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Website Lessons From Local Businesses

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As this week winds down, we come to the end of our first annual marketing clinic series – Giving Back to Our Community: Free Marketing Guidance for Local Small Business. All of our visitors have come to us armed with questions and ideas, looking for solutions to their most pressing marketing challenges. In particular, many of them have asked about website design.

Several of our visitors designed and maintained their own web pages, and while they expressed concern that those pages needed upgrading or enhancing, they lacked the knowledge and tools to do it themselves. Based on their inquiries, our Creative Director, Ian Marquis, has put together a list of pointers to help businesses get the most from their company websites.

Focus on your goals. What is your website trying to accomplish? Some sites sell products or services, while others provide information. Some may also serve as web portals linking to other sites. Whatever your business objectives, your website should act to support them as a unified whole. Every page needs to serve an established purpose, and to convey a consistent message and attitude about your company.

Before you build, plan and organize. Great content is meaningless if no one can find it. Take the time to outline a logical sitemap and intuitive menus, and structure your pages in the best way possible. Avoid redundancies or hidden pages, and make sure links and labels are clearly visible.

Hook your viewers. Once visitors land on your website, you only have a matter of seconds (30 at most) to engage their attention. Make sure key information remains prominent, easy to digest, and actionable so that consumers can find what they need quickly and easily. Also, keep content direct and to-the-point. The web may not carry the same content restrictions as print, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be brief. Present only what is necessary, and make it easy to read.

Update as often as possible. Whether you’re posting news, blogs, whitepapers, or products, be sure to keep content fresh and engaging. Keep customers and prospects up to date on sales, new products, and special events. If you run out of ideas for new content, share interesting and relevant information from reliable sources in your field. Your website reflects your company; never let it get stale!

Stay accessible. Contact information is one of the primary reasons people visit business websites! Make sure your phone number appears on every page, and if you have a contact form, make sure it’s easy to find and straightforward to fill out. The more easily customers can get in touch with you, the more likely they are to perceive you as reliable, safe, and trustworthy.

Embrace social media. Not only do social media communities provide valuable traffic to your site, but they also enable you to reach out to customers and prospects. Take advantage of it! Keep your followers informed and interested with valuable information, special offers, or even polls and games. Build strong networking relationships by commenting on blogs, forums, and other social media pages. The more you put into online communities, the more you’ll get out of them.

Don’t forget about SEO. The more search-engine-friendly your website is, the more easily prospective customers will “discover” you. Take the time to optimize all of your content. Choose highly relevant keyword tags when creating content, and revisit it regularly. Also, remember that SEO is an ongoing process: it won’t lead to a high return overnight, but it will pay off in the long run.

Optimize for mobile, even if your competitors haven’t. Much of today’s browsing occurs on Smartphones and tablets – and that trend will only increase in the near future. Design a responsive website that will automatically adjust to device formatting, or redirect your visitors to a dedicated mobile website. Whatever your preferred strategy, don’t ignore the market entirely.

Pay attention to your analytics. Online metrics reveal valuable insights on your website’s performance, including who makes up your audience, how they find out about your site, and how much time they spend there.  Inspect your traffic logs on a regular basis. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your website and campaigns accordingly.

In today’s competitive web industry, having a website is not enough to stay ahead of the competition; it’s important to keep your web pages relevant, accessible, and visible. An engaging and organized website goes a long way toward a successful business image!

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