The Achievable Guide To Empower Your Small Business Website (Jackpot Tips for 2021)
Do you have a website? I mean do you reallllly have a website?
Not a facebook page, or a listing managed on an industry aggregator.
Not a site that is basically your instagram feed because it totally updates itself.
Not a site that you rarely update because you paid a lot of money once to have it set up in 2017.
The thing is, if you are actively doing business, your people expect you to have your own website.
Thirty percent of consumers won’t consider a business without a website.
Stat cited in Blue Corona's informative article from 2018
I get it. When you're currently doing it all for your small business, I just told you to put on another hat - 🎩 Web Developer.
But, before you either pile this onto your todo list - or sigh with relief because you think I'm not talking to you - I have a solution that will empower your business.
I want you to succeed by working smarter and more joyfully, not harder and more expensively.
I've noticed a trend in small businesses switching to drag + drop website creation platforms. And I'm not surprised!
The hosting cost is predictable.
Edits can be made without submitting a ticket to a busy firm.
Small businesses can boldly experiment in a time when everyone is online + looking for brands that are fresh and easy to work with.
The perfect website for your small business doesn't have to be this big, complicated, custom monster.
In this guide to empowering your website + brand using drag and drop web hosts like Wix and Squarespace, I'm going to show you:
The pros and cons of drag and drop site building + how I recommend the right service to a client.
What to expect when transferring your site.
How to think about your website like a small business marketer.
How you can customize the look, optimize the platform for real life + check your work.
Tips + tricks to make your website look better than the template you used.
Pros + Cons of a Drag and Drop Website For Small Businesses
I want you to know, switching to a new service (or starting from scratch) takes a little up-front investment cost. However, your monthly or yearly cost for a drag and drop web host is often much less.
I recently completed a project for a Northern Virginia dog grooming salon, Waggy Baths. When my client Maria reached out to me, she was paying her previous custom website hosting company a large monthly fee, AND also paying them to pay Google to advertise her site.
Not only was Maria locked in to a contract that didn't support her business model, she spent a lot of her own time trying to get a hold of the company when she needed to make changes.
I'm jazzed to report that after switching to a drag + drop web host, we're seeing site visits up 56% with the majority of her traffic coming from organic Google searches.
And you bet Maria isn't paying any additional fees.
Another important thing to point out when you're considering making the switch to a website host like Wix or Squarespace is the level of customization.
If you're accustomed to tweaking your website with layers of custom code, you will experience a little pushback from these templates. It's not terrible, but you won't be able to summon Tinkerbell to fly across your screen at the (expensive) request to your web developer.
But, sticking with a template isn't all bad news. You'll be able to represent your brand more consistently by sticking to a template that you can customize, and it could increase your site speed.
Joe of Virginia Dwelling knows his way around creating simple html sites on Wordpress (which also can be considered a drag + drop site, but is quite favored by developers for its custom code interface). He had been a long-time client of mine when we decided that we needed to un-tangle his site and switch to a more streamlined platform.
The the old website was a combination of widgets and plugins that each had to be modified separately when we needed to make changes. Yes it was customizable, but tedious.
With a beautiful and expressive blog and access to a bank of stock imagery, Joe's new site is keeping visitors engaged with increased page views per visitor.
And he can re-focus his energy into writing his signature educational blogs.
So, how do you choose between Wix, Squarespace, or other drag and drop website hosting service?
Simply put - If you're hosting events or sharing visual information I recommend Wix. If you're blogging or sharing written information, I recommend Squarespace.
Each platform offer a whole lot to small businesses for not too much money, so you really can't go wrong.
Don't forget about Shopify - If you are angling for more online direct sales, it's a fabulous platform with solid integrations for social media.
If you want to get nerdy - seriously send me an email (I love getting emails so much!) - and we can get down with the specifics.
How To Set Up + Use A Drag and Drop Website
Once you've chosen your hosing platform, you can start your import.
Choose A Template
Your brand guide will inform the template that you, or your marketing contractor will use to model your site. This will become the core functionality + personality on the online space.
Don't worry about the industry that the template is geared towards. You may just find the perfect vibe for your real estate site in a nutrition consultant site template.
You'll then want to customize the colors to your brand, and add in your own branded language and imagery to this template.
Set Up Your Domain
Depending on your domain provider - that'd be Google or GoDaddy, etc - you'll have a slightly different process to connect your new website. There shouldn’t be any fees, though I have seen Squarespace charge up to $20 to 'buy' the domain from the previous provider.
Transfer The Information
For small websites, a copy-and-paste technique will be just fine. The plus-side of this is that you get to take a look at your website structure + refine it at this point. I love a good blank slate.
For large websites, you'll want to download the entire website and upload it back up to the new host. Of course you should still tweak, refine, and fix anything that shook out of place in the transfer.
When you work with a marketing contractor to set up your site, they'll take care of this process for you.
How To Optimize Your Website Like A Marketer
You may not have a marketer on your team (or in your business owner hat wardrobe), but here are a few quick and dirty ways to you can THINK like a marketer + make impactful changes to your new website.
There are two main categories that I want to drill into here - UX (user experience) + SEO (search engine optimization).
User experience is how people feel towards your site's usefulness of information + ease of use.
What UX helps you avoid - we've all been here - the "... NOPE! That's an easy back to the search results... guess I have to find another link" response.
This hurts you in two ways.
One - these earnest people are not getting to interact with your awesome brand! Boo!
Two - Google checks this interaction off as low-quality and will lower your chances of being 'served up' to searchers in the future.
Use these strategies to identify the User Experience problems that are hiding in your website.
I want you to role play a little, here. Search for your product/service + location in an incognito browser tab. If your business doesn’t come up in the first few pages, search for it by name.
What we're doing here is appreciating the way that your viewers will be primed before arriving to your site.
Are you feeling frustrated by not finding what you are looking for immediately?
How many competitors show up before your business under this search? Will you be feeling choice overload by the time you get to your business?
Does a random page from your site, social channels, or local listing show up in search results before your home page? Are you able to easily navigate to your home page through these links?
Before you scroll down on your home page, are you able to make your next decision (ie: get directions, talk to a human, research the product/service more)? Or, are you left wondering what to do next?
Ask A Friend
Ask a trusted friend, mentor, or colleague to run the same incognito test outlined above. Make sure that your guinea pig will tell you the truth. We're trying to do work here, after all.
Brainstorm Customer Questions
Customer or client questions are the root of the problem a good UX (User Experience) website solves. So, this is the most important part of the exercise.
Does your website answer your customers' questions?
Common questions include
How do I make a purchase?
Do you have sales?
When is the next event?
Why should I care about the way you do things?
Do other people like or trust this solution, too?
How much does it cost?
Where can I go now to find more information or detailed answers (even after hours)?
Your unique business will obviously have more specific consumer questions to brainstorm. White anything and everything down as it comes to you. Then, try some of my favorite FREE online tools like Ubersuggest or Answer The Public for more questions your website should answer.
CAUTION: Please, whittle down your brainstorm to your most useful inquiries. The point here is ease of information - not overwhelming your customers.
Search engine optimization is what you use to get your website in front of people searching for answers on Google.
Just like our User Experience exercise before, this time instead of humans, we are appealing to the great AI Robot Gods of Google, etc.
Providing answers to specific questions will help you optimize your new (improved) site for the world wide web - or, for us local businesses - for the area you serve.
Shout out to the small businesses of Winchester, Virginia!
Use these strategies to identify + fix SEO problems and start earning more search engine traffic today.
Start with the questions that you've identified for your website to answer + extrapolate key words and phrases to pepper through your content.
Another great source for keywords is your basic industry/service + location keywords. For example, I would use "marketing services for small businesses in Winchester Virginia".
Be sure that you can easily integrate these keywords into your website text without sounding strange to your human readers.
Titles + URL
Optimize your titles and page URLs (thats the stuff that comes after the / in your web address for a page) by using those fabulous keywords again.
You can take the space to express the title of a page fully - say, up to 15 words - but keep your page URL short. Because it will pre-populate the exact title of your page into your URL, you'll need to customize it after you've created the page.
Please, please, use more than a one word header in your text sections. It's a super easy SEO for your site. I'm talking taking "About" to "About *Your Business*" and "Shop" to "How to Shop *Value* *Product/service* in *Location*"
Each website page should only have one H1 - or large header - on a page. This is extremely important for the robots in charge of taking over the world to organize the importance of information on your pages. They are extremely dense and can only handle one main message per page. Do help the poor bots out.
I mean, are you still with me here? Word count is a pretty powerful tool to help you improve your website's SEO. As long as the words are a helpful resource for your customers or clients, you're adding fuel for Google to serve up your site in searches.
Aim for at least a couple hundred to 2,500 words per page.
Each of the drag + drop website builders have an area where you can designate redirects on your site. A redirect saves you the ding to your site's reputation on Google by pointing the traffic from a broken page to a working page.
I mentioned it above, but Ubersuggest is a really powerful tool that will walk you though a lot of these SEO fixes for your site.
Make Your Website Look Better Than The Template
First, let's talk about your brand.
A lot of the heavy lifting comes from the visual aspects of your brand guide, like your brand colors or your logo. Your customers - everybody, really - are 'visual people' though they might not introduce themselves so at parties.
First impressions are 94% design related + they happen fast!
Yes, I just shamelessly plugged my previous blog because this is SO important.
You already have customized the template for your site as far as swapping the colors to your brand, and uploading your text + images.
Add Some Complexity To The Template
Each template you may use comes with the ability to set a site-wide color palette. Of course, set your brand colors, but be sure to have one 'outlier color' for bold contrast.
Use this color to highlight your calls to action and other important information, but don't go overboard. The point is to add a shocking and disruptive element.
Similarly, instead of using a white background, try a neutral or color tone as the background. Just keep your text readable!
Now Add Depth To Your Website
Photos in the background of your site can help with storytelling and add that depth that basic templates sometimes lack.
Gradients are also a good choice for this when you don't have a photo with a high enough resolution. You'd be surprised how much a subtle gradient makes a website more dynamic.
Your website will always be a work in progress but with this guide, you now have the tools at your disposal to empower your website + your relationship to the 24/7 member of your team.
I'm just an email away if you have any questions on switching to or starting you website on any of these drag + drop web hosts. Sometimes it makes all the difference to have an expert in your corner when it's time to take the reins on your business and start growing exuberantly.