I imagine that’s how many small businesses feel when they first sign up for a web hosting service and build their own business website. It’s all such new and unfamiliar territory. They are, so to speak, in uncharted waters, heading for a new world, unsure what to expect.
So, this Columbus Day, we’ll provide a basic checklist of 7 simple but essential things that small businesses who have recently built a website (or are about to build one) should have to make their online expedition a profitable one.
- A good website address. So what’s good? Simple. Short. Easy to remember. Easy to type. It should obviously relate to your website and your company. If it’s not your company name (or a close variation), it should ideally contain keywords related to your business that people would be searching for. This will help your SEO (search engine optimization) and help you generate more traffic. For most businesses, it should be a .com site, since most people assume company websites are dotcoms. Here’s an earlier post we did on the best website names for SEO, branding and online success.
- About Us. Most people expect that a company website will have an About Us, About, Company, Who We Are, or a similarly named link either in the top navigation or in the bottom footer navigation. Why? Not everyone who gets to your website knows all about you. Some visitors may know nothing and want to find out before they spend any time with you, certainly before they buy anything from you. So make it easy for visitors to find out who you are, where you are, and what you are all about. Be clear and welcoming, so people know where they are and who they are dealing with. Putting this link clearly visible in the top navigation makes it easiest for visitors to find.
- Contact Us. This is another website convention that people expect. And when people expect something online, you should give it to them or risk losing disappointed visitors. It’s also in your best interest to help people contact you, because one of the reasons people may want to contact you is to do business with you. Ideally your contact webpage should list some contact options people can choose from: phone, email, chat, a contact form. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to contact you on their terms. But don’t list a form of contact that you aren’t ready to monitor regularly. It’s worse to ignore an attempt to contact you then to never have given the opportunity.
- Basic website SEO. As we mentioned above, SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the things you do on your website to help it get indexed and ranked as highly as possible on the search engines. Many things that affect your SEO rankings are beyond your control (at least initially), like having a domain name that has been around for many years that has gained many incoming links from other websites. What you can do is make sure your domain name represents your company well. Make sure each webpage on your site has a unique TITLE tag that uses popular keywords for the content on your page. And make sure your headlines and webpage copy also use the popular keywords that the people you want to find your website are naturally searching for. Also make sure you structure your site in a way that makes sense to both users and search engines.
- Social media to support your site. These days, your website is not an island. It needs to be connected to other forms of online promotion to help it thrive. Facebook and Twitter are the big names. Using your website to drive traffic to Facebook and using Facebook to drive traffic to your website are both important. Whenever and wherever you can generate some buzz about your business online you should. This will enhance your basic SEO efforts, build word-of-mouth marketing, enhance your brand, and generate more traffic for your site.
- A blog or other ongoing, fresh content to support your site. It would be nice if you could just take the time to build your website and wait for the traffic and sales to come your way. But one-and-done is not how it works anymore. Your site can’t be entirely static. You need regular content updates. Search engines won’t rank a site well without fresh content. And the less content you have on your website the more you’ll be missing opportunities to rank your site and pull in traffic. That’s why blogs can be so beneficial to small business websites. They give you lots of content to rank for and help position your website (and yourself) as a leader in your field. That’s why our web hosting services come with a free, simple WordPress blog installer, available in the EarthLink Web Hosting Control Panel. Of course, with time and resource constraints, you may not be able to do both social media and a blog well. If not, don’t do both half-way. Pick one and do it really well.
- A website that inspires trust and confidence. You know that out there in the real world there are businesses that you drive by or walk up to that you avoid because of the way they look. Online it’s no different. Visitors (especially new ones) don’t give websites much time at all before they make a judgment to stay or go. As in the real world, these snap judgments are often superficial: does this place look legitimate, does it look right for me, does it look safe. That’s why many small businesses turn to professional website design. Because even though EarthLink Web Hosting provides easy-to-use tools to design your own website, small business owners aren’t confident they can make a site that will inspire confidence (and generate sales). And if you have an ecommerce site that’s selling online, you need to make sure you have an SSL security certificate (which is included with our Ecommerce Hosting plans) so your visitors can feel confident about the security of their online transactions. Our Web Hosting customers can add SSL Certificates here.