This is a first for The Solopreneur’s Guide – an article that wasn’t written by me. But, since I am a big believer in outsourcing the areas of your business that are outside of your expertise, I figured I would have a pro provide the tips for you.
Whether your web site is just a part of your promotions or the only interface between you and your customers, it is an excellent tool for either drawing business in or turning it away.
Does your site give the impression that you don’t care or does it tell the world that they are dealing with a professional? Your site is your digital identity.
The following 9 tips were penned by Paul Pennel, the solopreneur behind Minnow Web Design. Check out Paul’s tips for giving you the online advantage.
1. Test Browser Compatibility
Does your website work in every web browser, such as Internet Explorer and Safari? Unfortunately just because your website looks great in one browser does not mean it looks great in every browser. If this is not addressed then your website may not look as professional as you originally desired to everyone who views it. Does your website work on a Mac as well as a PC? If you don’t have both a Mac and a PC, make sure to find a friend who can look at your website on whatever machine you don’t own.
2. Contact Information
Do you have easy-to-find contact information on your website? You need a phone number and E-mail address and preferably an E-mail form. You want your customers to reach you in a manner they are comfortable with. If you have a physical location, be sure to include your store address as well. This information should be an in easy-to-find location such as your header, which is top of the website page.
To market your website it should be submitted to all of the large search engines, such as Google and Yahoo! If you aren’t listed in search engines nobody will be able to find your website.
Are you advertising your website in other ways? If you are a solopreneur then you may not have much of a budget for marketing. Yet that doesn’t mean you should ignore marketing all together. If your budget is tight, the best way to do this involves a large amount of time on your part. The good news is that this method is free of cost and you don’t have to do all of the work at one time. This method essentially involves you promoting yourself on other websites. As part of owning your own business you are probably already reading articles and forums related to your field. As you do this, you should comment on the articles and post on the forums. In some forums the guidelines may even allow you to post a link to your website. Be careful not to be blatantly advertising yourself but instead proving useful feedback on these forums. The more links to your website the more ways people can find your site. More links also relates to how high your website will be listed in search engines. There are other factors to be ranked high in search engines but this is one that you can help to control.
You may be tempted to place advertisements on your website. If you have a LARGE amount of traffic and the ads don’t take away from your message this can be a good way to make some money. However, if you do not have a lot of traffic, it is probably more cost effective for you in the long run to leave off the advertisements and just concentrate on your message.
4. Repeat Visitors
You’ve gone through a lot of time and/or expense to get people to visit your website, now how do you make sure they keep coming back? The more often they visit your website the more your name is in their minds and the more likely they are to purchase from you. Some form of “web 2.0” like an online forum or a blog that has useful information will keep people coming back for more current information. Consider having a sign-up that entices people to get a newsletter that you publish in your area of expertise. Your newsletter should be regular enough so you stay in people’s minds, but not so much that they get annoyed and ask to be removed from your mailing list.
5. Building Trust
As a solopreneur you won’t have the same built in trust as a well known online company, such as Amazon.com, has with customers. Therefore, you will have to design your website in a way to have people visiting the website trust it and trust you. Testimonials from previous satisfied customers are a great way to do this. Also, a picture of you personally gives the website more personality and creates the feel you are not a faceless website that may disappear at any point. If you have a building, include a picture of it along with an address.
The more information you provide upfront on your website the more people will trust you. Creating a detailed “Frequently Asked Questions” page is valuable. An “About us” page is good as well. If you allow sales directly from your website, have it done on a secure connection and make that very obvious to your customers. Give your customer some form of guarantee. An example of this could be providing a “90 day money back guarantee” if they are not absolutely satisfied with your product.
6. Have Your Website Reviewed
A professional opinion about your website would be ideal but it can be hard to find. Instead have people you personally know review it for you. If you are targeting a certain market ask friends in that market to take a look. If your reviewers are afraid to offend you, then their feedback won’t be of any value. Therefore, make sure to tell them to be brutally honest with their opinions. You, too, should review your website multiple times to make sure the content and design is consistent from page to page and easy to read. Also, remember to check your spelling and your grammar.
7. Favorites Icon
When customers visit your website, the web address is located in the web browser’s location bar. A Favorite’s Icon is a small image that is shown next to your website’s address. It is also seen if the customer has your website bookmarked in their browser. The Favorites Icon is a good way to brand your website and increase its prominence in your visitor’s bookmark menu. It is simple to set up and for such little icon it definitely helps make your website stand out. If you already have a logo, or some image you want associated with your website, go to http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/favicon/ and follow the instructions. It automatically converts your image to the correct size and file name. All you have to do is then copy the file to your host.
Viewing near real-time statistics for your website is desirable. Google Analytics is a way to easily see how customers find your website, how many customers visit on a given day, and what pages those customers are most interested in. It gives you both a graphical overall view of your customer traffic, as well as other very detailed information. It is a free tool and easy to implement. Go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ and follow the directions. You should be able to set this up within 15 to 30 minutes. There are other similar statistic tools available on the internet, but just be sure to use one that works for your website.
9. I’m Done, Right?
OK, I’ve all of this for my website. I’m done, right? No. You are never done with your website. If you put out a great website on January 1st but don’t make any updates to it, then by July it is going to look out of date. Make sure you keep some kind of current information about your industry or your company on your website so visitors can see you are an active and thriving organization. Just because your website is great today doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be completely redesigned every couple of years to keep it fresh. If your website looks professional and current, people will view your business the same way.
Paul Pennel, a solopreneur, is the owner and designer of Minnow Web Design. Minnow Web Design offers solutions for small businesses or organizations with big ideas. Just because you’re working with a shoestring budget doesn’t mean that your website can’t be professional, well-designed and user-friendly.
All The Best,
The Solopreneur’s Guide