A long time ago in a land far away, people used to make decisions about an organization’s credibility by actually visiting the location. That’s right, the look of the building, quality of signage, the greeting or lack of one received when they entered the door, and the product or service was right there in plain sight. But today, things are very different. While personal interaction and local business is still very important, people are much less likely to visit your business or building without checking you out online first. Whether you’re a large corporation or a small nonprofit organization, having an effective website that attracts visitors is a key factor in the success or failure of your mission.
So how can your website stand out in a very crowded marketplace? Here are 7 key elements of an effective website to get you started.
1. Keep the Home page simple and to the point. The average viewer on your website will give you 3-5 seconds to convince them that you have something to offer. Web readers look from left to right so place your company name and logo in the upper left hand corner. Include a customer-focused tagline and clear navigation buttons (Home, About, Contact, etc.). Get to the point quickly by telling visitors who you are, what you do, what makes you different, and what’s in it for them. Post an inviting picture (no happy corporate stock photography here) and ask them to take just one action related step.
2. Create a strong About page. Next to your home page, the About page is the second most likely to be viewed. Sadly, many companies fail to publish this page and miss out on a great opportunity to put a personal face on their organization. This page can set the tone for your brand and values. Are your employees quirky, fun, serious, or professional? Include pictures and brief biographies. Professional details are the most important, but adding a few details such as volunteer organizations you are involved with can help personalize your bio.
3. Let visitors know how to contact you. Since web viewers are not visiting a physical building, it’s important that you add legitimacy to your website by adding real contact information that’s easily accessed. This should include more than just a form contact page. Include a phone number and email at a minimum. If you have a physical location, each page footer can display the company name, address, phone, and email.
4. Avoid traditional marketing techniques. Internet users are looking for authenticity and have a very low tolerance for sales hype. Don’t try to play on your customers’ emotions by using bold statements like FREE, SAVE, or URGENT. Do tell them how you can help solve their problems.
5. Use customer friendly language. Think about your product or service in terms of your audience point of view. Avoid industry jargon that might be confusing to someone who knows nothing about your company. Use simple language, short sentences, and brief paragraphs and by all means, make sure your promises are ethical.
6. Answer your visitors’ questions. This is something I frequently find is lacking when I audit client websites. Today’s internet searchers are savvy and looking for answers. Include everything you think they might ask under clearly labeled navigation buttons or if appropriate, create a FAQ page. Viewers who don’t find the answers to their questions might look on your competitors site rather than pick up the phone or email you for more information.
7. Write content for readers, not search engines. Much has been written about the need to include keywords in website pages to improve SEO or search engine optimization. Keywords are the words that people enter into search engines like Google to find websites that interest them. While including keywords is important, if you have accurately identified your intended audience and are writing in simple language for the reader then your site will include critical keywords. Be wary of self-proclaimed SEO experts. All web copywriters should have a working knowledge of keyword research and there are many free tools you can use online to help you identify keywords to improve your site’s rankings.
If you know you need to make some changes, don’t get overwhelmed. Start with one of these key elements and work for gradual improvements. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. In a world where website content is critical to an organization’s success, it’s vital to have a well-written site. While businesses often don’t hesitate to pay a web designer for the structure of the website, they frequently want to save money by writing the content themselves. If writing isn’t your thing, I recommend asking a professional freelance copywriter to write your website content or perform a comprehensive website audit to make sure your site is competitive, clear, and consistent. How does your site measure up? What is lacking in websites you frequent?
Need more help? I offer discounted rates on website audits for small businesses. Contact me for a no obligation quote and we’ll discuss how to get your website from where it is to where it needs to be.