Gone are the days when business websites essentially functioned as digital brochures – a place for customers to find out some basic information about a company or product, without much else. Now, of course, users expect websites to offer much more than just your company history or store locations. Your website is your opportunity to tell your brand’s story in a compelling and visually stunning way, and to offer your visitors valuable and helpful content. A great business website is also a lead-generating machine, carefully designed to move consumers through your sales funnel.
Whether you are working with a professional web developer or building a site yourself, we’ve outlined five website essentials that will maximize your site’s effectiveness in connecting with, acquiring and retaining customers.
5 Website Essentials for Businesses
If you are launching (or revamping) a website for your business or product, make sure you have these basic elements in place on your site.
Clean, User-Friendly Design and Navigation
First impressions are a big deal online. If your site is too busy or makes it too difficult for users to find the information they’re looking for, they won’t bother sticking around. Use a clean design with eye-catching visual elements, and make sure your site navigation is simple and well-organized. The best business sites cut out the clutter and focus on clear calls to action – which brings us to #2 …
Call to Action
I cannot overstate the importance of this. So many business websites fail to accomplish their goals, because they simply try to offer the user too many choices and too much information. First you must define the goal of the site. What action do you want users to take when they visit your site? Is it shopping your online store, filling out the Contact Form, subscribing to your e-newsletter or something else? Whatever it is, every page of your site should guide the user toward this goal.
Search Engine Optimization
You can work with an SEO professional or do a little background research and DIY it – but either way, it’s essential that you put some time into optimizing your website for search engines. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your website is if no one can find it. This means doing a bit of keyword research to figure out what search terms people are most likely to use when looking for a product or service you offer, then incorporating those keywords into your site.
If you decide to tackle SEO on your own, there are tons of great resources available on the web to help. We recommend the Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz, or Andy Crestodina’s book Content Chemistry. You can also check out our tutorial about the basics of keyword research, or our video on how SEO works and why it matters.
This is stating the obvious, but if you’re going to have a website, you need to provide a way for customers and prospects to get in touch with you. Standard practice nowadays is to have a contact form, which allows you to capture the user’s email address (and whatever other info you require) and also helps to cut down on spam that can result from posting your email address online. If you prefer for users to contact you by phone, be sure to prominently display your phone number on the homepage and other relevant pages of your site.
Here are some tips from Hubspot on getting the most conversions from your Contact Form.
An E-Newsletter Signup Form
Building an email database of customers and prospects is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to businesses. Email provides a direct line of communication into your subscribers’ inboxes, and unlike other forms of digital marketing like social media, you “own” your database and therefore have greater control. So it’s a very good idea to have a way to capture these email addresses from users who visit your site.
Tip: To increase your opt-ins, offer something of value in exchange for the person sharing their email address, such as a coupon, a free download (like an e-book or whitepaper) or exclusive access to a members-only area of your site.
Oh, and One More Thing …
Together, these five elements will provide a good foundation for your site, making it a powerful tool for generating leads. The work doesn’t end there, however. Smart businesses know that they must constantly monitor their site’s performance and make adjustments in order to continue to grow traffic and improve user experience. Make sure you set up Google Analytics and monitor it regularly to see how visitors are interacting with your site, so you can tweak and improve as you go.
What are some other website essentials you would add to the list? Have you come across any really great websites lately? Please share!