Before starting that great new website for your small business, consider your expectations carefully. Most entrepreneurs with their first website lack the experience to know what is truly required to be successful online. Website failure may be defined as anything from total catastrophe to simply results less than expectations. Each can occur even if you have a gorgeous well-designed site.
Don’t expect search engine success with high traffic and added revenue instantly. It is rare.
Here’s the short list of what you need if your goal is website traffic and new customers. These facts have been overlooked or misunderstood by many of my small business clients, and in most cases the errors of omission are due to inexperience.
1. You need a trusted site with name, address and phone number, not just a PO Box.
2. You need to be online 6-12 months or longer to achieve search engine ranking.
3. You need a large site with 10-20 or more pages of quality content for credibility.
Discuss your needs with your site designer. It should not be a cousin, uncle, or friend who happens to have software to make websites. A truly successful site takes more… much more. Professional help may be more cost effective than you realize. Some service providers will try to take advantage just because you are in business. I regularly save clients more than they pay me for designs by helping them shop for economical service providers for their domain and hosting.
Realistic expectations up front will help you avoid disappointment. Be prepared with an ongoing annual budget to add fresh content and features to your site. A smaller site is okay to get started. If you cannot meet the goals in the above list, your traffic and new customers must be pointed to your site with direct marketing efforts. If presenting your company online achieves a positive first impression that may be enough to begin. As your budget increases you can revise expectations as you continue to grow your online presence.
To compete online, compare your plan to what your competition is already doing. If they have full disclosure of their physical address, phone number, and contact names you need to do the same. A prospective customer comparing one site to another with trusted information will usually rule out the one with a PO Box number, or less than adequate contact information. Real and complete details provide better ranking with search engines, also. Listing your city, state or province, and country will allow search engines to localize search results.
Bonus Tip: If you work from home and offer a product or service sold without a showroom, there are options to avoid strangers disrupting your family life. Some clients get box numbers from service companies, and use that company’s address as theirs except instead of box number, they call it unit number. In the USA, you cannot use a US Post Office street address and box number for your return address, even if it is revised to unit number. You will need a private company, however, the peace of mind and the benefits in credibility may be worth the modest cost.
Aging of your site is likewise important. Too many sites are here today, and gone within a year. To maintain credibility the search engines need to serve up relevant results. Until you prove to them your long term intent they will select older and more established sites for page one. Quality content added often can expedite the waiting period.
Do you renew your www domain every year? Stop. Register your website for 2-5 years to prove you are there to stay.
Finally, you need to create an authority site that adds value to the internet community. Establishing your expertise begins with valuable advice and content for your visitors. The size of your website will grow as you continue adding content. This improves the customer experience and provides a reason for them to return, or buy. Quality content added often will bring the search engines back more often, also.
Success online is more than just having a website. Realistic expectations require knowledge of how the internet and search engines work. Some people have contacted me after buying a turnkey site thinking money would roll in, and years later the website made zero revenue. You must be unique, so looking like 1000 other sites with identical content is not a solution.
In conclusion, what I have described for your ideal website is similar to what you might look for in a consultant. People are usually more comfortable when they take advice from an older and trusted authority. Provide that slant in the design of your online home, and visitors can sense you have dependable solutions. Define your niche. Set your new website goals. Get help or advice and avoid joining the long list of small business website failures.