Having a website is absolutely critical to your business’ success. It doesn’t matter what your business does, who your customers are or what industry you’re operating in. If you don’t have a company website, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s not fair, but the internet is such a huge aspect of buying decisions that you can’t afford to ignore it.
In last year’s third annual Small Business Survey conducted by Clutch, 29% of small businesses said they didn’t have a website. Why is that a problem? Because according to researchers at the Welsh Government, an estimated 93% of all business purchases now start with someone using an online search engine.
So, if you want to capture some of those potential sales leads to drive business to your new company, you need to invest in creating a website for those leads. More important still, if you’ve already got a website, you need to do everything you can to make sure it’s fit for purpose.
That means creating a site that is crisp, fully functional and fully responsive. It means acting upon market research to provide the best possible user experience, and it means capitalising upon every available opportunity to convert leads into genuine sales.
Although all of this may sound like a daunting to-do list, creating a fantastic company website is actually a lot easier to do than you might realise – and it all starts with taking stock and figuring out which essential items you might be missing.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled this list of the 10 things your website absolutely must have:
1. A strong call to action
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make when launching a new website is to forget a strong call to action. What is a call to action?
A call to action – or CTA – is marketing jargon used to define a piece of content that has been designed and placed exclusively to get a user to perform a certain act. This could include signing up for a newsletter, choosing to download a brochure or order form, making an actual purchase or anything in between.
Because CTAs are so vital in capturing leads and securing business for your company, they should be included throughout your website. If you’ve got an e-commerce plugin on your website, you should have CTAs on all product pages. Likewise, you should have CTAs on all web pages describing your company’s services or what you do. As you might imagine, placement is crucial, too.
You should place your calls to action in prominent areas that users will be able to find quickly. Ordinarily, companies will place at least one CTA at the top of a homepage, bottom of a blog and top of a product page. That being said, the frequency is totally up to you. If you’d like a lot of text or imagery on your homepage, it could be worth including a CTA at the top and the bottom of your page.
A good CTA also needs to be distinguishable from all other text or graphics on a webpage. Users are more likely to click on your CTA if it takes the form of a button or coloured hyperlink with large text. The language used should reflect what your customer would be most likely to react to – which is the sort of information you should be able to conduct as part of your company’s market research.
Finally, you need to think long and hard about where your calls to action are going to lead users. Web users are notoriously fickle, and so you may very well have only a single opportunity to capture a lead and turn that individual into a customer or client. That means you can’t afford to lose them by making them click back and forth between separate pages.
If you’ve got a data capture form, buy-it-now page or contact us page you’d like people to engage with, link users directly to those forms or pages using your prominent CTAs.
2. Company contact information
Another mistake you don’t want to fall victim to is to forget including company contact information on your business website.
Like it or not, your company’s website is its window to the world. You might not be web-savvy, and you might prefer it if people phoned you rather than emailed or sent in a digital enquiry form. But nobody will know how to phone you, write to you or visit you in-store, if you don’t put that information up on your company website.
That’s why most sites generally have a webpage built specifically to house only contact information. It should include all of the ways in which a person could possibly contact your business, and you must regularly check back on that page to make sure the information is current and 100% accurate.
If you change email address or move premises, but forget to update your website, you could end up losing out on major business.
Your contact page needs to be prominently displayed in any navigation bar or menu your website has – and because contact information is so crucial, many business websites will go a step further by placing their company’s contact method of choice in the footer of each page on their site.
3. A responsive web design
According to researchers at Statistica, 52.64% of all global web traffic in 2017 came from mobile devices. Fast forward to the end of 2018, and Zenith Media has predicted that 79% of all web traffic is projected to come via mobile.
In order to meet the ways in which users are interacting with websites, search engine giants like Google have recalibrated their search algorithms, so websites that cater to those audiences are given pole position on mobile searches.
What does that mean for your company website? It means you need to make sure all of your designs and pages are fully responsive – otherwise, you’re going to miss out on a lot of mobile traffic.
Google defines responsive web design as being a setup in which a given server is always sending the same HTML code to all sorts of devices, and CSS is used to change the rendering of a page on a device. In plain English, that means a responsive website adjusts to a person’s screen automatically – thus ensuring the same level of user experience, no matter what device your website is being accessed from.
So, how do you create a responsive website? If you’re a developer or you are using a web developer to create a bespoke website design, Google offers support on how to code responsive web designs. But if you’re new to websites and not quite sure, you should create your company site using a platform like WordPress, where you can use a pre-designed web template that will always come fully responsive and ready to look great on any type of device screen.
4. Social media links
In this day and age, you can’t afford to ignore social media. According to research conducted by MarketingSherpa, 95% of adults aged 18-34 are likely to follow a company on a social networking site. That means mainstream sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are huge pools of potential sales leads, and they’re a fantastic way of building a community around your brand.
After all, with social media, individuals are given a direct line to your company. You can have real conversations with customers from any device at any time of day – building brand loyalty and fostering relationships that inevitably lead to positive experiences and referrals.
Bearing in mind how important social media is to your company’s success, why would you not want to advertise your social media presence on your own website? If you’re using social networking to connect with customers, share deals and foster relationships, one of the CTAs on your website should be reminding users to follow your company on social media.
That means you should be including links to your social media accounts on any contacts page on your site, as well as recurring places such as a footer, header or on blog pages.
5. A sitemap
Everybody likes to know where they’re going. There’s nothing worse than getting lost on a company website – especially when you know exactly what you’re looking for on the site. If you want to keep people on your website and give them what they are looking for, you should create a sitemap on your website.
A sitemap is simply a page on your website that lists every other page on the site and links directly to that page. It doesn’t need to be snazzy or overly complicated – a good sitemap is just a simple list. Sitemaps should normally be organised like a tree, showing users parent pages first, followed by any subpages you may have on your site.
6. An automated marketing system
Digital marketing can take up a huge amount of time – particularly if you’re running a small business and need to split your time between a large number of responsibilities. That’s why taking on an automated marketing system to assist you in promoting your company website is a huge help in terms of increasing online visibility.
Automated marketing systems are essentially just browser-based platforms that companies use to pre-load marketing materials to be distributed on a regular basis to existing followers. The most popular form of automated marketing system is social media.
Platforms like Hootsuite enable you to integrate all of your social media channels from sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace, WordPress, TrendSpottr, Mixi and more, so your company’s entire social media marketing mix can be viewed on one, intuitive dashboard.
From there, you can pre-schedule posts promoting webpages on your site, new products, blog posts or anything in between – weeks in advance. As a result, you don’t have to waste time every single day promoting your website via social media.
7. An SEO plugin
As previously mentioned, if you want your website to be found by potential customers, you need to do everything within your power to make sure you’re being found on search engines. To do that, you need to have a serious think about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
SEO is defined by Moz as the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of traffic your website is receiving through organic search results. That practice is essentially dominated by taking a look at all of the factors that search engines like Google and Bing use in their algorithms to decide which websites are ranked above others for a given search term – which normally include the relevance of page titles, metadata, domain mentions, the types of websites your pages are linking to and much, much more.
Improving your SEO is one of the 21st century’s most difficult and testing games of trial-and-error. That’s why small business owners are justifiably turning to SEO plugins that automatically carry out this tinkering for them.
Plugins like Yoast SEO are easily integrated onto a wide range of business websites, and are capable of carrying out SEO health checks on your website to let you know how your pages are performing and where they could be improved. It allows you to customise your meta descriptions, test pages based on target keywords and uses an easy-to-understand traffic light system to let you know how different parts of your site are doing.
8. A faster cache plugin
Web users are notoriously impatient. In fact, according to research conducted by DoubleClick by Google, a whopping 53% of mobile consumers will click ‘back’ or abandon a page if it doesn’t load in under three seconds. Unless you’d like to lose out on those potential sales, that means you need to do everything you can to make sure you’re offering a fantastic user experience with minimal load times.
If your website is letting you down on load times, it’s time to think about a faster cache plugin.
Plugins like Autoptimize specialise in taking a cache – which is a temporary spot your computer uses to store online data – and using a server-level acceleration feature to renew the information way quicker without rewriting it. What does that mean in English? Essentially, it just means that by installing these plugins on existing WordPress sites, your pages will load a lot faster.
Taking the time to install a good cache plugin for your website is a no-lose scenario.
9. A company blog
Do you have a lot of expertise or knowledge in your field? If so, then you could make your website a whole lot more popular by sharing that knowledge.
One of the best ways to help establish your brand as a thought-leader is to use your website as the staging ground for a resource centre. By starting a company blog, you can keep your customers up-to-date on industry movements, as well as how big news stories could impact your industry. Likewise, blogs are also a great way of fostering engagement with sales leads and starting a conversation about your services or the wider industry in which those services are available.
It’s also worth pointing out that, by starting a company blog, you’re also creating more valuable pages on your website that search engines will be able to catalogue and lead users to. That means increased footfall – which should, in turn, lead to an increase in sales.
10. Company terms and conditions
With the launch of the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), web users have now got more rights than ever when it comes to how their data is stored or used. To comply with those rules and ensure people are confident that your website is safe, you absolutely must include a terms and conditions page on your website.
If you’re not sure what a terms and conditions page should look like, Invest Northern Ireland offers detailed guidance on how to structure your website terms and conditions page.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, your company’s website is going to be instrumental in your success. That’s why you need to give it plenty of thought and attention, and you owe it to your business to try and make your website the best it can possibly be.
By taking a look at what’s missing, and then filling the gaps, you’ll be able to improve your website’s user experience, increase footfall and convert leads into genuine sales.
If you’re on the hunt for more information about how to create and improve your company website, it’s worth checking out our Ultimate guide to starting your own business. There, you’ll find detailed information on how to choose a web host, how to structure your website, social media marketing and more.