“what does my website need?” is a common question between small business owners. You want the most bang for your buck, so here’s a few key elements to help maximise your website.

1. Responsive Design

So obvious that it almost goes without saying – your website needs to be responsive. Essentially, traditional websites of the 90’s and 2000’s were built using ‘fixed-widths’, based on a certain number of pixels. In 2016, your website is built using Responsive Web Design (RWD) and is made up of percentages. What this means is that your site can scale down to fit any sized screen on any device, desktop, tablet or mobile – if something takes up 100% of the width of your desktop, it’ll take up 100% of the screen on your mobile. Statista’s figures predict that 38.6% of all Internet traffic in 2016 will be from mobile devices.

A quick way to test if your website is ‘responsive’ is, when on your laptop or desktop, drag your internet browser so that it is narrower and narrower – if elements move around, disappear and reformat themselves to fit, bingo, your responsive. If you’re stuck scrolling sideways to read your text, you’ve got a problem.

A slightly different way is to have two, separate websites on the same domain name. One for desktop and one for mobile. The problem with this is that it increases loading time – your website needs to work out which content to show. Furthermore, Google prefers to index responsive websites in search results over websites that have two versions – see here ›.

Takeaway: lets say as a new business, your website attracts 200 hits a month – that’s 2400 a year – if 40% of your potential customers visit your non-responsive website on a phone, then chances are they’ll leave and use a website that does work on their device. In a worst case scenario, you’re losing 960 visitors annually.

2. A Clear Call To Action

What do you want your website to do? If you don’t have a clear idea, then how do you expect your website visitors to. Your website needs a clear call to action. “Call us NOW on 01642 123456”, “Book your appointment TODAY”, “Shop now for 15% OFF”. A call to action clearly states your intention and what you want a potential visitor to do – it should provoke an immediate response – contact, shop, read more and so on.

Just adding a clear call to action can increase your sales or number of enquiries. By making your shop or your enquiry form easy to access, you’re actively encouraging visitors to use it. More importantly, you’ll keep them on your site and browsing through your pages. You’ll tend to see call to actions on common landing pages such as your homepage – this is where the vast majority of your traffic will find themselves as a starting point and your call to action will direct them from there.

Takeaway: don’t expect your visitors to do exactly what you want on your site unless you guide them through it. Make key pages easy to access, optimise your landing pages to direct visitors to your shop, blog or contact page.

3. Quality Images

As a benchmark, mobile phone photos just won’t cut it. You wouldn’t make a purchase from a website that only has images taken on a phone, so why would you expect anything different from your own visitors? Similarly, you wouldn’t be inclined to read a post or article if the image at the head of the page looked like it was snapped by a disposable camera.

Ideally, you need a professional photographer for your images. This allows for you to get high resolution, quality photographs that are also unique, rather than stock photos than can be found on sites across the Internet. However, photographers can be pricey. As such, new starts and small businesses can’t afford this investment at the same time as a website. If you’re selling bespoke products online, I would say professional photography is a near essential. If your product truly is unique, you won’t find other images on the Web. As I opened this point, mobile photos just wont cut it.

Takeaway: quality images are essential. Make sure to reduce the size of the images to the size you need. Fail to do so and your files are larger than necessary, which affects loading time. I would suggest images Shutterstock or Adobe’s new Stock Images for low cost, quality photos to use on your website, if a product photographer is out of your marketing budget.

4. SEO & Content Management

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is very much a dark art and you should leave this to professionals. SEO is the cumulative phrase for the factors the likes of Google use to decide where your website should appear in search results – good page content, images, internal and external links, meta descriptions, meta titles and focus keywords are just the beginning, and I recommend you stay away from them unless you seriously know what you’re doing.

Content management is essentially keeping track of your page text and images and ensuring your website stays relevant and engaging to readers. For example, if legislation if your sector changes, make sure your page content changes to reflect any updates in law. It’s the little things on many occasions.

Globally, 26% of all websites use WordPress in someway or another (src: DMR). Now you don’t need WordPress to manage content, but it makes it easier for Joe Bloggs to update his website. It’s well known that search engines typically prefer to list websites that have regularly updated content – it’s an easy way to ensure that the website is still managed and looked after.

Takeaway: make sure you regularly revisit your content to make sure it’s relevant. WordPress websites are great because they’re so easy to maintain. For those who don’t have a built in CMS, the likes of SimpleCMS can help. Make sure your website has relevant Search Engine Optimisation, but don’t play with this unless you’re 100% confident in what you’re doing.

5. Google Analyticswebsite-analytics-data

Or equivalent. What’s the point in investing in a website, updating the content and adding products if you struggle to make sales and don’t know which pages your visitors are most frequently viewing? Google Analytics lets you see that. You can easily your most frequently visited pages. You can see which pages visitors are landing on to enter your website. Most importantly, you can see how many users you’ve actually had.

Google Analytics is added to your website with one short line of code. You can sign up and find out exactly what analytics does here.

Takeaway: your website is a hugely valuable asset to your business. Google Analytics lets you track your visitors and tailor your website to their habits. A website is one of the few methods of marketing where you can easily track where visitors come from and what they read about you. Why aren’t you making the most it?