Your website is likely where you makes your first impression. Even if you run a brick-and-mortar location, most people will find you online first.
From new clients and potential investors to press inquiries, your online hub is the best place to start impressing the world.
So why do so many entrepreneurs neglect their websites?
In my consulting work, I’ve seen website after website launched without a professional-looking design, without key information that visitors need, and sometimes without proofreading!
If you want a website that attracts the attention your business needs, take the time to ensure it has these five things.
1. Eye-catching style
First-time visitors will instantly judge your website by its style. Why? Because we all make snap judgements based on aesthetics.
We are drawn to things that look beautiful. We like blank space where our eyes can rest. We want easy-to-understand visual cues about what to expect.
Your website design should do all of those things.
Is it cluttered and busy-looking? Outdated? Boring? Does it look like it belongs in a different industry? Or is your website sleek and stylish, industry-appropriate while still looking unique and interesting?
Think of your website’s style as your storefront. Its job is to catch your customers’ attention, enticing them to come in and stay a while.
2. Stellar content
The second thing customers interact with is your content. Many will start with your home page, move to your about page, visit your blog, check out your services and products… at least, you hope they will.
That won’t happen unless your content draws them in and keeps their attention. To do that, your content must be engaging and informative. It should speak to your customers directly, addressing their problems and showing how you provide the solution they need.
Visually, content should be easy to read, with breaks, bullet points, and images. Avoid dense blocks of text. It should, of course, be well-edited and coherently written. And it must always, always include next steps.
Stellar content creates a relationship between your business and your customers. It guides them through your website, moving them from page to page until they are ready to trust you with their time and money.
3. An email opt-in (and incentive)
Would you end an amazing first date without a way to contact the other person? Of course not. You shouldn’t let potential customers leave your website without a way to contact them either.
Not every person who visits your website will be ready to make a purchase. But if they were interested enough to look around in the first place, you will want to entice them to come back. That’s where an email opt-in comes in.
If you capture visitors’ email addresses, you don’t have to hope they’ll return on their own. You can be the one to reach out, share information relevant to their interests, offer promo codes, or notify them of new products.
An email list gives you control of building a relationship with your customers, keeping your business in front of them until they are ready to buy. Of course, just like you, your customers already have a full inbox and are hesitant to give out their email. But you can make signing up for your list worthwhile by offering an incentive. Incentives can include: a free ebook, resource guide, mini course, discount or free shipping.
When you give visitors something of real value in exchange for their email address, they are more likely to invite you into their inbox.
4. An impressive portfolio
Even when you’re just starting out, you need to show off your business — especially if you own a service-based business. Without a portfolio — a way for new clients to see your work and decide if you fit their needs — you’re unlikely to make any sales.
No one wants to invest their hard-earned money in an untested, unproven service. They want to know what they’re getting. They want to see a body of work that impresses them. Impressive doesn’t mean extensive — you can be convincing with just one amazing project. No one needs to know that you did the work for your sister-in-law for free, or that you volunteered your time for the local library. What matters is the result.
If you really want to impress online visitors, your portfolio should include customer testimonials and reviews. When the person you worked with shares, in their own words, why your services are worthwhile, new clients will feel confident making an investment themselves.
5. Your story
The same internet that makes it easy for you to get in front of customers also helps your competitors. That’s why your website must demonstrate what sets your business apart.
We love a good story! So, every page should fill in a piece of the puzzle about who you are, what motivates you, and why customers should care.
Are you selling fair trade goods because you care about sustainability? Your ideal customer probably cares about sustainability too, so make sure you share that fact.
Are you offering services for veterans because you had a sibling who served in the military? Let people know — it will demonstrate that you understand their specific needs and are positioned to help them.
Does this mean your website should be all about you? Absolutely not. There are few things more uninteresting than entrepreneurs who only talk about themselves.
You’re not sharing your story in order to talk about yourself. You’re showing customers how your journey — what took you from point A to point Business — matters to and benefits them.
Pulling it together
The best way to create a website that makes a great first impression is to think about your customers. Ask yourself:
What matters to them?
How can you get their attention?
What questions will they have?
What needs are you addressing?
What will convince them that a relationship with your business is the best way to solve their problem?
A website crafted to appeal directly to your ideal customer will always make a great first impression.
This article has been edited.
Katharine Paljug is a web copywriter and consultant who helps small businesses make the most of their online presence. You can find her online at Katharine Writes, where she shares advice about business blogging, social media, and crafting an awesome website, or on Twitter as @kpaljug, where she tries not to complain about how cold it is in winter.