When speaking with SMBs and companies that sell marketing services to SMBs, I hear over and over again how a business wants to rank #1 for important local keywords.
Then, I look at their website and have visions of money being poured down the drain, horses being led to water sans drinking, Sisyphus rolling a boulder up that damn hill, and a variety of other cliches.
While SEO is an important channel, the ROI that can come from improving customer conversion rates on your website can’t be beat — assuming you actually have people coming to your website in the first place.
Most SMB websites start from such a low bar that simple upgrades can have a dramatic impact on conversion with considerably less risk than competitive marketing programs like SEO and SEM.
So, if you are one of the lucky millions with a crappy Web presence, here are some things you can do to de-crapify your site.
1. Put Your Phone Number At The Top Of Every Page In Big Font
Sounds obvious, right? But, millions of sites don’t do this. According to a report by VSplash, “six out of ten SMB websites in the U.S. are missing either a local or toll-free telephone number on the home page to contact the business.”
Small business owners are always talking about how they want “calls not clicks.” Put your phone number in people’s faces. That might help.
2. Understand Your Customer’s Objectives
Many small and local business websites are a home page with some kind of “welcome” message and/or marketing text, an image or two, and a couple of tabs — usually Services, About, Contact, etc.
Your business likely has a variety of different types of customers who are looking for different things, and when they land on any page of your website, it should be crystal clear how to find what they are looking for immediately.
This is no easy task, particularly for large websites with lots of content. A recent example I looked at was a veterinarian site that just had Services, Contact and Events tabs.
While it’s not rocket science for a visitor to click on the Services tab to find that the vet provides services for horses, providing navigation that prominently identifies the animal types the vet works with would help. Navigation links like Dogs, Cats, Horses, Duckbill Platypus, etc. are much more likely to be of interest to people with sick pets than your next street fair appearance.
3. Create Content That Focuses On Your Customers’ Needs
You’ll find this one repeated everywhere there is a search marketing guru, but it’s perhaps one of the most effective things you can do to bring qualified leads to your website with the hopes of converting them.
Offline, when you are selling a customer, you do it by answering common questions, telling them how you do things, providing them with pricing and timing information, etc. It’s no different with your website.
In our above Vet example, perhaps the site could explain how they deal with the typical Duckbill Platypus maladies. If you’re at a loss for content ideas for your site, consult How To Create Content When You’d Rather Be Doing Something Else.
4. Don’t Use Clip Art!
You’re a cheap guy, right? That’s how you’ve become overlord of your vast SMB empire. But, just because you are cheap doesn’t mean your website has to look cheap (unless, of course, that is what your brand is all about, such as, Cheap Harry’s Auto Repair).
Use of clip art is a serious offense. There are plenty of inexpensive design services that can supply you with decent-looking artwork for your site. Try ODesk, Elance, 99Designs or better yet, the local high school art class.
You can always upload a nice photo, too. Show your company vehicles and your location. Maybe show yourself or your employees at work. People want to do business with people, not clip-art models, and definitely not with that chick sitting on the floor with a laptop raising both arms in triumph. Can we please just retire her?
5. Add Testimonials
Potential customers want to see that other human beings find your services valuable. Adding a few quotes from happy customers can do a lot to help sell people on your service. Just make sure they are real quotes. If you don’t have any, grab some from a third-party review site like Yelp, which leads us to the need for trust.
6. Add Trust Marks
Just like testimonials, trust marks — logos from services that provide some kind of validation of how good or trustworthy a business is — can go a long way toward helping someone, who has never heard of you before, feel good about making a purchase on your site, sending you an email or picking up the phone.
Logos from organizations like the BBB, the local business association, or even the local soccer league will do the trick.
7. Add Conversion Messages To Your Landing Pages (And All Your Pages)
For each page on your site, you would ideally craft conversion messages relevant to the content (e.g., “Is Your Duckbill Platypus Sick? Call Us Now!”). You may even want to test putting a “contact us for a free estimate” message in front of visitors that request the content using a lightbox type pop-up approach. One client increased inbound leads by 300% just using this simple technique.
8. Qualify Your Visitors
I love sites that take visitors through a simple set of questions designed to segment them (e.g., budget, nature of their problem, timing, size of their company, title, location, etc.). This method can help you push the visitor to the right content, product, salesperson, etc.
While it could also reduce the number of inbound leads, those leads that come in should be of much higher quality because they’ve been qualified.
9. Keep Your Address, Hours & Event Calendars Up To Date
Goes without saying right? You’d be surprised. Or maybe you wouldn’t…
10. Improving Conversion Tends To Have a Faster ROI Than Improving SEO
Let’s say you make $100 every time someone fills out a form on your website. If your site converts 1% of all visitors, you make $1 for every visitor that shows up. Double that to 2% and you make $2. If it costs you $1,000 to get to 2%, the improvements will pay for themselves after 500 visitors. Everything after that is gravy.
If you had invested that same $1,000 in SEO instead and conversion stayed at 1%, you would need to get 1,000 additional visitors from SEO to break even. And while good SEO can last for a while, inevitably you would have to keep reinvesting in it over time to maintain the traffic.
You’ll want to keep reinvesting in improving conversion optimization too; but like I said, the ROI will be much more immediate. And, who doesn’t like that? Now, go fix that crappy site already. It’s just embarrassing.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.