Here at The Marketing Shop we create websites so we have a list of essentials that relate to both functionality and marketing that’s part of every project we work on. We are, however, also customers of many other websites and while you can expect high profile brands or high traffic sites to have all their boxes checked, it’s often the case that with small business owners there’s a couple of things missing that could really impact on your performance and it’s frustrating to leave a site over something that’s easily rectified if the business knows what they’ve overlooked.

So, in this post which is part one of a series we’re going to look at some of the essentials that you should have in place, we’ll be following this up next month with a post on some further options so that if you’re planning on looking into these areas you’ve got time to implement before you see the follow-up.

Security

The SSL or secure sockets layer, visible to visitors to your website by that little padlock in the address bar or the change in url whereby your web address starts with a HTTPS:// instead of a HTTP://. This is a security essential which protects information submitted through your site and therefore reassures your customers that information they share with you is being processed securely.

The cost of an SSL can vary depending on the hosting company you’re with, anything from free to €30 I’d expect to pay for a small business website but there are many options available so your web company or hosting company can advise if you don’t have one in place.

It’s important to note that websites with an SSL will be prioritised on search, search engines want the best for their customers, and browsers such as chrome will alert people who try to access a site that doesn’t have an SSL in place. Do you really want to take the risk of putting a customer off for something that’s quite simple to resolve and doesn’t cost a lot?

Navigation menu

In many businesses visitors to a website are stronger from mobile devices now and it’s become the norm to have different versions of a menu; a desktop will have details most often listed across the top with some drop-down items from this menu which converts to a “hamburger”-style (those 3 lines) for mobile devices.

However, some websites with a strong focus on a video or graphics at the top of the home page have moved their menu so that it doesn’t impact on the design. Don’t make your visitors hunt down the menu, chances are many won’t!

Where you have a lot of products or services think about the structure of your menu also, if your visitors have a challenge in trying to determine which tab they need to click and then find another sub-menu below that it can irritate them before they even get to the page they’re looking for.

Use multiple menus where you need to, the footer of your site is one area that’s often under-utilised. Always make it easy for your customers to find what they’re looking for as the competition is just seconds away.

Contact information

This may sound quite obvious but I’ve abandoned websites many times because I had a question and couldn’t find any way of getting an answer and I’m most definitely not alone in this.

In a world where we’re all online more often and automation is a huge part of business for so many, it’s really important that contact information remains available. With options including phone, email, contact forms, social media, messenger bots and live chat ensure that you offer a choice to your customers and also that you make the details visible. You may be a little short on space in the primary navigation (across the top) but there’s generally an option to add one or two other menus where less important information can be displayed.

Contact pages are often bumped for space or where people don’t have a physical location but while you may not want to share your home office address even give the location you’re based in so people have an idea of who they’re dealing with – the full contact information will be necessary on documentation such as contracts or invoices.

Search box

Sometimes your clients aren’t quite sure what a product or service is called and on arriving at your site it’s not immediately obvious either. A search box should be very prominent and can be invaluable in ensuring people stay on your site. On this site for example if you wanted to find out what I’ve written about ‘marketing’ you can at the top of the page simply type in marketing and you’ll find links to all of the relevant pages and blog posts so that you can then determine what’s of interest.

I know space can be a challenge in some cases but find a space, your customers will thank you.

FAQ or frequently asked questions

You know your business and you know the questions you’re asked regularly, why not make that informaiton readily available? If your customer is browing at 3am and has a query they’re unlikely to find somebody even on social media to deal with them at that hour. However, if the answer to a common question is easily available you might wake up to another sale in the morning instead because they haven’t had to abandon the site and in the process potentially not purchase from you at all.

Ideally important information on areas such as delivery times or shipping charges are covered by your terms and conditions (if they’re not make a note to review them quickly!). You’ll know if people tend to ask frequently about installation or whether one product works well with another, if there’s an option to pay in installments or whether you can arrange consultations via zoom instead of in-person.

Make a hit list of questions, get feedback from your team with questions they’re regularly asked and put that list up on your website where it’s easily accessible. And update it over time too.

Newsletter sign-up

Email marketing doesn’t have to be complicated but it is effective and generally it’s quite low cost too. Email is with us a lot longer than any of the social networks, it will outlast many also and since covid hit it’s become even more powerful with many businesses getting started or becoming more active in this area.

A simple sign-up box is easily implemented no matter what platform you’re working with and software that enables you to create emails for your clients can even be found for free – Mailchimp is just one that offers 2000 email addresses at no cost to get your started.

If you’re not using it or not making the most of it, feel free to get in touch with us to find out how you might use it in your business because there really is an option for it in every industry.

Fresh content

Every client and indeed every web designer likes to get to the stage where a web project is ready to go live, the culmination of weeks or months of work and now it’s going to start making money for you. However, a conversation I have with every single client I’ve ever worked with is that it should never be ‘finished’.

Fresh content is what makes the internet work and your website should be no different, even if you’re fortunate enough to have a sizeable budget for ads if you don’t provide interesting information on your site to keep your visitors engaged you’re missing an opportunity.

We covered this in a recent blog post and in the weeks ahead have something special coming up on this front if you’re not sure how to get started!

Social media links

Always use every opportunity possible to grow your audience. If you’re on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, Linkedin or any other network people might stumble across you but chances are they’ll find you a whole lot quicker if you’re open about telling people where you are. Make your channels easy to find and ensure the links are correct – something to think about too if you ever change accounts or username.

Few of us need to be on every social media network and regardless of which options we choose we should always evaluate whether they’re still right for our business, if they’re not delivering you need to adjust your plan and remove them from your website. If you’re not sure how to evaluate them a digital audit is a worthwhile exercise that can save you a lot of time, money and frustration.

Credentials / awards

Quite often we don’t sell ourselves as effectively as we could and then look on in amazement as somebody with less experience or any training tells the world how wonderful they are – confidence can be an amazing thing.

In some industries you must have licences or specific qualifications in order to trade, in these instances it’s expected that this information will be clearly visible on your website because failure to do so can result in a penalty – financial services is just one example where this can be costly to ignore.

However, in small businesses people don’t often share their story or the path that led to them creating this business. Where this path involves awards or qualifications don’t be shy about sharing them, you just never know when that’s the deciding factor in whether a client chooses to do business with you over another company.

Analytics

Google analytics is a free tool and there are many other options available also, some come as part of a web platform so if you’re not familiar with them now’s the time to have a look or check in with your web designer.

Every business should start with audience first – if you’re not targetting the right people they won’t be on your website in the first place and that’s for another post. However, if you get them onto your site you want to know what’s of interest to them; what pages do they look at, what blog posts get their attention, do they abandon the store because they can’t see shipping charges early in the journey.

You also want to know how many people are visiting the site, where they came from, how long they spend there and of course how many becoming paying customers.

Analytics is an important tool that many in small business don’t explore fully yet it can be the difference in whether you’re making sales or not. If you’re not using it actively or you’re not sure what you need to do, now’s the time to have a chat with a web company or marketing specialist who can advise on your situation.

There are many more options you can have on a site, some will assist in performance and others are nice to have but not essential and we’ll cover these in the second of this series which is scheduled for April 2021. For now though, if you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have any of the above in place or you’re not quite sure what’s right for you, get the diary out and allocate some time for your business to find out what you need to know.

At The Marketing Shop we work with small business owners on Marketing, Social Media and Web Design, if you’d like to find out how we can help your business you can schedule a complimentary consultation by zoom or phone at this link.

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