In the digital age, a business’s online presence is just as important as their physical presence — if not more so. Restaurants live and die by their Yelp ratings. Earlier this year, Amazon’s online expansion brought its net worth above that of Wal-Mart.
Before consumers make purchases, they tend to do a lot of online research to see what other people have to say about certain products and companies. If you want to have a voice in those online conversations happening around your industry, you need a website.
Do all businesses need a website?
A good website can be a business card, a brochure, an investor’s package, a storefront, and a killer sales pitch all rolled into one. It can say a lot about your business — either good or bad, depending on how the site is built.
You may think your business doesn’t need a website — maybe most of your regular customers don’t use the Internet, or you feel like there’s not much advertising potential for your small local business. And for customer retention, you may have a point. But when it comes to attracting new clientele, you can’t underestimate the importance of a well-designed website. Here’s how a strong online presence can help even a small business.
- Customers will be able to easily search and find your company.
- Search engines will recognize (and potentially drive traffic to) your site and brand.
- You will have more control over your business’s online reputation.
The upcoming generation of consumers relies heavily on the Internet when choosing where to spend their money. If you want to keep up with customer demand, you need to develop a Web presence.
What should I put on my website?
Just as every business is unique, every website should be tailored to match. There are one-size-fits-all solutions, but they generally aren’t as effective as a custom website.
While you may not need all the functionality of a tech-heavy business’s site, don’t cut corners where it matters. A prominent contact section — including operating hours and location — is a must, as that’s usually what your customer will be looking for first.
Beyond basic logistics, the additional information you include will depend a lot on what kind of business you own. Restaurants should consider posting menus, promoting loyalty programs, or offering online reservations. Retailers, on the other hand, should devote space to a functional online store. All business types can and should offer special deals and coupons on their website to further encourage traffic.
By and large, the same things that make for a good user experience will appeal to search engines, too. That means that if you’re giving your customers what they want, search engines like Google will reward you for it by making your site more visible in online searches. It’s a win-win situation.
What makes a good website?
An effective website is a useful one. Customers don’t want to spend a lot of time searching for information, so the simpler the design, the better. A lot of online business heavyweights subscribe to a “less is more” approach, which eliminates unnecessary bells and whistles.
Regardless of your personal aesthetic tastes, your site should be easy to navigate from start to finish. Choose a short and memorable domain name, use relevant media, and employ direct copy. The fewer times a customer has to click to get what they want, the happier they’ll be.
Finally, never forget the importance of content. If you want to keep customers engaged, take the time to regularly update your site with helpful blog posts and articles. When a consumer is choosing between several companies, they’re more likely to go with the one that regularly and authoritatively engages with industry discussions.
How do I get started?
Starting a website can seem intimidating, but it’s a lot easier than it looks. If you have a good grasp of Web design already, you may be able to develop a basic website on your own. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to find an experienced designer. As with all things, you get what you pay for. A cheap and poorly built website can frustrate and deter potential customers, so it’s worth investing in good design.
The transition from phonebooks to websites doesn’t have to be hard. Most businesses stand to profit from a more pronounced online presence. If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out a few additional resources and make sure your company is equipped with the support necessary to handle the increase you’ll see in traffic.