Increasingly local small businesses are seeing great benefits in establishing a web presence. Reason: that’s where their customers are. Too often, however, business owners have a website built without really analyzing what they are trying to accomplish. For most small businesses their websites are being looked at by two distinct and very different audiences – existing and prospective customers.
No matter whom your audience is your local small business website should follow the following 8 best practices:
Keep information on your small business website fresh. Merely establishing a web presence and then failing to regularly update its content is a complete waste of your time and money. Why would anyone continue to use your website unless there is something new to read? As a local small business you need to keep adding two types of content – one that interests your existing customer and another that that makes interesting reading for the prospective customers doing research.
Your business contact information must be easy to find. The name of business, office address or addresses, telephone number, fax number and email address should appear on each page. Make it very easy for the website user to get in touch.
Include directions to your premises. Providing simple and clear directions makes it easier for the customer to get to your office. You’d be surprised to find how many people search the Internet for just that: directions.
Make sure your website is relatively fast. Many web developers like to use flash and other gimmicks when they build a website for the sensory appeal. However, your current and prospective customers might still be using dial-up or other slow connections. There is nothing like a slow website that will cause any user to give up on your website and look elsewhere.
Make navigation around your website as easy as possible. Your most important web pages should be easy to find. If a prospective customer wants know about you, your products, your service offerings, your hours, what kind of payment you accept and so forth, make it easy. You are going lose prospective customers if your website is not very easy to use.
Keep your local small business website error-free. In the commercial world it is inexcusable to have broken links, missing graphics or typos. Errors on your website reflect poorly on your standards of acceptable quality. Would you want to make use of a business, its services or products, which has an error filled website?
Validate your website with real typical users. Coral as many people as you can to test out your site before it goes live. Invite your staff, your spouse, your kids, your friends and maybe even a few loyal customers to try out your new website. If your website confuses those testing it then it is not ready for prime time.
Write your content for web consumption. Prospective and existing customers tend not to read web content in the same way they read a book. On the web people have a minutely short attention span, so that everything they read tends to be scanned. To facilitate this use numbered or bulleted lists and subheads. Avoid excessive verbiage by cutting out the superfluous and getting to the point quickly.
Think of your local small business website as a work in progress. Like a good masterpiece it will never be perfect or for that matter complete. In order to stand out from the millions of other competing small business websites, regular effort will be required. At the end of the day make sure your website reflects the philosophy and quality of the products and services your local small business offers the marketplace.