This was a workshop I did November 19 at the Saint Croix Falls Public Library for local small businesses & non-profits. We had a great group – they asked excellent questions & we had a lively discussion. There is a worksheet to help you work through the action steps: Action Step Worksheet
Let’s get started!
Small Business Website Goals
First of all, it is important to know your goal. It is not the same for everyone! For example, a nonprofit might want to get volunteers, but a business probably wants to sell something. It is important to know your goal in order to set priorities with your website.
- Build a list
- Sell something
- Get volunteers
- What is your main goal with your small business website?
Let’s dig into the 5 Things . . .
1 – Client Focus
A lot of small businesses seem to be focused on explaining their mission & expertise, which is great for the people that want to learn about that, however, most people really want to know how you are going to solve their problems. This should be your main focus on your home page.
Relatedly, you want it to be very clear what they should do – what is the call to action? For example:
- Buy now
- Call today
- Sign up for this free trial
Your call to action should also relate to your goal!
Lastly, your contact info should be very clear & easy to find. Know that there is debate about whether you want to post an email address or use a form. A lot of people recommend using a form to reduce spam. Posting an email address on your website will get you more spam.
In addition, it really helps to have a professional email address that matches your domain name. For example:
The first one looks more professional & helps with consistency & branding.
- What client problem are you solving?
- What is your call to action?
- Is your contact info clear & easy to find?
2 – Mobile
You have probably seen statistics that mobile use is rising exponentially and it’s not going to stop. This is the direction things are going. Therefore, having a small business website that works for mobile is important for your clients and also for Google. Google is taking this into account in their algorithms.
How urgent this is for you depends on your situation. For example, a restaurant that caters to young people would want to be findable on mobile. A restaurant wants to be findable for people who are nearby and hungry and looking for a place to eat! And of course young people use mobile devices at a very high rate.
You have choices about what to do here. Some people want to have a separate mobile website & some people want an app, but for a lot of small businesses, being mobile responsive is a good choice.
There is a test from Google and emulators to see if there are problems.
Here you can see the results from a mobile responsive emulator. It shows different device sizes. You can see the second from the left is the iPhone and then on the right iPad in both vertical and horizontal modes. You can see that the content changes for the different devices. For example, for the iPhone, there’s the little hamburger menu in the upper right, but for the iPad, the choices are actually displayed. This is what we mean by mobile responsive – the content responds to the size of the device.
At the very least you want to be sure that your important information is in the upper left-hand corner. For a lot of people, this would be contact information, or it could be hours, or your call to action. You know what’s best in your situation.
- How important is mobile for your situation?
- Run the tests for mobile
- Put important info in the upper left corner
Speed has been important for a while, but with the rise of mobile, it is more important than ever. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site you will want to do things like:
- Optimize images
- Use a caching plugin
- Optimize the database
- Delete stuff you don’t need
Those are pretty easy fixes, but depending on your situation, your host & theme might be part of the problem, so you might want to consider upgrading your host & theme.
Of course, there is a way to test how you’re doing. In this example, we’re getting a grade of A/B which is pretty good. It also gives suggestions for improvements. Of course, some of these things are in your control to change and some of them can be rather difficult.
- Run a speed test
- Install plugins to help with speed
- Delete anything you don’t need
- Do you need better host & platform?
3 – Keeping Current
Keeping current is very important and a lot of people miss this or underestimate how much time it will take. We are talking about a couple different things here. First, recent content – if the last post was in 2011 and the copyright date is from 2011, it looks like a ghost town and that’s not the image you want to present to people.
And then there is the software to keep current – if you are using WordPress, they are always updating WordPress itself, the themes and plug-ins. You want to keep current with all this to serve your people well, to play nicely with Google and for the sake of security. (And if you aren’t in a modern platform such as WordPress, you want to fix that quickly – if your website is in the old table format from several years ago, it is hurting you.)
One note about making changes – beware of changing the URL, which is the web address. If you do need to delete an old page and create a new page with a different web address, you want to be sure you are using 301 redirects to point that old web address to the new page in case anybody has bookmarked the old page and also, if you had any juice from Google, you don’t want to lose it.
- Check how recent your content is
- Check your copyright date
- Check that your software is current
- Start using 301 redirects when you make changes
4 – SEO
This pic is from the Moz Guide to SEO and they have gathered statistics about why SEO is important. Two things jump out:
“Search is the new Yellow Pages.”
“Google sends 91% of traffic.”
(So it seems clear we want to play nicely with Google.)
Now, you might remember web pages crammed with keywords from a few years ago. A lot of people think that is what SEO is – it is not. If that ever worked, it does not work today. These days, SEO is really about the structure of your website, about how it’s set up, things like the URLs, (that’s the web address), the navigation, the breadcrumbs, the headings, your link text and your titles and descriptions.
What To Do for SEO Today:
- Structure (urls, navigation, breadcrumbs, headings, sitemaps, 404, img alt)
- Titles & meta descriptions
- Link text & internal links
And then we don’t want to completely ignore keywords. We want to use them wisely, for example, if we can tell what people are searching for the most, then we probably want to use their preferred term.
Here is a picture of search results. Notice in the upper right-hand corner that no one is signed in. Search results are personalized, but if you sign out, you can get a better idea of what others see. In this case, I have searched for “bookkeeping Minneapolis.” Of course, at the top there are some ads and then the section with the map is the local pack, which largely comes from Google+. Then down at the bottom, you see the organic search results beginning. We see Owl is at #2 both in the local pack and in the organic search results.
This is what it can look like when you take care of your SEO! If you don’t like how your website is displaying in the organic search results, you want to adjust your title and meta-description. This is what appears in search results most often.
Of course, there are a lot of fabulous tools for keyword research, but a good first step for a lot of people is to play in Google Trends. Here we see a picture where I put in “bookkeeping” and “bookkeeper” to see which one people search for the most. You see the blue is bookkeeping and it is searched for a lot more than the red, which is bookkeeper, so it makes sense that we would want to use the most used term more often than the less used term.
Down in the lower right section on Google Trends they have this helpful area with top and rising searches. This can give you some great ideas about blog posts that you want to write.
- Log out of the browser & search for
1) Your name
2) Main keywords
- Are you happy with where you are ranking?
- Tweak title & meta description to get more clicks
- Play with keywords in Google Trends
- Be sure all your image alts are filled out
- See if you can improve internal links between content on your website
We have to talk about local a little bit. If local clients are your primary focus, you want to be sure to take care of your NAP – that is your name, address & phone number. It needs to be clear and consistent across multiple directories. If you have been in business awhile and you moved, changed your name or changed your phone number, there probably are inconsistencies out there that you really want to clean up.
Another important step to show up in local search results is to be sure that you have claimed and updated your Google Business page. This really helps people find you. You might also see that there are multiple Google+ pages with incorrect information that you want to clean up. In addition, if you have any extra old domains that aren’t really your central focus, those can be cleaned up as well.
There is a test to see where things stand. Here is a picture from Moz Local and it shows that Google+ and Facebook are considered primary sources and there are many other directories that come into play here such as Yellow Pages, Yelp, Super Pages, etc. This tool helps you see where the problems are so that you can solve them.
- Be sure to claim/update your Google Business page if you haven’t already
- If you have extra domains and/or Google+ pages, clean them up
- Check where you stand with Moz Local
- Solve problems so that your NAP is consistent across the major directories
5 – Strategy
Let’s talk about your overall strategy, because the website by itself won’t give maximum results. You want to be blogging consistently & you want to share on social media & you want to email your people, at the very least.
Also, we have to talk about images as part of your strategy. They are very important. Here is a reminder of why it is so important to use images (from the helpful article from the Buffer folks):
- 63% is visual on social media.
- 94% more views with images.
- 150% more retweets with images.
So we definitely want to use images for the sake of people, but remember that Google cannot “see” images. You have to also provide text so that Google knows what information is there.
Lastly, you need repetition of your message. “One & done” clearly won’t get you the best results. There is debate of course about the best number – 3 times? 5 times? 7 times? And it can vary with the situation. But clearly “one & done” is not enough, so experiment with it & see what works best for you.
You have a lot of possibilities for what activities fit your overall strategy. Here is a fun chart from Moz. (They have great learning resources!) They have listed out a bunch of possibilities with indications of how much time or money they might take. There are explanations too – check it out here.
- Think about your strategy . . .
- Are there consistent updates to your blog, social media & email list?
- Are you using good images & optimizing them?
- Are you focusing on key topics & repeating enough times?
- Are there any other activities you want to add to the mix?
- How To Quadruple Your Traffic With A Social Media Editorial Calendar (Great info about how you need more than “one & done” and tips how to vary your message over time)
- Buffer for Scheduling Social Media
- Mailchimp for Email Campaigns & Newsletters
- Images Are Key to More Traffic & Engagement
Voila! – we have covered the 5 Things to Maximize your Small Business Website:
- Client focus
- Mobile & speed
- Keeping current
- SEO & local
- Overall strategy
Now let’s circle back . . . we began by thinking about our goals. So you might be wondering . . .
How Do I Know if I am Meeting my Goals?
The answer for most people is Google Analytics. If you don’t have it set up already, do it now.
- Implement Google Analytics & Search Console if you haven’t already
- Check monthly
- Make improvements to meet your goals
If you want help with any of this, contact me here!