To their credit, most small and local business owners know that they need to have an online presence. In fact, while many small businesses may not have social media plans, most do at least have websites. And, while that’s a start, it’s simply not enough anymore.
Today’s consumers are increasingly using the internet to vet products, companies and services. They’re using their phones, tablets, laptops, social media contacts, and more to figure out whom they trust and whom they want to do business with. That’s why it’s vital for small and medium business online marketing budgets to include not just web design and hosting costs, but real online marketing initiatives too.
We all know that first impressions are everything, so a static website that’s outdated, irrelevant or hard to use can be just as damaging as having no website at all. After all, any competitor is just a click away. Or, a local business may have a well-designed site that’s easy to use but isn’t properly optimized for the web so it can’t be found. When it comes to Milwaukee business websites, usability issues can severely impact how effective a website is at attracting prospects and turning them into paying customers.
If you have a local business website, here are 9 things to check for:
1. Is Your Contact Information Consistent and Visible?
If a consumer is already looking at your website, chances are they’re in the market for the service or product you sell. But, if they can’t quickly figure out how to contact you, chances are they’ll probably just wander off and find someone who provides the same services but is easier to contact. This is why it is extremely important that the contact information on your business website be visible (on every page!), consistent and accurate.
In terms of visibility for readers, it is important that your contact information be easy to find, so instead of burying it in a Contact Us page, display it on each page. No matter how visible you think your Contact Us may be, your readers may miss it, get frustrated, and wander off.
Also, when including your contact information, consider your preferred method of contact. Do you want prospects to call you, email you, fill out a free consultation form, visit your store, or something else? This will impact what information you display. For instance, if in-store visits are essential, you will want to display your full address, and possibly include a map.
It is also important that whatever contact information you include on your business website matches the information that appears in local business listings and review sites (like Google Places, Yelp, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, and the like). Not only does this ensure that your customers get the correct contact information they need to find your business, it also raises the credibility of your local business’ listings in search rankings.
2. Have You Considered Using Live Chat & Contact Forms?
If you and your workers are sitting waiting for calls to come in, you may want to consider starting the conversation online, while prospects are browsing your website. Live chat services allow you to see when users are visiting your website and initiate online conversations right then and there. Not only can this make it easier for consumers to get answers to questions that they may not bother to call and ask, it can be a crucial first step in building a relationship between the consumer and the business.
Like live chat, contact forms can be another no-pressure way for consumers to initiate a conversation with an SMB without having to call or schedule an appointment. It’s a conversation starter that can help potential customers get the information they need while the small business that they’re considering gets the on-going contact information they want.
3. Is Your Website Easy to Use?
If your website is ugly, hard to use, or looks like it was created using hand-written HTML back in the days when AOL came on a disk, you shouldn’t expect customers to stick around long. To engage and retain customer interest (and trust), your website needs to have a professional, credible aesthetic. This means contempory design, straightforward navigation, functional links and graphics, and reasonable loading times.
Also, on the technology side, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of using Flash with your website designer. While Flash definitely has its benefits — it can offer a gorgeous visual experience and is well-suited for interactive design — it has quite a few drawbacks as well. For instance, content created in Flash cannot be scanned for keywords, which limits a website’s search ranking potential. Flash also requires (frequent) software updates, increases website load time, can be incompatible with some browsers, and does not work with some smartphones — which could be a huge disadvantage in today’s mobile local search environment.
4. Do You Use Keywords Effectively?
To be found by search engines and people, your Milwaukee web design needs to be created using keywords that customers will use to find your products and services.
If you haven’t already created your business website, what you need to do is compile a list of those keywords that customers are most likely to try and use to find you. You can use tools to find words (like Google AdWords), brainstorm to think of terms, or search for competitors to see what they use. Be sure that your list of business site keywords includes both technical terms and typical descriptors for each product or service — since both might be used to find your offering.
Once you have your list together, use those keywords throughout the text of your site. While you don’t want to use them too often (both because your website will be hard to read and search engines may penalize you), it’s important that you use them enough that search engines recognize what your website sells.
5. Other keywords tips to consider include:
Use keywords in your webpage titles and keep titles to 70 characters or less.
Use keyword-rich anchor text in page URL links. (This is good for search engines because it helps them recognize that a page is relevant to those search terms.)
Give the images on your business website keyword-rich filenames and alt descriptions. (This too is good for search engines.)
Give videos keyword-specific titles, tags and descriptions too.
6. When Was the Last Time You Updated Your Website?
For search engines to recognize that your business website is still active, it must updated regularly. A website that is stagnant and has not been updated in a long time will drop in the ranks and is much more likely to be seen unfavorably by visitors.
This is why having a successful website is an ongoing process. Business owners cannot expect to just put up a page, leave it for years, and expect it to be effective. For a business website to be effective, it must be regularly updated and refreshed to reflect products, services, deals, changes and anything else that may be going on with a business. This is where blogs can be useful — they offer a way to keep a business website fresh that can also build and improve customer relationships.
Blogs that offer tips, industry insight, specials, and “insider information” are all sure to appeal to users of a business website. And by building a loyal following, SMBs also improve their visibility and search engine rankings.
7. Does Your Use Social Media Channels?
If your website doesn’t have social media sharing widgets, you could be missing out on lots of free, organic advertising.
Today’s consumers expect to be able to freely share what they find on their favorite social media sites. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and more are all every-day social tools for millions of Americans, and if you’re not using them, you’re missing out on a vital, relevant way to connect with your customers.
8. Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?
Just like it needs to be enabled for social media, your business website needs to be mobile-friendly. Whether they’re on the go, at work or waiting in a line somewhere, today’s consumers expect to be able to find local businesses online using their mobile devices.
While your business website may not need to feature all of its content when viewed on mobile devices, it should include key points that consumers will undoubtedly want (like contact info, hours of operation, specials, store locations and an overview of key service or product offerings).
When it comes to mobile, it’s important to remember that not all platforms are the same and viewing on different devices can become an issue (as was mentioned earlier with Flash). Be sure to ask us at Brew City Marketing about Milwaukee Responsive Web Design for information on how to make your website mobile friendly.
9. Are You Tracking Results?
If you really want to know what is working (and what is not) on your small business website, it is vital that hire an analytics specialist to track results from your SMB website. Using tools like Google Analytics, an analytics expert can help turn your small business website into the revenue-generating machine it should be.
Analytics tools can help you understand how many people are visiting your SMB site, which pages are most popular, where visitors are coming from, what keywords they’re using to find your website, what pages they leave from, and much more. In short, if you’re not tracking your website, you’re probably getting a small fraction of the value from it that you could be. This is another reason that SMB websites should be seen as ongoing projects and not static ones: there’s always something to learn from the data.
For help evaluating your existing Milwaukee web design, contact Brew City Marketing today 414-208-0700. We’ve created over 500 websites for local businesses just like you. We also specialize in local search engine optimization so that your website can be found on Google when people search for key phrases related to your business and service location.