Checklist for small business websites – what is and what isn’t needed on a small business website

I recently read (and reposted) a very comprehensive blog post that listed the 50 Features Every Business Website Should Have. A long list like that includes quite a bit of the minutia that good web designers have to consider for every site they build (mobile responsiveness, SEO, hosting, etc.) but that must website owners don’t every think about.

what is and isn't needed on a small business websiteAs part of an ever-evolving presentation I do on behalf of SCORE for small businesses I break down the checklist into these 10 items – if the website owner can get to grips with these “features” they are well on their way to creating a successful website:

What is needed on a website

1. Company name – in text

Remember that Google (and Bing) can’t read images so if your company name is only present within a logo and isn’t part of the text there’s no way they can gleam your company name.

2. Company address – in text

Same applies here – without an address in text search engines don’t know where you’re physically located.

3. Company phone number – in text

Even more important as we move to mobile friendly sites is the ability to have people call us directly from within our website – something that can’t be done unless the phone number is in text.

4. A succinct description of what you do / what services you provide

Google is simultaneously the smartest and dumbest person in the room. Smartest because it can make some incredibly accurate assumptions about what a website is about. It’s also dumb because without big clues in can actually put you in the wrong category which means that getting found for your products and services is next to impossible. Tell Google AND your prospective clients what it is you do, who you do it for and where you do it.

5. Your USP – Unique Selling Proposition (why should I buy from you?)

Not a search engine requirement but a very important human requirement. You’ve hopefully told your prospect what you do (see above) – now you need to tell them why they should buy it from you. If you’re the largest company doing what you do – tell them. If you’re the oldest established company doing what you do – tell them. If you’re the cheapest, etc. etc.

6. Stuff that’s of interest to your prospective clients – not necessarily you!

At the end of the day I’m not so interested in all your accomplishments and accolades – I’m interested in what you can do for me. The content on a website should be geared towards what you can do for the client as opposed to a puff-piece on you and your company.

What isn’t needed on a website

7. Lots of bells and whistles!

Remember KISS – Keeping it simple stupid! Websites with so much going on that there’s no focus are really good at one thing only – causing people to move on to the next guy.

8. Flashing lights, moving text, self starting movies, etc.

Ditto from above. Google has specifically downgraded websites it sees that are using these 20-year old technologies. It figures that if the website is still using these techniques then it’s not serving its 21st century clients.

9. Pictures without text

Right at #1 we said that Google can’t read images so pictures and images without some text to identify what’s on the image are essentially invisible. The text can be in the form of a caption or in a tag that’s invisible to the viewer but contained within the code (called an “alt tag”).

10. One loooonnng list of products and services

Going back to #4 Google is really good at making assumptions about your site if we give it big clues. A long list of products and services starts to give it some clues but then falls short because after a while Google sees the list as just a list of disassociated words which ends up confusing it. If the items in the list are links that click through to further information that works great, but just a list on its own doesn’t do it.

If you’re starting out hopefully this checklist will put you on the right track for what’s needed and what isn’t needed on your small business website. If you have any questions about what’s on (or isn’t on) your site please give me a call at 973-234-5623.

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