It doesn't matter what products you sell or what services you provide – an effective website is crucial for every business.
"Every business needs a digital presence, because buying behavior has changed," said Renee Bauer, lead content strategist at HELLO Marketing Agency. "People complete most of their research online before they reach out to a salesperson – if they do at all. If you're not there, or your website makes you look dated, people will go straight to your competitors."
Small businesses can't afford to lose customers who look online first. It's important to have an informative, interactive website. Check out these five steps to make a successful website.
1. Be clear and concise.
When people are visiting your website, they're looking for information and will be frustrated if they can't easily find it.
"An effective website should enable the visitor to find out who your company is and what you offer quickly," said Clare Watson, operations director at Zolv. "It should be a hub for everything related to your business; if there's something a customer wants to know about you, they should be able to find it on your website."
Along with providing information about your business, your website needs to highlight why visitors should trust you and make it easy for customers to buy your product, said Nic Meliones, CEO and founder of High Growth Ventures.
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2. Engage your audience immediately.
An engaging website is an effective website. Businesses grow through relationships, and your website serves as a first impression to new customers, said Garry Brownrigg, CEO and founder of QuickSilk.
To create an engaging website, Bauer suggests understanding your audience, and creating a website that targets them. "You're trying to attract new visitors and get leads or make sales. In that case, your first order of business is to invest in customer research to gain a deep understanding of what your audience wants."
It's important to also include a call to action on your website, because it guides customers and creates engagement. "It always helps to encourage visitors to take the desired action, such as request a quote or a demo, download content, or contact you," Bauer said.
3. Provide easy access to contact information.
"The goal of your site is to make it easier and less expensive to run your business," said Meliones. "Having your contact information or another means of contacting you on your site makes it possible to connect with prospects that have 'shown intent.'"
Bauer agrees that easy access to contact information is an essential component of a business website. Customers may have questions, and if they can't engage with you, they'll likely move to the competition.
4. Take advantage of SEO.
Business owners need to use search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to boost their website. Without proper the strategies, your website won't show up in search results. [Related: 10 SEO Tools for Small Business]
"The higher you rank in search results, the more traffic your website receives, the more business opportunities you have," Brownrigg said.
To increase your ranking, Meliones recommends adding a blog. "Blogs give a boost to SEO, and they provide relevant content that keeps people coming back to your site, both of which increase your likelihood of completing a sale."
5. Optimize your website for mobile.
As the world becomes more digital, so should your business and website. It's more important than ever to provide a seamless web experience, including on mobile.
Meliones believes having a mobile-optimized website is essential. "More and more people are finding your website from their smartphones," he added.
Bauer agrees. "Make it mobile ready. If you want to improve visitor experience and get ranked for searches on mobile devices – more than half of all searches – having a mobile-ready website is a must."
A bad, slow, low-ranking website will cost you. Even though it's expensive at first, consider hiring a designer. A professional designer is usually worth the cost in the long run.