The bad news?
If you don’t have a website, it is very difficult for your customers to find you online. And these days, searching for more information on a business through Google or other search engines is a fundamental element of the marketplace.
In fact, if you are already putting effort into other marketing methods, or even finding business success strictly through word-of-mouth, having a website amplifies your message while providing additional benefits.
1. Gain Time: Even a simple small business website can free up time spent on the phone answering common customer questions such as hours open, business location, directions, and products and services offered.
The good news?
It is easier than ever to establish and maintain a website that will give your small business legitimacy and credibility when potential customers are determining whether or not to spend their money with you. And when you make your own website, you make the rules! Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms reserve the right to change their policies, potentially limiting your marketing effectiveness. Owning your own website means that your efforts won’t be suddenly redirected and undone; you are establishing solid equity in your brand’s digital footprint.
Websites are also a great way to tell your story; and because so many small businesses in Vermont offer a unique narrative and personal vision, it’s invaluable to share this type of genuine information with potential buyers.
2. Tell Your Story: Supporting authentic local people and the Vermont economy is important to many of us, so educating your audience on who you are and where you operate is a major marketing opportunity to not let go to waste.
How will I know what to include? Almost all of us use the web when we need products and services, so it’s a great idea to reflect on your own search and website experiences when designing your site. Getting in the mindset of a potential buyer should greatly direct what should be featured on your small business website.
3. Think Like A Customer: Keep your own online queries in mind (and those already frequently-asked-questions of your own customers!) in order to narrow your focus for potential useful website content.
Some absolute essentials:
- Contact Information
Depending on the purpose for your website (according to this article found in www.forbes.com), you may want to include more active elements, such as:
- Customer Testimonials
- E-Commerce (Online Sales)
- Social Media Feeds (i.e. Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook Stream)
As part of your overall social media strategy (as referenced in this post found on LinkedIn.com) your website can be more than just a way to be found and contacted by potential customers. It can also provide a forum for any fresh content you want to share about you and your business (photos, tips, special offers). For more great social media content ideas, check out )
- Fresh content keeps customers coming back, and it’s a great way to showcase your latest inventory or business news.
Let these free, fantastic content resources help you flesh out your small business website, and make it an attractive and effective marketing resource:
Writing a blog is a fun and easy way to authentically connect with current and potential customers, and it’s a great boost for SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is part of the secret sauce that helps your business come out on top of keyword searches, so it’s important to make sure your website is coded correctly.
5. Know your SEO: Use accurate keywords, put in plenty of links, name your page titles and URLs correctly, and include plenty of engaging images and videos to make sure you are found online!
Blogging is also a terrific avenue to establish yourself as an expert in your field or industry. By sharing your hard-earned knowledge and experience, you gain the confidence and trust of potential customers. Be sure to read our post on how to establish Authorship to reap the SEO rewards, and get the most return on your time investment.
6. Blogging is Good Marketing: Blogging will keep your small business website fresh, and engage potential customers, while establishing you as an expert.
Even if you aren’t ready to commit the time up front, just make sure you choose a website platform that offers you the opportunity to add a blog down the road. You may even decide to delegate or outsource your blog, but having the capability to add one easily to your site later is crucial.
7. Convert Visitors to Customers: No matter what the style, design, or other content you choose for your small business website, be sure to include one thing: an obvious call to action.
Adding a “Contact Us” or “Buy Now” button or graphic will simplify the website user’s experience, and helpfully direct them to whatever action you want your customers to take. Don’t hide the purpose of your site, put it front and center to let it help your business grow!
Choosing a platform. Fortunately, there are several great options for free, or low-cost small business website platforms. Unfortunately, it can be a little daunting to choose which one is best for your business!
8. Pause and Reflect: Take the time to run through your options with your business goals (and potential long-term growth!) in mind. This will save you the headache down the road of switching platforms unnecessarily.
The Moz Blog offers a handy flowchart to help you narrow down your choices, from an SEO perspective, and Website Builder’s Comparison Chart details a thorough run-down on items such as pricing, design flexibility, and ease of use.
Here are some of our favorite platforms, and their advantages:
- Weebly Offering a range of free and low-priced options, Weebly uses “drag and drop”technology to help you build your site quickly and with a minimum of technical know-how. You build your site out of pre-made elements (i.e. paragraphs, pictures, titles, videos, contact forms, maps) so no coding or HTML language is necessary. Weebly sites also meet certain technical specifications, so they rank high in search engine results; essential for being found on the web.
- Squarespace Squarespace is a good bet if you are setting up e-commerce (online sales). Their designer templates offer rich, attractive imagery, with the “drag and drop” ease of the Weebly platform. It is a highly-customizable, image-focused option. Website Builder Expert recommends them as the platform for “designers, portfolios, photographers, restaurants, musicians, weddings,” and “just about any user who want to create a website that’s imagery / gallery focused.” Squarespace also allows you to optimize all the basic SEO functions,so it’s right on par with our other recommendations.
- WordPress.com Once known as mainly just a site for bloggers, WordPress has evolved into a much larger community. Because they have a lot of different designers and programmers that provide services and build tools (such as plugins) for WordPress users, this community is much larger than Weebly’s. However, because of all of the specialized tools and fancy options WordPress offers, it is more challenging technically than Weebly. (Read more on our post regarding the Weebly vs. WordPress debate here)
9. Ask For Help: Social media is social! Get the word on what platforms businesses you like are using, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help and suggestions!
Do you have a small business website, and have any insight or tips to share? What platform did you choose, and are you satisfied with its performance? What do you wish you’d known before you started, or are you having issues now? Share your advice, or ask your questions in the comments below. Don’t hesitate to call us if you have any web or social media marketing issues you’ve been working on. We’d love to help!