Running the day-to-day of a small business already requires the owner to wear so many hats–so do we really have to add Chief Web Designer and Web Content Manager to that list? The short answer is “yes,” says Kelsey Raymond, co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co., a full-service content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies and leaders strategize, publish, and distribute content that support their goals. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands but their strategies can easily be tailored to local businesses and first-time entrepreneurs. From a cluttered homepage to dropping the ball on business blogging, Raymond lists the most common mistakes, and more importantly, she shares why a robust and professional website is more important than ever for small businesses, especially as establishments across the country slowly reopen.
TIP #1. TURN YOUR WEBSITE INTO AN ENGINE FOR SALES LEADS.
.biz: What are the two most common and detrimental mistakes you’ve seen small businesses make on their websites?
KR: The top mistake I see small businesses make on their websites is not publishing engaging content like blog posts, case studies, infographics, or e-books — regardless of the content type, it plays a crucial role in educating customers and positioning your company as a helpful industry expert that they would want to do business with.
In that same vein, the second mistake I often see small businesses make is not using that content to generate leads and then nurture them to the point that they become qualified leads who might actually know enough about your products or services to get on a sales call.
When small businesses don’t have content housed on their website, they miss the opportunity to educate and engage their target audience through blog posts, use calls to action in those blog posts to take leads to a landing page to download gated content, capture leads’ contact information through a form on that landing page, and then follow up with those leads via email to provide further valuable content and more personalized assistance.
TIP #2. GET STARTED WITH THE BASICS (BUT DON”T STOP THERE).
.biz: What types of content do you recommend small business owners start with when focusing on their website?
When small businesses are just getting started with on-site content, I recommend having the basics down first: company location, operating hours, and your main product or service. An About Us page is a great way for customers to learn about your company’s origins or founding story.
But to keep the website dynamic, I would also recommend starting a blog. Write helpful, educational blog posts regularly that further educate your audience about your industry, your company, and your services. Your publishing cadence might vary depending on the size of your team, but I would recommend publishing one blog post per week to start out. Once you’ve built up a base of blog content, you can then repurpose those insights to create pillar posts, infographics, and gated whitepapers to engage with your audience in new ways and potentially capture leads when readers download that gated content.
Plus, having valuable content on your website and consistently adding new content can improve your SEO and help you reach your audience more effectively through search.
TIP #3. IT’S ALL ABOUT USER EXPERIENCE
.biz: What are your top tips for business owners when first creating a website?
KR: When business owners create a website, which is faster and easier than ever these days, they should perform a technical website audit. A technical website audit is the process of taking a look under the hood and identifying issues that could hurt the user experience and diminish the website’s ability to rank in search results. These issues might include slow page speed, page redirects, and faulty URL structures (see: guide to domain management), to name a few.
Performing this site audit early on will allow business owners to hit the ground running once they’re ready to open up shop.
Another tip business owners should keep in mind when creating a website is to prioritize the user experience. After all, getting the end user to engage with the website is the core purpose of creating the site in the first place. Plus, providing a less-than-stellar user experience that leads users to bounce away from your site quickly can diminish your position in search results. So business owners should build their website with the user in mind by providing engaging copy on every page, including images that have been optimized for use on the web to keep the page speed up, and kicking intrusive pop-ups to the curb.
TIP #4. ENGAGE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE ORGANICALLY.
.biz: What is the importance of having on-site content on your business’s website?
KR: If your business is only focusing on getting earned media, which includes press mentions and guest posts in external publications, you’re missing out on the opportunity to bring those readers back to your website to engage with your company further. When you have educational, high-quality content on your own website, you can include links back to those helpful pieces of content within your externally published articles to provide a natural way for your audience to visit your website to learn more from and about you.
TIP #5. KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS.
.biz: How else can business owners engage with customers online?
KR: An email newsletter is an easy way to stay top of mind with your potential customers on a regular basis. If you give visitors to your site the opportunity to subscribe to an email newsletter, you are creating the opportunity to encourage them to come back to your site consistently. This ensures that even if they aren’t ready to purchase your products or services the first time they come to your site, you have a good chance of staying in touch so that when they are ready to purchase, they come back to your site to do so.