I remember years ago when having a website was a “nice to have” marketing piece for businesses. These days, they’re just as common as business cards and are far more affordable than they used to be. However, the way we use websites has changed, too. So, to help you stay competitive in your market, I’ve created this list of 30 must-have website features for small businesses.
How Website Usage Has Changed
Back in 2000 the number of websites on the internet was 17,087,182, according to Internetlivestats.com. In 2018, there were 1,630,322,579. The amount of websites has increased substantially. It’s safe to say that how we find information has completely changed. A simple search of the web and we have more answers than we know what to do with. The ability to have any answer at our fingertips has made us crave instant gratification in shopping as well.
Over the last couple years, marketing has shifted to provide users with easy, enjoyable experiences. We are now able to connect with consumers like never before. With all of this change that has occured in how we approach people, we have to adapt our digital presence to meet the new demands of consumers.
According to Search Engine Land, nearly 60% of searches occur on a mobile device. Furthermore, in 2018 Google decided to change the way they index sites. It’s now focusing on mobile experiences before desktop.
So what does that mean for you?
Well, if your website does not the user in mind, it can affect if and when your website appears in searches. Search engines that do not feel a website is delivering a good experience will limit traffic to the site.
Additionally, if a consumer goes to your site directly and it’s not easy to use, it can cause frustration and lost sales. Of all the reasons to lose a sale, having an outdated website should not be one of them. Give customers what they’ve come to expect from the technology advancements we’ve had over the last decade.
Easy Domain Name
The domain name you choose should be easy to remember and not too long. Keep in mind that more and more people are browsing from their phones and typing out a lot of characters is not as easy as on a desktop.
You name, address and phone number should be on all pages. Additionally, you want to have an area that has your email address, business hours and staff directory, if applicable.
The main menu should have clear groupings of topics and be easy to find your way through. If you have hundreds of pages of content, you should consider adding a search bar to the site.
Clear URL Structure
Your URLs should contain words that users recognize, versus a series of letters and numbers. For example if you have three locations, you’d want to see something like this: https://yoursite.com/locations/san-francisco.
Call to Action on All Pages
It’s important to guide your website visitor to the actions you want them to take. So, each page should have it’s own call to action. This may be a newsletter sign up, an add to cart button or call today.
Map to Location(s)
Each location that you have should have its own map. Google Maps make it very easy to embed a specific address onto your site where users can click to get directions. Additionally, you can use a map of the town you are in if you do not have a physical location.
Your website’s content should be carefully planned to provide the user with the information that they seek. It should provide value and start building trust with your brand.
If you’re in a position to create a blog, that can be a great opportunity to educate users, rank for specific keywords and more.
When writing copy for your pages, be sure to focus on the customer benefits of your product or service. Many times I see copy that simply lists what the company does without showing the problems it solves.
For example, instead of saying I provide SEO services, I would say you can get free traffic to your website when you optimize it.
With the overload of brands online, users want to feel like they know who they’re doing business with. Creating an about page that shows your values and authenticity will help to build trust with the consumer.
Having visuals to break up your text is very important as people are reading your copy on a screen. Be sure in incorporate images and, if possible, video on each page.
Social Media Accounts
Connect your social media to your website in two ways. First, where users can find and follow you. Second, where users can share your content on their pages.
Clear, Easy-to-Read Fonts
It is crucial for users to be able to clearly read the text on your site. Sometimes script and handwriting fonts can appear unfavorably on different devices. Choosing legible fonts that are at an easy-to-read size will make it a better user experience.
Your website needs to be able to adapt to the device that the visitor is using. Ensure that you can clearly see all elements of your site on a phone, tablet or desktop. Your mobile navigation should change from the whole bar to a hamburger, three horizontal lines.
Using contrasting colors in your page design helps your elements stand out and indicate to users that there is a call to action or new section.
Your page’s loading time is now a factor that Google is looking at when determining the best experience for its users. One of the biggest causes of slow websites are images that are way too big for the size they’re being used. Format your images and their file sizes before uploading them.
Email List Opt-in
Whether you have a newsletter or not, you want to build your email list. Not only do they work great for announcing new products and sales, but you can use them to target similar users in your advertising.
Links to High Authority Sites
To build trust, you want to have links that go to bigger organizations than your own. This can be local chamber of commerce organizations that you belong to, resources within your industry and more.
In addition to optimizing images to load quickly, you want to ensure other elements on your pages are, too. Stay away from using Flash elements, having too many scripts loading behind the scenes and music playing in the background. Also, don’t load videos to your site directly, use YouTube or Vimeo’s powerful servers to host it.
Have some landing pages at your disposal to pair with any ads you run or promotions you have. You want to mirror the language of your promo to the landing page to have a good user experience.
Custom 404 Page
Sometimes links break after we’ve shared a URL on a website or forum. Instead of the user getting the standard 404 page, create a customized one that has a call to action.
Site visitors want to know that other people trust your work, too. Add in testimonials or reviews from various channels. When possible, get video testimonials.
Linking to your own content on your website pages helps search bots to get through the website so they can see all of your pages. It also helps users dive deeper into your content and learn more.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Optimizing your website can not only land you free traffic from search engines, but also help you when you’re paying for traffic through platforms like Google Ads. At a minimum, you should be using on-page optimizations.
With most site builders these days, they offer an XML sitemap that stays up-to-date and lets search engines know what pages you have on your site. This helps them to discover your content and let you know if something is missing or not working.
Give search engines a little help in knowing what kind of information is on each page of your site. You can identify they type of content (article, recipe, etc.) on the back end of the page so search engines know what it is right away. At the very minimum, you should apply it to your business name, address and phone.
You can add tracking to your website easily with tools like Google Analytics. This will give you a big picture of where site visitors are coming from, how long they stay on, what kind of demographics they have and much more.
Google My Business
Every business should set up their free Google My Business listing. Whether you’re a local brick and mortar or national brand, Google gives you tools to stand out.
SSL Security Certificate
Any website that collects information (contact form, email opt-in, etc.) needs to have a security certificate attached to it. Otherwise, you run the risk of showing up as a risky site.
Lastly, you want to be sure that your website is being backed up automatically through your host. Your site could go down after an update or if someone hacks it. You want to be sure you have a backup ready to put into place if that ever happens.
Those are my top must-have website features. I hope you learned a lot and can get these into place sooner than later. And if you ever need help, set up a free consultation with me!
Located in Baltic, CT USA