Building and launching your business website can be a daunting task… there is so much to pull together during the website design process, including copy, images, hosting plans, domain names, etc. that sometimes small things fall through the cracks.
Unfortunately, some of those small things can make a big difference in the success of your new website, so it’s important to take a moment before you launch and run through the list of often-forgotten elements that can be addressed quickly.
Here are the Top 8 elements I see missed most often with new small business website launches:
1. SEARCH ENGINE META DATA
It’s important to have a unique Title and Meta Description tag on every single page of your website. Whether you have 5, 50 or 500 pages, taking the time to create a unique tag will make a big difference to the end result. Not only do unique title and description tags help improve organic search rankings, they are also what is seen by your potential customers when your site is listed in search engine results pages (also referred to as SERPs).
Many new small business websites simply repeat the home page title and meta description on every page, meaning there isn’t anything unique or specific to that search. Given that users often scan search results looking trying to decide which link(s) to click on, the second result would not be nearly as likely to catch a searchers attention if they were looking for Tapestries.
2. SECURITY & PRIVACY
Another area of website design that is often overlooked is the security and privacy of your potential customer. It doesn’t matter if you are running a full-scale ecommerce checkout or have a simple registration form on your site, as soon as you are planning on capturing unique and identifiable customer information, you need to protect that information.
SSL Certificates encrypt all the data you exchange and creating a secure connection between your customer and your site. They are a relatively low-cost investment, usually ranging from $25 for a shared certificate or $69 – $99 for a dedicated one.
If you are capturing anything more than the potential customer’s name and email address, you should invest in an SSL certificate. In fact, even if all you are capturing are name and email address, it’s not a bad thing to have SSL security on your site.
Sites (or site sections, such as the Shopping Cart) that have an SSL Certificate installed will display both a “Locked” icon beside the URL and will often display the actual certificate seal on the site. Both of these elements help boost customer confidence when interacting with your site and providing you with confidential contact & transaction information.
3. LOCATION. LOCATION
If you have a physical location or a specific service area, it is critical that you optimize your location for search engines. More and more people are searching for products and services “Near Them” and voice-assisted searching (such as Siri) has increased this exponentially via mobile devices.
“Restaurant Near Me”, “Gas Station Near Me” will require search engines to understand WHERE you are to understand if you are – in fact – near the customer who is currently searching for you.
Even without including the “Near Me” keywords, search engines these days are becoming more proactive by showing results that are closer to home, especially when searching for something with a physical presence.
Search for Pizza and you will likely be shown results that highlight local pizza parlors or the closest franchise for nationwide operations.
Measuring the performance of your new website design is important to understand – as your site grows – what’s working, what’s not and how people are using your site.
Even if you don’t have time – at this exact moment – to review the information, or even learn how to use the simple analytic tools such as Google Analytics, it’s important to signup for an account now (usually free) and get the code on your site so that if and when you do have time, the data is there.
Another helpful analytical tool, particularly as it applies to your site’s Search Engine Optimization are the Webmaster tools offered by the major engines including Google and Bing.
- Google Webmaster Tools – https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/
- Bing Webmaster Tools – www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster
By registering yourself as the Webmaster for your site, these tools will provide some unique insights regarding your site’s search engine friendliness, including any errors that could be stopping the search engines from indexing and displaying your site.
5. URL STRUCTURE AND NAMING CONVENTIONS
An important aspect of creating a website is deciding the structure and setting out – from the very beginning – to create relevant URLs. Even though it may be easier, naming your site pages as “domain.com/page1.html” etc. provides no advantage to the user or search engines.
Think about organizing your site like you would your own files. Make folders intuitive. Make page names intuitive.
And never let a temporary URL become the permanent home of your content (e.g. http://www.chefmikeward.com/test02-2-1)
If you do have to go back and retroactively fix some of these poorly formatted URLs, make sure you implement 301 redirects so that the old URL points to the new URL for any search engines that have crawled and indexed the old page as well as any potential customers who may have bookmarked the old page.
This also applies to the naming of image files that you use on your site, as well as the appropriate use of alt tags. Try to avoid using generic names such as image-1.jpg and use this opportunity to properly describe the image itself (e.g. red-roses.jpg). Alt tags provide a text description of the image, so they should also be used to properly describe the image. Some browsers will show this text when the user hovers over the image, other browsers will only display this text if the image itself does not show up. Either way, it’s an important aspect of image naming that should be considered.
6. MOBILE COMPATIBLE WEBSITE DESIGN
According to TechCrunch, mobile usage as a whole accounts for 60% of time spent online, therefore it is imperative that your website design be mobile friendly.
Most platforms and pre-built templates used these days employ some level of adaptability for various platforms, including desktops, tablets and smartphones. However, if you do not consider this when building your site content and architecture, you can damage this pre-built functionality and responsiveness.
Although it’s not always possible to QA your site in every browser and device variation available on today’s market, check your site on at least one of each type of device (a desktop computer, a tablet and a mobile phone) to make sure that it looks clean, easy to read and professional.
Alternatively, you can use external tools such as XXXX (see if Sue has a good recommendation) to preview how your site will look in a variety of display settings, browsers and devices.
A small but valuable aspect to a website design is that tiny little Favicon that appears in the URL and/or Website Tabs bar, as well as within most browser bookmarks.
This is often overlooked, particularly when using a set template developed by the website application you use. Although it’s small, it’s a valuable piece of branding that is very quick and easy to replace.
If you don’t, you could end up with the default provided by your platform… which is great for them, as they end up with thousands and thousands of websites reinforcing their brand, but it does very little (or nothing) for you and your business.
Can you tell what the three websites below have in common?
8. SOCIAL LINKS
A very valuable aspect of your website is that it allows potential customers to engage with you. Expand on that engagement by providing easy-to-find links to your social media profiles, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
Even if you aren’t able to program in customized links on your site (although it’s relatively easy to do so), a simple text reference can suffice.
For example, if you’re enjoying this blog article and you’d like to follow me on Twitter, please do so at @ePaulStainton. See how easy that was??
BONUS: THE 9TH WEBSITE DESIGN TIP – PATIENCE
Give your website time to get indexed by search engines and found by searchers. The dramatic Hollywood fictional moment about a person launching a website and suddenly they are inundated with thousands of orders is just that…. Fiction.
It takes time for your site to get indexed, found and visited… so don’t forget to give the site time to find and build its audience.