Call me the website fairy. I know the last New Year’s resolution on your list is to revamp your website. You're most likely putting it off because you work too many hours, can’t afford a designer and you tense up every time you think about it.
The following tips from small-business owners will make your site discoverable to potential clients and attractive to a multiple-visit viewer. These ideas won’t cost you a dime or take forever to accomplish.
Boot-up your printer.
If you don’t have a blog attached to your website, now is the time to set it up. Log on to WordPress and create a blog for free. Then, link the blog to your website or incorporate it by adding an extra page to your toolbar (YouTube tutorial).
Now that your blog is set up, what will you write about?
Write Q&As on influencers in your industry, suggests Rusty Shelton, founder of Shelton Interactive. If you're launching an accounting firm, reach out to accounting professors in your area and ask to interview them. Ask them about the latest accounting trend or related news, and transcribe the interviews into blog posts. Ask the professors to link their own Facebook pages or websites to your post to give you more exposure.
Shelton recommends blogging at least three times a week and writing 500 to 750 words per post. You don’t have to interview influencers in each post. Write about current events through the lens of your business expertise. You might even attract journalists looking for a credible expert to comment on a news story.
“Last year, a neurologist client wrote a blog post about the Gabby Giffords tragedy,” says Shelton. “He got a call from 20/20 to comment. It was tremendous publicity for him.”
You can also write up case studies. If you see someone in your industry doing something interesting, call and ask for an interview. Chances are they’ll be thrilled to get the publicity and the two of you can cross-promote—a win-win.
Adding video to a website has never been easier. Just take a smartphone or Flip video camera (available for about $70) and start recording. Begin with a welcome video that explains what your business is about and introduces you as the owner, says Shelton. Put the video on YouTube or Vimeo and upload it to your homepage.
“Having a video on your homepage is a great way to instantly connect with the site visitor,” he says.
Consider posting a video blog every few weeks. Focus on a topic area you're passionate about or ask a client to give an on-camera testimonial. Interview industry thought leaders and record how-to videos.
“Plumbers can do a video on how to unclog a drain or how to deal with a flood,” Shelton says. “Think about real issues people are facing and provide valuable information that will help them. It will build good will among potential customers and they'll share it with others.”
Offer free resources in exchange for e-mails
Post valuable information and you may snag a client for life. Shelton suggests that you create a box on your homepage called "Free Resources." Write a list of useful information and save it in PDF format.
For example, if you are a home designer, make a checklist for people to run through before choosing a color palette. If you’re an accountant, create a checklist of documents needed to prepare taxes accurately.
Post the downloadable PDF in your Free Resources box, and allow downloads only if viewers subscribe to your e-mail newsletter.
“The exchange is important; it allows a business owner to build a direct line to potential customers,” notes Shelton. “Just make sure to change out resources often. You don’t want your website to look like a brochure where there is no reason to go back.”
Register with business-listing sites
Discoverability is vital to the success of a small-business website. Entrepreneurs should register business sites on Yelp and Yahoo Local. Try Bing Local and Google Places. Peter T. Boyd, founder of PaperStreet Web Design says doing this will not only help your search engine optimization (SEO), it will also validate your existence to customers searching for your services.
Add social media-sharing tools
Have you noticed how every article on The New York Times website gives you the option to Tweet it and share it on your Facebook page? This helps to spread the word about articles and brands.
Small-business owners should offer social media-sharing tools on their sites.
“Search is shifting to social,” says Alicia Marie Phillips, a digital-marketing consultant. Every time you type a search term into Google, the first few links that appear are related items shared by people in your network. Adding sharing tools on your site broadens your reach to potential customers.
“If you don’t have a way to tap into Facebook, Twitter and Google+ on your site, you are missing out,” Phillips says. “People really pay attention to what their friends share.”
If you're not sure how to add social media tools to your site (YouTube tutorial).
Offer daily or weekly deals
As a consumer, nothing catches my eye more than a great deal. Try offering a daily or weekly deal that is exclusive for your online customers and publicize it on your homepage. Talk to your customers in person about these deals, too, recommends Ben Nesvig, social media manager at Snap Social Media.
“Do what you can to blur your offline and online business worlds,” Nesvig suggests. “Consider doing merchandising that promotes your website, along with an incentive to go there.”
Pay attention to keywords
The better your search-engine ranking, the better your potential to capture more page views and, ultimately, more customers. How do you cement yourself on Google’s first page?
“Pay attention to the Google Keywords Tool,” recommends Phillips. “Run a few searches for words that describe your business. The tool will tell you what keywords perform well in search and the ones that don’t. Incorporate popular words into your site to increase your ranking.”
Watch your analytics
Check out the backend workings of your website and you might be surprised by what you find. Register for Google Analytics and you'll be able to see which blog posts are doing best on your site, what keywords are bringing up your homepage and which pages are getting the most clicks.
“Pay attention to these analytics," says Jann Mirchadani, owner of Marketing Café, a digital marketing firm. "They will help guide you in creating more content that is meaningful to your audience."
What website improvement ideas can you share with small-business owners?