Quality websites give customers the impression you really mean website management for business gain | Daily News

Quality websites give customers the impression you really mean website management for business gain

A recent research revealed that in Sri Lanka less than 12 per cent of the registered small businesses carry a website. It is unbelievable at a time when getting a site has never been cheaper or easier and when it is easier than ever to market your business online to people far and wide. Above all, having a site today is as essential as having a business card or phone number and not having a website constitutes small business malpractice.

Why do some businesses insist on not having a site, or, if they do have one, not having a good site? The usual answer is that it is too expensive, too time-consuming, or unnecessary. All are faulty assumptions. Let us see why.

Advantages

One of the best things about the Internet, from a small business perspective, is that it levels the playing field. Offline, small businesses look small. People can see how big (or small) your business really is, how many employees it has, and so on.

But the Internet is the great equalizer. Online, there is no reason whatsoever to look small. Your site can be every bit as powerful and professional as that of any huge conglomerate. On the web, you can have a great-looking site that impresses all who see it, and no one ever needs to know that you run your business out of your spare bedroom. The Internet is the great equalizer.

That creating an aesthetically pleasing site is increasingly easy means that there is simply no excuse for not having a site or, maybe worse, for having a bad one.

The benefits of a small-business website are numerous, but the bottom line is that today’s customers expect it. They are most likely to head online for comparison shopping, so you want to make it easy to find your business instead of your competitors. When people do visit your website, you want to make a good impression.

To make that positive first impression, you will have to create your website thoughtfully. You do not want just any website; you want a website that actually supports your business goals and gives your website visitors the information they need.

The good news is that does not require any technical skills; it simply means planning ahead. We’ll walk you through how to plan and then build a website that will strengthen your business.

Website content

What information will you include on your website? Before you do anything, you need a plan. And a good place to start is to plan what you want your website to say.

Basic info

Include your contact information, ideally on every page of the website, such as on the footer or in a sidebar. If your business has a physical location, you should also include your business address and hours.

Your value proposition/sales pitch

Write a brief summary of what your business does, what value it offers to customers, and what makes it stand out. This summary should reflect the messaging architecture and market research you worked on for last week’s homework. That messaging should also be reflected throughout the site, particularly on the homepage and other key pages.

Product and service details

In addition to the summary of your business, provide details about your products and services. This might include a collection of product pages or a portfolio section showcasing your previous work.

Call to action

Every page or section of your site should have a clear call to action (CTA) that directs the user what to do next. For your small-business website, the goal is likely to direct the user to making a purchase from your business. Common CTAs include “Contact Us,” “Sign Up,” “Get Started,” “Join,” or “Start your free trial.” Tip: You can do a quick online search for “call to action examples” to find great ideas.

Testimonials

Testimonials add legitimacy and credibility to your website and business, so as soon as you receive positive feedback, ask permission to use it, then feature it prominently on your website.

Social media

Add links to your social media alongside your contact information. If you have a strong social media presence, you may also want to integrate a social media feed on your homepage, such as highlights of your latest tweets or Instagram snaps.

Website functions

What functions will your website serve?

Beyond the information covered in the previous section, are there other functions your website should serve? Depending on your business goals, here are a few website functions to consider:

E-commerce (online store), Customer service live chat, Help request form (or other contact forms), Customer service knowledge base, Email newsletter signup, Member portal (to view account and order information or access additional content or services), Blog, Calendar and Forum

How much time, money, and effort are you willing to put into the site? Of course, a smaller site requires less effort and almost no money. On the other end of the spectrum, elaborate e-commerce sites can be very costly and may require all of your resources.

Most small business sites will fall somewhere in between.

The question is, how extensive do you want your site to be? Begin by looking at sites that you like or that are similar to the one you want to build. Make a list of what you like and dislike. What is the content like? What products are sold? What about the aesthetics of the site—what can be improved?

You do not need to reinvent the wheel. Figure out what you like and think will be attractive to your customers and start there.

Keep in mind that passive reading is out, and interactive participation is in. Internet users want to read, watch, listen, chat, comment, post, and play. The more interactive tools you have on your site, the greater the likelihood that people will stick around for a while and even come back.

Website structure

How will you organize your website?

Now that you’ve considered what information and functions to include on your website, how will you organize it all? Navigation and structure can make or break your website, so it’s important to approach this thoughtfully, and again, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Start by simply writing an outline of what you’ll have on your website. It doesn’t need to include everything; just the title and a quick description for each page.

Return again to the messaging architecture and market research you conducted. Within the messaging architecture, what were the messages you placed toward the top of the list? What information was most important or appealing to customers?

Use those findings to determine how you prioritize your website content. Once you start creating pages on your website, you may decide to shuffle things around, but using your outline as a guide will yield a better-organized site.

If you get stuck or want to learn more, go to Google search.

Website CMS and hosting

With a solid plan, now it’s time to build your website. That means diving in and choosing a CMS (content management system) and hosting service.

A CMS is a user-friendly application that you install on a hosting server. A CMS allows people without a coding background to create, customize, and manage a website. A web hosting service provides server space so individuals can make their websites accessible on the internet.

Which website-building platform you choose depends on which features you want to include, so do some research about which features are available from different providers.

While there are literally hundreds of free CMS and hosting platforms out there, the self-hosting options available with WordPress.org give small business owners much more control over their site. Go to WordPress.org and under the heading “Create Your Own Website Today?,” you will get full information what needs to be done. The tutorial guides you through how to set up a self-hosted WordPress website using Bluehost, in easy steps. Bluehost offers 24/7 support from in-house experts, as well as guides, video tutorials, and more.

Website design

Once you decide your website CMS and hosting, you get to decide on the fun part: the design. Depending on the platform you choose, you’ll likely have a collection of themes or styles to choose from. You may also hire a professional designer to customize the design. If you choose to DIY the design, follow the accepted best practices for designing a website.To choose and apply a theme on WordPress, check out the list of the best free WordPress themes.

Website SEO

When people are in search of answers - or a particular product or service - the first stop is usually Google (or another search engine). Naturally, you want potential customers to easily find you in their search. That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. To learn more, check Google for tips and tricks for improving the SEO of your WordPress site and how to make sense of metrics and optimize your site for conversions.

Website maintenance

You’ve created your website. Congratulations.

But if you neglect maintenance, it may not stay that way. That’s why as soon as you create your website, you should develop a plan to maintain it. If you have frequently updated features such as blog posts, you should create an editorial calendar to plan those features well in advance. If the information on your site is less likely to change, you can simply schedule a time, such as once a month, to review your website content to make sure it is up-to-date.

(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with over 30 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a business consultant, freelance newspaper columnist and a writer.)


 

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