4 writing tips for keeping visitors on your small business website

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I’ve been suffering from blog block recently and missed my last two self-imposed deadlines, so writing about … well writing, is possibly a strange topic for this blog post at this precise moment in time. But here goes!

Writing content for your own website can present a challenge. You undoubtably understand your small business the best and know exactly what you are all about and how you deliver your services. But … sometimes in your enthusiasm for your business (don’t get me wrong conveying that enthusiasm is great) the writing can get a little laboured and key points can sometimes be lost amongst a lot of unnecessary content.

In this post I’ll share some key things to consider when drafting your content so that it encourages your small business website visitors to get in touch … and become your customers.

1 It’s all about you

Well, more accurately, it’s all about your customer. It’s easy to get carried away by the aforementioned enthusiasm and write about all the great things that you can do and the services you offer. But your customers don’t want to read about you they want to read about what you can do for them.

Focus your writing on the word ‘you’. Less ‘me, myself and I’ and more ‘you and yours’.

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Small business marketing, digital marketing, content ... what does it all mean?

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Recently I attended a digital marketing masterclass. I was lured in by the ‘masterclass’, which, as an aside, demonstrates very well the importance of a great headline for your online promotional activity.

Whilst the course was interesting, I spent most of the day learning about keyword research and on-page search engine optimisation which wasn’t quite what I had expected. The course was well received by other delegates, but I had been expecting something quite different. After all, as web design is what I do these are things that I am very familiar with and have been implementing on customer’s websites for quite some time.

My core business offering is to help small businesses and start-ups get online, primarily with a new website, so I had been hoping for some insight about the whole digital picture … how it all pulls together to market your small business in this digital age. I often support new customers with a whole host of other related services to help get them started with managing the online marketing of their small business. I’d hoped for tips on conversion tactics on landing pages, social media advice and content writing and the whole online branding process.

So, what is my point? Not, that obviously, I should have been a little more thorough before signing up and that I should have requested a course overview.

My point is, that it got me thinking about all these terms that we see used everywhere and ‘hashtagged’ all over Twitter. Not just digital marketing … think

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3 benefits to my small business of having a presence on Twitter

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I joined Twitter back in 2010 and then promptly did what a lot of people do. Had a quick look, felt completely overwhelmed and then didn’t look at it again for around 5 years. With only 140 characters to make my point and not really having any idea of what that point was I decided it wasn’t for me. What with hashtags and mentions, squeezing in a link and possibly an image it all seemed like hard work and many of the Tweets I was reading could have been written in a foreign language for the amount of sense it made to me.

“When people ask me what the best tip is for their new business, or any business for that matter, the answer often surprises them: Twitter.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Fast forward to now, March 2018, and I would probably agree with the quote above. In 2015, when I started my own small business blog, I realised I was going to have to do something to get visitors to those painstakingly crafted posts and ultimately to my website.

So, I decided to up the activity on Twitter and can now see definite benefits to my business:

In the last 12 months I have won two new projects as a direct result of Twitter.At just under a month in my most recent blog post has already received 2,000 visitors.Last but not least, I’ve forged some online relationships that have helped all aspects of my business beyond converting to new customers.New customers as a direct result of Twitter

Back in 2015 when I realised I was going to have to take some action to get traffic to my blog and website, one of the first things I did was to start following other small local businesses. Many of them were as active as I had been. In other words, they’d created an account and Tweeted a handful of times followed by a sustained period of inactivity.

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Are you suffering from small business content marketing overwhelm?

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If you manage a website for your small business, you are probably aware that to be competitive it is not enough to just launch your website and then forget about it. You need search engine optimisation or SEO. SEO is probably something you have heard about and know you should be doing.

You’ve probably also quite likely heard various things mentioned in connection with SEO; like ‘content marketing’ or 'digital marketing'. You are probably also aware of the benefits of having an active presence on one or more social media channels but how does it all sit together and what exactly is content marketing?

To compound things SEO best practises are ever changing and what may have worked effectively a couple of years ago is not going to work now so you need to keep up to date.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a form of marketing online or digital marketing, that involves the creation of material online with the purpose of raising awareness of your brand or business. The type of online material that you should be creating can include;

videos (via something like YouTube),blog posts (on your website) andTweets, posts and status updates on various other social media platforms.

The content should not necessarily advertise your business and products directly, but should be generating interest and raising awareness while encouraging visitors to your website.

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Guest blogging and the benefits to a small business website

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Last month this blog featured its first guest post and it got me thinking about the benefits of having a guest contributor on your small business blog. There are a lot of articles, blog posts and content out there extolling the benefits of guest blogging for the blogger:

Building relationships with a wider audienceGaining status as an expert in your fieldDriving traffic back to your own blog or website with links

These are all valuable reasons for writing and getting your own content featured elsewhere. But as a time-poor small business owner I thought I’d write about the benefits from the other side.

The benefits of featuring guest content on my own blog 1 Featuring a guest blogger saves time

This was probably the greatest appeal for me.

I have a self-imposed schedule of a minimum of one 2,000 word, or thereabouts, blog post a month. I don’t think this one is going to make it. This coincides with a mailing that I send on the first of each month although at the time of writing that mailing is likely to be a little late this month!

It takes me roughly three hours to research and write each post initially. There is then time put aside to proof read and edit, source a suitable image and publish the post.

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5 benefits of starting a small business blog … it’s not all about SEO

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As a small business website owner, you have possibly felt under pressure to add fresh content to your website. We’ve all been told that Google likes a well maintained and regularly updated website and a blog is a very easy way of doing that without having to constantly think of tweaking the main structure of your website … although it is important that you keep that current and don’t neglect it.

Apart from posting content in the interests of ‘just adding content’ to boost your search results, there are plenty of other reasons for starting a small business blog and some of them could just help give you a new focus when you’re struggling for blog post ideas.

Ultimately, your website and/or your blog is all about promoting your business and finding customers. Careful planning of blog content allows you to provide real value and benefit to new and existing customers. This in turn can build trust and loyalty which will lead to long term business rewards.

Regular posts on your small business blog allow you to:Show a bit of personality behind your brandReinforce your key messages and build awareness of your servicesGenerate engagement with new and existing customersEstablish yourself as a respected voice within your nicheAttract new, and otherwise different, visitors to your website1)  Show a bit of personality behind your brand

People do business with people. If you’re a small business, or perhaps ‘the’ business this is even more true. Depending on your offering, it is likely that your potential customers are investing in you as the provider of services rather than just the services that you offer.

Your website will be outlining all your goods and services and encouraging your visitors to make contact. It will be factual and detail the logistics of how you work and what a client can expect from you. You may have written an excellent ‘About’ page that outlines what qualifies you to deliver those services but it probably doesn’t give a huge amount away about you … the person.

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5 things you should research before building your small business website

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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 sectorThe 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.

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Solved! Small business social media profile picture problems

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If you’re running a small business and managing a couple of social channels you may well have had a few issues with profile pictures. What should you choose and then once you’ve decided how on earth do you get it to fit? Read on to find out:

How to choose your profile picture and,How to get your profile pictures to fit within the allotted space.Choosing a profile picture

The picture you choose depends on your business. Before you start have a think about the image that you want to project. Remember your profile picture is likely to be the first thing that anyone will see when they come across your profile and first impressions are important. The first decision is simple:

Do you use your logo?Should you have a picture of yourself?What about a combination of both?Using your logo

If you’ve invested in branding and have a logo that you are hoping to use to project a unified image across all social channels, your website and on printed material you possibly think this is the best option. But before you do just consider the image you’re projecting and the audience you are hoping to engage. If you’re a small to medium sized business and you will be posting for the company then yes go ahead and use the logo. Do make sure it’s the right size and all of it is visible … more on this later.

Using a head-shot

Using a head-shot may be better if you are a small business, possibly a sole trader. In this instance, you are the business and it is you who people will be engaging with online and ultimately doing business with. Your online audience will be engaging with you personally so choosing a picture that represents you as the face of the business is sometimes a better option.

If you’re going for a head-shot of you it’s worth investing in a session with a professional photographer. Tempting though it is to try and cut costs here, that blurry shot of you at a friend’s party with the wine glass cropped out is not really going to cut it. If you need a little more convincing have a read of this post which discusses profile pictures for your website, but also the importance of having them professionally taken.

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7 ways to boost the professional image of your small business

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Presenting your small business in a professional light and creating a great first impression is crucial if you are to succeed. First impressions are important and we’ve all heard that when you first meet someone, they will form an opinion of you, rightly or wrongly, within about 60 seconds. That’s not long and in this digital age, it’s even harder as your potential customers’ first impression may even be formed online before they’ve even met you face to face. It's important to present your business in a professional light ... however, people first come into contact with you.

So, it's worth investing in a consistent image across all the different types of media that you are using to reach your potential customers.  It's good for brand awareness but it will also present as more professional and convey that you are serious enough about your business to invest time and effort in the finer details.

A haphazard and inconsistent approach will give the impression that that is how you approach your business generally and even worse how you deliver your products and services.

I have been freelance or self-employed and running a small business for over 20 years. The way we market ourselves has changed enormously in that time. In this post, I’m going to share a few things that I’ve learned through experience and from networking and co-working with many other small business owners about how to present ourselves professionally.

I’ve also numbered these points in a logical order for those readers who are just starting out. You need some of them before you can start the next one.

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Why your small business needs a website in 2017

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A 2016 survey revealed that around 50% of all small businesses still don’t have a website, even though it is easier than ever to get your business online.

This is a topic that came up in conversation while I was at a networking meeting a couple of weeks ago. (Yes, sometimes I do get out from behind my PC and go and speak to real people. I even quite enjoyed it although I was lured by cake as it was a birthday celebration for the networking group in question. I digress.)

“Do people actually still need a website with all these things available like Flickr and Instagram?”

This question came from another small business owner, who does, in fact, have a website themselves.

I was aghast for but tried not to let it show. Once I’d got over the initial shock of imagining myself completely redundant I recovered my composure and explained why a website is as important, if not more so, than it ever was to your small business. I thought I’d share some of those reasons here countering the argument that you could just have a strong presence on social media and negate the need for a website.

Social media is very important for the growth of your business but you still need a website

{tweetme }#SocialMedia is very important for the growth of your business but you still need a website{/tweetme}

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How to ace your small business blog posts

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If only there were some magic formula for writing a blog post. An easy template for creating a post that everyone shares and gets a load of traffic.

Sometimes it can seem like an uphill struggle, but the thing to remember is that a thoroughly researched and well-structured post will always add value to your blog even if it’s not getting a huge amount of traffic initially.

Get the basics right and then the traffic will come so remember these key points:

Well written and grammatically correct content will create a great first impression of you and your blog or small business website.Factually accurate content will add to your credibility as an expert in your field.Search engine spiders can detect good well-written content that isn’t just stuffed full of keywords to try and boost your SEO.

It’s safe to assume that your early posts won’t get much traffic as no one will know that your blog exists. However, your posts will always have some value if they’re well written and follow a few basic guidelines. New visitors, impressed by a current post will search back to see what else they can learn from you. Your older posts that didn’t get a lot of exposure initially will have ongoing value and can be shared long past their original publish date, especially if your content is ‘evergreen’. (More on this another time.)

In other words, don’t ever compromise the quality of your content for the sake of just getting something published.

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How to end a blog post

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If you're anything like me getting started with a blog post is difficult, but once you've got going it's sometimes hard to know when and how to stop. What is the best way to end and sum up your blog post?

Writing a great attention-grabbing headline and a compelling introduction will encourage your visitors to read on through the rest of your post. You will have outlined what you’re going to be writing about, defined a clear benefit to reading on and reassured the reader that it’s worth their time to read it.  

But having read your article, what do you want them to do next and how do you want to reinforce your message at the end of your post?

Why is a strong conclusion so important?

A strong conclusion to your post can encourage your readers to take some action, which was probably the aim of your post in the first place. It can also make your post and therefore you more memorable.

Don’t overlook your closing paragraphs. By getting it right you could be encouraging your readers to:

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Do your customers trust your small business website?

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Trust is one of the most important things to establish when forging a new relationship with a potential customer. Are you confident that your website conveys that you are a trustworthy organisation? 

Recently you may have heard that Google could be promoting secure websites above those that are not. If you’re wondering what this means or you're not even sure if you know what indicates a secure website then read on. Getting an SSL certificate to create a secure connection to your website could just be a good move. 

What is an SSL certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. A website with an SSL certificate will display [Secure https:// ] in front of the URL, indicating a secure website to visitors. There are varying levels of SSL validation and the industry’s highest standard will turn the address bar green in high-security browsers.  You are probably familiar with seeing them in use on larger websites like your online banking, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter … and just recently on this small business website.

What does an SSL certificate do?

Data sent between your computer and a website with an SSL certificate is encrypted to protect the privacy and online security of the user. In other words, should any information you submit online via the secure website be intercepted by a malicious user they will be unable to read or make use of it.

To put it simply an SSL certificate keeps online interactions private

An SSL certificate is essential for any website that is taking sensitive information such as credit card details. But you may be thinking that your small business website isn’t processing any financial transactions or sensitive information so why would you need to worry? But ask yourself the following questions:

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What to include in a great introduction for your small business blog post

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So you’ve written an attention-grabbing headline and you’ve caught the reader’s attention. Hooray! They’re reading your blog post. How do you ensure that your visitors read on past the introduction to the rest of your post?

This blog post will demonstrate some of the clear benefits to a well-crafted introduction and will outline what you really should be including. Has it worked so far?

What's the relevance of the beach picture? Well only that this time of the year I find it very inviting (tenuous link to an inviting introduction) ... in fact I like to go to the beach any time of the year.

But back to the blog post introduction

The objective of your introduction is to encourage the reader to continue. It should:

Outline what you are going to be writing about.Offer a clear benefit to reading on.Make the reader feel comfortable that the content being shared is valuable and worth their time investment in reading it.Think of your audience and try to address them personally.

If you’ve done your research you will know who your readers are. You will have clearly identified who you are trying to target you will be able to outline a clear benefit to them for reading on to the end of your post.

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New Small Business Twitter User? Who do you follow?

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So you’ve launched your new business and you’re throwing yourself into social media … after all that’s what everyone has said you need to do. You’ve written your standout Twitter bio. What next?

At this point few people, if anyone, will know that you exist on Twitter. You may even have tried writing a few Tweets to an almost deafening response.  Before you do anything start to ‘follow’ a few other accounts. Some of them will most certainly follow you back immediately.

When you created your Twitter profile, you will probably have had a few accounts suggested to you by Twitter. If any of these pique your interest follow, but moving on from that you need to have a strategy and I find it best to organise those people who I may want to follow into groups.

Customers

By following your customers, you are immediately demonstrating to them that you are interested in them beyond their next order. You can interact with them and re-tweet. They will thank you for it.

You can also keep abreast of any problems that they may share publicly … some of which you may even be able to help them with.

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Are you using social media for customer service?

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We’re now all familiar with the benefits of social media for promoting our small businesses. It can:

generate brand awareness,showcase your expertise and knowledge,generate leads,boost sales andboost your website’s search rankings.

I always encourage all new website owners to embrace at least one social media channel to help to promote their new website if nothing else. If you still need convincing have a read of Social media ... do you need to bother?.  

One of the common arguments I hear for not doing so is that small business owners are worried about negative comments and feedback about their products and services being posted on their public profiles and feeds. These negative comments are going to happen from time to time, possibly on your own profile and if you’re a small business providing local services some of these may well turn up on local Facebook groups.

So how does this tie in with customer service?

We tend to think of social media as a means of promoting our small business by finding new markets and encouraging those potential customers to engage and start to use our products and services.

But your existing customers are also using social media. You may have great relationships with your customers, but with the best of intentions sometimes things can go wrong. The odd one of these less than delighted customers may well air their grievance on social media.

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Small business blog headlines that grab reader attention

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Research says that on average eight out of ten people will read your headline but only two out of ten will go on to read the rest of your article or blog post. So, if you want your content to be read, it’s worth spending some time and effort on that all-important headline. Some copywriters even say that around half the time it takes to write your article should be spent on researching and crafting your headline.

Well if you’ve made it this far then the headline worked and you’ve read the introduction!

Before you start: What are the objectives of your headline?

There are various reasons for having a small business blog, but if readers don’t get past the headline, then your blog content is pointless. Think about how your headline is going to make sure the content you are painstakingly writing gets read and achieves its own objectives of:

Getting found in search results.Attracting visitors to your website.Demonstrating your expertise within your business sector.Giving tips and advice to existing and potential new customers.Providing an easy way to add topical content to your website.Generating material to share on your social media platforms. (I can usually get between 5 and 10 Tweets from each blog post.)

The first two points are probably the most relevant to readers of this blog, so this post will focus on those two objectives. Your headline needs to make sure that your blog post gets found and is then read with a view to impressing your visitor so much that they move on to the rest of your website. That’s quite a tall order.

Getting found in search results

If your headline contains a phrase that readers are likely to use as a search string, then so much better. At least include some of your keywords.

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Free or low-cost website builders for your small business: The pros and the cons

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I’ve missed a week or two of blog posts, but during that time I’ve had a couple of new customers ask about website builders and free services. I’ve also seen quite a few posts in various Facebook groups that I’m active in from small business owners who have used a free or very low-cost website builder and not had the best experience. Typically:

Second year in the fees have become prohibitiveThe website doesn’t get foundAdjusting and changing the website after the initial setup has been trickySo, with the above in mind, I thought I’d do a bit of my own research.

With the exception of dabbling with Weebly about 5 years ago, I haven’t used any of these website builders myself. It was a frustrating experience and I very quickly moved onto using a CMS. So the opinions here are drawn from articles that I’ve read and comments from users that I've spoken to of their experience with various 'free' or attractive looking very low-cost website builder products and not my own first-hand experience.

There are many ways of getting a small business website live including:Using a drag and drop website builder on an inclusive service - check exactly what is included, but you should be able to get something live without too much technical expertise.Arranging hosting and installing a CMS - a little more skills required and probably best getting a web developer to install and design for you with a view to you managing your own content long term. If you want to have a go yourself you could have a look at Wordpress or possibly Joomla. Some hosting companies provide 'one click' install which can ease the process.Coding from scratch - definitely best left in the hands of a professional

My aim with this post is to summarise what I’ve gleaned about the first option above and to collate a series of useful articles with a view to helping you to decide what route to go down when embarking on your first small business website project.

1 | Wix

This is the free option that I hear the most about and this article here was written August 2016 so is reasonably current at the time of writing.Wix Review: 6 Pros & 6 Cons of Using Wix For WebsitesTo summarise the pros:

Easy solution for DIY website owners.Free plan available so long as you don’t want your own domain name. For example, you will need to use yourwebsite.wix.com and paid for plans are OK for short-term projects.Simple back end interface for you to build your website.Page load speed and security is good.

To summarise the cons:

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What is a hamburger menu

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A hamburger menu is the little menu button, made up of three stacked parallel horizontal lines, that you will find at the top of mobile apps and mobile friendly websites ... usually top left.  It is also referred to as a side menu or navigation drawer.

If you're still unsure the screen shot to the right will show how this website looks on a mobile phone with the hamburger menu in the top left hand corner.

It looks neat and sits tidily at the top of the screen and most users are now familiar with it's use and will know to head there when they want to navigate to other pages of the mobile friendly website.

Should you use a hamburger menu on the desktop version of your website

They are now increasingly appearing on desktop websites in place of the menu bar that we're all used to seeing at the top of our websites. They do look neat and it does demonstrate you and your small business website are keeping up with the times, but here are a couple of reasons why you may want to keep your regular menu bar for the desktop and only deploy the hamburger menu on the mobile version.

1 | Click rates for hamburger menus on mobile apps and websites are low

By using it on the desktop version of your website you are running the same risk. Why would you want to take the chance of reducing clicks through to other valuable pages of your website just because it looks current? 

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5 reasons why your small business website really should be mobile friendly

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First of all what is a mobile friendly website?

A mobile friendly, or responsive, website will adjust depending on the device that it is accessed from. A non-mobile friendly website won't and visitors will need to zoom in and drag the screen around to be able to read your content.

A high percentage of small business owners still don't have a website and of those that do many are still not mobile friendly or 'responsive'. If you do have an elderly website for your small or local business, listed below are a few reasons why you may want to consider an upgrade to a mobile friendly version.

Of course, if you're taking the plunge for the first time it's a given that it should be mobile friendly.

Since April 2015 Google has promoted mobile friendly websites over those that aren't when searching on a mobile device. Have a think about the products and services that you offer and who might use them. Are your customers likely to be searching on their mobiles when they're out and about or sitting in front of the TV in the evening looking on a tablet.Visitor experience is essential. If having arrived at your website while looking on a mobile device and it's not mobile friendly most visitors will simply move away immediately and go to the next website that is mobile friendly. Possibly your competitor.An up to date, ie mobile friendly, website will improve your credibility. If a customer finds your non-mobile friendly website it will look out of date and possibly may even bring into question wether you are still trading or not.Your business will be seen as up to date and relevant. Quite simply an out of date website will give the same impression of your business and it's services. You want your customers to see you as in touch with what is current and able to deliver accordingly.Non-mobile friendly websites are becoming obsolete. A new website developed in 2016 will automatically be mobile friendly. With new websites being developed all the time, the non-mobile ones are gradually being squeezed out and becoming redundant.

If you want your website to help your business then it really should be mobile friendly. Not sure if yours is or not? Why not get in touch on 01494 537612.

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