Most businesses understand the importance of an effective website. Many put a lot of time and effort into their websites, only to miss some basics. The following tips are things you can do right away to improve the effectiveness of your website.
- Hire a professional website designer. A few years ago, just having a website put you a step ahead of your competitors. Today the competition has gotten tougher. A poorly designed, amateurish website can actually drive customers away from your business. It’s worthwhile paying for a professional design.
- Make sure your website is FAST. Cheap web hosting services are often very slow. Poorly designed web pages can also be a problem. Studies have shown that web users will leave a page and try someplace else after just a few seconds! So make sure your site is well designed, hosted by a high-performance service, and loads fast.
- Include your business name, type of business, and geographical location on your home page as text (not just in an image). Search engines will index this information so that people can find you. Talk to your web designer about the best keywords and search terms to incorporate on your website.
- Include a short description of your business and what it does (2-3 sentences). Put this near the top of your home page, and search engines will typically show it in the search results. Be sure to include the hours you are open!
- Have a page for directions. Include the address of your business, plus directions or a link to one of the online mapping services like Expedia, MapQuest or Yahoo Maps.
Include a complete mailing address with ZIP / Postal Code! (People still use snail-mail to communicate.)
- Include a contact phone number, if possible.
- Include a contact e-mail address. If you don’t want to list an e-mail address (which can be “harvested” by spammers), provide a contact “form” that will generate an e-mail message to you. Your webmaster or hosting provider can advise you on how to set this up.
- Submit your site to search engines and various listing services. Almost all web traffic comes from just a few search engines; it’s important to submit to Google, MSN, and Yahoo. Note that directories such as Yahoo have started to charge for listings, but still offer a free listing for non-profit groups.
- Ask other groups and businesses if they will link to you from their websites. This will, over time, increase your rank in search engines.
- Make sure you keep your site up to date! Studies have shown that about a third of the links on the internet are out of date. A site with broken links and out-of-date information creates a very poor impression.
- Include your website address on everything that your business prints or publishes.
- See if your hosting company provides website traffic statistics. Checking your traffic is one way to tell if your business advertising is working. (Did traffic go up the day you ran a newspaper ad? By how much?)
In a future column I’ll talk about more advanced web techniques – but just following these basic tips will improve most business websites!