Telling a small business owner to “assume the perspective of your customer” is one of those classic easier said than done problems. It’s not for lack of trying, but owning a small business isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. And when you put that level of passion and commitment into something, your unique familiarity with it can be tough to shake.
Yet this is the simplest way to quickly optimize your website. By deeply considering your customer’s perspective and buying journey, we can make decisions that put everything in the right place for the customer to easily and quickly complete their interaction with your business and maybe even leave a nice review to boot.
While it’s absolutely essential to have each of these elements be part of your website, the specifics of their presentation need to be in consideration of your specific customer demographics. Most notably will be the difference between information on an online store, where the priority is to drive sales, versus a traditional brick and mortar business, where the priority is to get them to visit you.
The must haves Contact information much of your web traffic will be coming from customers looking to use your website as a tool to communicate with you. Whether by email, phone or in person, the information that helps them accomplish this needs to be a top priority. Placing an easily found “contact us” link in the top right corner of your website is never a bad move. But if your customers aren’t web savvy, consider putting your address, phone number and hours of operation right on the home page. Additionally, if your business location is a little off the beaten path, consider using a map application on your website to help people better understand your location.
Product information This is a growing priority for small businesses online, as a huge number of searches now happen on mobile with the intent of “in the moment” product research, sometimes even in-store. This means that the more specific information you can have online about what you sell, the better. This may even lead to customer conversions while they are in a competitor’s store.
Keeping an up-to-date and functional product catalog online can be a lot of work, but it is most certainly worthy of consideration given the potential value. This is particularly important if your demographic skews younger and more web savvy.
Business description Give a quick, easy-to-find snapshot of your business and history available for people interested in learning a little more about you. Keep in mind, if people are looking at this part of your website, they are likely close to buying. Make sure you put in a little marketing effort here to help seal the deal. Make it concise but include things like business history, location, relevant achievements and philosophy. It’s also not a bad idea to include customer testimonials if you have them.
Quick links to social channels Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all great tools to help foster a direct line of communication between your business and its biggest fans. Your website should prioritize getting those follows and likes as easy as possible by installing a quick link widget into the footer or header of your website. That way, no matter where you customer goes on the site they are always one click away from connecting with you on Social.
Content/media It’s becoming more and more common to see small businesses feature active content strategies and it’s easy to see why:
Have you ever noticed that some website URLs start with HTTP while others start with HTTPS? Maybe you’ve noticed a tiny lock icon in the top left corner of your browser? What exactly does it all mean?
Websites that are HTTPS have an SSL certificate.
SS-what? SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a secure protocol developed for sending sensitive information over the internet. If a website you are on has an SSL certificate, it means that the site is secure and encrypted. Any data you enter is safely shared with that website and that website only.
Let’s talk technical for a second. How does SSL actually prevent information theft?
When you start to break down what SSL is, you’ll discover it’s asymmetric (or public-key) encryption. This requires each party to generate a public and private key pair. Imagine a padlock on a gate. Anyone can go up to the lock, inspect it, and even try to open it with their key. However, only the right key can actually unlock it. In this example, the padlock is a public key, they are visible to the general public. Private keys are exactly that, private. These private keys are used to unlock public keys.
When you fill out a form on a website without an SSL certificate, the information can be intercepted by a hacker. This site would be classified as not secure.
The information you submitted could be anything from a banking transaction to your credit card information. A hacker could intercept your information in a number of ways, one of the most common is when a hacker places a small, undetected listening program on the server that is hosting a website. That program ‘wakes up’ when a website visitor starts typing their information. This listening program will begin capturing the information and send it back to the hacker.
When you visit a website that has an SSL certificate, your browser will form a connection with the web server and bind to it. This connection is secure so that no one besides you and the website where you’re submitting your information can see or access it.
This connection happens instantly. There is no manual work required. You simply need to visit a website with an SSL certificate and your connection will automatically be secured.
Why is SSL so important?You might be thinking, I’m not accepting sensitive information through my website! Regardless of if you are in the business of accepting delicate information or not, having an SSL certificate is still incredibly important.
SSL and SEOIn 2014, Google made adjustments to its ever-changing algorithm for SEO rankings. The major change? Websites using SSL certificates. Google began and still continues to flag sites without SSL certificates as untrustworthy.