If you’re trying to grow your home based or creative business online, this post is for you!
As a freelance writer, I spend most of my time working on website projects. My clients cover a diverse range of industries, but there are common elements among them that make their small business websites successful.
Whether you are a creative freelancer, or a local small business, these ten things apply to everyone looking to attract and convert more customers online.
Sure, you might be thinking the obvious things, like a contact page, or a newsletter subscribe box.
Those are great, but you need a few more things to ramp up your success.
So this post is going to cover each of those items, and some examples from around the web from businesses who’ve done a great job implementing them.
Psst! Want to start a blog or online biz but not sure how? I have a step-by-step tutorial for how to start a blog in under 30 minutes. Woo!
10 Things Your Small Business Website Needs
1. Opt-In/Subscription Area
If you don’t already know about the importance of building your email list to grow your biz, otherwise known as inbound marketing, then you need to get doin’ some research, bae!
Psst – here’s some great articles on the subject of growing your email list:
Why Small Businesses Need to Have (And Grow) An Email Contact List from Constant Contact
3 Easy Ways to Build an Email List For Your Small Business from Huffington Post
Building your email list as a small business owner is a must-do! Your business website should have multiple Calls to Action to subscribe (that just means: areas that inspire a user to take action, in this case, to signup for your list).
Don’t get crazy with it, two or three maximum on one page is great.
Don’t bombard people with like 17 pop-up notifications to sign up to your super duper interesting list. 🙄
Some great areas to add a subscribe/opt-in form are:
Allie, a life coach and writer, does an excellent job of this on her website.
Or, a large header area that inspires people to sign up right away.
Melyssa has a perfect example of this.
And, include something in each post too to encourage people to subscribe, like this:
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Lolz. Shameless ???? —^
I use ConvertKit for all my email marketing (including that little form right thur), and I love it.
For bloggers, it makes it super simple to deliver content upgrades to subscribers, create sales funnels, email newsletters and everything else that goes along with email.
2. Copy Written for Your Audience, Not You
Make sure every bit of writing on your website (called “copy” for those who don’t know all the marketing lingo, yo) is written with your target audience in mind.
That means, if I am someone searching for a great new eyebrow makeup product (aren’t we all? seriously), then make sure your web copy quickly tells me why your product is gonna give me super hot Kardashian-level brows.
Not like, what your company values are. I really don’t care about your values, I just want to get my Kylie Jenner on, mmk?
Here’s a great example of web copy, from Cards Against Humanity, written for a target audience (sarcastic a-holes like me):
Aaaand here’s an example of copy that’s self-serving for the company who wrote it, and doesn’t inspire the target audience to take any action:
The above example was taken from this article about 13 examples of bad web copy… check the rest out here.
Related: How to Grow Your Blog Audience The Easy Way
3. Immediately Visible Call to Action
Kind of related to the first point, but your call to action should be really obvious. So when I visit your site, it should be obvious what you want me to do.
On many pages, it might be to signup for your email list (don’t forget to give your readers something in return, yo!), but on several pages, it might be to get me to buy your product, or contact you.
Here’s an example of a great call to action from Manpacks. I knew right away what the website marketing team wanted me to do, and because of the placement and copy, I am inspired to take action (well, I would be, if I were a man…):
4. Say No to Cheesy Stock Photos
Hey, I love photos of people shaking hands like the next girl, but leave that shit off your biz website. Seriously, it’s gotta go.
I don’t care if you’re the most conservative, financial services industry consultant, I still don’t wanna see a stock photo representation of you shaking hands with a stock photo representation of one of your clients.
Not sure what I’m talking about? Check out these real examples of CHEESE-DOM. 🧀
Eeeegads. If that doesn’t drive this point home, I don’t know what will.
Okay but seriously, using photos like this actually undermines your credibility and makes people wary of trusting you. Real, authentic photos – combined with excellent web copy of course – create a positive brand image, and will make people think you’re legit when they land on your site.
And if you can’t spring for a photoshoot, that’s okay. There ARE great stock photos out there too that won’t make you look like a total slimeball.
Here’s a great SlideShare from HubSpot on do’s and don’ts for using stock photos for some tips.
The biggest hurdle to overcome when encountering a potential customer for the first time is earning trust – so don’t set yourself up for a hard battle with a FUCKING. HAND. SHAKE.
I’m really passionate about that one…
5. If You Have a Blog, Then Blog
Thanks, Captain Obvious Michelle. But really. How many people have visited the blog/news section of a website, hoping to find some great tips, only to discover it hasn’t been updated since 2013? *hands raise around the world* YEAH. Not a good look for any business.
Wanting to start a blog? I have a whole post right here that shows you how to create a blog in under 30 minutes!
Obviously I believe in blogging (no, I just love spending all my free time writing things on the internet for free to the detriment of my sleep…), but if you realistically don’t have time to post regularly and consistently, then don’t even bother.
Or, hire someone to write for you if you don’t have the time. Hey, you know what’s really convenient? I do that! Gee whiz. Click here if you want me to write for you.
A blog only works to bring in traffic and engage your readers if you’re actually going to use it. Well, and a bunch of other stuff, like providing value, writing well, getting good at SEO, advertising yourself, promoting your business and yeah, lots of other stuff…
Luckily for you, if you’re just getting started blogging, I have a sweet resource library you can check out for free to learn all sorts of blogging tips!
6. SEO is Your Best (and Only) Friend
It’s true, friends. Well, I’m not your friend, because only SEO is.
You gotta get down with learning SEO if you want your business website to show up in search results. And let’s face it, we Google everything nowadays, from how to change a lightbulb (some of them are weird, ok) to the best flip flop for hiking (hint: Ipanema, hands down!).
So chances are, new customers are going to find you on Google. Oh, what’s that? There’s other search engines out there, you say? Yeah, they don’t matter. Google is your overlord. So learn to love it!
Here are some great posts about SEO, so get studyin’:
Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz
SEO: A Comprehensive Guide from KissMetrics
Ultimate WordPress SEO Guide from WPBeginner
SEO Is Not Hard from Austen Allred
And of course, I have my own post about blog SEO right here –> Blog SEO: 10 Tricks to Optimize Your Posts
Want even more SEO goodness? I love it so much, I made a whole category for it. Clicky.
7. Don’t Be Mobile Friendly, Be Mobile Amazing
Being “mobile friendly” used to mean that a website was passable when viewed on a phone. Like maybe you couldn’t do everything on that website but you could do some things.
Because why would you want to take action on a website you’re on, no matter what device you’re using? Crazy thought, right?
Now that it’s 2016, we’re a lot more enlightened about these things.
So long story short, everybody’s on their damn phone nowadays (not convinced? try going out for dinner with your friends). So you NEED make your website FULLY functional for mobile users!
I don’t care if I’m lost in the woods, with 20% battery left. If Aldo has a really good shoe sale going on, you better believe I wanna purchase that shit on my phone, right there, right then. Not later, when I’m either at home safe or dead in the woods, but RIGHT NOW.
8. Have a Killer About Page
Make sure your About page tells readers the following things RIGHT AWAY!
- Who you are
- Why they should care about what you have to say (hint: show your expertise!)
- What you do
- Fun facts! (Hey, everyone likes a little personality.)
Some people are surprised to find out that a site’s About page is often one of the most popular. When people come across your business and are intrigued by what they first see, often their next step will be to learn more about you, hence your About page.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some great articles on writing an awesome about page:
How to Write a Killer About Me Page for Your Blog from Melyssa Griffin
10 Rules for Creating a Compelling About Page from The Art of Storytelling
Are You Making These 7 Mistakes With Your About Page? from Copyblogger
For inspiration: 12 of The Best About Pages from Blog Tyrant
9. Content Upgrades/Locked Content
This goes hand in hand with the first point, having an opt-in area, but is really it’s own separate thing too. In order to build your email list – hands down an important factor for marketing your online business, if you haven’t had that nailed into your brain enough! – you need to provide a reason for people to sign up for your list.
This reason could vary greatly depending on what your business is.
If you’re in the business of helping others with their business (i.e. MOI), you might offer a resource library, or what is commonly known as a ‘content upgrade’.
A content upgrade is an item that accompanies a blog post that either summarizes some key points of the post, or adds some new value to a post.
For example, you can download a handy checklist of all 10 points this blog post covered to make sure your biz website is on point. COOL HUH.
Here’s another great example:
Your upgrade will depend on your business. For example, an Epicure independent sales rep might have a sweet recipe library that’s free to access, but you need to signup for emails to get to it (great idea!). Or a home organizer might offer a Spring Cleaning Checklist to really de-clutter your home.
Whatever your content upgrade is, make sure it’s something your target audience wants. There’s no point in attracting tons of email signups of the WRONG audience.
Think about who you want to attract (i.e. sell to) and then create content they’ll want bad enough that they’ll hand over their email address.
Oh yeah and don’t be a dick about emailing them. Keep it classy. Meaning – email only quality content to your list, not just “hey go look at my blog post or buy this thing.”
10. Lastly… A Portfolio/Testimonial/Client Area
If there’s one rule of thumb when it comes to marketing your business, it’s that a third party review is worth millions.
You can shout from the rooftops how awesome you are and what your business can do for people, but people are distrustful creatures.
Post a review from a past client, or photo evidence of your work if what you create is visual, and people are much more likely to contact you and believe that you can help them with their problem too.
I mean, you wouldn’t hire a graphic designer without seeing some of their past work, right? Same goes for pretty much any other profession too!
Not sure where to get client testimonials, or don’t have any clients yet? If you’ve done work for people already, just ask! Most people would be more than happy to give you a review, so don’t be shy.
If you are just starting out, make sure you ask your first few clients for a testimonial so that you can quickly add them to your site once you’ve finished their projects.
Or, do a few free projects in exchange for some in-depth reviews and recommendations from clients if you think that’s necessary to get your foot in the door elsewhere.
You can also just create your own projects as sample work, which isn’t quite as effective as having a testimonial from a real client, but it’s better than nothing and shows off your talent.
Here are some resources to help with portfolio creation/testimonial gathering:
5 Non-Icky Way to Ask for Testimonials from FreshBooks
The Power of Testimonials (And How to Get Them) from Groove
6 Questions for Powerful Testimonials from Copyblogger
Well, I hope you liked that deep dive into small business websites today! If you follow these 10 rules, your business website will be a convertin’ machine. 😉
P.S. Need a boost with some online marketing tools? Check out this page of all my favourite resources I use for this blog and my business. Woot. 😍
What else do you think an awesome small biz website needs? Let me know in the comments!
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