Websites have evolved from their humble beginnings as digital brochures for businesses. However, the time when an online presence was optional has long passed. Today, your website is a portal for customers and new prospects to understand and access your business.
To fulfill its potential, your website has several jobs. It needs to help your company do the following:
- Get found on the web
- Build trust with customers and prospects
- Present your brand, brand voice, and brand story
- Educate and position you as an authority
- Inform people what problems you solve and what solutions you provide
- Nurture relationships
- Convert prospects into leads and leads into sales
Your company’s website is your company’s front door on the web. It provides a storefront, marketing, customer service, sales, and (possibly) fulfillment. To achieve all of your website’s functions, here are 12 must-haves in 2022.
1. A Guided Journey
If you own an auto dealership or a home repair company, you know the critical importance of leading prospects through a process. From the moment they walk into your dealership or get a representative on the phone, it’s your company’s job to build trust, reassure them, and guide them through purchasing a new car or scheduling a service.
The more stumbling blocks or red flags you place along the customer journey, the more people will jump off and run to another company before you can close the deal.
Your website is no different than a car showroom or an appointment scheduler. It needs to be welcoming, reassuring, and provide easy access to what customers want.
The homepage of your website needs to announce instantly and clearly what you offer. You want prospects to be able to scan to locate what they arrived wanting. Then, you want to give them an obvious step to take.
As you look at your homepage, ask yourself, “Why is someone landing here, and what do they want? Are the solution and the next step obvious?”
The inner pages of your website can dive deeper into specifics, provide information, and educate customers and prospects. That first page needs to quickly reassure visitors they’ve landed in the right place and guide them to their next step to meet their needs.
Some websites get so caught up in design or in providing information they forget the basic purpose is to invite people in and guide them through the process of making a purchase or scheduling a service.
2. Strong Brand Identity
How do you portray a strong brand identity online? You do it through consistency.
Most of what falls under brand identity address your customers at a subconscious level. Your logo, color palette, tagline, fonts, imagery, tone of voice, vocabulary, and even the shapes within your website design all subtly communicate to your audience.
When these brand elements reflect the kind of company you have, the relative cost of your product or service, and are consistent with the experience people have when they meet a company representative or walk into your store, you are delivering an outstanding brand experience. If you sell auto parts but use very feminine colors, fonts, and images, your products and brand experience are a mismatch (unless, of course, you are an auto parts store specifically for women).
Consistency builds trust. A strong brand identity lets prospects know who you are and that you are steady and dependable.
3. Click to Call
Revenue from mobile phone sales continues to multiply. More shoppers are using their phones to make purchases, identify local businesses, and schedule services. Click-to-call is a convenient feature for mobile users who can simply click on your phone number to connect with your business.
You can easily make the phone numbers on your website click-to-call. If you have a virtual business phone service, they may have an easy-to-install functionality you can use across your website. However, your website designer can make any phone number click-to-call with HTML.
4. Clear and Compelling Calls-to-Action
Calls-to-action (CTAs) are an integral part of the customer journey. People are often trying to get tasks done quickly. When they have to wade through your website to try and figure out how to get what they want, they are likely to either get distracted or go elsewhere.
Images, buttons, and linked text effectively prompt prospects and customers to take the next step. Examples of CTAs include:
- Speak with a representative
- Schedule a service
- Make an appointment
- Find out more (read information)
- Buy now or add to cart
- Download a free eBook
- Access a free course
- Register to be the first to know when a new model (of interest) is released or in stock
CTAs should be specific and lead your customers and prospects closer to their goals. Simple adding their name to your newsletter is not as effective as it once was. If you are asking for something from prospects online, make sure you are delivering something of value in return.
Clear CTAs alleviate confusion and fatigue. They tell each visitor how to get what they want and sometimes compel them to take an action they might not have otherwise (like give you their email address) because your offer is compelling.
5. Trust Elements: Reviews, Testimonials, or Case Studies
A significant part of marketing is building trust. Online, this is perhaps even more important because it lacks the person-to-person touch that you get when someone visits your store or office.
Think of the last time you purchased a new product or service online. Did you read the reviews? If yes, you are in the majority because more than 90% of shoppers read reviews while researching a product or service.
Testimonials are also convincing. Nine out of ten people said they trusted what testimonials say about a business more than what the business says about itself. Consumers know that businesses are out to represent themselves well but see other customers as a reliable source of feedback.
Many businesses leverage reviews and testimonials and have seen how they drive business and increase conversions, but case studies are still largely underleveraged online. Consumers want to know what your business can do for them, and case studies tell them.
A few tips to make your trust elements more effective include:
- Make sure your most effective trust elements are clearly visible and easy to find. You don’t need to clutter your homepage with every review, testimonial, or success story you have, but make a few obvious with a link to more.
- When you do get testimonials, ask your clients for permission to use their real names.
- Make it easy to leave reviews right on your website. If you send a follow-up email after purchase, include a way for customers to leave a review while the experience is fresh. How you respond to reviews is also important.
- If you choose to display case studies on your website, use the same format for each one. Identify the client and the problem you solved. Outline the process you used and highlight the more remarkable results. Numeric results are impressive and easy to digest.
6. Core Products or Services
There are two primary benefits to identifying your core products or services on your homepage. First, they let prospects and customers know what you offer. Second, they help build SEO.
To keep things clean and simple, a short summary of each core product or service on the homepage is enough. Boxes with a title and description can be an attractive way to display them, depending on the design of your website. You can then link to a separate page that dives deeper into each item.
7. Geographic Information
If you have a brick-and-mortar business or service in a specific geographical area, including that information on your website helps boost your SEO. People searching for a business near them may often type “near me” or “city name” as part of their search. For example, “home plumbing repair Louisville.”
In that case, Google delivers search results within the geographic area they are requesting. If they type “near me,” Google will use their device’s default location data. If they type a city name, it will deliver the closest results to that city.
If you have a single location, then including your business address in the footer is sufficient. If you service several cities or counties within a geographic area, the best way to let Google know is to include all of the cities or counties somewhere on your website. This may be in the footer or in a section labeled “Areas We Service.”
8. Schema Markup
Schema markup is part of the structured data that’s becoming essential to SEO. Essentially, it’s a structured way of formatting specific data to make it easier for search engines to identify and display as a rich result.
Google has a free Structured Markup Data Helper that will lead you through the process of schema markup for your location, articles, job postings, products, FAQs, and more.
9. Live Chat
A live chat is an interactive way for people to get simple questions answered fast. It helps keep prospects and customers engaged and adds a layer to your customer service. You may have the same details listed on your FAQ page, but not all consumers are going to take the time to read through and get the answer. A live chat feature keeps people engaged on your site.
You don’t have to be a big company with a 24-hour staff to add live chat to your website. Many contact management systems, like HubSpot, include free AI chat features with their service.
Videos are increasingly essential to every business website. An introductory video on your homepage, for example, gives customers a window into who you are and what you offer. It’s a powerful, passive introduction.
Videos can teach people how to use your product, share testimonials, introduce staff, share your process, set service expectations, market your business, and do sales demonstrations. If you do not have the bandwidth on your website to host videos, it’s easy to post videos on a YouTube channel and embed them on your website for easy viewing.
11. Changing Content
Changing content keeps your website fresh for visitors and also favorably impacts SEO by demonstrating that your company is active. There are many ways to keep your content fresh. Some examples include:
- Adding blogs regularly
- Adding new videos regularly
- Changing your free download offers
- Having a social media or blog post carousel on your homepage with content that updates automatically with new posts
- Updating specials, sales, or discount offers (if you have them)
- Revising and updating old blogs periodically to keep them accurate and fresh
12. Responsive Web Design and Fast Load Time
A good load time for your mobile website is zero to four seconds. Longer than that, and you start to lose consumers. With online shopping increasing on mobile devices, a responsive mobile web design and fast load time are critical.
Large images, too many elements, complicated scripts, or a slow server are common errors businesses make with their mobile sites. As fabulous as your business may be, consumers do not like to wait for your website to load.
You can browse your company’s website on your mobile device or use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see how you rank.
Create an Outstanding Customer Experience
The right elements on your website create an outstanding customer experience. Although it takes time and effort, the result is loyal customers and qualified leads. If you have questions about how to improve your business’ website, we are happy to help.