Let’s start this off on the right foot — your website is really important.
Once a customer chooses you over your competition in search, it’s extremely important that your website provide all the information and deep facts about your business in a way that’s easy to navigate. No argument.
However, if you aren’t in control of your digital knowledge — all the facts about your brand (like name, address, phone number, hours of operation, products and services) that live online for customers to search — then your website needs to take a back seat for a moment.
Consumers are on average 3x more likely to make a decision about your business on sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, Apple Maps, and hundreds of other sites — without ever clicking over to your site. More on that here.
Once you’ve got all those important facts about your brand (i.e. your digital knowledge) under control, then we can talk about what you need to do to ensure your website offers a positive customer service experience — before customers even walk through your door.
The following is broken down into a few sections: Table Stakes, Mastery, and Super Juice. You can think of these website building basics as good, better, best — or as novice, intermediate, and expert. If you want to crush your competition, set your goals at Super Juice.
These are the basics. Don’t even consider building a website or hiring an agency without these website building basics in place. A lot of them may seem obvious, but it’s important to have a sturdy foundation.
An Easy to Remember URL
Try to buy a URL that’s relevant to your name and business — but don’t over complicate it. Try to stay as short as you can, avoiding dashes. Long names and dashes make it hard for customers to remember your site, and it looks like you compromised. abcnycplumbers.com is much better than yourlocalabcnewyorkplumberfriends.com
Basic Digital Knowledge
There are some universal categories of information that are going to be relevant to all your customers. These are the backbone of your digital knowledge. Where are you located? When are you open? How should customers get there? What do you offer? It’s important that these pieces of information be prominent and easy to find on your website.
- Address / Area of service
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- Services offered / Menu
- Easy to find contact information
- Social networking links
You probably know what you want a customer to do when they come to your site. But do you know what they want to know first, before they take that action? Think about the customer path. Just because they came to your site, does not mean they are ready to transact with your business or even give you their email address. Make sure the information they want most is the easiest for them to find. For example, if you’re a restaurant, hours and menu are super important. Put them at the top.
A Clear Explanation of You and Your Business
Don’t make people guess. Are you a CPA, a clothing store, or a dry cleaner? Put that at the top of your site and make it easy to find. Include with that a description of what makes you different.
If you’re a CPA who focuses on small construction, include that. Does your clothing store only sell imported New Zealand wool sweaters? People want to know. My dry cleaner is organic and offers pick up / delivery. It’s right at the top of their site. Be like them.
Use Quality Pictures and Subheadings
Please hire a photographer. 93% of all human communication is visual. Showing a great picture of you, your services, or your products is going to do way more for your business than text, or worse, a terrible photo. Make them big and easy to see on your site and include a brief description.
I’m not about to book a party with you for my kid’s birthday if I can see that what you offer looks unpleasant. If there is cake on the floor, kids crying, and the room looks dark, I’ll go on about my googling. You would too!
A Reliable Host
Make sure you have a good web hosting service. There are a number of well-known providers who can guarantee you great service.[Curious – do we have any relationships with GoDaddy or is this an unbiased opinion?] The last thing you want is for people to click to your site and then not be able to see anything because it doesn’t load, or worse, loads slowly.
Take your website to the next level. The following are items that you can include on your website that will optimize your business’s online experience — putting you beyond your competition and helping to build a better customer-oriented experience.
Regularly Update Your Blog
Search engines are looking for fresh content. What does that mean? The more frequently you update your website, the more relevancy the search engines will award to you. Since most business details don’t change that often, the best way to do this is a blog. By creating new content to share on your website, you’ll also become more relevant to your customers.
How often should you blog? Once a month is good enough to appease the search engines. But is twice a month better? Yes, so is once a week, once a day, etc, etc.
Tell Visitors What You Want Them to Do
What are the steps that a typical consumer goes through before they conduct business with you? How do they go from first searching for your business to actually spending money? That’s the customer journey. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new customer or a returning one — everyone has a path. You can make it that much easier by building a clearly defined path for them — by telling them what you want them to do.
As an example, if you are a lawyer and you know that your highest rate of conversion is after they’ve had a free consultation, put a big “free consultation” button right at the top of your website.
Use Google Webmaster Tools
Look, if Google tells you it’s good for SEO and then builds you a tool to use it, that’s what they call a “signal.” If you were bringing a large tanker ship into harbor late at night you would rely on a lighthouse to bring you in. Well, think of this the same way. These tools will help you understand how Google (and other search engines) see your site and give you the tools to index your site for search. Plus, it gives you some great insights about the activity on your site.
With Google Webmaster tools, you’ll automatically be informed when you update your site, find out how people are reaching your website, and learn which internal and external links generate the most traffic for your business.
First Party Reviews
There are two types of reviews. A review that lives on a site that the business does not own or control, like Google, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, etc., is a third-party review. Typically these sites allow business owners to claim their listing and manage replies and contact with customers. According to research by Convince and Convert, 80% of Americans trust at least some ratings and reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family members.
The second type of review is first-party reviews. They are reviews that a business asks customers for directly, and which live on a business’s own website. Yes, you read that correctly, you can collect your own reviews and add those reviews to your website.
The best part? Google will add these star ratings from your first-party reviews underneath your business name in organic search results. Businesses with star ratings in organic search get 153% more clicks than those without.
Schema.org Best Practices Design
In 2011, Google, Bing, and Yahoo got together and created a standard vocabulary that webmasters can use to give signals back to the engines to let them know what kind of content is on a web page. That standardized code is known as Schema.org (or just Schema). Using this language on your website lets the search engines know what kind of business you are and can also tell them what kind of content is on that page.
If you use them, you are basically laying out a welcome mat, opening your door and offering a lovely afternoon tea and snacks to the search engines. They will be happy to stop by and tell others just how nice and easy you made their visit. The truth is, they don’t care how nice your proverbial house is or how good the tea is — they just want to know that it’s a tea parlor, offering afternoon tea, and that it’s wheelchair accessible.
That’s a really simple explanation of a really complex solution, because c’mon, who has time to learn the ins and outs of Schema code?! Thankfully, there are a number of different ways you can do this with your site. The easiest (and best in my opinion) is by using Yext Knowledge Tags. Once you have access to them, you just put a simple code into your website, update the Tags, and that’s it. Let the good tea times roll.
Positive Testimonials or Proof of Work
Want to convince prospective customers to choose you? Testimonials have tons of power. Customers who have had an outstanding experience, seen amazing results, or just really love your business will be more than happy to give you a testimonial.
You can take these glamourous stories and put them in a permanent place on your website, right in the moment of the customer journey where someone is asking, “but can I trust this business,” or, “will I be happy with the results I will get from spending my money here?”
While testimonials won’t put star ratings beneath your business name in search results (that’s what first-party reviews are for), you can control how testimonials live, look, and deliver on your site. Give potential customers the social proof they need to know that you are the right business for them in that moment.
If you incorporate the above website building basics into your website, it’s likely you’ll be crushing your competition in terms of traffic and customer service. Good luck!