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How to make your small business website work harder

Gary Turner, managing director of Xero UK,  provides top tips to help small businesses become more attractive to prospective customers online.

The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google – at least according to one unknown blogger. The clear message from this joke is just how big a difference online visibility is when it comes to boosting sales of new and established businesses. The bottom line is: if you’re not taking SEO seriously, customers just aren’t seeing your website often enough.

And it doesn’t stop there. Rather than impressing the few prospective customers that do manage to find them, too many small firms present themselves to the outside world with the online equivalent of an out-of-date brochure. Some owners or managers neglect to maintain their website, while others don’t give enough thought to usability or functionality. Even if a site does look the part, it can still perform badly when it comes to fulfilling its number one objective – specifically, turning visitors into potential customers.

The good news however is that it doesn’t take a top team of marketing experts to make a website work harder. Here are a few takeaway tips:

Measure incoming traffic and sales leads

The website is a business’s face to the world and should act as a virtual salesperson. Think about how a visitor to the website is actually going to get in touch with you, and then about how many of them go on to make a purchase or enquiry – are there patterns? Do they come from particular sources? Knowing and using this information is key to understanding the dynamics of your website traffic and working out how to optimise incoming trade.

Keep track of key data with free online tools

Evaluating web data needn’t be expensive – use free website monitoring services like Google Analytics to identify and track popular pages and pinpoint precisely where visitors are coming from. If you have a newsletter that links back to your site or you are running an electronic marketing campaign, you can also measure the traffic and work out your success rate.

Stay current and keep on top of errors 

Avoid letting new customers see old news and ensure that any errors are rectified quickly by giving someone the job of keeping your landing and home pages up-to-date each day or week. Aim to put out search-friendly content that will appeal to both existing customers and prospects, such as company news, promotions, or even video overviews and screen shots.

Make the most of professional connections

Consider the professional directories or portals that you belong or subscribe to. You can find out how effective these directories are by creating a landing page on your website. This is a separate page that doesn’t need to be navigable from the menu – you can even mask it from search engines and organise it so that it is only visible to visitors who come to your site from the directory. By cross-referencing the traffic information with how many enquiries you receive, you can find out how effective the directory is.

Use technology to keep on top of web sales and finance

If your small company sells to other businesses or the public via your website, or uses third-party sites such as eBay, online accounting software and add-on ecommerce apps can make admin easier to manage by importing the sales data. This frees up your time for other more productive activities.

When it comes to making the most of the web, the above ideas are merely the tip of the iceberg. Armed with a proper understanding of where web traffic is coming from – and how potential customers use your site – there are plenty of ways to go on making your website work harder.