15 Tips For A Better Business Website
Recently, we here at Merchant Maverick put together a guide to creating a business website for small businesses that have not yet established a site of their own. However, at this point, most small businesses already have at least a basic site — though not all business websites are created equal. Some business websites act as useful extensions of the core business, while others (sad to say) do not.
Some business websites look awful when viewed on a mobile device. Some sites don’t offer any course of action to the site visitor. Some haven’t been updated since 2015. Others just look terribly outdated. It’s clear that for many businesses, a website is just an afterthought. The thing is, your website should be more than just an online throwback to the yellow pages, a mere repository for basic information about hours, addresses, and contact emails (though these things should be present and easily found!). Luckily, if you’re wondering how to make a better website for your clientele, we can help with that.
How To Improve Your Business’s Website
When working to strengthen your business website, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If you stick to these tried-and-true principles, you can transform your website from an eyesore to an asset that wows your customers, drives conversions, and takes your digital marketing to the next level.
1. Make Your Website Mobile Responsive
Nowadays, a good business website simply must be mobile-friendly. Not only will a poor mobile website turn off your potential customers (a Formstack study found that 57% of respondents wouldn’t recommend a business with a poorly-designed mobile site) — it will turn off Google as well. That’s right — Google now indexes a website based on its mobile version, not the desktop version.
Mobile responsive web design doesn’t have one uniform definition, but what it boils down to is that your website should display well on screens of all sizes, with elements automatically adjusting to display appropriately on the screen the website is being viewed on. Text should be easy to read, and images should display so that they can be seen without the viewer having to manually adjust the screen. Likewise, links should be large enough for a finger to reliably activate them without mistakenly clicking on another link.
For example, the website of the National Weather Service is not mobile-friendly.
By contrast, here’s an example of one of our favorite mobile responsive sites (cough cough).
Effective mobile sites are sleek, minimalistic repositories of information. They should be reminiscent of your full site (not just a scaled-down facsimile) and good ambassadors for your brand. They should not make people throw their phones in anger.
Most do-it-yourself website builders allow for mobile responsive design. Check out the following articles for more on building a mobile-friendly website and the website builders that can help you achieve this:
- Best Website Builders For Mobile Sites
- Creating Websites For The Smartphone Generation
- What Is Responsive Design?
2. Follow Modern Design Trends
To stay competitive, your site has to appear current. People are only becoming more attuned to (and judgemental about) the aesthetics of their technology. Older designs simply won’t cut it. To stay in the game, you should update the design of your site every few years. Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, it will cost you time and money. But what you gain in street cred will be worth every dime.
Let’s run through a few modern design trends for mobile sites that you should keep in mind.
Use White Space
Your instinct might be to get as much information in front of the site viewer’s eyes as quickly as possible in order to relay information efficiently. However, this will result in a mobile website that repels visitors. Instead, make use of white space around text, links, and images so that your users can focus on the key elements of your site without being overwhelmed.
Don’t Make Your Users Pinch And Zoom
People don’t want to have to pinch and zoom to read your website. To ensure that your visitors don’t leave your site in frustration, build a mobile website that doesn’t require your customers to zoom in to take in the information presented.
If You Have A Contact Form, Make It Simple
Directing your users to spend a significant amount of time typing on your mobile site is a formula for driving away traffic. If you include a form for collecting info from your visitors, collect the minimum amount of information necessary for the purpose at hand.
Thankfully, most modern website building platforms make it easy to update the elements of your site — layouts, templates, forms, color schemes, and so on — without paying an hourly rate to a developer.
3. Have Clear CTAs
A call to action is a prompt that directs your site visitors to take a certain action. It normally comes in the form of a large, well-placed button — one that even the broadest of fingertips should be able to press. The button needs to spell out the specified course of action: “Sign Up For Free,” “Learn More,” “Subscribe” and “Get Started” are all good examples.
Ideally, you should place your CTA near the top of your homepage so your site visitors don’t have to do anything in order to find it. For example, this is what you see when you visit Wix’s home page on your mobile device. There’s no ambiguity regarding what Wix wants you to do here.
The call to action button is extremely important, as it is the primary means by which a business website drives conversions. Despite this, Top Digital Agency’s 2019 study of small business websites found that 70% of such websites have no call to action. If you want your website to drive conversions — and not just serve as a passive digital billboard — include a call to action!
4. Optimize Your Site Speed & Load Times
Let’s say you’ve built an elegant mobile responsive website with a prominent CTA. However, even the nicest, most elegant website won’t help your business if it takes too long to load. Research from Google has found that 53% of mobile website visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. When it comes to your site speed and load times, time is money — literally.
CrazyEgg.com has a list of things you can do to speed up your website, though the suggestions are rather technical and more suited to built-from-scratch websites than from sites built using a website builder. To that end, FreshChalk.com did a study of website builders in which they ranked some of the leading builders on the speed of their websites. GoDaddy’s Website Builder and Weebly did quite well, while industry leader Wix performed relatively poorly.
5. Improve Your Navigation & User Experience
We’ve all encountered frustrating website UIs before. Websites that make it difficult to see what you want to see and go where you want to go. Chances are, if you’ve visited a site like that, you’ve visited it only once (unless you had to use it for work/school reasons).
Researchers at the Nielsen Norman Group identified 5 key components of usability that you need to consider when designing the UI of your business website.
- Learnability: Can users to accomplish basic tasks easily the first time they encounter your site?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, can they perform tasks quickly?
- Memorability: Will users remember how to use your site after having not used it for a while?
- Errors: Does your interface minimize the chance of user error? How easily can users recover from such errors if they make them?
- Satisfaction: Is it pleasant for visitors to use your design?
6. Include Great Images
Don’t include too many images on your homepage — that will interfere with the goal of website speed — but the images you do include should be:
- Sharply focused
- Artistically blocked, posed or designed
- Minimally cluttered
Images like this don’t grow on trees. They come from professional photographers and graphic designers who use professional equipment. In other words, you’ll have to pay for them. Craigslist is a good place to find relatively cheap freelancers in your area, or you can solicit help from sites like Upwork and Guru.
Of course, a cheaper and simpler option is to simply use stock photos from the likes of BigStock on your website. However, stock photography is pretty easily identified as such and can lend an air of inauthenticity to your site. If you want your site visitors to trust your brand, you’re better off posting photos of your actual team/office/etc. than relying on stock images.
7. Use Colors To Your Advantage
When deciding on the color scheme of your website, it’s a good idea to consider how your color scheme might impact the behavior of your site visitors. Particularly important is your choice of colors for your logo, as it sets the tone for your brand.
An extensive breakdown of colors and what they represent to consumers is available at websitebuilderexpert.com. Basic principles include using red to signify passion and vibrancy, green for health and tranquility, and blue to represent security and trust.
As for the best colors to use for your call-to-action button, this piece on colors and conversion from cxl.com suggests that the color of your CTA button isn’t determinative per se, though it is important that your CTA stands out from the rest of your color scheme and that you choose a high-contrast color for the button.
This is an area where, if you’re red-green colorblind like I am, it helps to get some outside input!
8. Write Engaging Copy
How does one write captivating copy? Especially if one is trying to sell items as unsexy as, say, lawnmower parts or plumbing services? The key is to know your audience. Your stuff doesn’t have to be Dostoevsky-good. Excellent website copy is defined by only three characteristics:
Let’s take them one by one.
Presumably, you understand your business and your products or services well. Take the time to describe them, providing as much or more of the minutia as is reasonably warranted. Color; size; shape; weight; feel; smell; taste. Go further into the aesthetic sensibility of your items if you want. The more your customer knows about the product or service, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their purchase.
The overall helpfulness of your copy will depend in part on how wisely you’ve used detail in your descriptions. But you must go even a step further. It’s not enough to state that a scarf is hand-knit, blue, and made of angora wool. It’s not even enough to say that it is 60-inches-long and machine-washable. For optimal impact, you’ve got to paint a word picture for your potential customers. Give suggestions about various ways to wear the scarf. Talk about occasions or events the scarf is appropriate for. If a customer can imagine your product as a useful part of their daily life, you’re far more likely to make the sale.
This one’s not so straightforward. The line between interesting copy and content that is mind-meltingly dull is thinner than you’d expect. When in doubt, go back to the advice above: know your audience. If you’re hawking lawnmower parts, it’s best not to be cutesy or make attempts at humor. You’re likely to simply irritate people. For utilitarian products and services, appealing equals factual and descriptive. But if bespoke spa treatments or patchwork quilts are your daily bread, be as whimsical as you want. Go nuts. Employ first-person language. Break out the charm. And if you don’t feel up to the task, sites like Upwork are teeming with freelance writers who would fist-fight each other for the privilege of generating your web content.
9. Utilize The Best SEO Practices
Ignore Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and your efforts to draw in new customers with your website will come to naught. That’s why it’s important to be up-to-speed on the latest SEO trends.
Site speed and mobile-friendliness are two of the most important factors in terms of your site’s Google ranking, and we’ve already covered those topics. As for current SEO best practices, Backlinko.com provides a helpful rundown of basic SEO techniques you should familiarize yourself with. Here are some examples:
- Add your main keyword early on in your content
- Write unique titles, descriptions, and content
- Optimize your title tag for SEO
10. Find & Fix 404 Errors
This shouldn’t come as a mind-blowing revelation, but you really don’t want your site visitors encountering 404 errors when trying to view pages on your website. I’m sorry for taking such a bold stance on this contentious issue, but somebody had to say it.
The SEO wizards at Yoast have put together a checklist for identifying and correcting 404 errors, which I encourage you to read. Essentially, 404 errors can be identified using such tools as Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools and can be fixed using a redirect plugin (naturally, the article recommends the use of Yoast’s SEO Premium plugin).
11. Avoid Grammar Mistakes
You can get away with poor grammar in Tweets, texts, and even over email. However, your website is not the place to be careless with your grammar. If your website is riddled with typos and syntax goofs, you will lose customers. Error-laden copy connotes one of two things to your client base: you are illiterate or you are lazy. Ponder this riddle: What’s more off-putting to a consumer — an uneducated merchant or an indifferent one? The answer, of course, is moot. Neither one is going to survive.
This may all seem terrifying if grammar isn’t your strong suit. But don’t worry! There’s no need to hastily enroll in a community college course. Simply running your site through spellcheck should catch most spelling errors, though you’d be surprised how many merchants neglect to do so. For higher-level syntax and grammar issues, try using a service like Grammarly. It’s not perfect for higher-level writing, but it catches the vast majority of basic errors (there/they’re/their, etc.), and it’s free. You can also enlist help from employees, friends, and family. The more eyes on your website copy before you publish, the better.
12. Maintain A Blog
You probably didn’t go into business to become a blogger. However, search engines give preference to original content. Creating unique, high-quality content for your site increases your visibility to potential customers online, and a blog is the ideal vehicle for such content. The key phrase here is high-quality, by the way. Search engines employ highly trained digital bloodhounds that can sniff out BS filler-content a mile away. You can try to cover redundant or pointless copy with metaphorical coffee grounds, but Google algorithms just keep getting smarter.
Blogs don’t have to be hilarious rants or incisive social commentaries. In fact, if you want them to work well for your site, you should avoid controversy and/or high-art altogether. Instead, think about what kinds of things your customers are interested in, and provide content that caters to those interests. Do you sell custom clothing? Write a few how-to posts about accessorizing or blog about fashion trends. Run a pet shop? Talk about what pet owners can do to keep their dogs healthy or rank cat toys from worst to most purrr-fect. Cat owners in your area who search for toy ideas may just stumble on your article and become loyal customers. Blogs exist to provide helpful information for your current clients, but they serve to draw in new customers as well.
Here are some articles types that work well for business blogs:
- Top 10 Lists
- How-To Articles
- Dos & Don’ts
- Product Comparisons
- Best Of/Worst Of Lists
- Industry News
- Trends & Fads
If you don’t feel up to creating the content yourself, hire someone who is.
13. Make Your Pages Sharable On Social Media
This one’s short and sweet. Every page on your website (and every one of your blog posts, should you have a blog) should include social media buttons so visitors can share the page in question on their social media channels. This way, even if you don’t have, say, a Twitter account (though you should), your content can nonetheless end up going viral on Twitter — hopefully for good reasons!
14. Include Customer Testimonials
Using customer testimonials may seem like a marketing tactic from another era. However, as BigCommerce demonstrates here, the data is clear on this point: including testimonials on your website is good for business. Posting customer reviews not only helps your conversion rate — it helps boost your Google ranking as well.
Marketing360.com recommends that when you make use of testimonials on your website, you keep in mind 5 basic principles — testimonials should be:
- Edited for brevity and specificity (don’t alter the actual content!)
15. Use Website Tools For Added Insight
Here are some tools that can help you improve your website’s performance.
Google Analytics is a common analytics tool that helps you determine how many people are visiting your site, where your site visitors are located, which websites your traffic comes from, which pages or items on your site are most popular, how many visitors you’ve converted into leads, how to improve your website’s speed, and much more. If you haven’t yet used it but you’re curious, here’s how to set up and use Google Analytics.
As I mentioned earlier, Grammarly is a free tool that will spot basic grammar errors in your text while offering you context-specific suggestions. It can also be used for Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and just about anywhere else you can input text online. Here’s how Grammarly works and how you can implement it.
Moz Pro is a handy tool that helps you discover keywords to target, tracks the performance of your keywords across search engines, audits your site for SEO deficiencies, optimizes your site content, and more. Subscriptions start at $79/year if you get an annual subscription. Here’s a complete rundown of what you’ll get with Moz Pro.
SEMrush is an advanced analytics tool that lets you compare your site’s performance with the competition. By examining your competitors’ SEO strategies, you can enhance your digital marketing by targeting what the other guys are missing. Subscriptions start at $83.28/month for annual subscribers. Here’s a full description of SEMrush’s features.
Take Your Website To The Next Level
In our increasingly digital society, your website is the most visible aspect of your business. It’s the portal to the hearts and minds of your potential customers and clients. It behooves you to make that portal as clean and attractive as possible. The good news is that it’s never been easier to build a professional, effective business website — one that drives conversions and looks good doing it.
Consider the tips above and take action where you can. With just a little TLC (and a bit of cash), your website can go from bland and forgettable to sleek and profitable. And if you’re looking for more information on building the best business website you possibly can, check out these helpful articles!
- How To Create A Website For Your Business
- 6 Ways To Turn Your Foot Traffic Into Web Traffic
- Top 17 Ways To Monetize Your Website
- 10 Website Builder SEO Tips
- How To Design A Website That Will Keep People Coming Back
If you’re starting from scratch and are seeking a good do-it-yourself website builder platform, check out our large selection of do-it-yourself website builder reviews or compare top website building software vendors. If you’re looking to incorporate an online store, you’ll want to peruse our eCommerce software reviews and compare some of the top shopping carts.
For more on choosing the best site building platform for your business needs, we have more content for you!
- Website Builder Features Your Small Business Needs
- Which Website Builders Have The Best Templates?
- Website Builders With Great eCommerce
- Top 5 Easiest Website Builders
- 3 Best One Page Website Builders
- Top 3 Shopping Carts For Beginners
- 5 Best Website Builders For Service Industries
- Best Restaurant Website Builders
- Best Website Builders For Mobile Sites
- Best Free Website Builders
- Website Builders With Great Blogging
Want Tips On eCommerce?
We’ve written a comprehensive ebook on starting an online store. It’s free and well worth a read. If you’re operating an online store already or are thinking about adding one to your website, check out these articles:
- Characteristics Of A Successful eStore
- Tools Every E-Tailer Should Use
- The Post-Launch Checklist: 7 Things Your eStore Needs After Launch
- 3 Shopping Carts You Can Use With WordPress
- Reasons Your Online Store Should Have A Blog
- Expert Tips For Taking Your Store Online
- Use These Tools To Increase eCommerce Sales
Need Help With Social Media For Your Business Website?
Social media is a huge part of good business marketing, and it’s helpful to integrate your social media channels with your website. Check out these articles for more information: