So, you’re hungry to start up your own business - and Harry Redknapp with GoDaddy are showing you the recipe for success.
Back in Recipe #1 we assembled the ingredients you need to cook-up a successful business. In Recipe #2 we advised you on how to whip-up a tasty brand for your business and for yourself. In Recipe #3 we found that choosing the domain name for your website - is a piece of cake. In Recipe #4 we talked you through building a sweet website.
Now we’re going to deal with filling your website with tempting goodies to get your customers to hang around and buying your wares.
Research in Time magazine shows that, if your website can hold a visitor’s attention for just three minutes, they are twice as likely to come back than if they only stay with you for one minute.
Presumably we don’t need to explain why the most valuable customers are the ones who come back.
We’ll deal, in the next post, with how to get people to visit your website, right now we’re concentrating on making sure that your content is rich and rewarding, so your customers who do visit will get a real taste for staying around a while.
Share your passion
How do you explain your business to your friends? With Harry, it all started when he told his jungle-mates of his love for jam roly poly. His enthusiasm got the nation excited about the classic pud.
So, what do you love? What stories can you tell to get your potential customers excited about your product?
Your platform is more than just an online catalogue, or a place to put your contact details, it’s your chance to make a creative statement about you and your personal business, to inspire and entertain potential customers, and to make plain just how unique your USP really is!
So, what is content?
Content isn’t the design of the site, nor is it the navigation (both of which have to be right, to make your site effective), and it isn’t the code in the background that makes the whole thing tick.
Content is the substance that gives all the designer loveliness some purpose. It’s the jam in your roly poly.
Back in the 1930s, when the BBC was being born, its first Director General, Lord Reith, said that the BBC’s mission was to “inform, educate and entertain”.
Your content is your chance to inform, educate and entertain people about your business.
More often than not, the content is the words on the screen. But, also, thanks to the ease of production of audio and video material - content can also be videos, or podcasts, or even games (if you think your punters would be into that sort of thing).
Just so long as it informs, educates and/or entertains the visitors to your website.
6 key ingredients of your website
Although you want your website to be as unique as your business, there are certain templates that you would be well advised to follow. Not to suppress your creativity, but simply so a first-time visitor can appreciate your business and learn as much about it as swiftly as possible.
You’ve only got 15 seconds to grab them, remember!
The majority of your visitors will be first timers. You need plenty of them, in order to turn them into regular customers! First-time people will understand how most websites work - so yours needs to work the same way.
If your website is formatted as a single page, designed to be scrolled up-and-down, all of the following info still applies but, instead of ‘page’, read ‘section’.
So, the six pages (or sections) you really must have on your website are:
Page 1: Home page
This needs to include everything essential that customers need to know about your business.
- What you do/sell.
- Who you, personally, are.
- Where you are/where to find you.
- Why they should come to you.
This needs to be a short, snappy synopsis of what your business does. A sentence or two that will intrigue the customer enough to make them want to read more.
Call to action
What is the single most important thing you want your visitors to do before they leave your home page? This isn’t usually going to be as simple as ‘Buy Something’, because most small businesses are more involved and bespoke than that. So, do you want people to ...
- Make an appointment?
- Ask for a quote?
- Sign up for newsletter?
- Visit your online catalogue?
- Watch a video?
- Ask a question?
Encourage people to stay on your site, by offering more insight into what your business can do for them. That’s what customers typically want - someone to solve their problems for them.
What you do - sell the sizzle
It’s a good idea to include a short list of your services or products. There are various ways to present this on your home page, such as:
- A simple list of bullet-points, like this one.
- A carousel rotating through a series of images or links.
- A grid - or mosaic - of images.
The key with this is to only include the ingredients that casual customers are most likely to want.
Make it easy for people to get in touch with you.
It’s a good idea to offer just one primary point of contact on the home page, because offering customers too much choice too early, might impact on their decision making and discourage them. The easier it is for customers to get in touch, the more likely they are to actually do it.
It’s a taster
That’s plenty for a home page.
It’s really just a tasting menu of the work you offer. You can fill in more detail on the relevant pages, which customers will visit, once they’ve decided they like what they see on the home page.
Leave them wanting more!
After that - you will need individual pages (or sections of your scrolling page) that fill-in a lot more details ...
Page 2: About page
An about page serves several functions. Primarily, its a chance to write in more depth about why you do what you do and why customers should let you do it for them.
Explain why you do what you do, what motivates you, what your ambitions are. Fill it full of the stuff you’d conversationally tell an interested stranger - because that’s what prospective customers are, they’re interested strangers. There’s no need to make your bio flowery or overly-romanticised - the plain, honest truth will suffice, just give it a positive spin and keep it relevant to your business.
It’s all about you
This doesn’t have to be like a piece of school homework: “write 1000 words about yourself” sorta thing.
- It’s where you can write about your motives and vision for the business. How did you get into the business, and why? What’s unique about your business?
- It’s your chance to tell customers why they should trust you with their custom. If you have a wealth of experience and/or qualifications - talk about this on your about page.
- It’s a chance to introduce the team - the people you work with. These are the people your customers will be dealing with. It’s a great way to put a human face on your business - because people buy from people.
- It’s a chance to offer up some customer testimonials. Word of mouth is still the most persuasive form of recommendation you can get.
Page 3: Products and services
This is where you can go to town on what, exactly, you do and fill-in the details about pricing.
- A full list of the services you offer.
- Pricelist (if your site will include that).
- Shipping costs.
- Returns policy.
- Turnaround times - especially important if you have to do the work yourself, or if your products are bespoke.
Take the care to make sure any photos of your products are of tip-top quality and large enough to actually help you sell. If they don’t look tasty, they might work against you!
Page 4: FAQ
A FAQ page is a great idea, for several reasons:
- First and foremost, it can be a source of information for customers who are interested in your services, but haven’t yet made the commitment to purchase.
- It can reassure potential customers. It helps to show that you know what you’re talking about, which can establish your credentials, and develop a sense of confidence and trust in your business.
- It can also be a useful alternative form of navigation. Each answer can link to a page on the site that relates to that issue.
- The page can speed-up customer enquiries if it answers a question that a potential customer would, otherwise, have to email or call you about. This saves time for both you and your customers.
- It is also a cunning way to employ SEO searches and keywords. We’ll talk more about this in the next post.
Therefore, take time to answer some general questions about your market sector - because that answer might bring someone into your site, from a search engine, who was just looking for a solution to their problem. If your business offers that solution - you’ve got yourself a new customer!
Page 5: Contact details
As with the home page, you want to make it as easy as possible for customers with a single way to get in touch. But here you can offer them options.
Some customers might have complex queries, so would rather send you an email rather than rely on a phone call.
If being local is important to your appeal as a business, certainly include your physical address. They could even put your postcode in their satnav and pay you a visit.
This is also your chance to link to a map of your location which some customers can use to guide them to your door.
Page 6: Your blog
Now, if you think that blogging is out of date, or something that is only really done by hobbyists, welcome to the wonderful world of business blogging.
Like your FAQs, your blog can serve many useful functions for your business. We’ll go into this in much more detail in the next post.
But here are a few headlines:
- Writing blog posts on subjects relevant to what you do, is a way of demonstrating (alongside your FAQs) that you know what you’re talking about. It helps give customers confidence in your service.
- This is where you can do the ‘educate’ part of inform, educate and entertain. Offering free advice to people is a great way of offering value to prospective clients, without them necessarily having to give you anything in return. This, in-turn, develops trust so, when they want to purchase your service, they’ll know they can trust you.
- Covering subjects that potential customers are likely to care about, is a great way to get people to your website via search engines - and they will arrive on your site at a time when they’re interested in your service.
- Similarly, if you share a link to your blog on social media, that will help bring potential customers to your site.
- Blogs are an easy and quick way to keep your website up to date. If a news item breaks that is relevant to your area of expertise, blogging about it - then sharing that blog on social media - is a great way of getting some benefit and staying relevant.
Blog posts don’t have to be full-length essays, just a couple of paragraphs would do for some subjects. But, if you don’t feel comfortable writing even that much, there are plenty of so-called ‘ghost-writers’ - specialists you can hire who would be happy to do a professional job for you.
Let’s assume it’s important to your business that you write your content yourself - because that will certainly be cheaper and add a level of authenticity to your site.
Like any cook in any kitchen, you need the right utensils and gadgets to turn your recipe into a tasty treat.
Here are some online tools to help you write great content and make the most of it in your marketing ...
If you’ve done your market research, you know who your potential customers are and what they’re likely to be looking for.
So, the simplest and most successful strategy is to give them what they want. Obvious, really, isn’t it!
But, of course, unless your business is ‘professional copywriter’, you’re possibly not the most confident author in the world. Never fear, even the pros use tools to help them maintain the illusion of brilliance.
Every word-processor out there will come with some kind of spelling and grammar checker. Use them! It’s not cheating.
Pro tip: Don’t let the spell-check algorithm edit your work unsupervised. If you don’t manually accept all of its suggestions, but let it go off and change your text by itself, it will almost certainly change all your spellings to American. Spell checkers tend to default to American, and it can be tricky to permanently adjust them.
If you’re taking great pains to be a local British business, you want to make sure your content knows its centre from its center and its organise from its organize.
It’s a good idea to use the grammar checker, too, although that is a bit trickier to use well, because it may be asking you complicated grammatical questions.
Pro tip: If you’re not an expert, look at the sentence it highlights as problematic, and read it out loud - does it sound right? Does it say what you wanted it to say?
If you’re still unsure, search online - there is bound to be some grammatical advice.
If you disagree with either the spell checker or the grammar checker, you always have the option to ignore them and go with your instinct.
Hemingway is a free online writing tool. You can cut and paste your text into the tool, and it will give you an immediate visual report of the readability of your text.
It will tell you if sentences are particularly hard to read, or written in a passive voice.
Pro tip: Don’t be upset if the reading age seems low - that’s actually a good thing. The easier your content is to read, the more likely it is to communicate clearly to all readers!
Also - be careful you don’t find yourself spending all your time reworking and reworking your piece to get rid of every yellow word, or green phrase. Consider a tool like this to be ‘advisory’. If your prose is reasonably clear, that may well be clear enough. After all, if you’re writing your content yourself, you want it to retain some of your personality.
Grammarly is an app that runs in your web browser, checking your grammar and spelling as you go along.
If you don’t like the idea of the Grammar Police breathing down your neck all the time, it’s easy to switch on and off, and to set so it only operates on certain key sites.
This is particularly useful if you’re amending a piece of content - or adding something - directly onto your website. You won’t have access to the spelling and grammar checkers in your word processor - but it’s reassuring to know that you can get the same kind of help online and on the fly.
It’s a good idea, also, to use it when you’re posting on social media. However informal these platforms feel, a glaring typing error or grammatical faux pas can reflect badly on your business.
If you have a friend or colleague who is always correcting your grammar, or tutting about your typos - they could really be your best friend.
You can’t have too many proof readers looking at your written work, because no method of checking spelling, punctuation and grammar is infallible.
So, even if you use all the digital tools at your disposal - it’s still great to get a fresh pair of eyes to read through your work, if at all possible.
Pro tip: Criticism can sting, but it’s best that a friend tells you something is wrong before you press ‘Publish’.
You’re almost ready to serve
Hopefully these guidelines have made it possible for you to tackle creating your own online content. There are plenty of more advanced skills we haven’t discussed here, such as how to create a Marketing Persona - a consistent and methodical way to understand the wants and needs of your potential customers.
There are also other pages that your website could eventually benefit from, such as Landing Pages.
And there is plenty of help and advice to be found on those subjects and more in GoDaddy’s very own blog. So read on, as and when you feel the need.
As for our journey from soup to nuts, from a pile of ingredients to a plate-full of piping-hot roly polys … our next step is to learn about the arcane, magical art known as ‘Content Marketing’ and the sweet goodness of SEO.