Recently I have been shopping for some biking equipment and an air mattress for camping. I used Google to search for my local stores to see if they had the products I was interested in. I was able to find all both companies and their websites, but they didn't list their inventory or even the detailed products that they sell. Although both businesses had good website design, they didn’t answer any of the questions I had. In the end, I bought the products I was looking for from their competitors simply because they had the information I was looking for. Don't let this happen to your business.
Determine what your want your website to achieve
Before you either build a website or redesign your website, determine what your goals will be. For example, a brick and mortar store will have different goals compared to an e-commerce business. Your website will be up 24 hours a day so it needs to be able to either drive traffic as well as revenue to your site and provide any information that your customers may have.
Analyze what your competition is doing well and doing poorly
It is very rare for a company to be a monopoly in the world today. Therefore, it is very important to know what your competition is doing right and not so well.
I never recommend copying your competition, not only does that penalize you with search engines like Google but will not help your customers decide.
Instead, consider what features or content your competition provide and improve upon that or match it. For the features or content of their websites that do not work well or make the website bad, make sure you don't make the same mistake.
What is your competitive advantage?
Your business needs to play its strengths and you need to show where your strengths lie. For example, if your business is known for great customer service, talk about it on your website. If your staff is considered an authority in your industry, back it up with information that only your in-depth knowledge can provide.
Build your site for your customers not yourself
As you create a website or overhaul an existing one, it is easy to get carried away and start building great features that you think will amaze your customers. However, you need to take your customers into account as your build your website. Remember that people aren’t machines that process anything you throw at them. Instead, talk to them and ask for their feedback.
By talking with your customers and finding out what works and what doesn’t, you’ll be able to find out any important features or information that you may have missed.
For example, if you are very familiar to all the acronyms of your industry, you might labels your website’s menu as acronyms to save space. However, your customers might not know any of those acronyms and won't be able to navigate through your site.
Therefore, it’s always good practice to understand who your customers are, what their needs are and how they plan to use the website. You can do this by interviewing trusted customers or if your site is general enough, pay for usability testing to spot anything you may have overlooked.
Important pages in a good website need a "Call to Action"
Pages that you deem important to your business needs to have a call to action. Direct your customers towards the next step or they will simply navigate to a different page. If a certain page’s goal is to get new leads for your email campaigns, make sure you email subscription form is featured prominently on your page. If the desired action is to get new customers to purchase your product online, then the purchase button should not be difficult to find.
Basic Information in all Good Websites
All websites need the basics and they are specific to the goal and purpose of your website. However, here are some common basics:
- Hours of Operation
- Products/Services provided
- Rates or Prices or Costs
- Contact Information including Phone, Fax and Email
- Physical Location/Mailing Address
- About the Company/Yourself
- Frequently Asked Questions (shipping/exchanges/procedures/general about products you sell)
- Calendar Events
- Terms and Conditions/Policies
Phone, Email and Mailing Address
It is important to always make sure that your website has your contact information on each page. Typically, you can achieve this through your website’s footer section.
Why is this important? Well if your customer has an important question, you want to make sure that they can easily get in touch with you. There is nothing more frustrating than having to jump through hoops just to get a simple question answered. It also doesn’t hurt to have your contact information readily available in case a potential customer has any questions for you.
While most customers expect a quick response (via email), if you can’t respond within that time period, you can at least leave a note with an expected response time to any inquiries or support requests sent your way.
Some stores will even show their current flyer, which can help generate new visitors to their physical store. However, in my opinion, ALL brick-and-mortar stores should have their inventory online. If a company can't hook up their real-time inventory to the website, then at least provide the products/services with the details and prices. You can always tell the customer that they can contact you to confirm the inventory status or check it out at the store. Showing pictures of brand name running shoes or current promotions will not help the customer find what product they are looking for. If the customer wants to order the product now and a competitor does have inventory online, they will go elsewhere.
Many people like to buy directly from online stores or prefer to browse online and buy in-store. In check out if a store has the inventory but still see the product before she buys. According to internetretailer.com, during the holiday season in 2013, 65% of US shoppers checked out company products online for research purposes and then went in store later to buy them.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When you create or overhaul your website, make sure you think about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Every time you create a new web page, you should always keep in mind the following rules:
- Plan your keywords - Decide one or two keywords that this web page will be about and that people will search for to find it. These keywords needs to be in several places in the page like the title, heading and links. Make sure these keywords are narrow not wide focus. Trying to make your web page rank #1 for "Pizza" is very unlikely because there is a lot of competition from other websites. However, trying to rank for "best pizza in my home town" is a lot easier because it is focused and less competition over those keywords. There are tools that can help "research" keywords like Google Adwords Keyword Planner or SEMRush.com.
- Content is king - When you create the text for your website, make sure it is engaging as well as relevant to your customers/visitors or you will have a high abandonment rates (people viewing your page and leaving immediately).
- Meta Descriptions - The Meta Description is very important as it will usually show up in search engine search results. Make sure it explains the point of your webpage. If you don't provide this, the search engine chooses a random piece of text from your page.
- Meta Keywords - Do not use meta keywords as it can hurt you by providing your competition knowledge of your keywords you are focusing on.
- Social Media - All search engines check social media to see how many people consider your web page to be useful by "liking" or "1+" or "tweeting" or sharing. Sharing has a stronger value than just likes. Make sure that you use your social media accounts to share your web pages and the more those pages are shared with others, the more it will rank on search engines. The search engine Bing gives a stronger preference to social media than Google.
- Back Links from related websites - All search engines check other good websites related to your website looking for external links. The more links pointing to your webpage, the better. The only exception is bad websites pointing at your website can hurt you. If a website known for scamming or bad SEO practices is pointing to your web page, this can hurt you. There are back link removal services, but you will need to search for one that fits your needs.
For additional ideas on improving your Search Engine Optimization, read our past post "10 simple tips for optimizing your blog on search engines". For detail comparison of what helps rank in Google vs. Bing, view the Searchmetrics Ranking Factors post.
Good Websites have Personalized Domain Names
If you think of any good website, they have a custom domain name that relates to what they sell or has come to mean the business they are. No successful online or brick-and-mortar business uses hosting from their local ISP with the domain name http://www.MyReallyLongISPNameHere.ca/MyAccountNumberHere/.
There are many benefits to buying a professional domain name, such as:
- Permanent - Your business will look stable rather than a "fly-by-night" or fraudulent website. From a SEO stand point, the longer your domain name is registered, the better the SEO from your domain name.
- SEO - Help with ranking your whole site if the domain name is related to the content
- Simple - They can be short and easy to remember like "seo.tips".
- Localization - Google has confirmed that a .ca will rank higher in Canada than a .com, if everything else on the two websites were the same. This is because a .ca domain shows that the company's content is relevant to Canadians. However, the opposite is true as well, .com will rank better in the US than a .ca.
If you would like to learn more about domain name, read about how to find a domain name for your company.
If you need a domain name, search for one today!
There are many things to consider when making your company a good website besides just the design aspect. If you keep these items in mind with creating or overhauling your website, you will succeed.