There are a LOT of small business websites out there that are built for entirely the wrong purpose. Is yours one of them?
92% of consumers will visit a business’ website for the first time for reasons other than making a purchase. I would say that 92% of small businesses website are built for people ready to make a purchase. See the disconnect? Your website needs to be built for all those people who aren’t ready to make a purchase because they will get there if you sets them on the right path.
Your website is the first step in the journey so make it one worth taking. The website is the hub for 99% of marketing today.
For that reason, websites have to start with strategy. They have to be built to attract and engage your ideal customer. Design has to be balanced with function and driven by strategy. To get there, you really should start with a strategy that defines your ideal client and your core difference that I’ve written about in another blog post.
Once you have that in place, there are 11 key elements every small business website should have in place. At the end of the post, you’ll find a link to download a checklist summarizing these key elements.
When a person first visits your website, all they know is that they have a problem they need to solve. They probably don’t know what it’s costing them, they’re certainly not sure your products or services are the solution. They want to know that you understand their problem.
The purpose of the promise headline, above the fold on your homepage, is to show the visitor that you understand the challenges they face. You need to make them a promise that will solve their problems. If you do a good job here, they’ll be encouraged to read your story.
Your website should tell a story that speaks to the customer. It shouldn’t be a story about you, the prospect should be the star. But your business will play a key role. You have to immediately let your website visitors see that you know what they’re struggling with and that you’re the right person to solve it.
3. Core offerings
You want to highlight your core products or services. Create boxes with about 100 words of content summarizing these elements. You’ll probably have full pages or sections on your site for each of these, but you need to have them on your homepage to introduce your customers to them and you’ll also get some additional SEO value.
If you serve more than one ideal customer type, try having a representation of each that leads to a clear path that you want each target market to take.
If you’re a local business, adding local content and resources to your homepage is key. Include Google Maps, your name, address, and phone number, and links to any relevant local content on the website.
6. Testimonials and Trust signals
Part of any customer’s journey is coming to trust you. Different people require different things for this. Trust signals can be logos of your customers, testimonials, logos of associations that you belong to, or your partners. Make sure you have some or all of these elements on your homepage.
7. SEO content
Your home page is your best opportunity to rank for your most important keywords that your potential customers are using. For that reason, you want to make sure you have enough content on your homepage to make Google think it’s useful, and that will keep people on your site longer. It’s also a great idea to update it regularly. You can achieve this by posting summaries of your blog or social feed on the homepage that shows recent activity. You should try to have about 1,000 words of content in total on your homepage.
More and more companies are featuring video on their homepage, and there are good reasons for that. Video entertains and engages website visitors, keeping them on your site longer. There is evidence that it will improve your SEO. Video tends to be shared more than text and it can vastly increase your lead conversion when used correctly.
A call to action (CTA) is an image or text that invites a website visitor to take a specific action, like requesting a consultation, downloading some content, or joining a mailing list. CTAs provide the opportunity for visitors who are ready to take the next step to make that move. Because there are many different steps in the customer journey, it’s important to have multiple CTAs on a scrolling home page and throughout your website.
More and more website traffic is coming from mobile devices. It’s a given today that a website should be designed to be mobile-first instead of simply responsive to mobile. This means making sure content is readable, phone numbers are clickable, images should be mobile-friendly.
If you’ve ever visited a website and saw the “not secure” notice in your web browser next to the URL, you’re seeing a site that is not https (this is a higher level of encryption). The fact that Google is doing this is a clear signal that they want websites to migrate to this level of security and all websites should be making this move.
Check the speed of your website using a tool like GTmetrix. If your page load speed is higher than 4 or 5 seconds, you are very likely losing a lot of potential visitors who won’t wait for slower websites to load. A few of the likely suspects to slow down a website include a sub-par hosting service, large images, older WordPress themes, certain plugins, and no caching.
Ready to make some changes on your website? Download the Must Have Elements of a Marketing Website Checklist.
Look, if you’re a local business, meaning most or all of your business comes from customers living in your community, you must get very serious about local SEO.
Don’t worry, ranking locally for the kinds of things your prospects are looking for isn’t rocket science, but it does take a serious commitment to a handful of things.
In case you’re wondering if it’s worth the investment in such a commitment, let me share a few survey tidbits.
- 98% of searchers choose a business that is on page 1 of the results they get.
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 77% of smartphone users contact a business after looking for local Information
And, I could go on, but I’m guessing you see the point – if you don’t rank well locally for the things people are searching for marketing will be a lot harder and a lot more expensive.
Here’s the good news – focus on these five elements and you can expect great results from local SEO and search. (The competitiveness of your industry may dictate your ultimate results.)
Optimize Google My Business
If you’re a local business hoping to get found online you must pay attention to, claim, and optimize your Google My Business Listing.
If this is news to you go immediately to Google’s Free Business Listing page and find out if you can claim your current listing.
Many people created or had created Google+ listings and Google made a mess of how this became Google My Business so you may have some cleanup to do to make sure that you only have one listing for your business and it’s the one Google thinks is your business.
Once you claim the right listing you need to make sure you take full advantage of all of the real estate and linking options available to you. This, by the way, is essential if your business is to ever show up in the coveted Google 3-pack for local searches shown above.
Make sure you have the right business category and subcategories chosen for your business.
Make note of the exact way your business name, address and phone number (NAP) appear. Exact meaning is is Street or St., is it Heating & Cooling or Heating and Cooling. Whatever you show listed as the NAP on your Google My Business Page, you’ll want to use consistently on your own website and across all directories. (More on this in a bit.)
Get markup right
Search engines are busy trying to adopt a consistent markup protocol to help use HTML code to properly identify things like businesses, reviews, addresses, books, movies and the like.
You can learn about the current popular markup for local businesses by visiting Schema.org.
Using proper markup for your address is kind of like handing Google your business card on a silver platter. It doesn’t look like anything to the naked eye, but Google spiders can be 100% certain what they are looking at when it comes to identifying an address on your web pages.
The good news is that you don’t really need to know anything about the underlying code to get this part right. Simply visit Schema.org’s Local Business NAP generator and fill in the blanks – The tool will produce the HTML code you need to add to your site in place of your current address.
There are other things you can do with structured markup and you can read all about it here.
Clean up citations
So, you might very well be familiar with a few directories like Yelp!, or maybe even an industry specific directory or two like Homestars or Angie’s List, but you probably didn’t realize that Google relies on hundreds of data aggregators and directories to help them sort out and keep straight all of the local businesses out.
So, getting your listing straight on Google is essential, but if you’ve moved, or changed your phone, or just listed your details in all sorts of ways in business filings or Chamber directories, there’s a good chance Google isn’t sure which listing is correct and that’s not a good thing.
Google use many data sources to try to get the most accurate picture. The image above from MOZLocal shows the interrelation of information sourced between data agrregators, directories, and search engines in Canada.
The last thing Google wants to do is send someone to the wrong address when they search for a local business.
Above is an example of a local business that has multiple inconsistent citations online. The name is spelled out differently, there are three different phone numbers and at least two different addresses.
I’m certainly not picking on this business – In my experience, some sort of inaccurate data is out there for most businesses.
Use a tool like MozLocal and see just how bad this problem is for your business.
Once you determine there are a few inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete listings use MozLocal, BrightLocal, WhiteSpark or Yext to clean listings and suppress inaccurate duplicates that often occur.
You might also want to check out this list of industry specific directories.
This step alone can do more for your local listings than any other aspect of local SEO.
Create local SEO content
This one should be obvious but it kind of isn’t.
If you think about it, when you create a brochure and hand it to a prospect that pretty much know that you work in their city. But, when you create content online, you need to go over and above to spell out where you do your work.
Now, it’s easy to get spammy listing lots of local content and that can hurt you as much as help you, but you certainly should talk about where you work and in some cases have specific pages with case studies for specific trade areas, suburbs, and neighborhoods.
Don’t forget to blog and post about local events and happenings. Using your blog to take about community, customer, and employee related local news is a great way to spice up your local content in very authentic ways.
If you have multiple locations you may want to learn about and adopt what many SEO folks refer to as content silos for each location – here’s a great primer on local content silos.
Focus on reviews
Reviews have become an incredibly important form of content. As the statistic cited at the beginning of this post suggests, people increasingly rely on reviews to make decisions about the products and services they purchase.
So, while you need positive reviews for social proof, you also need them as a pillar of your local SEO efforts.
Google factors review activity as one of the elements that helps determine what businesses show up in the 3-pack.
No, it’s not the only factor, but it’s an important one.
The image above from a BrightLocal survey demonstrates just how important reviews have become in the purchase journey for local businesses. Fully 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and a growing number are reading them them regularly.
Take a look at the businesses in the image earlier in this article. Reviews are displayed and play a large role in what businesses are shown – and for the consumer, what businesses are clicked.
Reviews are harder to get than they should be. Even a business with raving fans must work to get those reviews from happy customers.
The key is to ask often and make it as easy as possible for your happy customers to log in to the sites that matter and leave a review. Sure you’ll take a glowing email testimonial from a customer, but far better to push for a Google, Yelp, Facebook or industry review. (Check out this list of important industry review sites.)
You can always repurpose these reviews in email newsletters, on your site, or even hanging up in the store.
Take some time and make each of the five steps above a priority for your local business and you may find that local leads drawn from organic search can become your most potent lead generation channel.
Most small business owners I talk with have a lot of the same issues, one that comes up often is how to build a lead generation website. Sometimes it comes in the form of why isn’t my website capturing leads from the traffic I’m getting.
If you’re getting traffic to your website, but it’s not turning into leads and customers, then the tips in this blog will help you solve some common problems small business owners encounter when they’re trying to build a lead generation website. If you want some ideas specific to your website, try our Free Website Review.
The first issue is always getting the traffic to your website, but that’s a topic unto itself. For the sake of this post, let’s assume you’re getting some traffic to your website, but they’re not converting.
Engaging Your Audience
If the traffic to your website in not turning into leads and customers you are likely failing to engage your audience. You might be talking too much about yourself and hoping that, if you’ve got them to your website, they’ll sell themselves. It won’t happen. You need to demonstrate to them that you truly understand the problem they have and build their trust. The way you do this is with content. Authentic, helpful content.
Blogs, videos, newsletters, ebooks, podcasts, infographics. They’re all designed to do one thing: build trust with your audience.
By engaging your audience through content that speaks to their problems, you’ll signal to them that you understand and may have something of value to offer.
Creating the Right Content
To do this, you have to take the time to map out what those problems are and offer helpful advice on how to fix them. And not all of that advice can be buying your product or service. You’ll get there, but it can’t be the first thing they hear from you or you’ll never build that trust.
Spend time mapping out the issues your prospective customers have and coming up with ideas for content that speaks to it. Then, either yourself or by hiring a content developer, write those blog posts, record those videos, create those ebooks, and build that content into every page of your website!
Have Strong Calls to Action
Once you have their interest and start to build their trust, they’ll be more likely to give you their information on your lead capture form. But you have to ask for it, and prominently.
That form could be a blog subscription form, or a form to download a special report or ebook, but whatever it’s for, it needs to be in their face with strong calls to action. “Get our weekly business tips right to your inbox”, Get the latest research …”, Find out what your competitors don’t know yet”.
If you hide your lead capture form on the bottom of your Contact Us page only a very few people will ever find – or be motivated to fill it out.
Now that you have that lead captured, you have to nurture it. Your website has done its job and you have to keep it going. Continue to send them useful content they will find value in. Every now and then send them an offer for a larger piece of content that has even more value. It may be free, or even one they have to pay small price for. If they accept, and download that content it will signal their interest and trigger you to reach out.
This phase is where your email marketing strategy needs to kick in and keep them engaged until they are ready to purchase.
“People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy,” – Jeffrey Gitomer.
If you build an effective lead generation website and combine it with a lead nurturing strategy that builds trust, you will be creating buyers.
For local businesses, showing up on page one of Google is a must. It can mean the difference between success and failure. COVID-19’s impact on consumer behaviour has made this even more important – more on that here.
Any local business wanting to be found online needs a good local SEO strategy, and a good local SEO strategy starts with a completely optimized Google My Business (GMB) listing. It’s an easy, but critical first step.
a GMB listing is free to set up an will help you appear in local searches on Google Maps, Local Finder, and all mobile searches.
First thing’s first. If you haven’t already claimed your listing do it now. To claim your business listing go to https://www.google.com/business.
Enter Your Complete Data
Once you’ve claimed your listing, follow the steps outlined by Google and fill in ALL the information they ask for. This is incredibly important step to optimize your Google My Business listing, and many businesses just fill in the basics and no more.
The problem with that is, if you don’t complete all the details, Google knows elements are missing and will ask others to complete your profile for you by asking questions like in the image below.
Pro tip: When filling out your business listing try to use some useful keywords you want to rank well for in searches.
For detailed instructions on claiming your business check out this Google article.
Keep Your Hours Accurate
Keep your hours of operation up to date. If you are closing for a holiday or staying open for one, be sure to list those special hours. Your customers will appreciate the accurate information and Google will notice that your listing is being actively managed.
Manage and Respond to Reviews
Online reviews are critical to your visibility online. Those star ratings next to your company name in a search can either earn you more business or cost you potential sales. I go into more detail on managing reviews in this blog post, but I’ll touch on it briefly here.
Managing reviews comes down to asking for them and responding to the ones you get. There are a number of ways you can ask for reviews, but here’s a useful post from Google if you want to create a link where you can ask customers to leave a review directly in your Google My Business listing.
In your GMB listing, actively managed reviews will help with your visibility. Respond to your reviewers. When you get a negative review, try to acknowledge the reviewer and offer an explanation where possible. This can help to win this customer back, but more importantly, it shows people reading the reviews that you are responsive and professional.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Photos on your Google My Business listing not only say more to your customers, they also increase the likelihood they will act on seeing your listing. I’ve read that listings with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions and 35% more click-throughs to their website.
Google My Business Posts
Once you have your listing created, take advantage of the Posts feature. This allows you to create a social media-like post that appears as part of your listing.
Use it to promote a special offer, or contest, or anything you want to highlight. And keep it current. Google will actually remind you on a weekly basis to refresh your post, which is an awesome feature for the busy among us.
You can even add call-to-action buttons like “Learn More” or “Sign Up” to your post and drive traffic to a specific landing page.
There is no definitive proof that these posts have a direct impact on SEO, but they can increase the likelihood of a potential customer clicking on your listing, which indirectly helps by signalling to Google that your listing is relevant to whatever search terms were used.
If you have more questions about managing your Google My Business listing, send me an email. If you’d like to get a better idea of whether or not yours is working, try getting one of our Total Online Presence Audits.
As a business owner, you need to know how to manage your online reputation. Your business’ reputation is everything. If you have a good one, people will hear and customers will come. If you have a bad one, people will hear that, too, and stay away – and worse, tell others as well. And if you have none at all, well, no one will hear about you and you’ll struggle to attract new customers.
In the online world your reputation is very much the sum of the reviews your customers leave on sites like Facebook, Google, Yelp, and the many, many niche business review sites. And these reviews are becoming more and more important.
Consumers are less and less moved by advertising and more and more influenced by recommendations from their peers. A recent study in the UK found that 8 out of 10 Millennials will not buy anything without first reading an online review.
There is also evidence to suggest that your reviews impact your SEO. Even if they don’t have a direct impact on how high you appear in search results, seeing those five little stars next to your business’ or product’s name in Google is definitely going to impact consumer decisions about whether or not to purchase from you.
So, how do you manage your online reviews and reputation?
It’s a three-step process to get started. You have determine which review sites are important to you, ask your customers to post reviews on those sites, and manage your negative reviews.
Choosing the Review Sites That Matter to You
There are thousands of places your customers could leave a review about you. Which ones matter to you will depend on what business you’re in and where your customers go for advice. The most important sites are the ones where your business is already receiving reviews. If you’re not sure if you have any, try Googling “reviews for [your business name]” and see what comes up.
There are a few sites that are important to all businesses just because of the volume of traffic they receive:
- Google My Business
If you’re in the hospitality or entertainment industry some important ones are:
If you offer local services, look into sites like Homestars, Trustpilot, and, again, Yelp.
If you Google “reviews for” and insert your business type you’ll get a list of some of the more popular ones in your industry.
Another key place to be capturing and publishing your reviews is your own website. You want people who visit your site to see what others are saying about you. As I’ve stated earlier, this is what more and more consumers are looking for when making a buying decision, so make it easy for them to find.
Get Positive Reviews
Once you know where you’re getting reviews, or identified the review sites where you want to get reviews, the next question to answer is how do you get positive reviews. Step one is to deliver a great product, service, or customer experience. Assuming you are already doing that, the next step is simple: ask for them.
You should have a process in place to ask your customers to give you a review. When you’ve made a sale, delivered a service, finished a project. Have a mechanism for asking that customer how you did. And, if the answer is positive, ask if they’d provide an online review for you.
The more specific you can be about the ask, the better the review you stand to get. A review that provides detail about their experience (and your product or service) is better than a generic “They’re great.”
There are online tools that can help you do this for a cost. But you can also manage it yourself with a short email template, a printed 3×5 card with a few questions on it, or even a phone call.
The other business advantage to asking how you did is that you’re going to find out when customers were unhappy about your product or service. This is hugely valuable. When this happens you have a chance to salvage that relationship and make things right. You can also prevent some of those unhappy customers from posting negative reviews of your company online.
Still, even with this process, you will still get negative reviews.
What to Do When You Get Negative Reviews
You will get negative reviews. It happens to everyone. The important thing is how you deal with it. Here are some tips to effectively manage those reviews so they don’t hurt your business.
Never, ever argue with the reviewer. Always take the high ground. If you get into an online debate with someone, you make the issue seem like a big deal and you, inevitably, end up looking petty. What you want to do is demonstrate that you are listening and you are a professional.
If there is merit to the complaint, acknowledge it, apologize and try to move the conversation offline. Never offer any compensation for a bad experience in your response. This will just signal to other readers that they can get free stuff if they complain. Just move the conversation offline.
If there is no merit, or you can’t do anything to make it better, simply acknowledge their feelings and move on. It will demonstrate to prospective customers that you take your customers’ feelings seriously and are a true professional.
If you take these steps towards managing your online reviews, it will form the cornerstone for how to manage your online reputation and turn it into a business advantage that your competitors just can’t compete with.