Business websites: the five golden rules
These days just having a website isn’t enough. Your site needs to be the golden apple that shines from the tree, attracting (and converting) visitors from far and wide.
Without it, your marketing activity just can't work as effectively. Your website is one of the most powerful tools you have so make it shine. And by shine, we mean convert.
To help you assess whether your website is up to the job, here are our 5 Golden Rules of effective business websites.
1. Make your website usable
User Experience Design (UX) and User Interface Design (UI) should be first, last and always on your mind when you consider your website. In fact UX is so important that we could just call this blog, “A thousand ways UX is your everything.”
Making your site usable simply means that your website design, both functionally and visually, needs to be customer centered.
If it isn’t, your website won't engage visitors and will fail to move them down your sales funnel.
Some key areas to consider:
Is your navigation logical for your audience?
Your Google Analytics should give you an idea of where users are getting lost, or bouncing.
Are your forms simple and asking for just the right amount of information?
If your forms are long and complicated, or easy to make errors on, your audience will also fail to convert.
Do your links tell the truth?
Ensure your links do what they say they do. For example, if your link says “UX trends for SaaS“ then make sure it links to a page all about UX trends for SaaS!
Are you pretty enough?
There’s nothing more off-putting than a wall of text, with few images, subheadings or athoughtful layout. Choose a clean design and stick to it. We're fanatical about attractive and usable business website design and we think you should be too.
Test, test and then test again.
A/B testing is key to finding the best layout. Even something as simple as changing the colour of your buttons can make a big difference to the user experience.
Best in class for usability: Xero
Xero’s website is very simple. They use screenshots and icons to clearly display the features and benefits without overloading each page with text. The navigation is logical, gently guiding visitors through the funnel to conversion, in this case ‘Free Trial’.
2. Your website has a clear customer journey.
It’s always good to have a plan. Especially one that is going to nurture your leads to that beautiful, magical place called conversion.
You’ve written a blog, enticed visitors through some great social media posts and SEO. They’re at your website. Now what?
Map out your customer’s journey and revise (or build) your website accordingly.
If you are following the inbound methodology you’ll want to turn visitors into leads by giving them meaningful content such as a whitepaper, toolkit or eBook, in exchange for the email address. You’ll need the offer, a simple form, an engaging landing page and some well thought out automated workflows to begin the next stage.
Best in class: Hubspot
We’re big fans of Hubspot. Not only because they offer great tools for lead nurturing, but also because they do it so well themselves. Sign up for an eBook on their site and see what happens.
3. Your site has SEO, naturally.
Making your website easily found on search is the holy grail for many businesses. To do that your site needs to be optimized with the right keywords.
Gone are the days of repeating your keywords over and over and over again on a page. The search bots are too smart for that and it’s a great way to get yourself blacklisted.
Instead we recommend using natural language to talk to your visitors. Be human. Talk to them as you would face-to-face. Your copy needs to be natural, informative and relevant.
And don’t be afraid to use ‘longtail’ keywords. There will be a lot less competition to rank for these phrases, and you can be confident that they will deliver warmer leads.
For instance, instead of trying to rank for ‘cloud computing’, try ranking for ‘cloud computing for accounting firms’.
Best in class: Anyone who is ranking higher than you.
Do a search on common keywords in your industry. Have a look at who comes up first in the results. Chances are that by delving into their site you can see how they’re succeeding.
4. It includes a blog
A weekly blog should be standard issue on all business websites. Not only will it help your search rankings but it will show your expertise. Make sure your blog content is relevant, interesting and shareable. After all, Social Media is Queen of the content world.
Best in class: Jixee
This company blog packs loads of value for both its new leads and existing customers. There is always an insightful topic that gives visitors reasons to keep coming back to their site.
5. It is responsive
As we mentioned at the beginning, a useable website is everything. Everything.
And in 2016, being usable means being responsive. In fact, a recent study by Google discovered that 42% of B2B researching a purchase are using mobile. Yes, even in the business world your customers aren’t necessarily looking at your site on their desktops. They’re using phones and tablets, even at work.
You need to make sure that no matter what device your visitors are on, they can clearly see your site.
And, importantly, if your website is not responsive on devices, Google will penalize you in search rankings. That means no matter how well optimized your site is with keywords, if you aren’t responsive you won’t be seen.
Image via FlickrCC/Dennis Jarvis