But wait just a minute. Is that really all there is to it? Will that help you get found online, answer questions that potential customers may have, educate them, and convert them into real, paying customers? Nope. Not a chance.
Having said that, there are some elements of a ‘corporate brochure’ that do belong on a website, such as who you are, what you do/sell, and how to contact you. Just don’t make it sound “corporate-like” (more on that later). But, beyond the basics, there are a few things every website must have that go well beyond what the good old brochure provides.
Four Basic Website Pages
This is often your only chance to make a great impression on readers. If viewers don’t like what they see, they’ll be gone in under 3 seconds.
A few things are critical on the home page:
- Load Time – too slow, and the reader clicks ‘Back’
- Website Design – it’s got to look good and be in keeping with what a reader would expect to see (which doesn’t mean “boring” – but don’t make it so out-there that people aren’t sure what they’re looking at)
- Content – make it clear at a glance what your site is about (this is linked to design – the header, headlines, paragraphs, images, etc. all need to be clear and easy to read)
- Call to Action – let people know what you want them to do (like subscribe, buy something, share your site, contact you, etc.)
Keep your critical website content “above the fold” so people don’t have to scroll down to see it (assume no one will read anything they need to scroll for).
Focus your content on your customers. They don’t want to hear about you – they want to know that you care about THEM!
What We Do – Products / Services
This one depends on the purpose of your site. If it’s an e-commerce site, you may need a lot of pages to cover all of your products (usually, by product category). If you’re selling design or consulting services, a one-page description will probably do. Keep it short and sweet!
Images are your friend. No matter what you sell, photos or graphics get your message across far better than text that most people won’t read. Use professionally-taken photos of products, before & after, your team, finished projects, and whatever else will capture readers’ attention.
People want to know who they’re dealing with – but they don’t want too much information. Assume that readers will only skim the ‘About Us’ section so make your best content highly visible. Use headers, bullets, and bold text, but use them sparingly.
Highlight the facts that:
- You understand/connect with your customers,
- You know what you’re doing (and that you have a good reputation), and
- They’ll benefit from a connection with you (whether that’s buying your product, signing up for your newsletter, or using your services).
Make it easy for viewers to contact you – and, more importantly, make your contact information easy to find. You can choose to use a phone number, email address, mailing address, and/or contact form. But, whatever you choose, put that contact information (or a link to it) on the top of every page or sidebar.
Other Essential Website Pages / Items
This depends to some extent on the purpose of your website but, generally-speaking, you should have an opt-in form to collect email addresses from website visitors.
Think about the information you need to collect. And I do mean need. Too many companies get hung up on collecting as much information as possible, even if they’re not sure what they’ll do with that information. But for every additional piece of information you request, fewer and fewer people actually complete the opt-in form. Usually, all you need is the email address. It’s nice to know the first name so you can personalize emails, but you’ll be just fine without it. Last name, phone number, and address? Forget about it.
Related Article – How to Grow Your Email List with High-Converting Opt-In Forms
If you send targeted emails, newsletters, or special offers based on location, gender, or some other factor, you might want to collect that information at opt-in. But, if you do, clearly explain why you’re asking for it. You might also want to consider asking for it after the person has signed up by providing a ‘subscriber profile’ that people use to customize their communication preferences.
Social Media Icons / Widgets
If you’re on any of the social media platforms, include a link on your website encouraging viewers to “follow”, “like”, or “link to” you. These icons should generally be displayed in the header or sidebar of your site. Don’t hide your social media icons/information in the footer or make people search around for them – if they’re not obvious, no one will click on them.
And if you have a significant social media presence, show some social proof of your popularity – include a counter showing the number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans.
Add “share” buttons to each post or article. Make it easy for people to tweet about your content, email it to friends, or share it through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and other social media channels. The easier it is for them to share, the more likely they are to do it.
Everything on the web can be easily “stolen” or reused. A copyright notice won’t stop that from happening, but it will make it clear that you value the content on your website and that you’re not giving people permission to “borrow” it.
The copyright always includes a date – make sure your copyright notice always shows the current year or it will look like your website hasn’t been recently updated (and who wants to read out-of-date content?).
Site Map (Bonus – #9!)
Do you really, really need a site map? Well, your website will work just fine without it and viewers won’t notice any difference. But it helps the search engines find and index your entire site. Better search engine optimization (SEO) means more traffic which, ultimately, means more more business.
Of course, as you build your website, you’ll also want to avoid the most common website mistakes that small business owners make.
Beyond all of this, it’s up to you. What have you included in your website that helped you meet your business goals?
For more on this topic, you may find this extensive discussion on LinkedIn interesting: http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=166984&type=member&item=74910132 (must be a member of the Garden Centers, Nurseries, and New Media group)