Wednesday, April 7, 2010

7 Small Business Website Tips

#1 Content is Key

How much time did you spend developing your content?

We get this question all the time: “How can I improve my search engine rankings?” One of the first things we examine on your website is content. Believe it or not, you can never really have enough content.

It is true that many web surfers don’t want to read a lot on a website, and many clients tell us “I want to be short and to the point with my content.” But the way to achieve this is not to hold back on your content. Instead, you should actually fill your website with plenty of relevant content and not worry about whether people want to read it all. With the proper structure, you can have the main points on the first pages of your website and have a simple “Read More” link that takes visitors to more meaty content. That way, you are giving people the option to read more if they want to.

Here are some tips to help you develop a website structure that allows for lots of content without overwhelming your readers:

  1. Make good use of page titles and headings.
  2. Use bullet points when you can. For the quick web surfer, bullet points are much easier to read than paragraphs.
  3. Make use of tertiary (after secondary) pages. Stick to the “short and sweet” rule on your secondary pages, but include “Read More” links that lead to tertiary pages. That way, you can offer more detailed content to those surfers who would like more information on a topic.
  4. Use call outs and features to draw attention to important information that you want web surfers to know, such as discounts, promotions, or news.

Why so much content? The more content you have, the more keywords and pages there are for search engines to index. This ultimately raises your site in the search engine rankings. As a prime example, the page you are reading right now is not only giving you practical information that we hope you’ll find useful for your business, but it is also giving Control Alt Designs a much better chance of landing more search engine hits, so that even more businesses can learn about our helpful services.

#2 Fresh is Best!

How often do you update your website content?

Does your website have content that is five years old? If so, your site is long overdue for an update! No industry is static, and no commercial website should be either. Fresh web content says to your customers that your business is dynamic and that you are involved and well-informed on the latest trends of your industry. There are several ways to make sure your site feels current and up-to-date. You can add a blog to your site, to keep people in the loop with recent developments in your business. With the social media revolution, simply having Facebook and Twitter links on your website convinces many readers that your business is keeping up with the times and communicating with customers (and potential customers). Here are just a few ways to keep your website fresh:
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters
  • News articles
  • Social Media (Facebook,Twitter, etc)
  • Offering promotions, specials, and discounts on your products and services

CAD can help get you started by implementing any of these features on your website. However, it always takes a small investment on your part to actively keep your website fresh.

#3 Don’t Try to Game Google

Is your website search engine friendly?

If any web designer promises you that he or she has special inside expertise or secret magic tricks to “guarantee” you high search engine rankings or top placement on search results, beware, beware, beware. All major search engines are now spending lots of money to fight against the very practices that these web designers are promising to you. Search engines have successfully suppressed many of these tactics already, and they are working hard to eradicate them altogether. More importantly, things like keyword spamming, extremely long meta tags, and various other subversive strategies will only make you look like a cheat, and it’s just a matter of time before search engines notice and take action.

The basic principle is very simple. Let’s take Google for example. Believe it or not, Google is a business, and like every other business, Google has a product. What is its product? Search results! What makes its product competitive? Reliable and relevant search results! If a company were able to “cheat” its way to the top of search results, ten Google would not be a very reliable or relevant company, and it would not be the multi-billion-dollar success story that it is. Therefore, Google has a tremendous financial incentive to shut down any web designers who try to trick the system.

Instead of playing tricks, it’s much easier, more productive, and ultimately cheaper to just play by the rules. Search engines openly publicize the most efective ways to secure top placement in search results. Google, for example, has webmaster guidelines. It’s best to simply do what the search engines recommend.

#4 Lots of Links

Do you have other websites linking to yours?

The links to your website are very important. These are known as “backlinks” (also called incoming links, inbound links, inlinks, or inward links).

Backlinks (or back-links [UK]) are incoming links to a website or web page. Inbound links were originally important (prior to the emergence of search engines) as a primary means of web navigation; today their significance lies in search engine optimization (SEO). The number of backlinks is one indication of the popularity or importance of that website or page.

Source: Wikipedia

To draw an analogy, backlinks are like referrals. Would you refer your friend to a company that you knew nothing about or a business that had poor service or bad products? Probably not. What if you could measure the quality of a company by the number of referrals it gets? Wouldn’t you want to do business with a company that gets a lot of referrals? Well, search engines can see if your website is getting referrals (backlinks) from other websites. When search engines see that a lot of other websites link to your website, it’s a clear sign that you may be a relevant and reliable business. So Google for example (concerned about the relevance and reliability of its search engine results) would be comfortable placing your site high on its search results.

The links within your site should be relevant.

#5 Use Quality Code

Many small business owners don't have much control over the code used to create their web site (after all, they typically hire web designers for that). However, busines owners should still be aware of just how important their website’s code may be. In order for you to get the most bang for you buck with search engines, your website’s source code must comply with certain industry standards and be thoroughly checked for any coding errors that would interfere with search engine assimilation. These precautions also make your site more widely visible across varied platforms (computer types) and in different browsers.

Ensure that your web designer is writing standard compliant code that is validated for errors. A great resource in this regard is the World Wide Web Consortium, better known as the W3C. The W3C is an organization that develops authoritative standards and best practices to ensure the healthy and productive growth of the world wide web. You can also check your own website for standards compliance using free on-line tools from the W3C

#6 Avoid Nonsense Page Names

Do you have keyword-based URLs?

The actual terms used in your domain name, page titles, page files and main headings are very important to help your website perform better. Search engines actually look for keywords in your domain name and page titles, so your word choice should be very strategic. For example, is a much more search-engine-friendly domain name than Similarly, a web page called “services.html” would do little or nothing to improve a site’s search engine presence; whereas “pest-control-services.html” would be much more productive. In other words, when titling your pages, ask yourself, “what terms will my customers likely be typing into the search field? These considerations can greatly improve your business’s accessibility and significantly increase traffic on your site.

#7 Credibility Counts!

Does your website look professional?

It takes less than eight seconds for a potential customer to “size you up” online. During that eight seconds, people are already forming opinions about the credibility of your company simply based on how your website looks. If they have never done business with you, and have never heard of you, and were not referred to you by someone they trust, then your entire first impression comes from these first eight seconds on your website. The tough reality is that, yes, people really do judge a book by its cover. You may honestly have the best product or service in the world, but if you meet a client dressed in rags, you will greatly undermine your own credibility. Websites work in exactly te same way.

Give people the best first impression that you can afford. Here are some useful tips:

  • Professional photography
    Remember that most web surfers will never see, taste, or touch your product before they buy it. Providing high quality photos of your products goes a long way towards making them feel comfortable pressing the “Buy Now” button.
  • Clean, easy to read content
    You should keep a clean site reading experience for because of users of your site having wanted ergonomics. WAIT! Don’t close this window just yet: We deliberately made that sentence a total nightmare to demonstrate how easily bad writing can steer users away from your business. Consider your audience, and write in a way that specifically respects that audience. Is your website designed for poetry writers? Orthodontists? Lawyers? Construction workers? Elementary students? If your budget allows, it may be a worthy investment to hire a good, professional copy writer. At the very least, have your content reviewed by several other people who belong to the particular clientele that you are targeting.
  • Nice website graphics
    People can tell the difference between homemade graphics and professionally designed graphics. The first statement you make with an amateurish website is that you are an amateur – not just at web design, but at everything! Don’t let people assume things about you that are not true. Invest in your first impression!


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