Today’s Website: Free Guide for Small Businesses

What’s the first thing you think about when it comes to your business website?

It may be the design, the words, or the functionality you need (like appointment scheduling). It may be something else entirely. But chances are, as a small business owner, you don’t have a lot of time to think about it — or a lot of experience building a website for your target customers.

The truth is that what consumers expect from a website is a moving target… and what you might want today is something they’re not interested in tomorrow.

Check out our free guide to 5 Must-Have Features of Today’s Small Business Website. It will help you understand what it goes into a “good” website — one that’s designed for the way your local customers browse and buy online — and what it takes to make sure your site works with mobile devices and voice search devices.


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Today’s Website… 5 Must-Have Features

Your website is an essential part of your business’ digital foundation.

Today, with all the DIY options out there, most people can set up a website for their business… or at least try to. But how do you know if your site has what it takes to help your business – whether you build it or you hire a pro? Most important of all… how do you ensure it will help generate sales?

It’s not enough anymore to just have a website. Your website needs to be built to make sure you’re easily found online, it has to build trust among your audience, provide real value and — through a thoughtfully crafted journey — convert your site visitors into paying customers.

Whether you’re looking to build a new website from scratch or hoping to find ways to make your current site more effective, here are five must-have features your site will need to help your small business compete effectively online.


1) Content

On the Web, content is king, and quality content is the reason why websites get repeat visitors, and ultimately, customers. It can help to think of your visitors as hunters. They’re hunting for the information they need, and if you don’t give them what they’re looking for, they’ll go somewhere else.

It helps to put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes — try to answer any questions they could have about your product or service. If you center your content around answering those questions, you put your visitors at ease, build up trust in your brand and put yourself in a better position to win customers.

While you’re coming up with the content for your pages, remember, the simpler the better. You only need a few key pieces to elevate your site above the competition:

  • Product and service information
  • Contact info
  • An obvious call-to-action
  • Customer testimonials

Product and service information — It may be obvious but still needs to be said — by describing and showing the specific products and services you offer, you can pique your visitors’ interest to learn more. And more importantly, offer them the information they most likely came to your website looking for.

Contact info — You might be surprised at how many people are just visiting your website to find small pieces of information, such as your store location or your phone number. Make your contact info prominent and easy to find.

An obvious call-to-action — Think about the perfect scenario and what you’d like a visitor to your website to do — like call you now for a free quote or fill out a form to make an appointment. Once you know what that ideal action is, then just (clearly) ask them to do it — and make it as easy as possible for them to do it. It’s as simple as that!

Customer testimonials — Honest words from others help make your products or services more appealing to customers who are visiting you online. They help your potential customers to build trust in you, and help shoppers to confirm whether the products or services you offer meet their needs.


2) Mobile-Optimized

Making sure your site looks good and functions well on smartphones and tablets is a must. Here are some things to consider when you’re optimizing your site for mobile.

  • Responsive page display — Responsive design is the foundation of a mobile-optimized website. Without it, a smartphone or tablet user who visits your site will see a miniaturized version of your desktop site. This means they’ll have to scroll vertically and, more annoyingly, horizontally to find anything—and that means they’ll just leave and go somewhere else.
  • Proper text formatting — Keep your blocks of text short and break them up with headlines and bulleted lists when it makes sense to include them. It’s hard for our eyes to track close-together lines of text on small screens, so long paragraphs make it more likely that your visitors will lose their place and get frustrated.
  • Think touches and taps — Websites designed for desktop users are easiest to navigate with mouse clicks, not swipes, taps, and touches. There’s no mouse on a smartphone, so you’ll need to give mobile users a way to navigate using touch controls.


3) Voice-Search Ready

Smart speakers and virtual assistants have clearly taken o in the past couple of years and show no sign of slowing down. Whether consumers are at home on on the go… Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant voice search-enabled devices are often right there with them.

Unlike web and mobile searches, voice searches only return one result to each query. That means if you want to ensure new customers can find your business, then you need to know how to optimize your website for voice search — before your competition does.

Here are some steps you should take:

  • Use natural language — We told you earlier that content was king, and we weren’t kidding. If your website content is written in a conversational tone, it’s more likely to pop up in voice search results. Use short sentences and concise writing — voice search results typically look for quick answers.
  • Get control of your information — Although voice assistants seem all-knowing, they rely heavily on information they can find around the web about your business. Make sure your location, hours, and phone number are correct and visible on your website.
  • Claim your online business listings — Voice assistants also use listings from trusted sources to provide the answers people are looking for. Take some time to make sure your listings are claimed, accurate, and complete.


4) Security

You may have noticed that some website URLs start with HTTP, while others begin with HTTPS. The “S” stands for secure encryption, which can only be guaranteed with an SSL certificate.

Even if you haven’t noticed it, it’s likely your website visitors have. For your potential customers, it’s more important than ever to be able to determine whether they are using a website with a secured web connection or not.

Put simply, an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate ensures that any data transmitted between a website visitor and the website they’re visiting is secure. It does this through encryption — and the best thing is, once a website owner has properly configured their SSL, it all happens in the background, providing a seamless process for website visitors.

You might be tempted to see this as a feature that doesn’t apply to your business, but you’d be making a huge mistake. As of July 2018, new versions of Google Chrome have started marking websites without SSL as “Not secure.”

So, visitors to your site who are using an up-to-date version of Chrome will see a warning, which may put them off.


5) Schema

One of the latest evolutions in SEO is called schema markup. This new form of optimization is one of the most potent but least-utilized forms of SEO available today.

Schema is code that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users. Typically, the content on your site gets crawled, indexed and returned in search results. But with schema markup, some of that content gets indexed and returned differently.

When a website has schema in place, users can see in the search results what a website is all about, where they are, what they do, how much their products or services cost, plus plenty of other information too. This will make it easier to show up in search results’ featured snippets. For example, if you sell a product, it can include the star rating in your listing.

Schema markup tells search engines what the content on your website means, not just what it says. It paints a clearer picture of a business website’s central topic and the services the site can offer users.


Existing vs. Effective Websites

Most people can probably set up a basic website for their business — modern DIY tools make it easy. But to succeed in today’s landscape, you need more than just an ok, basic site.

A good website has clear content… is regularly updated… it’s secure, easy to use… and ideally, it converts your visitors into customers. A great website does all of those things and also serves as the anchor to all your other digital marketing.

From your display ads to your reviews to your Google My Business listing — they all work in sync with your website to provide you with the results you need to rise above the competition.