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Small Business Website Guide & Checklist - What Every Local Business and Nonprofit Website Should Include

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First Things First

An effective website that professionally represents your business, your values, and the customer experience is the cornerstone of your digital presence. This guide will help you ensure you're reaching your potential.

Without an effective website, you're missing the only opportunity you have to woo them where you have complete control of the conversation.

Remember, marketing in general and a website in particular should work toward 5 primary goals for local businesses:
  1. Attract and/or convert customers (especially true for referral-based businesses)
  2. Create a professional image
  3. Improve hiring, especially in high-turnover industries
  4. Give back and highlight your community involvement and those your support (can be for profits, nonprofits, whatever)
  5. Improve Customer Service - help customers find what they need or refer customers to content on your website when they ask
Do I need a (good, mobile optimized, search friendly) website for my local business?

From time-to-time people will ask this question, often convinced it's not needed because they use Facebook or they're a referral business or they have all the work they can handle etc.

Well, those things may all be true and, yet, a solid website and marketing is still critically important.

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What Does It Mean To Have A Local Website?

After hundreds of website builds and countless more conversations with local businesses and nonprofits we want to synthesize the core into this guide.

The first step is realizing that you're creating your website for at least 3 different types of visitors, and possibly more:

  1. People who simply need quick info like your phone number, hours or address
  2. People who want to learn a little about your business - the basics of who you are, where you are and what you do
  3. People who are seeking to find a solution.

This idea of progressively revealing information should guide your website structure and content. The homepage is a jumping off point and should prominently feature information for people in the first group while enabling the next two groups to dig deeper.

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Key Content Every Local Website Needs to Have

At the core, every website should include these core pages:

Homepage - The rule of thumb for the homepage is to provide a clear value statement with secondary calls to action and supporting information then link out to deeper dives based on what the user self-selects into as their interests.
Contact Page - Include all public contact info, social profiles, hours of operation, a map, a form (no email address unless you like SPAM)
Company Info / About Page - Add some details about what you do, why you do it, when you started, things you've learned, what makes you unique, as well as a mission/vision/or tagline.
Product or Service Page - Create one for each category for instance, a restaurant may have one page for dining, one page for catering, one page for special events
Remember, adding more useful detail is never a bad thing. Simply, make sure your most important information is well presented (with images and formatting) then link deeper to advanced information.
A detailed bio or the history of your company, for instance, is almost always a good idea. But not on the homepage. Include a blurb, a highlight, or an introduction on your homepage or a secondary page then link to the more detailed page for those who are interested in learning more.

Go further by creating unique bio pages for each prominent team members, perhaps with their own local favorites using Local Connections, and link to these bios from the Company page.

Not only does natural progression avoid over-informing people who don't care it also helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and provides you with information about what people actually care about... oh, each page is individually shareable to Facebook and email newsletters to that's good too!

People still prefer to buy from people - make it easy for them to get to know you...

Finally, don't forget pictures. Stock pictures can be ok but are usually lame (I've seen the same guy on dozens of dentist websites). Take pictures of your business or hire a photographer. Usually, a modern smartphone camera and decent lighting are good enough to get started.
Benefits of a Strong Local Website

A website demonstrates that you're real, professional, and not just a hobby (or, worse still, out of business). More than that, you control your website - you don't control Facebook.
You're renting space from Facebook, Instagram etc and they can and do change the rules regularly. Plus, if you want to rank on Google and Bing a website is important
Most local businesses are referral businesses, at least to some extent. The question is, what do people do when they get a referral? They investigate (or stalk) you online. You never know what percentage of people who are referred to you never call but it's a number larger than zero.
A strong website validates the referral and leads to more customers.
Keys To Success

Your job is to communicate what problems you solve and the benefits your clients receive along with what makes you unique. Like it or not, people tend to think everything (other than what they do, of course) is a commodity or interchangeable.

Keep it simple and make it easy for people to find what they're looking for or solve their problem without having to think more than absolutely necessary.

This means making content scannable, even on this page which is ridiculously long we incorporate different formatting and headers to help you find what's most pertinent.

To that end, your business changes and so should your website. You should be able to make updates to the content of your website.

This may sound scary but if you use a computer or smartphone with any regularity then you should have the technical skills necessary to update content on your website. If you don't, it means there's probably something wrong with your website!

A blog and fresh content acts as a living portfolio, communicates personality and information about who is behind the company, it shares your values, and is killer for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Continue scrolling for more on blogs >>

This is part of the reason why generic websites for local locations, franchises, agents and branches of larger businesses provide almost zero marketing benefit.

It's also critically important that your website be mobile-optimized as over 60% of websites visits are now completed via mobile and something about google rankings.

The Role of a "Blog" & Making It Valuable

What is Blog Content? How is it different from managing my website?

"Blog Content" or "Marketing Messages" or "Posts" are a separate activity from managing your website because you want your marketing messages to reach far beyond your website, to share them to social media, email newsletters and to your Local Connections for example.

Locable's content tools can be used with any website on any platform!

We created Marketing Missions to provide local marketing ideas, inspiration and guidance - see a sampling of local content ideas .
You don't have to be creative to effectively create content for a local business
Beyond content ideas, Locable's content engine simplifies the process of creating content by giving you easy to follow options/templates such as events & a calendar, offers, jobs and volunteer opportunities, galleries, Before & After posts and more.
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Don't Forget the Calls-to-Action (CTAs)

Failing to use Calls-to-Action effectively is the number one mistake we see with local websites.

A CTA helps your website visitor take the next natural step to learn more, contact you, or buy now. Incorporating links throughout your content is an important component (we've done it in this very guide) but that's not enough.

A CTA should be big, bold, clear, and single-minded.

We are busy and easily distracted, especially when we're online, requiring someone to think about what's next is a surefire way to lose people.

Every single page should have a call-to-action with branding pages like your homepage or category pages featuring more than one. Occasionally, you'll use multiple CTAs on longer pages that all point to the same place - this is useful when some people may need more information than others before proceeding.

You'll notice we have a few CTAs on this page and you can create and centrally manage your Calls-to-Action using our CTA Management tool.

CTAs are the corner-stone of turning website visitors into customers but they also help with SEO and, thus, attracting more website customers in the first place.

Don't forget to use CTAs in your email newsletters and many of your social media posts. CTA's are an absolute must on any paid ads whether online or offline.

Next Level Content and Pages for Local Businesses

Common Local Website Pages & Considerations

Common pages are found on most local websites, while not necessary to launch a site they may be added over time to fill-out your site.

Product & Service Details Pages - Linked from their category pages - at Locable, we have a Features Page then link out to individual pages with details on each main feature (see example)
Customer Reviews - Great for SEO & easy to collect and promote with our free customer reviews tools
Blog (see above)
Community Involvement & Referral Networks - Consider these 3 Simple Ways to Highlight Community Involvement
Email Newsletter Opt-in's and prompts to follow on Social Media - these are only valuable if you're creating content regularly however if you're utilizing Marketing Missions these channels are powerful, especially email

Useful Supplement or Industry-Specific Local Pages

These supplemental or industry-specific local pages can enhance your website with more useful details to serve all 5 of the goals mentioned above
  • Request/Schedule Appointment
  • Office / Facility / Parking Information
  • Company History and Achievements Page
  • Awards & Recognition
  • Menu of Product or Services
  • Company News & Press
  • Hiring / Employment / Jobs / Volunteer Opportunities Page
  • Partners / Vendors / Suppliers
  • Service Guarantee
  • Policies
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Rates / Pricing
  • Shop Online / View Catalog / Ecommerce
  • Loyalty Programs/ Service & Maintenance Programs
  • Employee of the Month
  • Getting Started / Pertinent Documents
A Note on Local Web Design

As the Internet has matured and smartphones have taken a leading role in how we access it, web design has simplified a bit. You see less variation in web page layouts and graphical elements with more emphasis on pictures and video.

Design is important but it's also largely subjective

That said, your content should be the focus and be mindful of color psychology. You also need to ensure your text is readable in both size and color.

Text can be informative but it can also be overwhelming. Thinking about your visitors progression through your site helps you decide where long-form text is helpful and where it's too much. People will read but only once they're engaged and see value. If you've made it to this part of our guide then you know what I'm talking about.

Fonts, can be a subtle yet powerful design asset - explore Google fonts or certain font pairings for inspiration. Likewise, background patterns can enhance the uniqueness and branding of your website.

We've created a local website design lookbook with common modern design elements and ideas.

The lookbook is not exhaustive but browsing should give you an idea things you like and don't like. Nevermind, the Latin text we use as placeholder text.

A Note on Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Nothing may be so important to business owners yet so misunderstood as Search Engine Optimization - aka ranking well on google.

At its core, SEO is about solving problems for people when they're searching. If you do this, Google will elevate your website and you'll appear more prominently. This, of course, is where things get confusing.

Let me say this, there is no magic in the system, not anymore, there's no secret formula for ranking on Google. It's simply a matter of creating useful content, making it easy for people (and Google) to find, and spreading the word to show Google that people actually care about it.

Without useful, and fresh, content no amount of optimization will help (it's like multiplying by zero... it's still zero). What makes a good website for customers is, generally, what Google wants to see.

However, incorporating key words and phrases throughout your website is smart. Think about what phrases people may search for to find your services and work those in to your content where they make sense.

Posting meaty content to your blog is infinitely better than posting directly to Facebook and if you want a deeper explanation of how SEO works you can find that here.

A Note on Business Who Don't Need More Customers

We here this sort of sentiment from about 10% of the business owners we talk with and it's usually accompanied by an exasperated sigh.

If you really, truly are at capacity that's great! But I have three questions for you?
  1. Would you like to be able to increase your prices to make more from the same work?
  2. Is 100% of your work the type of work or client that you want to work on? If not, then improving your marketing will drive more leads and allow you to say no to filler projects.
  3. Would you take on more work if you could add quality staff?

Better marketing can lead to more options, more choices, not merely more of what you're already doing.

Finally, don't forget that marketing isn't just about attracting more customers. As we highlighted at the beginning of this guide, marketing well helps you:

  • Create a professional image
  • Improve hiring
  • Be a positive impact in your community
  • Deliver better customer service
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