An online presence is crucial to a small business, but getting it wrong can do more damage than good. Here are some tips for creating the perfect website
In its annual survey of small businesses, the government revealed that the number employing nine people or fewer now stands at a massive 4.5m. Between them, they are involved in more than £600bn pounds of commerce.
Inevitably, the tightening jobs market, with its ever-shrinking number of permanent, full-time positions, is playing a role as increasing numbers of fledgling entrepreneurs set up their own businesses and create their own work.
It’s a crowded and highly competitive field, with small companies fighting tooth and nail to attract the attention of would-be customers. At the risk of stating the obvious, a quality website is essential if you want your business to punch above its weight.
Unfortunately, on this point there’s a mixture of good and bad news. On the positive front, bOnline‘s survey of 10,000 British micro-businesses has shown they’re more digitally aware than previously believed, with 81% running a website. Hitherto, estimates tended to hover around the 50% mark.
Despite their enthusiasm to get online, most of these sites – a worrying 80% – simply aren’t fit for purpose in today’s digital age. The vast majority of micro-businesses are using sites that are based on out-of-date technology. They tend to be “static”, limited to five pages and offer no content management. Hence they can’t perform basic but essential marketing tasks, such as posting photos and publishing customer testimonials.
The end result is their site ranks very low on a Google search – and even when they do attract visitors, they rarely convert them to paying customers as they project a poor image online. These businesses are effectively operating off-line and are missing huge opportunities to grow.
Of the businesses we speak to, 90% want to do more in this area – but most don’t know how they can start the process without spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds. With this in mind, here are the four essential points you must bear in mind when setting up your website.
A dynamic and up-to-date website will be more relevant to a visitor and it will also give repeat visitors a reason to return. News, specials and testimonials are a few ways of making a website more exciting and dynamic. And best of all, updating your content regularly makes it more search-engine friendly.
Customer management tools
Some websites come with CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities to help manage your existing customers. Tools – such as a customer contact list, email marketing, custom enquiry forms and SMS alerts – will significantly improve your ability to stay in contact and engage your customers. And if your site has an appointments-booking system, you can enjoy a big boost in productivity while also improving customer experience with email confirmations and text reminders.
First impressions count, and a professionally designed website with professional images makes all the difference. An important factor many people overlook is the colour of a site. Whether it’s a subtle hint to complement your logo – or a full patterned background – the right colour scheme plays a big role in catching a visitor’s eye. Unfortunately, a lot of amateur web designers go overboard when it comes to choosing a colour palette.
It’s also worth remembering that high-quality images make a great first impression and can help make your site look professional. Pictures of your products and services can clearly showcase what you can offer customers. And the use of top-quality images also offers another advantage: your business is more likely to get noticed on image-heavy media sites such as Pinterest.
The importance of visibility
With nearly 130 million websites in the UK alone, the internet is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace. You must make your website visible to your customers and the way to do this is to climb search engine results, the king of which remains Google.
If your website hasn’t been optimised to help it up the rankings, you can’t independently reach out and help potential customers find you; instead you’re relying on them stumbling across you by chance. If this description fits you, despite having a website, you’re effectively working off-line and in the dark.
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