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Small Business, Big Web Presence

A web site is a modern necessity for businesses big and small. In the past, only online businesses needed a web presence. Today, internet users often look on the web before venturing to their local supplier's store.

So, how do you develop an effective web presence?

  • Clean Navigation - keep it simple, clear, and organized.
  • Focused Content - stay on topic and use links to related, or similar, content.
  • Clear Action - define what you want the visitor to do on your site and remove all the obstacles to make it simple for them to achieve.
  • Contact Information - confers legitimacy on your business as well as assuring visitors that you are reachable.
  • Blog - a valuable resource for sharing news and insights. A well written blog can be a treasure trove of information.
  • Reviews - be proactive, try to identify problems before they take hold.
  • Flash Warning - avoid building your site entirely in flash.

sextant Navigation

If you have ever visited a site and been unable to find what you need, then chances are you have been the victim of poor navigation layout. Keep it simple. Carefully decide the sections you want and what you intend to have in them. If your site will accommodate online sales, you will have a products or catalogue section and when a visitor selects something it will go into the shopping cart or basket.

You will notice that the titles are very standard (products, shopping cart), while this may seem mundane when you are being creative there is a reason for it. When a visitor lands on your web site they want to find what they are looking for and get on with their lives. If a visitor cannot find your products section they will go somewhere else. You want visitors to be confident as they use your site. At the end of their visit you want them to leave with a positive experience which will entice them back. A nightmare experience will have visitors avoiding a site like the plague. Remember, people may not comment when something was pleasing, but they will recount repeatedly an unpleasant experience and that is not the kind of advertising you want.

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origami box Content

Your content has the greatest potential to entice visitors to delve deeper into your site. You should remember that not all visitors will arrive at your home page. Keep this in mind as you create your content and develop your page layout. You want people to explore beyond their initial landing page.

Lisa Barone, in an article for SmallBizTrends.com, put forward the idea of 'sticky content'. What sticky content is depends on you. Perhaps you have developed a useful spreadsheet to help calculate something important to your customers, such as the dimensions of dome sections, or survey deviation calculations. If you want to attract attention to specific posts and helpful resources you will want a link to that information to appear prominently on each page.

Focus on one topic at a time. Avoid the temptation to clutter the page with related information, instead provide links to related topics which may be helpful and relevant.

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clapboard Action!

What is it you want visitors to do? This is an important question because it sets the ultimate goal of your site. If you want a visitor to buy your product, then that process should be paramount in your pages. Find the product, buy the product. Cluttered pages will distract the buyer. Put a brief description and the buy now option at the top of the page to allow visitors to complete their purchase quickly and easily. Make sure the all important buy link is clearly visible and not buried amongst other distractions. Place more details and technical information below the primary focus area. Some visitors will want more information, but others will not. You do not want to distract the person who knows what they want with unnecessary information. The same considerations apply to information sites.

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Stromberg-Carlson-2-line-telephone Contact

Emphasize the legitimacy of your business to visitors. Clear, concise contact information gives visitors confidence that you are a real business. An address lets people know if you are local and gets you listed as a local supplier when visitors use a search engine to find a source. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses offer reassurance that they will not be left adrift if there is a problem. If you have a Facebook presence, or Twitter account you can include this information on your contact page. The more contact information you provide the more confidence visitors will have in your business.

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headlines To Blog, or Not to Blog ... Blog

Have a blog for your business. Use a blog to share information and insight, discuss company news, and industry gossip. By offering interactivity you can get conversations going with your readers. A blog should be treated as a resource, just because it is there does not mean you have to constantly update it. Fill it with refreshing insight and first-hand experiences. Avoid regurgitating the same information widely available from other sources. You want to engage your readers not bore them with the same old thing.

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quill and ink Reviews

Good or bad, online reviews are here and are growing in importance. When it comes to reviews it is important to be proactive. A bad review can divert visitors away from your site. Identify potential problems and prevent them from occurring. When problems occur deal with them quickly and make sure the customer is satisfied with your efforts.

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caution Warning

Let's finish with a warning. If you build your entire website in flash it will not be effective. In past posts we have discussed the problems search engine spiders have with flash only content. A new issue for flash is the backlash aimed at flash ads. To combat the endless bandwidth gobbling flash ads there are now flash blockers available for browsers. If your site is strictly flash, what will persuade visitors to unblock your flash content? Effective, non-flash, content will have visitors clicking to view your flash presentations.

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Date: 06.01.2011

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