Your small business website serves as a calling card for potential customers who seek you out online, providing info on your approach and services even outside of normal business hours.
Your website needn’t be fancy or expensive but it should be mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Some visitors will leave within seconds if they can’t find what they came for, so if your navigation is too complex or key pages are buried too deep into your website, you risk losing their attention and their business.
Here’s a look at several must-haves for an effective small business website.
1. Accurate, Easy to Find Contact Details
Don’t make customers search around your site to find an email address or a phone number. Include this information on every page of your site, possibly as part of your header or footer. You can include more details on a separate contact page; for instance, information on business hours or an online contact form. If your phone number or email address changes, be sure to update your website too. The last thing you want is for someone to call you to arrange a consultation and they wind up getting a “wrong number” or “disconnected” message. Out-dated contact details scream unprofessionalism!
Even if you prefer to communicate with customers over email, consider listing a phone number as well, as this boosts your business’ credibility and gives another option to customers who prefer phone calls over email.
2. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Page
Rather than fielding phone calls or emails to answer basic questions like “what are your hours?” or “do you accept credit cards?,” your frequently asked questions page can reduce customer service headaches and help prospects answer questions on their own. Order your questions from the most and basic first to the more complicated or unusual questions at the end. If you cater to several different audiences—for instance, you’re a home stager who gets hired by home owners and real estate agents—you could have an FAQs section tailored to the needs of each individual audience so they can easily find the questions relevant to them.
3. Customer Testimonials
Testimonials from satisfied customers instantly boost your business’ credibility. Many businesses publish testimonials on a separate page, but they may not get read very often if they’re buried several pages deep in your website. Instead, you can use testimonials (ideally with a small customer photo to bolster credibility) to break up longer sections of text on your about page or elsewhere on your website. This also puts your testimonials front and center so they’ll actually get read.
4. An “About Us” Page
People want to do business with other people, not faceless corporations. Your business’ “about” page is a chance to show prospective customers who you are, how you got started and what guides your business philosophy. Your “about” page should focus on customers’ needs and explain why you’re different from the competition. Often, this differentiation stems from a frustration you have with other service providers. Maybe you’ve seen other plumbers who flake out on service calls or personal chefs who can’t accommodate unusual food allergy or dietary needs. Explain how this frustration led to you being different from others in your niche.
Related: Create an Amazing ‘About Us’ Page
5. Description of Product or Service Offerings
Prospective customers should be able to tell from your website if you offer the product or service they need. A list and description of products or services can help boost your website’s SEO and ensure that customers understand what you offer so they don’t have to look elsewhere for something you offer. Your website should be written in simple, easy to understand terms without industry-specific terms or jargon. It’s easy to let jargon slip in your list of service offerings, so make sure you’re using customer-friendly terms that they’ll be able to understand.
6. Clear Calls to Action (CTAs)
Every small business website should include one or more calls to action (CTA for short) encouraging customers to sign up for a free trial, schedule a no-risk consultation or take some other action that brings you closer to a sale. Your CTA should be as short and direct as possible, but it can include humor or an image that aligns with your brand messaging. The color or size of your CTA, as well as the white space surrounding it, can all help that message stand out. Without a strong call to action, website visitors often won’t take that next step to contact you or learn more about what you offer and you’ll miss out on a potential sale.
Consider including all of these elements in your small business website to help customers answer their questions and move closer to buying. Depending on the nature of your business, you’ll likely want to include some other features and content on your website, but these are some core features to include as a bare minimum.
About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter @UrbanMuseWriter.