08/08/2014

By Abi Waterer, Director of Marketing, Yola Inc.

Having a website for your business is now essential for any small business. But with over 1 billion websites on the Web, and this number rising daily, it is a hard task to create an online presence that is successful and stands out from your competitors.

Working at Yola, I see loads of small business websites on a daily basis, some good and some otherwise. There is, however, a common theme with all of the “good” websites. They have clearly defined goals. These goals help shape the site’s design and the content. In addition, there are other common traits that the successful business websites share. Here is my top 5.

1. Easy navigation

Good organization of the content on your website is essential. Your website’s navigation arranges the content on your website effectively, so customers and leads can find the information they need wherever they are in the buying process. Modern websites have fewer top-level navigation tabs and more sub-level pages where customers can drill down to find more information.

If you are planning a website for your small business, a good idea is to write down all the pages you would like to have on your website and then group them into 3 to 5 categories. These categories would be your main navigation tabs, and the other pages will be sub-level pages that will live underneath the categories.

2. Effective call-to-actions

A “call-to-action” is a button or a link that encourages a website visitor to take action. Some examples of CTAs could be “Buy Now”, “Sign up” or “Download”.

For a CTA to be effective, decide where to put it on the website and whereabouts it will be in the customer buying process. For example, a homepage is likely to have a different CTA to a sub-menu page.

Take Marks and Spencer as an example:

Homepage

Product page

The CTAs on the homepage, e.g. “Shop dinner sets” or “Shop cutlery sets” are softer than those found on the product pages. The CTAs on the product pages are much stronger e.g. “Add to bag” and are focused on converting the purchase. It would seem strange or out of place to see an “Add to bag” CTA on the homepage as it is too early in the customers buying process. This CTA is more appropriate on the product page as customers have drilled down to find more information on products they are interested in and therefore further along in the purchase process.

Here are some other important factors to consider to help create effective CTAs:

Wording - The words used for a CTA should be actionable and clear to visitors, outlining what you want them to do next. Testing CTAs to see what changes impact clicks and conversions is always a great idea.
Design - CTAs should standout. Choose an eye-catching colour and make sure the background contrasts, e.g. a green button on a white background. A red button on a pink background would not be a good idea.
Size - Mobile is set to overtake desktop this year, therefore pay close attention to the size of CTAs. Not only are larger CTAs more attention grabbing, they are also easier to click on mobile devices.

3. Regularly updated content

Keep the information on your business website up-to-date and create new, fresh content. This will keep customers engaged and returning to your site. A great way to do this is via a blog.

Creating a regularly updated blog is good idea for many reasons. It will give your business a voice, a channel to announce new features or services and a way to showcase your expertise. A blog is also a great way to attract leads to your business website, providing them with helpful articles on relevant subjects. It can also help to position you as a thought leader, meaning your business will be top of mind when leads are ready to purchase.

In addition to the customer engagement benefits, a blog can also help Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For a business website to be successful, it needs to be indexed by search engines. Search engines look favourably on regularly published content.

The number of backlinks to a website are also a factor in improving SEO. A blog increases the chance of backlinks. The more people are attracted to a blog for engaging content, the more likely the content is shared, which results in backlinks to your website.

4. A social media presence

Having a presence on social media is now essential for businesses. Being on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks are a good way to engage with customers and build a community around your business. Display social media icons with respective links on your business website to allow visitors to easily follow or like your social media pages.

At Yola we make it easy to find us on all social media channels by including the icons in our footer:

Yola

If you are an ecommerce retailer, include social media buttons to make sharing specific content on your website, such as products, easily. ASOS does this well by including “Tweet”, “Pin it”, “Like”, “Share” and “G+” buttons on product pages to encourage sharing on the respective networks. This social sharing helps to get the word out about your business or products, which in turn will help your website to be successful.

5. A memorable domain name

Finally, a must for any successful business website is a domain name.

A domain name is the web address of your website and where customers will find you at online. Here are a few tips for choosing a memorable domain name:

1. Keep it short - If you already have an established business and its name is long, consider using an acronym. The Financial Times does just that; they use www.ft.com.

2. Lose the hyphens - If the domain name you’re searching for is not available, do not be tempted to use dashes, hyphens or numbers. These are difficult to remember and are likely to be forgotten if the URL is shared verbally. Hyphens do not look great and could potentially harm the perception of your brand. Instead, consider a different domain extension if the name you’re looking for isn’t available or try another name.

3. Use a custom domain - A subdomain is a domain that is part of a primary domain, as opposed to a custom domain, which is a domain of its own. To give an example, at Yola you can publish a website for free to a subdomain such as www.yourname.yolasite.com. The alternative is to use a custom domain, such as www.yourname.com. The benefit is that the URL is much shorter and therefore easier to remember, and it won’t contain the “yolasite” part, which competes with your business name.

A custom domain is essential for any successful business and will help to improve name recognition and the credibility of your website.