Why Optimise Your Small Business Website?
Is it worth optimising? After all, most visitors to local or small business websites are only looking for a phone number or location, right? No, most people browsing business websites have not made a decision to purchase yet. It’s these visitors that we are looking to optimise your business website for.
You’ve heard the phrase “If you build it, they will come”, most people think its words of wisdom from the bible, it’s not. But, the phrase has stuck as it does hold some truth in reality, however, it simply doesn’t work for website design. In the web design world, we call this ‘set it and forget it’ and one of the biggest mistakes that small business website owners make. It’s easy to understand why small business owners do this when every resource a smaller organisation has is dedicated to meeting the demands of their customers.
Surveys carried out on small businesses reveals that their top priority is creating a positive customer experience, yet too often small business websites are often poorly optimised towards their customer’s needs and/or abandoned. If you want to get ahead of your competition then optimise your small business website!
1. Optimisation of Your Website Design
- Optimise Content Positioning – It should go without saying that you should design your website towards your target audience. Part of this process is to prioritise the important content on your website to follow your reader’s eye movements. Depending on your target demographics and subsequent design style this is typically a ‘Z’ or an ‘F’/’E’ eye movement. Needless to say, your website will perform better if your readers can easily find your important content.
- Website User Blindness – Remember, today’s average website user is savvy to tricks to draw their attention and can ignore them in order to complete their intended purpose of the visit. Often referred to as ‘banner blindness’ as it’s a prominent problem within website adverting, but the phenomenon is not exclusive to adverting. Generally, older tricks that web designers use to grab attention may not work as effectively as they did a few years ago so try to keep original.
- Mobile Website Optimisation – More and more users search on the go, this is especially true for searches leading to a small local business website visit. If your business website is not optimised for mobile then you’re in trouble. Make it a priority for your small business website to be mobile friendly!
Website visitors are scanners, the aim of your business website’s design is to deliver the essential information they’re looking for. Scanners will determine if your business can provide them with the product or service very quickly. But, if they cannot find the information that they’re looking for quickly then they will most likely not stick around to search your website. Research what your customers are looking for the most and give them the information quickly which brings us nicely to the next topic…
2. Display the Information Your Website Users Want to See
When users visit a small business website they tend to look for certain information or signals in order to do business with you. You can start by optimising your website for the most common types of information that they are looking for;
- Proximity and directions
- Multiple options for contacting
- Products and Service information
- Testimonials, Reviews and social signals
This list is not extensive, you should research your own customer’s informational needs especially if you operate within a niche. For a small business website owner, this process is in many respects, easier than it is for larger organisations, just ask your customers. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of understanding your target demographics and optimise the information displayed according to their reasons for visiting your business website.
When users visit a small business website they tend to look for certain information or signals in order to do business with you. The most common types of information that they are looking for includes;
Optimise by removing any non-essential clutter on your homepage, especially ‘above the fold’. Take for example the search engines Google and Yahoo. The most popular search engine and indeed number 1 visited website in the world has a very basic layout with only a few options with what their users can do. Google gives the users exactly what they come for in the centre of the page with plenty of whitespaces to emphasise, yet its very easy to navigate to other Google products using a menu. In contrast, Yahoo’s homepage displays more information with an option to search. However, this makes Yahoo feel more like a news outlet which is one of the reasons it has a much smaller search market share.
How you display the essential information is again dependent upon the demographics that you are looking to optimise. For example, younger people typically engage more with aesthetics and a minimalist design whereas an older demographic tend to engage more with a smart, information-based layout. If we go back to the above example of Google and Yahoo, can you guess what the demographics of each search engine is?
3. Encouraging Interaction on Your Business Website
Your business website should wherever possible, look to encourage user action and interaction. Attracting and keeping a website users attention are two separate challenges, but one should lead to the other so as long as you are aware of your users’ needs. You should make the basic information users want to see as clear as possible whilst encouraging interaction to deliver further information such as up-sells, additional services etc.
When potential customers have the option to interact positively with your website it adds to the customer experience, which as you may remember is the primary goal of most small business. You can do this in a number of ways;
- Ask your potential customers to take the next step towards your goal (online or offline) with Call To Action’s (CTA’s). Try to keep things original with CTA’s and make sure you highlight why your website visitor should ‘find out more’, ‘give you a call’, ‘buy now’ or ‘whatever you would like the visitor to do’.
- Non-intrusive popups, yes, they have a very tarnished reputation (and well deserved!) throughout the history of website design. Yet, I cannot tell you how many times a well-timed, non-infusive popup has influenced my personal online purchasing decision. Good examples of these types of popups tend to centre around some kind of discount, such as;
- newsletter signup requests with a discount for the product I’m considering buying.
- Discount codes when I’m about the leave the site or page.
- Ask visitors to share/like a page. You will need to be careful with this, it could impact your website visitors experience negatively if done incorrectly. Whilst the visitor won’t receive any benefits by doing this, personally, If I have gained something from visiting the website, such as information or a better understanding I will happily give a ‘like’ or ‘share’. Consider only displaying this popup if your website visitor has been active for a set time, reading a page or looking at a product.
- Encourage your visitors to read more information on the product, service or a topic which is related to the visitor’s current page of your website. Offering as much information as they can handle is certainly a way to improve customer satisfaction prior to and after a sale. Rather than overload the user with information you can hide the information behind a clickable accordion whereby the visitor can toggle the information visibility.
Test, Audit and Always Look to Improve Your Website Design
So you’ve built a great new website and you think you’ve optimised it as much as possible, the next step is to test your theories that you’ve built your website upon. Don’t be afraid to change your business website in the name of website optimisation.
For ongoing optimisation, you can keep track of how users interact with your business website in a number of ways;
- Ask friends and family to perform the role of a user and see if they can easily find the answer to a question you set them. Their honest feedback can provide valuable information on where you can improve aspects of your website.
- Install ‘advanced analytics’ code such as Google Tag Manager (GMT) and track how your visitors are interacting with your business website. You can track things such as clicked links, button clicks, scroll depth, page loading times and much more. You don’t need to be a programmer in order to set up either, you can even import libraries and ‘recepies’ which others have shared. All your business website data that is collected can be viewed via Google Analytics
- Setup Hotjar heatmap tracking on your website, with Hotjar you can track user activity, clicks and scrolls. Its well presented to you via a heat map so it’s easy to understand which parts of your website are receiving attention and which parts are being ignored. you can gather enough data with a free account to make a real difference when optimising your site.
Once you have a clear understanding how your users are interacting with your website, what is working and what needs to improve, you can get to work on testing. Change the parts of your website which are not performing as well as expected. You can try changing the positioning, wording, font, colours, simplify a section of your website, insert an info-graphic and many other ways. Be creative, you can even A/B test over a period of time to see which works best.