It’s pretty easy to set up a website these days.  And, by using some of great tools you can buy “off the shelf”, it’s also very affordable.  However, just because it’s simple and inexpensive to do, it doesn’t mean you’ll end up with an effective website.

This article is intended to assist small business owners with their online activity by outlining the key best practice principles to follow when creating a website.

A few basics:

  • Position your logo at the top left of your website and link to your home page.  This is where users expect to see your logo and if it doesn’t link it may appear broken.
  • Make sure your contact details and/or a contact link are prominent.  Avoid using contact forms without providing contact details, as users may be sceptical as to why you’re not displaying your local phone number, email etc.
  • Add ‘trust signals’ like accreditations, client logos, team pics, live help, delivery guarantees etc.
  • Include “social proof” in the form of (real) testimonials and customer reviews.
  • If collecting data, either by subscription or sales, you must include a Privacy Policy – it might raise eyebrows if not alarms bells if not present.

Make it easy for users:

  • Put the most important messages on the home page (users may not go any further than this page).
  • Link to other relevant sections of the website to make the user’s journey easy.
  • Use prominent calls to action.
  • Highlight your most popular, recent or related content.
  • If you include a search box it should be top right of the site.
  • Ensure your website is responsive, meaning it is clear and readible on mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
  • If collecting data, don’t overwhelm users with a long questionnaire as part of their first experience with you. Acquire minimal information upfront, and gradually build on this as their relationship with you grows.

Optimise for search. This is too big a topic to detail in this article, but at a minimum you should:

  • Use key words (naturally) in content and Title Tags (making each Title Tag unique).
  • Avoid duplicate copy on different pages.
  • Add social sharing buttons (especially if they show the page has been shared often).
  • Write meta descriptions for key pages so you control the page summary that is displayed in search results. This won’t affect rankings, but should help entice click throughs.
  • Include alternative text in image filenames.

Use Google tools. Whilst not the only search engine, it is the biggest.  So if you nothing else, do the following:

  • Set up Google Analytics and install the tracking code on your website. (Don’t just assume your web designer will install it for you as part of the site build.)
  • Set up Google Webmaster Tools (using the same login as Google Analytics). Again don’t assume your web designer has done this for you.  This will tell you about any specific problems Google is having accessing it your site.
  • Create a XML site map – here are various ways – and submit to Google using the above Webmaster Tools.

I hope you’ve found this guide useful.  If there’s anything you think should be included or have any queries please let me know by commenting.  And if there’s anything you need assistance with here, please don’t hesitate in contacting me.