In an economy that has become increasingly digital, businesses rise and fall based on their website quality. Gone are the days when someone had to physically walk into your store and interact with your employees before deciding to do business with you. Now, people can visit your website and make that assessment in ten seconds.
This creates both an opportunity and a risk. You have a new opportunity to reach customers through your website. It’s never been easier to have a quality site that attracts people to shop at your store or buy from your e-commerce platform.
However, you may also lose potential customers because your website scared them off. It’s more common than you might think.
Throughout my work with local businesses here on Maui and beyond, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to websites. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools, tips, and tricks for making them better. But not everyone takes advantage of them.
If you’re just getting started, then check out our FREE downloadable PDF on this topic: Designing a Website that Produces Results
Why Your Website Matters More Than Ever
Simply put, your site is often the first thing a customer interacts with. Back in the day, they perused a brochure, looked you up in the yellow pages, or asked a few friends what they thought about you. Now, more often than not, they look you up in their Maps app or find you through a search engine and go from there.
This means that your site may be the first and only impression a customer has of you before they make a buying decision.
This is further complicated by the rise of e-commerce. When tourism went away in Hawaii a little over a year ago, most businesses saw their revenue get cut in half. This challenge led to many businesses laying off employees or closing their doors forever.
But the few businesses that pivoted to offering e-commerce options to people in the contiguous United States and beyond did better than ever before. Since e-commerce occurs mostly on your website, your site has to become your top salesperson. If not, you risk losing both local and digital customers.
Website Best Practices, Part 1
Whether you’ve been online for decades, just started up, or are looking to expand into e-commerce, here is part 1 of our tips for creating an effective website.
- Align All Content With Your Funnel
A funnel is a digital marketer’s way of paving the path your customers walk down, going from “someone out there” to “loyal, repeat customer.” These days, funnels often start on social media, search engines, or with the blog and video content you publish.
If you’re unfamiliar with funnels, here’s the main takeaway: every page on your website should have a specific purpose to invite the reader one step further down the path. No page, image, headline, or word gets wasted in this pursuit.
For a brick-and-mortar business in Hawaii, the end destination of your funnel will be a link to your online shop, a link to set up a consultation or quote, or directions to your physical location.
This is a different methodology than many business owners are accustomed to. In the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, websites typically had a “flat” architecture. Your website was made of semi-related pages that gave an overview of your business. There was “Home,” “About,” “Mission,” “Contact,” “Directions,” “Our Story,” “Photos,” “Blog,” “Store Locator,” and more, all arranged laterally on the site’s map.
Now, more websites follow a “silo” architecture, where pages are arranged vertically, all leading to the destination of your choosing. For example, on our site, it’s no secret that all roads lead to Contact Us. This is because we want to talk to local businesses and see how we can help them thrive in the digital world.
Make sure all your pages have a purpose with a clear path for the reader to follow that ends with them making a decision.
- Leverage Content Marketing to Build Influence
Like silos and funnels, content marketing is a relatively new phenomenon. In the past, businesses had a “we come to you” approach through advertising, commercials, cold calls, and collateral. Content marketing takes a “you come to us” approach in the form of blog posts, videos, testimonials, and helpful articles. The business’s website forms the hub for their content, which serves a few purposes:
For one, it helps the website’s performance in searches, especially Google. Search engines operate on a complex algorithm favoring high-quality, helpful, and authoritative content.
Content also helps you gain credibility and traction with your audience. When people click around on your website and see your blog and videos, they begin to realize you know what you’re talking about. This helps them trust you as a seller.
Additionally, content moves people along your funnel. It’s no coincidence that every video you watch and blog post you read contains an invitation to interact with the creator further.
All of this means you should have a content marketing strategy of your own. We recommend starting a once-weekly or twice-monthly blog post about things in your industry. This should be unique, original, and relevant content that helps customers get to know who you are and what you do. It doesn’t have to be incredibly long for length’s sake, but long enough to get your points across in a convincing fashion.
These first two tips focus your high-level approach. Next time, we’ll discuss technical strategies to help your site’s performance and exposure.
If you want help creating your website, or want an expert to look at what you already have, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Further Reading: How Local Businesses Can Use Facebook To Increase Sales