Have you ever clicked on a business website link, taken just a brief look, and moved on? Why was that? Perhaps you were searching for something unique; it’s boring looking through a sequence of samey websites. Perhaps the business didn’t seem to care enough about its customers; with messaging that made you feel like a punter.
Having potential customers click the back button, or failing to attract them in the first place can be catastrophic.
Here we take a look at 5 of the key differentiators between just-OK and outstanding websites. We will consider how to optimise a website to show up in Google’s search results, how to present a strong customer service ethic, and how to bring customers to your business website through links. Firstly, however, let’s consider that first problem; a person who goes to your website, takes a look and clicks the back button.
Make your business website unique
In the early days of personal websites, there were two options, learn to program or hire a developer. Some websites looked like a developer’s extravaganza, with lurid colours, weird fonts and animations that popped up when you moused over them. Startling? Yes. Did it give a good impression of the business? Absolutely not.
With the advent of powerful DIY website building tools such as Wix, Weebly and Shopify, it’s possible to create a website yourself. Anyone from an entrepreneur upwards can do it. So why do they all look the same? The problem is that the tools include some really good default templates and styles. Shopify says: “You will never need to add code”, which is both a strength and a weakness. It’s too easy to adopt the defaults.
Your business website must stand out from the crowd (for the right reasons) and it must promote your brand and your values. Some suggestions are:
- Include pictures of the product or service you are providing. Use actual pictures rather than stock images, and make sure they are high quality. Pay attention to lighting, depth of field and cropping.
- Be creative with fonts, colours and graphics, but stay with the brand. If you don’t have an eye for this, ask for feedback from people who do. Consider contracting a graphic designer; a well-crafted brand image can drive everything from the website through to packaging.
- If you have the budget, contract a web developer to build your website. Be clear about costs, not only for the initial design and development, but maintenance and upgrades.
- Think about who you want to attract to your website and the type of device they might be using. The website should work well at all sizes but should be optimised for the most likely screen format.
- Research your competitors’ websites, what’s good and bad about them.
All roads lead to your content
How do you encourage prospective customers to look on your website? You may have the most engaging content, but it’s pointless without people to view it. Many businesses use other websites to “drive” customers in their direction using hyperlinks. There are a number of ways to go about this, but each one should include a link to one of your webpages:
- Use your own social media presence. For example, write an article on LinkedIn or add a post on Facebook. Be interesting and positive about your business, using language and content appropriate to the media.
- Write a guest blog on a blogging site that your customers subscribe to, or see as an authority.
- Contract a 3rd party to ghost write for you.
- Post a video or podcast.
Optimise for Search Engines
The other route to encouraging more views is by improving your search engine rankings. Realistically, when you create a website, optimise it for Google  from the start. This will set you on the right course, and satisfy Bing and the remainder of the field. You should:
- Think about what your prospective customers will search for and the search terms (keywords) they might use. Analyse these keywords using an SEO tool, for example, to see how widely they are already used. Tailor your content, taking this into account.
- Include content that is beneficial as well as sales-oriented. Ensure that all content is high quality.
- Never copy/paste content from another website
Show your customer service credentials
Most businesses today will say they are customer-focused, that they listen and respond. Make sure that your website lives up to this promise:
- Make it easy for customers to contact you privately, with a pro-forma email template, contact form or live chat
- Encourage customers to give feedback on your products and services
- Make time to read and comment on reviews. You may need to put in extra effort, to follow up on questions and issues, but a satisfied customer is a valuable asset.
Keep your website up to date
Clearly, you won’t want to add or update the main content frequently, but up-to-date news and blog pages will encourage visitors to return to the website.
Paying attention to these 5 key guidelines should give your business a good start in competing for and winning new customers. A business website is your shop front so it’s worth putting the effort in to make it as good as you possibly can.