When planning a small business website, there are three essential questions you should ask yourself:
- Who is your target audience?
- How will your target audience find you?
- How will you convert your visitors into sales?
These questions sound obvious, but it's amazing how many people don't bother...and then moan that "our website doesn't bring us any business". So, let's take a look at each question in turn.
Who is your target audience?
Give a great deal of thought to your target market. Who do you want to attract to your website and why? The answer to that is more than likely to sell them something - a product, a service, or an idea perhaps. Claiming that your market is anyone and everyone is far too vague, and your website will lack focus, and fail to maximise its potential. Ideally you should be aiming to create a niche.
How will they find you?
Creating a niche will also help you with the search engines, and drive hot leads to your site.
Consider what keywords your target market might type into a search engine to find you. Actually do the searches yourself. Who comes up in the top 30? Because that's where you need to be. Are your competitors there? Look at their sites. Do they work? How can you improve on them? Identify something unique about your business that sets it apart from the rest.
Those keywords - or keyphrases to be more accurate - need to be incorporated into your pages of your site - in the page titles, in the headings, and in the internal links. Be specific with your keyphrases. They will be less competitive than the more general single word searches, and will more accurately target your market. You may have to localise or specialise to get in that top 30 - and the top 30 is where you need to be to drive traffic to your site. As I am sure you are aware from your own experience, if you haven't found what you are looking for in the first 3 results pages, you look elsewhere.
The key to achieving high search engine rankings is building inbound links to your web pages - that is pages on external websites that link to pages on your site. Crucially this link acquisition should be a natural growth - where inbound link count increases at a gradual pace. The pages that link to yours should be relevant, on-topic and ideally contain the same keywords - especially in the linking text. Search engines rank pages based upon their reputation - your ranking will be determined by what other (preferably high ranking) pages say about your page.
How will you convert your visitors into sales?
Don't just tell them what you do or sell. Tell them why they want it (yes, want - not need). Offer incentives, freebies, discounts - anything to get that dialogue started.
Current research indicates that the human brain makes a judgement about a web page within a twentieth of a second! That doesn't leave you very long to make an impression. So, make sure that you have your Unique Selling Point (USP) clearly visible on your home page - and preferably prominent on every one of your other pages. After all, it's not a given that the home page will be the first page that the visitor sees, particularly if they have found you via a search engine.
Then make sure that you list your bullet-pointed guarantees. Visitors have to understand why you are different from the rest, and why they should deal with you and not your competitors. And as we've discovered, they have to understand this pretty much instantly.
Lastly, make sure that your site has a funnel-like structure. Identify your important pages - usually the "call to action" or purchase pages - and make sure all roads lead to those pages. Your internal links - like their external equivalents - should describe the target page. If you sell blue widgets, don't call your products page "Products", call it "blue widgets", and make sure that the links pointing at this page also say "blue widgets". This will not only help the search engines identify and rank the most important pages in your site, it will also lead your visitor to that all important conversion.