Secrets of a successful small business website

BY JEFF SCHICK

Wisdom tells us if you have a business, you need a website. However, many small businesses are not clear about how to maximize it. Your website should be a valuable tool to support your growth and success, but if not done properly it won’t be effective.

When thinking about your website, consider the following: Do you want to sell products directly through your website? Do you use it to advertise what you sell or the services you provide? Do you want it to build brand recognition? Whether you sell products, provide services or are involved in nonprofit activities, it is essential to be clear about your business goals because it informs how to build your website.

Once goals are in place, the next step is deciding how your website can support them. The first step is to partner with a professional website developer. While there are many “do-it-yourself” website options, for a professional business going this route is not advised.

Many factors go into building a successful website besides making it look good. Security, search engine optimization, usability, tracking traffic, adaptability, and payment options are all factors to be considered in addition to layout and content.

The developer can also help pick your webhost. A webhost is the space on the internet where your website lives. A good webhost is essential for consistency and efficiency. The last thing a small business needs is to lose sales, clients or customers because the website is down or doesn’t work properly. Most hosts include additional services such as custom email addresses. Hosting can run between $50 to $200 per year.

Once you have the host, you can add the webpages. Your pages should look modern, support the goals of your business, and answer the question “why would anyone want to look at this website.” Most viewers evaluate websites in seconds and will move on if they are confusing or if content is not compelling – another reason to use an experienced professional.

Still, it can be difficult to know who to trust. Some unprofessional folks may take advantage of small businesses by charging ridiculous amounts of money. Recently, I ran into a business owner who spent $80,000 on her site! Websites shouldn’t cost a half-year’s profits, and more money doesn’t necessarily mean better quality.

Ask the web professional to show you examples of his/her work, get references, and discuss budget up front. Another thing to watch for is developers trying to baffle you with buzz words. If you don’t know a term, ask, and have the developer explain why it’s important for your business. However, to help you be a savvy consumer, here are some definitions:

• Responsive web design – Websites should be made in a responsive format. This means the website is set for optimal viewing whether you are using a computer, tablet or smartphone. If a website is not responsive, it may be unreadable on a smartphone (80 percent of people view webpages on their smartphones).

• SSL Certificate – Coding in the webpage that allows a secure connection between web server and browser. An active SSL certificate page starts with the address “https” vs. “http.” If you are using a Chrome Browser you will see a picture of a lock and the phrase “secure website.” You should never purchase anything online from a website which does not start with “https.”

• SEO – “Search engine optimization” helps your website to be as close to the first page of search results. An SEO project includes adding code in the site that is friendly to search engines.

• Web Analytics – This is data measurement of how well your website is doing. This can include how many visitors came to your website per month, what type of browser was used, what country they are in, and how long they spent on your website.

When you run a small business, you have a lot to do and everything you do has to support your goals of success. This includes your website. Sprite Media in Forest Hills can help you make an effective website, and offers a realistic, no-pressure assessment of what your small business needs.

For more information, visit Sprite-Media.com Jeff Schick is director of Technology for Sprite Media, Inc. and a member of the Queens Chamber of Commerce Technology Committee. He can be reached at JeffSchick@Sprite-Media.com or (646) 893-8040.

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