Many small business owners jump into building a website thinking that once it is built and online then they can focus on something else, but is it really as simple as that and what are the common things you should be thinking about when running your business website?
It's understandable why many SMEs move quickly into building a website for their brand and there are a number of reasons and benefits to getting online:
- Reach existing customers
- Attract potential customers
- Sell online
- Show off your products
But is the launch of your new website the end of the road? We're taking a look at the key points when it comes to building and more importantly running a website for your small business to help you maintain the full benefits that a digital selling platform can bring once your new investment is live.
Key Aspects of Running a Website
There are a number of key areas which you need to think about in the effective running of a website and we'll look at each of these:
You may think that the upkeep of a website is an extra cost or drain on your time, but continuing to invest in your website can pay dividends in terms of traffic and sales. Don't forget, there are some great free resources you can use to help you improve your website if you're on a budget, why not check out our SEO tips or analytics advice seactions?
So your new website is live and that's it, you can just leave it alone and the visitors will come right? Wrong, the truth is that acquiring traffic to your website can be just as difficult as getting footfall through the doors of your shop. Marketing your website is essential if you want to get the right visitors browsing your website pages and possibly buying from you. But what are the "right" visitors, well those that have a genuine interest in the product or service you're selling just like in physical retail.
There are a number of channels that you can use to attract users to your website and these include:
- SEO (search engine optimisation)
- PPC (pay per click)
- Social media (paid and organic)
- Affiliates (where you pay someone for each lead or sale)
- Offline ads
That might seem like a lot but you're possibly doing some of this already and it might just be a case of adding your website address to any marking you're already doing, but if the above list is new to you it can seem daunting.
However you look at it, there is a cost associated with each of these so be prepared to invest in one or two of these that work for you. You don't need to try and do everything at once and some will take longer to show results than others, but if you don't do any marketing your website is likely to flounder into internet obscurity.
Out of the above list, SEO and organic social are the things you can start to do yourself and to help get started, why not check out our search engine optimisation tips which show you how to do the basics.
Content is the lifeblood of any website and making sure all of your content is looked after can be a big challenge. Most people tend to think that content only refers to a blog here or there but when you really think about it, there's loads of content that is needed for a great website to run smoothly:
- product descriptions
- category content
- page titles & descriptions
On top of that, content doesn't just refer to the written word either. You need to think about the different types of content and how they can work well together, including videos and photos. Imagery is a great way to sell a product but it can also become stale, think twice befor using stock imagery too as it's generally easy to spot and doesn't really "sell" your brand. Videos also offer a great sales opportunity, unboxing videos are hugely popular, so why not demonstrate your product to your potential customers? This can open up new markets too, with YouTube being the second biggest search engine in the UK there's bound to be someone looking for your product there!
Creating content is one thing, but you also need to think about updating your content too. Nothing says "unloved website" like an out of date copyright notice, or content that references old dates and these little things can be the difference between a user becoming a customer, but also how search engines view your website. A well maintained website is seen as more trustworthy.
If you want to win with content you need a plan, you can also check out our page on digital marketing content for some more tips and advice.
This one is pretty obvious but making sure your product details are up to date is crucial but something so many people forget about, make sure the product descriptions give detail and be honest about your products. The photography of your products can make or break a sale too, so really think about how your product images look. Having an expensive camera isn't essential, a good smartphone will do the job but you need to get the lighting right if you want the best results, no-one likes a washed out photo. Keeping product images fresh, perhaps seasonal will connect with your audiences and make your product more attractive
Reviews are also a great selling tool too, if you have genuine product reviews get them on the product page preferably through a platform like TrustPilot as this will have more legitimacy than just typing them yourself.
If you've never worked in retail before, merchandising is the practice of positioning certain stock lines in a an order to try and sell more of a product, perhaps one with higher margin. On the high street this can be achieve with window displays and rails in certain places, online you need to think about featuring products in banner images on key pages and the order of products when multiple are displayed on screen to a user.
It's not such a great thing if you only have a few product lines, however if you have more than 10-15 products, regularly merchandising your site keeps it looking fresh as you'll regularly be changing things like banners.
One advantage you have of trading online over a physical store is the ability to track users or customers and learn about what they're looking at, so don't forget to regularly review your analytics data. If you don't currently use Google Analytics or aren't sure where to start, check out our Google Analytics video guides which will help you get started.
Analytics data is a rich source of information about what your users do, which pages they visit, what they add to their basket, how long they spend on your website etc and all this information can be used to improve how people interact with your website. Ultimately, using this information is like listening to your customers and respnding to what they actually want which should help you better enagage with them.
Building and launching a small business website is the easy bit, but there's definately more to running one than many people will realise and this will be the difference between success and failure for many small business websites. Running a small business is not easy and there are already lots of things to consider, but you need to prioritise and for most, the upkeep of a website should be higher up the list as a well maintained website will sell more.