Creating a worthwhile and SEO-friendly website can be challenging for small business owners who often have limited resources, a lack of technical knowledge and serious time constraints. The good news is that it is possible to create an effective online presence for your local business - and you might not even need a website!
Must-Have Website Features for Any Business
Let’s start with the basics. Here’s a list of features any website representing a business online needs to have:
- Contact information - Address, phone number, hours of operation, etc
- SSL - Standard technology for a secure internet connection, this means your URL starts with https instead of http
- A clear description of what your business does - don’t just say “we provide solutions” - use specific words that accurately describe your services and/or products
- Social proof/trust signals - things like customer reviews/testimonials, writeups from local press, case studies/project summaries, partnerships or affiliations with established brands/organizations, and badges from reputable third-party organizations such as your local chamber of commerce
- SEO basics - page titles, proper use of headings, calls to action, descriptive alt tags on images
- Mobile-first design - in most cases the majority of users visiting your website will be on a smartphone
Designing Your Site’s Homepage vs Interior Pages
A question we often hear from small business owners is how to decide which features and content should be on the homepage and what should be on other website pages.
Your website’s homepage will be seen the most. It should focus on engaging your audience and introducing your brand. Give an overview of what’s detailed on interior pages, and link to them.
Your interior pages should each focus on providing detailed information about a specific topic. This could be a product, a service, or helpful insights on topics related to your business (such as a blog or resource library).
Common Small Business Website Mistakes to Avoid
The number one mistake we see is when a small business redesigns their website and fails to redirect old URLs to their best match on the new site. Other common pitfalls include:
- Prioritizing website features over functionality
- Not hiding or deleting test/template pages
- Desktop-centric thinking
- Lack of planning
- Too much clutter (on both the front and back end)
- Not keeping information up to date
- Using generic calls to action (“learn more”, “click here”)
- Failing to leverage easy SEO signals
If you want to optimize your website for search, you should think about SEO as you’re creating the site. So many small business owners only work with developers/designers and then ask for SEO help when it’s finished. SEO isn’t magic powder you sprinkle on top of a website—for best results, you want it baked in!
How a Business Website Relates to Larger Branding Initiatives
Your website is the home of your brand, and the one piece of digital media that you truly own and control.
Be consistent with your business name, logo, brand colors, slogan and all other basic identifiers. These should look exactly the same on your website as they do on your social media profiles, in local directories, in digital and physical advertising, in your signage, uniforms, merch and anywhere else your brand appears.
You also need to make sure your business hours, phone number, address and website URL are up to date and accurate everywhere they appear online.
Your website should be interlinked with all your online profiles, including:
- Google Business Profile
- Bing Places
- Apple Business Connect
- Yahoo Local Business Listings
- Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, X, Pinterest, and other social media platforms
If you do email campaigns, every email should include links back to your website.
Why & How Often to Update Your Website
Your website should be updated as needed to make sure the information about your business is accurate and comprehensive. There’s no need to “update something just because.”
At a minimum, build out pages for your services. Keep them up to date (especially pricing if you publish prices) because you don’t want website visitors to get contradictory information if they reach out. Make each service page interesting and unique - what do potential customers want to know? What makes you different from competitors?
Blogs can be effective as part of a larger marketing strategy, but most times small business owners will want to focus on other channels and “lower funnel” content first. You can also use blogs to chunk out marketing assets and strategy for other channels.
Beware of the urge to “post something just to post it”. If you create blog content you should plan on keeping it up to date for the lifespan of your brand OR understand that the lifespan of a post is very short.
How & Why to Increase Traffic to Your Website
Step one: Decide why do you want more traffic to your website. Are leads higher quality if the person visited your website first?
Step two: Give people a reason to visit. Do you have time to commit to regular blog posting? Newsletters?
Engagement with your brand should be the focus, and a lot of times that engagement happens on your website. It doesn’t have to though! Depending on the type of business, you might have more success with a YouTube channel or Instagram account.
High-Level Tips for Effective SEO
- Page titles. Each page of your website needs a unique and descriptive title.
<div class="post-note">Learn what you need to know about SEO page titles in 3 minutes.</div>
- Create/claim & optimize your free business profile on Google, Bing, Apple & possibly Yahoo.
<div class="post-note">Start with our Google Business Profile checklist.</div>
- Have a logical website structure with helpful internal linking.
- No dead ends. Every page on your website at minimum needs a call to action telling the user what to do next: contact your business, download a PDF, read an article, request a quote, etc.
- One topic per page—no overlapping. Each page should have a clearly defined purpose. Don’t create multiple pages about the same thing.
- Use original images that provide context and clarity rather than stock images (whenever possible).
- Be authentic. Get inspired by other business websites, but don’t be a copycat.
Which Website Analytics Matter for Small Businesses?
Learning Google Analytics can be daunting for some business owners, but you really only need the basics:
- Understand where people are coming from (paid search, organic search, email campaigns, etc)
- Understand where people are entering your website (landing pages)
- Set and track your KPIs (phone call clicks, contact form submissions, ecommerce purchases, video views, etc)
You can ignore bounce rate. In fact, most website data is overrated. As a small business owner you can feel confident making decisions about your website based on your expertise and customer feedback.
Google Search Console is another free-to-use platform that can give you helpful information like whether or not a page has been crawled and indexed, and which search queries a page (or your whole site) show up for in Google Search.
How to Make Sure Your Website Provides Good Mobile UX
Use your website on your phone!
Ignore the top navigation (menu), and try to complete the actions you want your audience to take. Pretend you know nothing about your brand when doing this.
Use other websites on your phone!
Notice what you love and hate about the mobile experience, and apply those insights to your own site.
User-Friendly Website Builders for Small Businesses
For those who want to build a website on their own, certain CMS (content management systems) are easier to use than others.
- Tier 1: Webflow and Wordpress
- Tier 2: Wix
- Tier 3: Squarespace can work fine for small businesses, but we don’t recommend it for businesses that need to rely on SEO or multi-funnel stage marketing.
No matter which CMS you choose, you should get some professional help before going live. At minimum, find a local consultant and pay them for 5 hours of their time to give you feedback. You can get high-quality information from experts for less than $400, and this investment will have big returns.
Making Sure Your Website Loads Quickly
Fast load times are a common concern, especially when video is part of the website design. In fact, images and website tracking scripts are the #1 offenders when it comes to poor page speed. Resize and compress your images before you upload them to your website. And stop tracking things “just to track them”!
If using background videos, defer the loading. For other videos and for all images, use lazy loading.
ADA Website Compliance
The #1 reason why businesses care about ADA compliance is for liability reasons (i.e. not getting sued). But the #2 reason is equally if not more important: you don’t want to ignore the needs of your audience.
If you’re not sure if your website is ADA compliant, you can run a scan. AccessiBe is a good one, and it’s free!
A successful digital presence for your small business isn't just about building a website. It's about fostering engagement, staying up to date, and continually refining your content based on the needs of your customers. A thoughtful and authentic approach will provide a reliable and engaging online hub for your brand. Rather than checking off items on a list or blindly relying on "SEO best practices," really think about why you're creating each digital asset and what would best serve your audience.
By the way, the image at the top of this post was created using Canva's AI image generator, but all the text was 100% written by humans!
<div class="post-note-cute">This article was inspired by the questions we get most often from small business owners interested in creating or improving their website. If you have questions about small business websites or anything SEO-related, don’t hesitate to reach out: <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a></div>