What does a small business want from a website?
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There are many small businesses that, even in this day and age, don't have a website or have one that just sits there and does nothing. What they want is a website that makes money instead of costing money. A site that is search engine friendly will assist in accomplishing this goal. That way the search engines will help them by sending them traffic. When it comes to business on the Internet, traffic is everything.
You don't have to be a fortune 500 company. You don't have to wait years or even months. You don't have to have a multi-million-dollar budget. Anyone can compete, even mom and pops. You just need to know the right way to go about promoting your websites as well as optimizing them for the search engines.
One thing I've discovered is that when it comes to building web sites for businesses, there really are no shortcuts. If you cut corners, it will always come back to haunt you. This could lead to many, many changes or, in the worst case, a site that just doesn't work well.
What is a small business to do?
Even if you don't want to do any or all of the work yourself there are things that you should know, to make sure the job is done right.
A clean looking site that is easy to navigate is first and foremost. The best content in the world and a million visitors a day won't do you any good if your visitor can't find what they are looking for. Stick to simple menus for navigation. Flash and Java menus can be slow to load and some visitors can't even see them. Simple HTML links can be made to look very fancy with a good style sheet. I especially like the fact that you can have just one style sheet that controls all of the pages on your site and that you can change the look of all of your pages by just changing one file. There are many tutorials and references about CSS on the web these days. Even if you don't want to take the time to learn all of the intricacies of the subject it's probably a good idea to learn the basics.
Check for broken links. Nothing is worse for a visitor than not finding what they think they are clicking on. Be sure to have a custom 404-error page, so that if someone does click on a broken link you can give them a page of your own design that will give them the chance to find another page in your site instead of just leaving.
The first page will likely take you the longest to design. It will be the model for the rest of your pages. Take the time to get the look of the first page right. If you make a mistake here and don't fix it you will have to fix it many more times later. All of the other pages should be copied from your template so the look is consistent and people will know when they are on your site. They will also know when they are leaving.
Have good quality content and lots of it. Write good descriptions of your products. Search engines love text, so make sure to include actual text and not pictures of words.
Keywords are the words that a visitor will type in when they are searching. They are important to have, especially in your title and important headings <H1>, but don't overuse them. You can be penalized for this and it's more important for your page to look good to your visitors than the search engines. There are many good tools for this.
Some people will spend hours and hours (or hire a firm) to optimize their site for the search engines. They initially get a high ranking and then see their rankings plummet when the new search engine updates kick in. If you provide good content for your visitors the search engines will reward you with a high ranking. It may not be the very top, but it probably won't change much every time they update their algorithms.
Make your descriptions good enough so your customer will not need a picture to know what they are getting and then, in addition, give them a good picture to boot.
About The Author...
Jim Lillicotch is a website designer and marketing expert based in Pittsburgh, PA. Jim is the owner of Lillicotch.com. He has worked as a Website Designer and SEO for over 10 years. His passion is helping people start or improve their own sites. He can be reached through his website Lillicotch.com