you have a domain name in mind, check whether the name is available and then register it. If you are based in Australia you will most likely want to secure for your domain (you need to quote an ABN or ACN for this). It’s also a good idea to secure .com if it is available. Other options include .net, as well as .org for not-for-profits.
2.    Have a plan
Don’t jump straight into designing and building your website. You need a plan and a good understanding of this medium. If you already have a website this is a good opportunity to step back and review your site and see if improvements can be made.
Like any marketing activities, have a clear goal and objectives in mind. What do you want users to do once they get to your site? Do you want them to make a purchase? Do you want to encourage customers to visit your shopfront? Do you want them to sign up to a newsletter? Have your goals clear in your mind before setting out.
Don’t apply traditional advertising methods to online mediums and expect them to work. Traditional marketing efforts rely mostly on interrupting the consumer by using attention-grabbing advertisements and promotions. It has mostly been a one-way communication approach, which is completely at odds with the interactive and immediate nature of the web.
You need to deliver content specific to your target audience at the exact moment they need it and encourage two-way dialogue.
Recognise that people have not gone to your website because they want to be blasted with sophisticated advertisements. Users have a range of motivations to engage with your website. It may purely be for informational needs, or to make an immediate purchase. Most likely their initial encounter will be to find information they need to inform their buying decisions (the buying part may come later – much later depending on the significance of the purchase and the length of the sales cycle for your product or service).
Your job is to provide the easiest and quickest way for the user to get the information they need or to make an immediate purchase at the exact moment they want it. And limit the number of clicks they need to get to what they need!
3.    Understand and write for your target audience
Great websites do not have to be all-singing, all-dancing, creative masterpieces. The most effective websites all have one thing in common. They feature great content.

Great content comes from understanding your target audience inside out and catering to them.

Your website can’t be everything to everyone. Focus on your most profitable customer group – your target audience – and connect with them. Know what kind of information they want? How do they engage with the internet? Are they more likely to be accessing it via a mobile? How much time do they have to browse? If they are an older demographic do they require larger font size? What is your call to action and is it clear?
If persuasive writing isn’t your strength consider hiring a professional to develop your content or edit what you already have. It is a worthwhile investment.
4.    Build your site
Once you have a domain name, you need someone to host your website. Different website hosting companies offer different options and pricing structures. If you think ahead about what kind of functionality you need, you may be able to find a host that can meet all, or most of your needs.
Do you need a checkout facility? Email subscription form? Photo gallery? Ability to update the site yourself? Consider all these things and whether you have the skills you need to go down the DIY route or do you need a professional web designer?
For example, I knew that I wanted to develop my own website, using pre-built templates and an easy-to-use content management system. I didn’t want to have to download or purchase any software. I also wanted a provider that offered technical assistance 24-hours via phone and email.
Another great option if you do want to go down the DIY path ­– even just initially (as you can always improve or change design and hosts later) – is to create a free WordPress blog or website. They have great templates, which are incredibly easy to use. You can set up a site in minutes.
5.    Make it visual  
Incorporate visual elements as much as possible (as long as it isn’t too busy). Some of the most successful websites feature images as the main
design feature on their home pages.
Using graphics, illustrations, photos or videos will boost engagement and search engine optimisation. When you do include visual elements, also include a relevant description, caption or comments featuring key words.
Photos and video should be compressed or resized, to minimise loading time, and be reasonably professional looking. You can compress or resize images with simple programs such as MS Paint.
If you don’t have the budget for your own professional photographs you can purchase royalty free images quite cheaply from photo libraries such as Getty Images or Shutterstock. You can also use free services such as where you can use photos for free as long as you credit them (always read and follow the terms of use).
6.    Keep it simple
While visual elements are a great idea, don’t overdo it or be too fancy with your design. Keep it simple with lots of clean space and minimal text.
Generally speaking, you should avoid moving objects and images, flashy design, music, pop-ups, scrolling screens and animation. These things increase the loading time and can confuse, overwhelm or frustrate the user. Exceptions to this though are creative type industries, which rely on these elements to connect with their target audience. If you do use these types of elements, they need to be done well and are best left to the professionals.
 Other tips to keep it simple:

  • Have a clear call to action on each page but restrict it to one per page
  • Restrict contact forms to five or less fields
  • Use a sans serif font such as Arial 12pt or Verdana 11pt for the body text and don’t use more than three different fonts throughout
  • Don’t underline words unless they are links
  • Use bold text sparingly
  • Limit text so users don’t have to scroll too much or at all
  • Use dark text on light backgrounds and light text on dark backgrounds
  • Aim for no more than 20% of your space dedicated to advertising
  • Ensure Contact information or a link to Contact information is on every page
  • Provide a link to get back to the Home page on every page
  • Limit the number of top tier menus to a maximum of eight (preferably six) – common top tier menus include: About Us; Contact Us; News; Products/Services. These can then drill down into sub-menus.
7.    Optimise your site for mobile devices
Depending on your target audience and what they use your site for, it may be worthwhile having your site optimised for mobile devices.
Smaller screens means information, images and menus should be simplified on mobile sites, and buttons need to be bigger. If most of your hits are coming from mobile devices (this is something you can find out via services such as Google Analytics) it may be worth the investment.
8.    Optimise your site for search engines
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about enhancing your website so that it features high in search engine results.
There are companies that specialise in SEO and understand the ever changing search engine algorithms. Search engines also offer sponsored or paid opportunities to appear prominently in search results. However there are quite a few things you can do (which are virtually free) that will help drive search engine results and traffic to your site.
First of all, the more online engagement you get, the higher your results will be. This means being active in social media and blogs. Use social media to link back to your website and vice versa by including social media buttons on your website.
You should submit or suggest your site to Google, Yahoo and Bing so they can verify your URL and include it in their directories.
Ensure you use correct spelling and grammar and messaging is consistent across all of your online platforms.
Visuals, images, video and podcasts also tend to rate higher on search engine results.
Ensure your content features relevant keywords, which users are most likely to use when they are searching for your type of products or services.
Keep in mind, what you think is a keyword and what words people are actually searching for can be completely different. There are several ways you can verify what the most popular key words are.
Free information on hot keywords and trends can be found at Google Trends and Insights, Wordtracker and Ubersuggest. You can also type a search term straight into Google and see what predictive search options come up, choose a suggested search term and then directly below you can see how many search results there are.
You can also set up a Google Adwords account (for free), which helps you build keyword lists and use Google’s Contextual Targeting Tool. It will help you organise and structure keyword lists by building an Adword campaign. You won’t be billed unless you decide to proceed with the campaign and input your billing information.
Instead of single keywords, use longtailed keywords, but beware of over-stuffing your content with them. Only use keywords in appropriate context, otherwise you will be penalised by the search engine algorithms. Keywords do change over time, so review your keywords regularly.
9.    Keep your website up-to-date
Up-to-date web content not only looks professional and better connects with users, but will also help with SEO.
Make sure your content is always up-to-date, regularly renewed and accurate. Regularly check links and remove any that no longer work.
10. Evaluate
Evaluate the success of your website on an ongoing basis. Compare your results against your initial goals and objectives.
Website hosts can provide valuable information about your hits and the profile of how and when people are using your site. Monitor what pages people are viewing most and how long they are viewing them for. How long are they staying on your site? What are they downloading from your site?
You can also use Google Analytics, which gives an overview of the people engaging with your site.
So what are you waiting for? Get your kapow! on and let your website make a real impact.
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Kylie Fennell
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