It has been my belief ever since I started my very own first site that if you own a business and plan to increase your customer base, you must have a website.
Times have changed and the web world has evolved. But this fact remains.
Here are the 6 basic attributes that your website must have:
1. Do not use free hosting. Your site domain must be owned by you and self hosted
During the early days of the internet, smaller companies would set up a free page with a web directory. Later it is Facebook pages.
Now you can still set up those pages but you must have your own website to call your own. You must own that domain name of that website and it should not be owned by someone else like the web developer or agency who designed your site.
Reason is because you cannot risk your company’s reputation, feedback loop, sales inquiries, site speed at the hands of a third party site. Website domain name and hosting are relatively low cost fees compared to business expenses. And they are your 24×7 advertising tool so you need to be careful the webpage that is used to represent your business.
The yearly fee would probably cost less than a meal that you have to pay for when you take a potential client out for lunch.
If you place your business information at a directory, you cannot control the layout and content of the site. Most of the time because it is free, the site owner would place advertising on your site. If they are using automated advertising, you may risk having the advertisement of your competitors on that site…. and anyone who arrive at that free page would click off an ad and ended up at your competitor’s website.
Is saving that few hundred bucks a year worth losing tonnes of sales?
2. Collect Email Listing/ Opt In
Collecting email listing can really help in your business. This is the strategy that all prominent blogs uses. Most of the time the moment you visit any blog, there would be a huge pop-up box for call-for-action requesting you to sign up to receive new notification. Usually there is an incentive given in exchange for the sign-up such as free ebook and link to certain tutorials.
The reason you want to get your visitors to opt in is so that you will able to send your customers notification of your newest offers and products. If you do not have the budget to pay for email marketing services, the very least use Feedburner.com. Yes, it is not as professional or as attractive but whenever you publish a new post, Feedburner would automatically send email to your subscribers.
Once you set up with a link it gets the job done automatically. The downside is that you cannot custom design the templates and post. The readers would see what is in the blog post that you have published.
I have seen a local mall that basically just uses Feedburner to gather subscribers and they have a few thousand subscribers already.
3. The site MUST BE MOBILE RESPONSIVE
My Google Analytics tells me that for some sites, more than 50% of my visitors are accessing my site via mobile phones and tablets. That data keeps increasing because about a year ago, the figure was below 50%.
Your site needs to be mobile responsive- ie the page resolution automatically adjusts accordingly based on the devices that is being used to access to your site.
This factor is very important and it is not hard to achieve. If you are using WordPress, most free and paid themes are mobile responsive.
To be honest, even I myself had to go through a mental hurdle of learning new changes in order to make my blogs mobile responsive. I am using Thesis theme and the older versions were not mobile responsive. I sat down and took time to figure out their new features and then finally upgraded the version and never looked back. Once my theme was upgraded to mobile responsive, I was able to see growth in the number of my blog readers in terms of time spent on site and number of visitors.
4. List your company’s contact details such as outlets/branches, contact numbers PROMINENTLY
That is one of IMPORTANT purpose that your company website is going to serve you- a virtual 24hours online directory for your existing and potential clients to find you.
How many people do you see that relies on a physical planner or address book anymore? When people want to visit your shop or call you, they just Google your business name or your name. For potential clients, after getting your address, they would just copy and paste your address in Waze or any of their GPS app to find directions to your place.
So, don’t make it difficult for them to find your address. Have the address and contact details displayed prominently in your website- do not make your customers go through hoops to find it.
It may be obvious to many but I cannot tell you how many websites I have visited that do not display their business address or a link to their outlets/ online store prominently. And some may display but it is in an image file which brings me to my next point….
5. The contents of your site must be scannable – ie not an image file
Today with website page builders (like Elementor) or a custom page build with Adobe you can create a scannable title, address and contents where users can copy and paste.
It is so important to ensure that crucial details such as your company’s directory listing and contact details are displayed in as user friendly page as possible and NOT in an image file. If it is done in an image file, you need to fix that ASAP.
If not, chances are when you Google your own company’s outlets (which many people would search for), do not be surprised that an unknown site ranked above your company’s name in the Google search results.
It is always no good to let any site or blog go above your name in the search result because the third party site is not under your control. This is because customers may end up contacting the external site when what they really do is to contact you.
This I am speaking from experience…. I have been contacted a number of times over the years or had users leaving comments in my blog because they mistakenly thought that my site is the official site of a certain business. All I did was I happened to visit the shop and write about my experience in the shop. Next thing I knew, I get inquiries on business opportunities, orders and feedback (such as can the company set up a branch in their area, etc). For me, I would politely direct the customer back to the company’s official website or Facebook page, which often are badly optimized.
But what if your potential clients ended up in the site of someone who does not care? You are going to lose out on getting your potential clients.
6. The site’s design
First impression counts. When you go for an interview or to meet with a prospective clients, you would want to be dressed in your best. Because the reality of the world is that first impressions are important.
I have known of at least 2 dingy looking stores that were willing to spend at least about 20k to build a professional looking ecommerce site to take their business to the next level. In one of the store, I got their business card and check out their website. I was amazed and blown away with their presentation… so professional looking when in the actual store itself, their staff could not even speak proper English. The link to the web development agency was there and I called up to check and got the budget.
If you are planning to sell online to a worldwide audience, your target clients need not know how rundown your real store is. Your website would give a totally different impression.
I know, I know, the designs of my blogs are somewhat outdated. I did try to do a site redesign but I find that it does not seems to have impact on the traffic that Google sends me because my blogs are all content based. It is different for a personal blog than for a business.
7. Sales copy
Your site need to contain some sales copy- explaining what your business does, your goals and mission, what should customers choose you and positive experiences. If you do not know how to write these sales copy you can hire a copywriter (freelance or from an ad agency) to help you to write the sales copy. This will make a huge difference in your business and the feeling that visitors have when they come on to your site.
Once you have more resources, you may want to have longer articles with a more personal touch by hiring a writer or a blogger to help you write longer articles or reviews that may appeal to your target audience. These longer articles will help you draw in visitors from search engines.
I would emphasis again that it is very important to have a website that you can call your own in today’s competitive and online based world where people Google anything and everything.
Personally through just featuring about some of the businesses in my blogs, I have made a lot of difference to their business that eventually they decided to invest to building a website.
There was one business where the owner nearly went bankrupt due to bad sales and cash flow issues. My colleague recommended him to me and the owner provided my company with excellent services that my staff were happy. So I sat down and wrote a long review about his business. Next thing, the owner started getting inquiries and started getting business, even from larger corporations. And the new business become repeated business and later he also got referrals. His business grew and he went from being almost bankrupt to expanding his business by buying over a new shop. He often called me and thanked me for helping him.
Your website is a 24hours, 7 days a week advertising tool that enables people to search and find you anytime of the day or week. When researching for products and services, many people would have time to do it after work which would be outside your company’s operating hours.
Building website may not be your thing and you do not have time to do it. Honestly the learning curve also takes an awfully long time which you would not be able to pick up if you do not have the interest. Therefore, outsource it to someone who would happily be doing it for you for a fee.