How to Optimize Your Business Website

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Whether you are selling luxury cars or online piano lessons, a well-designed website is an essential marketing tool. In many cases, your business homepage will be the first thing a potential customer sees, so it needs to make a strong first impression. Once you have registered your domain name and chosen a hosting service, the real work begins.

In her article for Hubspot, Lindsay Kolowich says that every homepage must clearly identify who the company is, what it does, and what the visitor can do there. It must “be narrowly focused” so the target audience knows immediately that they’re in the right place. The homepage for Dropbox Business, for example, clearly identifies the product and customer base: “The secure file sharing and storage solution that employees and IT admins trust.”

Given that the human media attention span may now be shorter than the average goldfish’s, visitors to your website need a compelling reason to stick around. That reason comes in the form of your value proposition, a message that tells customers why they should buy from you instead of looking elsewhere. The best value propositions are free from jargon and hype and use clear, precise wording that reveals what makes your product unique.

This Fomo article recommends beginning with a headline identifying the end benefit of your product followed by a few paragraphs describing the specifics of what you’re offering, who should buy it, and why it’s useful. Use bullet points to list key features and a photo to reinforce your overall message. Lyft’s online value proposition, for example, features three key points about driver and rider convenience, safety, and satisfaction, which are clearly aimed at distinguishing how the rideshare company is superior to its competitor, Uber.

The layout of your website should be designed for easy navigation and minimal distraction. Wix advises businesses to choose a background that adds to the atmosphere and creates a sharp contrast with the text that overlays it. Use white space to avoid overcrowding the screen. Animation and text and image effects can be engaging if used in moderation, but if used excessively, they appear amateurish and gimmicky.

When it comes to visuals, avoid stock footage. In her article for Deluxe, Amber Humphrey points out the importance of choosing an authentic banner image: “In order to stand out, it’s becoming more and more important to use imagery that is not only good quality, but that also reflects the unique spirit of the brand.” If professional photography isn’t in your budget, use your smartphone to capture crisp, well-lit shots of real employees.

If you’ve ever liked a Facebook post, given a star rating on Yelp, or pinned a photo on Pinterest, you are familiar with the “microinteractions” that have become a fundamental part of web design. In an interview with Humphrey, customer experience manager Natalie Lee-Heidt says, “Microinteractions bring simple website functions to life by creating a more engaging and fun user experience, guiding people through work or purchase flows and helping visitors visualize the results of the actions they perform as they scroll and click their way through your website.”

Adding tooltip animations that tell users how to fill out text fields, loading bars that show progress levels, and hover features that provide additional product information can take your website to the next level. One of the most important microinteractions is the call-to-action button. On Impact, Karisa Egan explains the purpose of a CTA is to “show your visitors an offer that they can’t refuse.”

The button must not only be eye-catching but also convey a sense of urgency. The text should be both action- and benefit-oriented. The CTA on Netflix’s homepage, for instance, reads “Watch Anywhere. Cancel Anytime. Join Free for a Month.” Each statement simultaneously issues a command and gives a reason why users should follow it.

Effective marketing all comes down to trust. According to Search Engine Watch, consumers trust only 22 percent of brands and are easily turned off by messaging they find inauthentic. One way to establish trust is to connect prospective customers with current ones.

83 percent of consumers view recommendations from peers to be more trustworthy and valuable than traditional advertising. “Rather than trying to convince visitors why your products or services are great,” says Lee-Heidt, “you can have your satisfied customers support your claims and ease any concerns that potential customers might have.”

Collect testimonials via social media, put out a specific call for feedback in an email campaign, or even hold a contest where customers give feedback in exchange for the chance to win a prize or discount. Gregory Jacques Hopkins, creator of Piano21days.com, includes quotes from satisfied customers all over the world, and his homepage also features badges from trusted publications like Forbes and Marketwatch that have reviewed his program.

In his article for Forbes, Brian Sutter notes that consumers are 67 percent more likely to buy a product or service if the company’s website is mobile-friendly. He recommends asking teenagers to test all website functions on their smartphones, as they will be brutally honest in their critiques. One of the most important factors is loading speed; research reveals 53 percent of mobile users abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.

On Fit Small Business, Jeremy Marsan suggests using a responsive theme, which automatically adjusts content based on the user’s device. He also recommends adding a Google Maps widget if your business has a brick and mortar location and a “Click to Call” button that automatically populates the user’s dial pad with your phone number.

Sutter indicates that 66 percent of mobile users have made a purchase through a website. However, only 28 percent of small businesses sell products online. To tap into this growing market, check out Oberlo’s selection of ebooks on creating your own ecommerce store.

Does your business have a website? Let us know in the comments what features you’ve added to make it stand out.