5 things you should research before building your small business website
You've decided to go it alone and startup on your own or maybe you've been running your business for a while without a website. Either way those first steps towards building your online presence are very important. It is worth taking a little bit of time to research a few things that can impact it's performance first.
After all your first website for your small business is not going to get found on its own initially so there is no immediate rush. It can take a long time before you rank on page one of Google so it’s very important that you give your new website at least a fighting chance. Taking a little time to research some all-important factors that will have an impact on that move up through the page rankings will pay dividends in the long run. That page one position is dependent on many things including:
- How many people you are competing with in your sector
- The age of your website … older websites, or domains, that are already established will come before you initially
There is little you can do about these first two points. You can’t eliminate your competition and your website will be new. So, you really must focus on the things that you can do something about that will help your website move as quickly as it can up through the page rankings including:
- Choosing your domain name.
- Researching your keywords.
- Writing excellent quality content.
- Sourcing high quality images.
- Developing a high performing website that loads quickly and has a great user experience … being mobile friendly is a given but make sure that it is also easy to navigate and obvious to your visitors what they need to do to find what they’re looking for.
1) Choosing your domain name
Domain names are relatively inexpensive to buy, so if you have already bought yours and after reading this post discover you may not have gone for the best option, don’t worry just source a new one that will work more effectively for you. Before you commit and have your website resolving on a domain name that isn’t really going to help get your business found, it’s worth doing a little bit of research into what is going to work best for your business.
You may well have chosen a quirky name for your business … ‘pink elephant supplies’ or ‘white rabbit services’ for example. Fun and memorable but they give absolutely no indication of what your business does.
- What supplies?
- What services?
It’s a sad truth that on one will have heard of you or your business initially. No one will know the name of your small business so your goal should be getting found when they search for the goods and services your offer. As we’ve already mentioned getting found for this takes time. If your domain name contains your services or your keywords then you’re already off to a head start. For example, this website includes ‘web design’, my two main keywords within it.
This isn’t always the best option and if you are the business and you’re going to be building yourself as a brand there is sometimes an argument for simply using yourname.com. If you go down this route, bear in mind that you will need to promote yourself and your website and develop your own personal brand ... but that is a whole other blog post.
Other advice includes:
- Keep the domain name as short as possible.
- Avoid the use of underscores or hyphens.
- Avoid high frequency words other than your keywords. For example, using something like the word ‘best’ within your domain will make your job more difficult. There are a lot of websites and businesses selling their services as the ‘best’ and you will be competing with them.
We’re always happy to advise about your domain name but you can find out more information in an earlier post on this blog.
2) Researching your keywords
Arguably, this could come before the previous point. As it is sometimes an idea to include a keyword or two within your domain name.
Keywords are words that define your business and products and services and their use is one of many things that will influence the success of your website’s move up through page rankings. For example, keywords for this site are: web design, small business, website, High Wycombe etc. Keywords are words that the visitors you are hoping to attract will type into a search engine to find your site and they fall into two categories:
- Short tail keywords are individual words that you know your prospective visitors will be using. Depending on your market there is potentially a lot of competition for these words. For example there is a huge amount of competition for ‘web design’.
- Long tail keywords as suggested are slightly longer text strings. For example, ‘web design High Wycombe’ or ‘small business web design’. Do you see what I just did there? I’ve managed to get two of my long tail keywords into this blog post. By adding in more detail, a user is trying to narrow their search and be more specific. They want to find a local web designer or one who specialises in small business websites. There is less competition for the long tail keywords.
How much competition that is out there within your sector should guide you. If there was only one other web designer in the South East I would have a likely chance of ranking quickly on page one of Google for ‘web design’. That is not the case, so whilst I’ve used ‘web design’ I have also used several long tail keywords including various locations and types of web design as well.
How do you use your keywords
Once you’ve researched your keywords of around 5 to 7 for the site you need to deploy them effectively.
- Keywords should appear between 2% and 3% throughout your site.
- Don’t over use your keywords and try and make them appear naturally within your content. Excellent quality and well written content will naturally contain your keywords.
- Try and get your keywords within your headings.
Individual landing pages may have some additional keywords over and above the ones in use site wide that are specific to that one subject. Your general services may be categorised. For example, a family solicitor may keyword individual pages by services of; matrimonial, wills and probate, litigation etc.
Above all else, don’t overdo it. You can be penalised for excessive use of keywords that compromise the quality of the text. Focus on how well your content reads and the keyword frequency will naturally occur.
3) Writing excellent quality content
A very well-known, and I would say a little over used, phrase is ‘content is king’. But current thinking is that the biggest factor in helping your website to rank on Google is the amount and quality of its text content.
Write as though you are addressing your preferred ideal customer. Are you selling to consumers or businesses? Think about your ideal customers rather than trying to appeal to everyone. If you spread the net too wide you run the risk of trying to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. Think about your perfect customer and try to give them an identity. Keep that at the forefront of your mind when you’re writing your content and that will help you develop the correct tone of voice.
When writing your content remember that you have a very brief time frame, about 3 seconds, to grab your visitor’s attention. Whilst plenty of high quality text is important, a great wall of text on screen is off putting and can cause visitors to bounce straight off your website to the next one which is more appealing. Be concise and keep the following in mind:
- Use short paragraphs.
- Use short sentences. Forget about the complex sentences and use of connectives that you were taught at school.
- Break up text with headings and sub-headings.
- Use bullet points.
- Don’t use any unnecessary words. If it makes sense without it – cut it out. You don’t need to show off your great vocabulary with fancy adjectives unless it really is adding to your message.
- Avoid the passive tense.
- Avoid needless repetition.
- Address your visitors directly. Less ‘me, myself and I’ and more ‘you and yours’.
- Keep it short and sweet.
4) Sourcing high quality images
Images often present a challenge. There are many stock image sites out there with an endless stream of photographs that can be purchased for relatively low cost. Unfortunately, everyone is using them and you run the risk of building a website that looks just like everyone else’s.
Unique high-quality images really do make all the difference to the look and feel of your website. If possible invest in a photographer to take photographs of you and your team, your premises and products. It will make all the difference.
If you’re going to use stock images, if possible, avoid the images of perfect looking people in pseudo business scenarios. It’s sometimes worth picking a theme that matches your goods and services. For example, a homeopath may use images of flowers, a counsellor may use images of restful scenery. I recently saw an HR company whose focus was on team building and team work and they had used a lot of images of team sports which worked well.
If you’re in a creative business try and show images of your work in progress. Before and after pictures work well.
Headshots and profile pictures
At the very least I would recommend getting your head shots done by a professional for use on your About page and any social media channels that you may be using. If you are a small business, in fact if you are the business, it’s worth presenting yourself in your best professional light. It’s not ideal to pick a slightly blurred photo from a party a few years ago which you think is flattering.
Images are harder to source for some businesses than others. For this site, it was tricky but as a local business I chose a standout image of a very distinctive local landmark for my home page with a couple of stock images of typical small businesses on various other pages.
Better a couple of high quality images than flooding the site with umpteen stock images that have no real relevance to your business.
Less is more. Remember there are lots of ways of breaking up your text and making the page more appealing other than using a lot of images.
5) Developing a high performing website with a good user experience
User experience is defined by how easy your site is to use for the visitor. Your visitors have come to your website to find information. They know what they are looking for. Make it as easy as possible for them. If they can find the answers to their questions quickly and easily they will have a positive impression of you and your business.
When planning think more about what your visitors need and less about what you want to say or what image you want to convey. Website visitors have a very short attention span and a low tolerance level for websites that don’t perform well in their opinion. Make sure that you have the following covered:
In 2017 your website must be mobile friendly
As of April 2016, Google started to rank websites that were mobile friendly above those that were not for anyone searching on a mobile device.
Google implications aside, visitors finding your non-mobile friendly site on a mobile device will bounce straight off it in frustration and move on to your competitor whose website is mobile friendly. This ultimately, will be a double blow. Not only have you lost that visitor, it will in turn have a negative impact on any search rankings as Google will also see a website with a high bounce rate (visitors moving away before clicking on to any other pages) as well as not being mobile friendly. Both of which are negative factors and this in turn will cause the site to rank lower as it will be deemed to be of lower importance.
Have simple and obvious website navigation
It must be obvious to your website visitor where they need to go to find the information that they need once they’ve arrived at any page of your website. This means that you need to make the most of each potential landing page.
All your valuable information should be available from a main menu at the top of your website with as few clicks as possible being required by your visitors.
Have easily accessible contact information
Make sure that your phone numbers and contact email addresses are visible immediately on all pages. Contact pages are often underutilised. If your visitors sometimes arrive at your website via the contact page make sure that is telling them everything they need to know about your business. It’s an often overlooked and missed opportunity.
Page load speeds
Aim to have this as fast as possible. Also try to cut down the number of page loads required. I’m often asked for pages to fit all on one screen. Screen sizes are variable and users are now well used to scrolling and many in fact prefer to do this, especially on a mobile device.
There are disadvantages to single page scrolling only sites, but that is another post. But don’t create endless individual pages just for the sake of having more pages.
We’ve already touched on images, but do make sure they are all sized correctly. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for an enormous image to load which is also preventing you from reading the text on the page while you wait. Remember this can cause your visitor to bounce off to another website.
Using social media
This last point isn’t critical before you start building your website but it is a very important consideration when planning your digital presence.
Your new website is not going to rank on page one of Google immediately. You are going to need to give it some help. This is especially true if you are presenting yourself as the brand and going down the yourname.com route. Once you’ve implemented all the above, use of social media is one of the best ways of driving traffic to your new website. Social media allows you to drive traffic to your site by sharing links and generate some brand awareness. It allows you to build an audience and following of potential ambassadors for your business. Don’t overlook it.
Make sure that you have links from any social channels you are using back to your website and have social sharing buttons to relevant channels on your website. But do make sure you are active on any channels that you publicise on your website. A newsfeed or timeline that has had no activity for three months can give a negative impression. Better to pick one or two channels and focus on them consistently rather than attempting too many. You don’t need to be everywhere. Think again about who your customers are and what social channels they are using and make one or two of those your priority.
The phone is not going to be ringing off the hook as soon as your website goes live. You will need to invest time and effort into getting visitors to it.
So, armed with all the above it is time to tackle the website. A good web developer will spend time with you discussing all these points and establish exactly what is required prior to starting work. I always like to have a face to face meeting before starting work and I’m always happy to advise by telephone or even Skype if meeting up isn’t possible.
If you’ve got any questions before starting the development of your small business website why not get in touch on 01494 537612.