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10 Things Your Small Business Website Needs

Here’s a quick checklist for your website. If you have these items covered, you are in good shape. If not, it’s time for an update!

  1. A secure certificate (https) so that browsers don’t flag your site as not secure.
  2. A design that looks awesome on mobile devices. Most of your visits likely come from mobile devices!
  3. Branding that is consistent with your current look and feel, including a logo in the header. This logo should be clickable to take the user to the home page from any page at the site.
  4. Navigation across the top of the page. Navigation choices should be clear and simple. Generally 5-7 options are best.
  5. A call to action to contact you in the header, or somewhere very prominent. You need to be easy to reach!
  6. Good quality content that explains who you are and what you offer. This content needs to use your brand messaging and the keywords that relate to your brand.
  7. At least one SEO-optimized page of 350 words or more that will help searchers find you!
  8. A blog or other means of adding fresh content to the site regularly.
  9. Navigation and other key information in the footer. Once a user scrolls down, they should not have to scroll back up to navigate the site or determine how to contact you.
  10. Links to all of your other important places online, such as social media sites and key directory listings. Your website should be the hub of your online presence.

If you need help with these or any other website issues, contact me today. I’m here to help!

5 Common Website Mistakes That Are Killing Your Impact

Guest Post by Natalie Rose, NOVA Web Group

Your website is a critical part of your business. It is the place where people connect with you online. It needs to represent you well, yet many sites make mistakes that kill their impact.

Here are five common errors I see at websites. Fix them and you will have a site that supports your business goals.

Mistake #1: Website Doesn’t Work Well on Mobile

The number of people who visit websites from mobile devices has steadily increased for the past several years. Google (and others) have made it clear that sites that do not work well for mobile visitors will not be ranked highly in search results.

Your site must work well on mobile.

Your website needs to be responsive to the platform and browser being used by visitors. Visitors from desktop computers and mobile devices need the same, excellent user experience. All elements need to be seen on the screen, navigation needs to be usable, and content needs to be easy to read.

Mistake #2: Website Isn’t Secure

Every website needs to be secure. Just a few years ago this wasn’t the case, but it is reality now. If your website URL starts with HTTP rather than HTTPS, you need to make it secure ASAP.

Browsers show scary warning messages when users access a non-secure site. Google now ranks HTTPS pages higher than non-secure pages. Bottom line: If your site isn’t HTTPS, you’re going to get left behind.

Mistake #3: Too Sloooow

People do not wait for websites to load. Period.

According to Kissmetrics, 47 percent of visitors expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds, and 40 percent of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds.

Your site needs to be optimized to load quickly. Don’t assume your page loads quickly because it is fast for you. As someone who visits often, the site will be in your cache.

Google offers a page speed tool so you can get a speed rating. It also offers suggestions for making things load faster.

Mistake #4: Website Clutter Makes Nothing Visible

Your business is important. You have a lot of information to share. Beware, because a cluttered website can really confuse visitors. Instead of learning a lot, they may leave in frustration.

Your website needs to be easy to understand. Visitors need to find a place to begin and a simple path to what interests them. If there are too many options on the page, they may never find what they want.

Think of your website like a physical store. You don’t pile everything at the front door and expect people to sift through to find what they need. You prioritize, with the most important items up front and the rest organized into aisles for visitors to discover.

Mistake #5: Website Lacks a Call to Action

Someone visits your site. Great! What do you want them to do? This call to action is crucial to meeting your business goals.

If you want to be able to contact visitors, you need to get them to leave their information in a form or sign up. If you want to make a sale, your site needs to drive them to the purchase process. Your site needs to make it clear and easy for visitors to take the action you want.

 

Set Yourself Up for Website Success

I often use the analogy of building a house when describing the important aspects of creating a website. I often start at the foundation, but want to back up today and discuss:

  • The web host (location of your web “house”)
  • The content management system (building approach of your web “house”)

These two decisions, made at the very start of every web project are critical to success. I have recently helped clients move relatively new sites to a new host and new CMS because these decisions were not made properly for their needs.

Select a Web Host

Every website needs a home. This is called the web host. The technology and security requirements for any computer that will host public websites are complex. Therefore, it is a best practice to select a reputable host for your website.

There are many comparisons among hosts that you can review. Among the things you want to consider:

  • Cost
  • Types of sites hosted – some hosts optimize their environment for a particular content management system
  • Software maintenance – “managed” hosts take care of keeping your software updated, eliminating one worry

Small hosts with great reputations generally get gobbled by larger hosts. This is not necessarily bad, but it does mean that it is important to periodically revisit your host selection. The best choice today may not serve you best in the future. Be prepared to have to move your site over the course of the years.

Pick Your Content Management System (CMS)

Don’t let your web support team pick your CMS without your involvement. There are several good options, and the “right” CMS is about more than the technology. You will work with the CMS any time you want to update your site, so choose wisely!

A CMS facilitates the process of creating and managing content, without requiring you to know a programming language. But modern platforms enable you to do much more than that. The right CMS can help your business increase customer engagement and brand awareness and support marketing and sales.

Consider these core elements of the CMS:

  • Functionality – Does it have the features that will help your organization meet its goals? List the essential features that you need (content management, SEO, WYSWIG editor, integrations, ecommerce, etc) and each option you consider on these core needs.
  • Flexibility – Can you add pages? Change your template?Add functionality? You want to be sure the CMS can grow as your business grows.
  • Ease of Use – What is easy for some is hard for others. Give any CMS a try before you commit. Involve everyone who will need to work with the CMS.
  • Active Development – Select a CMS that is actively developed, evidenced by regular version updates. The internet is a changing place and CMS software needs to keep pace. “Old” software leaves you vulnerable to hacking and other security breaches.
  • Cost – Even open source, “free” CMS options have a cost. How much time, effort, and vendor support is needed to set up a site? What is involved for routine maintenance. Be sure to evaluate short-term and long-term costs when deciding the value of any CMS.