Historically, website design and optimization have been uncomfortable bedfellows. The structural and content requirements of SEO were seen to restrict the fluidity of design and user interaction, while a narrow focus on website style often meant that the need to gain visibility in search and convert clicks into customers was overlooked.

While these reluctant friends have kissed and made up, there is often too great a focus on design and optimization over the basics, i.e., what information customers value the most when they visit a website.

In January of this year, we (BrightLocal) surveyed our local consumer panel (3,000+ consumers based in US and Canada) to learn more about their attitudes and expectations toward local business websites. We wanted to understand what information is most important to them and what factors make them most likely to use a local business (or put them off contacting a business).

The following four charts cover some of the key findings from the survey. The full set of findings and charts along with gender and age breakdowns can be found on BrightLocal.com.

Q1. When Considering Which Local Business To Use, Which Of These Statements About “Local Business Websites” Applies Most To You?

Chart 1 - attitudes to site

Key Findings:

  • 36% of respondents say that a clear and smart website gives a local business more credibility
  • 32% are more likely to contact a business that has a website
  • Just 5% said that a bad or ugly website would put them off using a local business

Comment:

By just having a website, a business makes itself more appealing to 32% of potential customers, while have a smart, professional site gives them added credibility on top.

Very few potential customers (5%) would be put off by a business that has an ugly site. However, when we explore the gender and age breakdowns, we see that men and younger consumers (18-34) are more swayed by site design and more likely to not use a business that has an ugly or poor performing site.

Q2. What Information Is Most Important On A Local Business Website?

Chart 2 - most important info

Findings:

  • Product, Price, Place, Phone number — the “four P’s” for local business website success
  • Customers want the basic information they need to determine if a businesses fits their needs

Comment:

It’s the basic information that potential customers want first and foremost. Visitors to your business website want to quickly establish that your business meets their needs. They are much less concerned about the stylistic nature of your site or what you look like. “Softer” factors may play a more important role further down the purchase path but first things first:

  • Tell me what you offer!
  • Tell me what it costs!
  • Tell me how I can reach you!

If you can get basics right first, then half the battle is won.

Q3. Which Factors Make You Want To Use A Local Business The Most?

This next question looks specifically at the behaviour change that your website can have on potential customers.

Chart 3 - factors to use a site

Findings:

  • Proximity of a local business is the most important factor when deciding whether or not to use a local business
  • Clear contact details (16%) and company information (16%) are also key factors
  • Softer factors such as testimonials, website style and photos also have an impact on final decision making

 Comment:

Again, it’s the simple things that count, so businesses should be sure to get these right.

However, at this point, other factors such as testimonials, photos and website design do influence decisions more. In the early research phases, consumers are seeking to identify which businesses offer the services/product they want at a price they can afford. When it comes to picking a winner, they consider a wider set of factors; customer testimonials/reviews and website design tell a customer more about the type of business you are and if they should trust you. So these factors are important when it comes to converting leads into actual customers.

Q4. Which Factors Are Most Likely To STOP You From Using A Local Business?

Chart 4 - factors least likely to use site

Findings: 

  • Having no phone number, no price list and poor content are major “turn-offs” for local customers
  • Being truly “local” to a customer is also a big factor but not one that business can do much about
  • Customers are less likely to be put off by lack of reviews or poor quality photos — these are more easily forgiven

Comment:

Phone appears to be the #1 contact option that most customers are looking for, so it’s important to make that prominent and easy to find. This is important for local optimization — along with business name and address — so any businesses which don’t want to display a contact number are seriously affecting the chances of attracting and converting potential customers.

Having a public price list is also important. Customers need to know if they can afford your services; if they can’t see your prices, they may fear the worst or go with a company that displays the cost.

Interestingly, an ugly site and lack of testimonials is unlikely to put many customers off, but they also won’t help to convince customers to use your business. If you have customer reviews, use them! If you don’t, go get some.

To view and download the full set of charts please click here.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column | Top News

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About The Author: is Founder & CEO of BrightLocal.com. BrightLocal provides local SEO tools for local businesses; see their research section for the latest findings about the local search market.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter



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