Sunday, July 1, 2012

Small Business Home Web Page Design and Content Tips

There is no magic formula for what amount and what type of content to place on your home page. Generally, minimize clutter - yet you want to communicate the benefits of your product(s) and/or service(s) quickly.

I've changed and tweaked the home pages for my small business websites many times (and continue testing).

The following are some guidelines I've found worked well for conversion - DEPENDING on the scope of your business.

What do I mean by scope of your business?

Your home page content will vary depending on how many products and/or services you offer. If you offer one service, then you can easily set out the key benefits of your service on the home page. If you offer many services and/or products, then your home page should communicate your business' attributes with clear links to your various products and services pages.

Example 1:

Law firm with 6 practice areas (i.e. personal injury, family law, wills and estates, business, real estate, and corporate/commercial litigation).

Large law firms are a good example for a business that offers a diverse set of services. A firm with 6 diverse practice areas is serving a very diverse clientele. The personal injury client is much different than the corporate client. It's not possible for a law firm to set out the benefits of each type of service on its home page without the home page being cluttered with too much information.

What should the firm do? They have 3 options:

  1. Create separate websites for each practice area (this is what I do for my small business where I offer 3 distinct services); or
  2. Set out clear navigation options for visitors to click into the legal service they are looking for, or
  3. Do both 1 and 2 (I don't do both - I explain why below).

Option 1:

This is not for every business, but is a viable option. The key is determining whether you serve distinct customers. If you do, then you might consider separate websites for each service (or batch of services).

Option 2:

The firm's home page should focus on the merits of the firm with accolades, media recognition, testimonials, number of years in business, and of course brief descriptions of the all the legal services offered with links to the individual legal services pages.

Then each individual legal service page must clearly explain how the firm serves the client. You want your business to always clearly explain how your services/products help your customer. Don't assume they'll figure it out. For instance, I offer a free consultation for one of my services.

I have a full page explaining this with a link in my main menu. Yet, many customers who call me ask if they have to pay for a consultation. Repeat your benefits throughout your site.

Another useful technique, especially if you offer services, is explaining the entire service process the customer can expect. This is a good way to communicate all the work you do and all the benefits your customer will enjoy.

Option 3:

You can create separate sites as well as one flagship site for all your products and services. I don't do this because I don't want to confuse my customers.

I offer 3 distinct services. I want my prospective customers to land on the sites that are designed specifically for them. I actually tested this. My second website set out all my services and the conversion was much lower than now. I also find when my sites are dedicated to each service, it's easier to rank well for those sites in the search engines (due to domain name selection and focused content).

However, if you offer related services or products (or your company name is extremely well-branded), then a central flagship site may be the best approach.

How to decide: Test all options just as I did. Actually, I didn't set out to test - I just built a flagship site, was disappointed with conversion, so decided dedicated websites by service area would be best. I was right.

Other small business home web page design and content ideas

1. Testimonials from past satisfied customers

Of course have a full testimonial page, but also place snippets of the testimonials throughout your home page (I place them in the sidebar which appears on every page of my websites).

2. Contact form

When I added a contact form to my home page (at the top in the sidebar), my number of contact inquiries at least tripled.

3. Your photo if applicable

Another feature that I believe improved my conversion was adding a small photograph of me on every page in the site, including the home page with a welcome message.

4. Easy-to-follow navigation

Make it very easy for your visitors to navigate your website. Check out other websites as a user and see what you find is a good navigation set up and what doesn't work. I place links to my most important pages in the top horizontal navigation menu. I often provide more than one link to key pages.

5. Images

Images work - especially for home pages. This is why I like the slider / slideshow style home page. It's visually pleasing. I like a mix of images and text. Too many images dilutes the effectiveness. I buy images at iStockPhoto. You can get great photos for $1 to $10.

6. Video

I haven't gone big time into video, so I resorted to buying a professionally created set of videos that offer great information for my website visitors. I went against the tide and placed my videos toward the bottom of my home page. I know many high-converting websites place videos front-and-center at the top of the home page. Again, try both layouts and test.

Don't put up lousy videos. If your videos look and sound bad, it could actually hurt your conversion. Either learn to create great videos or hire someone to do it.

7. Media coverage and accolades

If your business has had the good fortune of being featured in the media, be sure to feature that coverage on your home page. You could place the logos of the media outlets that featured you. Or simply set it out in regular text.

I'm talking about all media - newspapers, radio, TV, other websites. My partner was recently interviewed by a prominent radio station. I asked and received the audio of that interview. I got it transcribed and then uploaded the audio interview to my site with the transcription underneath. I place an image of my partner on the page to place a face to the voice.

The same goes for accolades and/or awards your company receives. Be sure to display it prominently.

8. Speaking engagements / presentations

If you've presented at industry seminars, be sure to feature this on your home page (and elsewhere in your sites). If you can, publish on your websites the information your presented.

9. Published Works

If you've been published anywhere, include that information on your websites.

How to beef up your authority?

In addition to the above-listed techniques, a super easy way to beef up your and/or your business' credibility is to set up and teach a free seminar for your customers.

Try to arrange it at a local university or college. Once you teach the course, whether a one-night seminar or multi-day event, you can feature yourself as teacher of that course/seminar. Also, if you booked your seminar/course at a local school, then you can say you taught XYZ course at ABC school.

Other methods include getting published, doing interviews, and presenting at seminars.

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