If you have a small business, it’s no longer a question of whether you should have a website — almost every small business either already has a website or plans to have one in the next year.
But simply having a webpage isn't enough unless it's optimized. You need to make sure your website is operating at peak efficiency and effectiveness in terms of how it attracts and directs web traffic, how it funnels visitors to your product or service, the way it loads on every device, and how it appears to the average user.
“Optimization” can mean a number of things when it comes to web pages. Here are 5 major things to consider to make your web presence as strong as possible.
1. Learn and Master Basic SEO Techniques
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is so important that entire careers are built around the practice. Assuming that you don’t have the budget to invest in hiring an SEO company, there are still some basic techniques you can learn to help boost your page’s visibility in search results:
- Create page titles: Every page on your website should have its own title, and that title should be “keyword-friendly” — something that catches the eye of people searching for your kind of business or within your industry.
- Use keywords and search phrases within your content: What would someone searching for your kind of business type into Google to find you? Create content around those concepts, and use related keywords and search terms within that content.
- Write and build quality content: Your blog posts, videos, and other content should be readable and valuable. Don’t just pump out content for the sake of having it. Your goal should be to inform and inspire your audience, not simply grab their attention and hope they don’t quickly move on when they realize your content isn’t interesting.
- Develop a sitemap: Sitemaps make it easier for search engines such as Google to index your website and for users to move between your pages logically.
Knowing SEO techniques will help you rank higher on search engines.
2. Make Sure Your Site Is Technically Sound
If you use a third-party platform to build and host your website, that platform will handle a lot of the necessary technical grunt work for you. But even so, you should double check these aspects of your website to make sure it’s technically sound (and if you build your website yourself, these are things you should make sure to have):
- Is your website mobile-optimized? More than half of all web traffic now comes via mobile devices such as smartphones. If your site doesn’t look good on mobile, prepare to lose readers fast.
- Do you have your own domain name? You may need to buy or obtain a proper domain name yourself and give your third-party platform access, but the bottom line is that you need a professional, clear domain name for your page.
- Is your site as fast as it should be? Long loading times for websites can kill SEO rankings and otherwise make the site unusable.
- Do you have SSL certification? Web security is becoming paramount for web users as cyber threats increase. An SSL certificate authenticates the identity of a website, so visitors know they won’t be scammed when they click on your content.
- Are your 404 pages helpful? Not every web page can be a winner, and sometimes an error (or 404) page emerges. If that happens, don’t let your potential new customer click away — reroute them to other parts of the site with a helpful, custom 404 page. This 404 page from Airbnb shows how to amuse while also inform wayward readers:
If the answer to any of the above questions is no, you can use third-party tools and extensions to create a well-designed experience that resonates with both users and search engines.
If your site doesn’t succeed technically, users will become frustrated and move on to a new site.
3. Create Calls-to-Action
What is the goal of your website? Is it to convert readers to customers? To inform current customers of upcoming products or sales? To build your social media or email newsletter following?
Whatever goals your site has, they should include a call-to-action (CTA), which encourages website visitors to perform a specific act. This could be to sign up for your newsletter, make a purchase, click to a new page, register for an account – whatever goal you have for your visitors, make it clear with a CTA.
Make what you want out of your visitors obvious with large buttons and quick descriptions. You only have a limited amount of time – perhaps fewer than 15 seconds – to make an impact on a visitor, so make it count.
Give website visitors an easy path to convert.
4. Incorporate Social Media Links
Connect with your readers by encouraging them to follow you on social media.
Create and populate each major platform that resonates with your audience. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are good places to start, though you may find success with Pinterest and LinkedIn as well, among others, depending on your niche. Feature links to those platforms prominently on your page.
In order to entice readers to follow you on social media, add value that can only be accessed by following specific platforms: Release links to certain deals and discounts only on social media, for example.
Having an active, successful social media strategy will, in turn, benefit your website.
5. Compare Your Offerings to Your Competitors’
Your website should pass the eye test when it comes to what your page offers compared to what your competitors offer. Don’t let your competition outshine you on a purely aesthetic level.
But there are other ways to compete that involve getting a bit more technical. Use a tool such as Ahrefs to see how well your site is ranking on keywords, content, and overall web traffic numbers that are important to your business, and see how well your competitors are doing on those same factors.
Periodic checkups of how your website and/or blog is ranking compared to competitors will help you diagnose issues with your site and see what you could be doing better.
Optimize Your Website
Optimizing your website isn’t a one-time fix. Just as you are constantly looking to improve your business’s offerings to your customers, your website should be no different.
Follow these guidelines to get started on the road to website optimization, but continue to tweak, test, and alter how your site looks and performs to get the most out of your web presence.
About the Author
Christine Soeun Choi is an SEO associate at Fit Small Business specializing in digital marketing. Currently based in NYC, she has a background in business studies and math with a passion for business development. When not helping small business owners, Christine enjoys taking photos, exploring artwork, traveling, and spending time with her family.