8 Best-Practices for Small Business Websites

by Chris Johnson · 28 comments

Everything you “know” about social media for small business is wrong.

Small businesses—accountants, lawyers, and brick-and-mortar shops—don’t need 5,000 Facebook fans, Diggs, or blogs that are updated daily. They need business. You know, clients, customers, shoppers, or whatever you want to call them.

How do small businesses use social media to get more clients and customers?

It’s much easier than you think, and to demonstrate that, I analyzed 10 of my most successful small business clients, and discovered these 8 best-practices. Oh, and the best part is this: you can implement most of these tips in a long weekend.

Now let’s dive in.

1. Use Videos on Your Website

When you’re a small, local business, your main strength is your personality. To highlight that, you should create videos so that your local customers can “meet” you before they hire or buy something from you.

What kind of videos can you create? One client, Total Plumbing Orlando, created instructional videos like “How to Fix Your Sink.” This was great because if people in the area used his video to fix their sink, they wouldn’t hesitate to call for a more complicated job.

If you don’t want to create instructional videos, create testimonial videos. If you made one of your customers extremely happy, encourage them to film a quick testimonial video that you can show other potential customers. That’s what I do on my site and it works great.

Also, you don’t need a high-tech, expensive video camera. Most of my clients used a Flip Cam or equivalent and demonstrated a garage-band ethos. It may not look professional, but it got the job done just fine.

As an aside, I noticed that the small businesses with 3 or more videos on their website reported having greater success with their online marketing efforts. While this was hardly a scientific study, my gut says the more videos the better.

2. Promote Your Phone number and Email Everywhere

When you work with a local business, you want a person with a soul who has your back. And how do you show people you have a soul? Make it extremely easy to contact you by placing your phone number and email address in your header, footer, and sidebar.

One of our clients, the international Tax Attorney Phil Hodgen, puts his cellphone number at the end of almost everything he writes online. He says “I get a lot of calls and it often turns into good business.”

3. Use WP-Sticky or a Static Page for the Home Page

When someone visits your website from search, they often visit your home page. Additionally, your loyal customers will often visit your home page, too.

The question is, how should you design your homepage? After reviewing my clients’ sites, the small businesses that did best used a home page that sells.

For example, Tim Blankenship, a real estate agent from Santa Clarita California, began using the WP-Sticky plugin to display some copy before people saw the traditional blog posts and the number of calls he got went up dramatically.

What’s the key takeaway? The traditional blog format is great for news websites because their core business is giving people the latest news. However, as a small business you’ll want your homepage to tell people what you’re about and what they can buy from you because that’s your core business.

4. Publish High Quality Content

Small businesses aren’t media companies, meaning, you don’t have to use Twitter or blog several times per day to build the right kind of audience.

As a matter of fact, my most successful small business clients created around 24 pages or posts per year (2 per month).

Think about it. Do you care if your accountant uses Twitter or blogs 3 times per day? Probably not. You want them to do your taxes. So, if you’re the accountant, publish less often and keep the content high quality.

5. Create Effortless, Predictable Navigation

When you create your website’s navigation, you should make it predictable and easy-to-use because people want to browse your website effortlessly.

How can you keep your navigation predictable? Place it where people expect to find it, which is at the top of the page or in the left sidebar.

Also, when you create the navigation, use the words people are accustomed to seeing. For example, if people want to reach you, they’ll look for “Contact” or “Contact Us.” If you use something clever like “Holla at me” you may lose potential customers.

6. Publicize Other Small Businesses

Have you ever walked into a local business and noticed a table with business cards from other local businesses? Of course. It happens everywhere. Local shoppers want to know about other local businesses.

Online it’s no different. People who shop local want to discover other local businesses, so help them do that by sharing links to other local businesses.

Should you worry about giving out too many links? Maybe, but after looking at my clients’ websites, I noticed most local businesses shared more links than they received from others. This helped because linking to pillars of the community make people think you’re a pillar, too.

7. Include Several Calls-to-Action On Your Website

If you’re creating a website to gather leads or interact with potential customers, make sure you’re clear on what you want your prospects to do.

Want your customers to buy your product? Ask them. Want them to contact you? Show them where they can do it.

Overall, inviting people to call or buy your products is important. Some people may not even realize it’s an option unless you specifically tell them that it is an option.

8. Establish Credibility

The consensus online is that you must give away something, like a white-paper, to get leads. However, when you’re a local business, that simply isn’t true. Being local and credible is enough.

For example, if you’re a plumber, it doesn’t matter if you wrote an ebook on how to be a plumber. Instead, you’re going to want a conversation with your customer—that’s why you use video.

Heck, you don’t even need that much content. All you have to do is look credible and show your customers that you have their back.

Note, sometimes a free ebook helps gather leads if it’s about the right topic. For example, if you’re a plumber, an ebook that explains the differences between a good plumber and a bad plumber would be pure gold if you’re positioning yourself as the good plumber.

The Bottom Line

After analyzing my top small business client websites, these 8 best-practices were used almost through-and-through.

The funny thing is, conventional wisdom, “have a blog, post often, and get massive traffic,” wasn’t true in almost any case.

So, if you’re running a small business website, consider straying from what people say is right and try out what actually works for small businesses.

Do you run a small business website? What have you noticed that worked for your customers?

Photo Credit: KungPaoCajun

About the Author: Chris Johnson helps “real” small businesses get clients on the web at Flat Rate Biz. He specializes in low cost, highly effective websites that include coaching, support and training. See what people say here or follow @genuinechris on Twitter.

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{ 28 comments }

David

A short sticky post – why did I not think of that before?

Chris Johnson

David- No idea, but it’s a nice kludge to getting a home page started. You (ideally) want a home page for your stuff, but that might be more of a longer term play.

Cynthia LaLuna

Nice round-up, Chris! I tell clients almost all of the above, although I’m still not sure how I feel about external links, unless they’re REALLY relevant – like a Realtor could provide a link to a reputable moving company.

I feel VERY strongly about leading with a static page, rather than the blog index page, if you’re a small business and not a blogger. That’s your time to shine – your “elevator speech” on the Web.

Chris Johnson

C-

The whole point of external links is joining a tribe. It’s not because the links do anything, it’s saying “Hey, I’m cool enough to link to these well known businesses, that are just like me.”

If you link to the pillars of the community, the implication is that you are taking your seat at the “cool kids” table.

Derek

I agree with Chris. I think if you promote other businesses which aren’t in direct competition with your business, it’s a good way to get some free, local links.

Steve Averill

I am digging theses posts from DIY and this one is right up my alley and my clients as well. Great post Chris!

Angela Mahler

It’s good to know I’m doing some things right… and a reminder to do the things I’m not doing… yet.

Thanks!

Mike

Getting them to your website in the first place is most difficult.
Depending on what you do brings the level of awareness, it varies.
Personally, haven’t been lucky.

Robert Dempsey

When I click on the authors like I get a malware worning form my virus scanner, not a good thing.

Derek

What do you mean? I don’t get any warnings. Which site and what browser are you using?

Chris Johnson

I’m guessing Dempsey was not a real person…

Owen Marcus

Chris,

Very good post. I agree for local business the rules are different. I have clients regularly driving two hours to see me because of my web site – http://www.align.org. These days that makes a different.

I need to apply your suggestions of using video and offering referrals. Thanks for the post.

justin H

Thanks for sharing. I have a hard time doing videos but it is something I must do.

Scott Schang

Awesome post Chris! I completely agree with you that most of the so called “social media” buzz out there is absolute and complete crap.

Worse than that, it’s misleading in the worst of ways – Social media is pitched as a business model when nothing could be further from the truth – it’s a tool.

As always, I applaud you for your sound business sense and your eloquent prose.

Jason Moore

Great Article Chris. So many good nuggets here that I’m looking forward to applying to my own site.

Jason Moore

Carin Arrigo-Zimmer

So…hi, nice wake up call, Chris! Pretty much on the wrong page for most of this. That said, always a work in progress and your words validate my misgivings on my entire website design (Coincidence no website listed above? I think not :) )And that video thing? Try as i might, can’t fight it as much as I used to, as I just received a new Bloggie tonight, via husband, via Sony, his employer. Looks like I may be with the program in 2011 after all. Great read! Thanks!

Prakash

Hey Chris,

It was a fantastic posting dude, which has the number of best practices to do for small business websites & it sounds great. It is more helpful to everyone at the profession of designing. I really love it & will use this ideas from our upcoming projects.

Thanks for sharing these effective & useful notes on best practices for small business sites which are also informative. Keep on posting great things always like this.

Joann Sondy

Why did you have to list video and your #1? Most video on the web is crap — just look at the top videos on YouTube… kids in their bedrooms imitating others!

Akin to photography and design — hire a professional, especially if you’re in business for yourself. Just because a FLIP costs ~$100 does not make you (or me) a videographer.

I believe that there are excellent alternatives to video.

Chris Johnson

Joann-

I listed video as #1 because, even though it’s mostly crap, it sells. I don’t give a crap about what looks good or feeds someone’s ego, I care only about getting small businesses to actually sell stuff.

…So anyway.

That’s why I did it tat way.

Chris

Andrew Mooers

Predictable, helpful, not time wasting and all the media harnessed in one spot. Your real estate buyers, on line surfer is not using a Commodore 64 and 26.6 K country dial up anymore. Give them what they want. Or someone else will. Video is huge, easy, quick and uses the eyes and the ears. Two senses are better than one and audio for a video is 40% of the user experience. Was it good for you?

Mark

Fantastic advice! Thank you for this good, clear advice! :)

Marla

GREAT ADVICE! I was trying to explain this to someone the other day, but you have said it better! I’ll be forwarding links of this article to others. Thank you.

Pekka

Very good points well put! Thank you.

keizi

Great job thank you for your post, i love everything about it.

Sunganani

Thanks for the post. I see where my business webiste was goofing

Shanon Morris

Great post Chris, thank you!

Sin

hi Chris,
great!i like the #1 i should have one too for my site.

i like this too… “Most of the time, peo­ple pay for designs, and say thanks, and then the obso­lessence process begins: the site is get­ting more and more obso­lete each day. The $2,000 you spend on a web­site starts los­ing value as soon as it’s live because it’s stuck with that set of func­tion­al­ity, tools and ser­vices.”

you know website better than i do, maybe i should hire you to help me.

Nolan M

I think your point about promoting other businesses in even more effective than what one may think. It seems every time we promote a restaurant on our food blog, they promote us back, and traffic goes through the roof. Goes to show, good will in business will come back tenfold.