Expand your business website’s capabilities to achieve valuable marketing goals.
It’s a well-known fact that the quality of your business website impacts the credibility of your brand.
However, few people know just how significant that impact really is. And even fewer know how to accurately measure and improve it.
Website design, mobile responsiveness, and lead generation technologies all play a crucial role in connecting your products and services to customers. In one study commissioned by Google and conducted by Deloitte, decreasing mobile site load times by just one tenth of a second improved conversion rates by 8.4%.
On the other hand, businesses that neglect to optimize their websites’ marketing capabilities are losing out. Some of the most common website mistakes small and mid-sized business owners make include crowded web design, missing calls-to-action, and bad navigation.
These issues, along with slow load times and lack of mobile responsiveness, are some of the main reasons people abandon websites.
Today’s businesses have unique opportunities to leverage website technologies towards growth. In this guide, you’ll find out how you can transform your website into a fully fledged, conversion-boosting business website.
What defines a business website?
Let’s start by defining the business website in a clear and concise way. Any website can promote products and services, capture leads, and generate conversions, but not all websites are truly optimized for this purpose.
A business website uses marketing tools to actively generate profits for its owner.
It’s more than a promotion vehicle—it’s optimized to produce value for visitors and stakeholders alike.
This definition is useful because it’s inclusive without being vague. Even though most blogs aren’t business websites, it doesn’t mean a blog can’t be one. A personal blog may not need to generate value for visitors, but a business blog definitely should. The same goes for almost every tool, platform, or technology you can incorporate on a website.
Business websites use marketing technologies to go beyond promotion and actively connect people to the products and services they’re interested in.
For example, imagine you run a business website that focuses on email marketing. You publish valuable content that builds trust between website visitors and your brand. You ask those visitors to sign up for an email newsletter. You then send regular emails with even more valuable information, along with commercial content that persuades them to purchase your products or services.
You can’t achieve this goal without specialized marketing technology:
- You need an email marketing platform that can automate the process of creating and sending personalized emails.
- You need a lead capture form that convinces visitors to give you their email address somewhere on your website.
- You can’t improve your marketing performance without measuring it, so you’ll need some kind of attribution technology/analytical tools that shows you how effective your decisions are.
- As you grow, you need more sophisticated customer relationship management solutions that enable you to monetize your email list more efficiently.
This is a simple example. Most business websites use multiple channels to move customers through the sales funnel. Your website might combine email marketing with social media influencer marketing, search engine optimization, and more. There is no limit to the number of different ways you can organize your business website along these lines.
Different types of business websites
While there is no limit to the number of different ways you can equip and operate your business website, most fall into one of three major categories. Although it’s possible for a single website to do all these things, most business owners tend to focus on one and exclude the others:
1. Portfolio website
Portfolio websites revolve around showcasing products and services that aren’t available strictly through the website itself. Photographers, writers, artists, and content creators have the most to gain from this kind of approach because their services aren’t necessarily connected to the web platform itself.
Here are some examples of successful portfolio websites:
- Robert Lawler Photography uses a portfolio to showcase the skill and professionalism of Robert Lawler’s wedding photography business. It shows potential customers exactly what they should expect, but doesn’t weigh down the website with products, packages, or forms.
- Sean Halpin’s website is the product that Sean wants to show web visitors. As a web designer and front-end developer, his website’s user interface showcases exactly what he proposes doing to help other businesses optimize the web experience for their customers.
- John Green’s website is the ideal entry point for the New York Times bestselling author’s work, which includes hosting an educational YouTube series, a podcast, and more. While the website does include an online store, it’s secondary to the content that he produces – you can’t purchase his books directly through the store, for instance.
2. B2B website
Business-to-business (B2B) websites focus on selling products and services between commercial organizations. These websites often try to present an informed, professional outlook that is less obviously sales-oriented than the average retail website. B2B websites usually spend a great deal of time and energy advertising to a very small number of people, like executives at Fortune 500 corporations.
Some examples of successful B2B websites include:
- Salesforce has a wide variety of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions for businesses large and small. Its website highlights those solutions the way a portfolio site does, but also acts as a platform for purchasing and using its products. It has hundreds of pages of content designed to show how Salesforce technology helps solve specific business issues.
- Gartner is a technology research and consulting company that publishes cutting-edge content for business leaders. Its website demonstrates this from the very start, guiding visitors towards the company’s latest research and insights. It takes a lot of time and energy to convince customers to purchase a $40,000 Gartner analyst subscription.
- Castra is a managed security service provider that works with small businesses, large enterprises, and government agencies. The website goes to great lengths to explain how Castra’s value proposition differs from other cybersecurity providers, encouraging customers to schedule a meeting or request a quote.
3. Online store
Online stores sell products and services directly to customers. For this reason, they’re also called business-to-consumer (B2C) websites. For online retailers, optimizing every step of the customer experience is an important step to success. Simple ecommerce stores and complex retail platforms alike have much to gain by streamlining that experience.
Examples of online stores include:
- Clocks and Colors is a fashion and accessory retailer that specializes in men’s jewelry. Rings and bracelets are much harder to size than t-shirts and jeans, so the website helps customers accurately size their fingers and wrists before completing transactions. It must also keep customers returning to see the newest product releases and boost sales.
- The Container Store sells furniture and storage solutions for homeowners. The centerpiece of the brand’s website is its custom closet designer, which allows users to create a closet that perfectly fits their home’s dimensions and then order it right on the site.
- The Dunbar Academy sells dog training lessons to new puppy owners and professional trainers alike. Since the product consists of digital video lessons, the website has to support video hosting, interactive webinars, and a fully integrated payment system.
You may be able to describe your website using any one of these categories, but chances are it falls primarily into one of them. Identifying the main purpose of your website will help you decide which technologies to integrate and how to optimize your landing pages for conversion.
Setup stage: Choosing a website builder, domain name, and hosting service
Once you’ve identified the type of website your business needs, you can begin preparing for its development. In the past, this meant hiring a developer or a boutique web agency to build your website. Now, business owners can build and publish high-quality websites on their own without writing a single line of code.
Website builders can make your life easier
The key to doing this is choosing the right website builder for your business needs and skillset. You don’t need to know HTML to create a compelling web experience for visitors. Your website builder can make the process simple using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.
Even if you do know how to code, website builders allow you to create professional web pages faster and more reliably than developing them from scratch. While your business website needs to be fresh and unique, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
There are lots of ways you can use a site builder to create fresh, new web pages with minimal effort:
- Start from scratch using a drag-and-drop interface to place widgets directly onto a blank page.
- Start from a template, modifying on-page elements to fit your brand and message.
- Go one step further by beginning with a Full Site Kit. Start with a professionally designed website with integrated backend functionality and make it your own.
A good website builder will enhance your development capabilities and enable you to create polished web pages quickly and easily. This will reduce the cost of publishing new web content and allow you to focus on building your business.
Domain name registration can impact your brand
Of course, before publishing anything you’ll need to register a domain name and choose a web host. Getting these steps right will ensure your website can operate as a fully featured marketing engine without slowing down during peak traffic.
Every website has an IP address and a domain name. Both point to the same website, but in different ways. An IP address is like a set of GPS coordinates, while a domain name is like a postal address. You’ll want to register a memorable, easy-to-understand domain name so that website users have no trouble finding and using your website.
Domain names have two main parts: The second-level domain and the top-level domain.
- The second-level domain is the part of your web address most people think of when thinking of your website. It should be unique, memorable, and easy to spell.
- The top-level domain is the suffix that ends your web address. Common top-level domains include .com, .net, and .org, but you can also get a more creative one like .coffee or .ninja.
Your business website’s domain name should be branded and specific. Avoid general, forgettable names at all costs. The only exception to this rule is in the top-level domain. Most US website visitors consider the .com extension the most trustworthy and credible option. Unless you have a very good reason not to, you should probably register .com alongside any other top-level domains you want to use.
Don’t skimp on web hosting services
Your choice of web hosting service can deeply impact your website’s performance. Your web host operates and maintains the server where your website lives. Every line of code on your website is processed on that server, so there’s good reason to invest in a powerful hosting solution.
There are three basic types of hosting services:
- Shared hosting puts your website alongside others on a single server. Each website on the server shares resources, makingthe service somewhat inconsistent. This is the cheapest hosting option available, and the least appropriate for business websites.
- Dedicated hosting gives you a single server that only hosts your website. This gives you much more control over the way your website works, but it also requires you to manage the server manually. If you hire a third party to create your site, this is the kind of hosting they’ll recommend.
- Managed hosting offers a scalable solution for business website owners who plan for growth, but don’t want to pay for server resources they aren’t using yet. A managed hosting provider takes care of server management and configuration for you so that you can focus on what you do best – growing your business.
Designing landing pages: Homepage, blogs, customer story section
Once your website infrastructure is set up, you can start designing and publishing web pages. This is where you can let your creativity shine while proactively addressing your customers’ pain points and promoting your products and services. Three things you’ll want to pay special attention to are your homepage, your blog posts, and your customer testimonials.
Let’s start by showing one example of each:
- Homepage. BaseCamp tells you everything you need to know about its project management tool right on the home page. It showcases the brand’s value and authority while helping users find their way to the content they’re looking for.
- Blog. Fubiz uses excellent blog design to showcase its most valuable content to readers. Users can select specific personas that reflect their interests. If you choose “art lover”, you’ll get one set of content; if you choose “architect”, you’ll get another.
- Customer Story. Bizzabo presents its customer stories in a variety of formats on a dedicated page. You can read quick testimonials or read through a comprehensive case study. The page also offers a useful video introduction showcasing exactly what the company is all about.
Design your homepage for speed and efficiency
The first thing most website visitors will see is your home page. It will be one of your website’s most-visited pages, so it should make a compelling case for your brand. It should also make it easy for visitors to get exactly what they want from your site.
While a flashy, elaborate home page may impress first-time visitors, committing too many resources to your homepage’s visuals may not be wise.
A fast, clean website with a smooth navigation interface will outperform even the most dramatic visual experience over time. The leaner and more efficient your home page is, the better it can do its job.
Psd2html.com, a WordPress development firm, opts for a pretty simple homepage aesthetic. No video, no crazy animations. The result?
A fantastic desktop speed score.
Be proactive about blogging
Content marketing is an incredibly effective way to educate potential customers about the value of your brand. Your business blog can become a valuable tool for bringing new customers onto your website and encouraging them to discover your company.
Blogging can improve conversion rates by up to 500%. Publishing new content at least four times a week drives 3.5 times more traffic on average. Insightful blog content can generate value where paid advertisements do not.
When done right, blogging can help you achieve search engine rankings and turn your website into an authoritative source of trustworthy information. Your blog pages should showcase that authority and offer as few distractions as possible.
Let customers tell their stories
Customer testimonials do something that blogs can’t. They tell stories about your brand in a voice other than your own. This gives an important boost to your credibility and connects you with new customers in a way that blogs just can’t.
There is no better medium for customer story landing pages than video. A well-produced video can have an emotional touch that truly speaks to your customers’ pain points. Just be sure to host your video on a specialty hosting service so you can embed it on your page—you don’t want to clog up your own server bandwidth with high-resolution video.
Generating and capturing inbound leads
Lead generation is the process of qualifying website visitors as potential customers. A website visitor who fits your customer profile and has interacted with your website a few times is much more likely to make a purchase than a first-time visitor who knows nothing about you.
Turning website visitors into leads is an important step on the way to them becoming customers. Many business websites use lead capture tools to encourage visitors to remain in contact with the site’s owners. Newsletters, downloadable PDFs, and video content can all act as lead magnets.
To turn your content into a lead magnet, you need to gate it. In order to access gated content, website visitors have to give you some information.
An email newsletter is a typical example. To get more content from a business you’re interested in, you have to give them your email address. That improves the likelihood of you buying whatever that business is selling.
A fully featured website builder allows you to do more than capture email addresses. You can build custom forms to qualify leads in valuable ways. You can find out where your customers are from, what kinds of problems they have, and what they think about products like yours—all you have to do is ask the question on a form.
Popups are another valuable tool for lead generation. Sophisticated popups triggered strategically allow you to show valuable content to specific visitors based on their behaviors. Instead of disrupting the user experience the way regular popups do, you can enhance the experience and help drive lead generation initiatives across your website.
What tools should you think of integrating?
A successful business website is one that uses the right tools to attract, qualify, and convert leads. At this point, it should be clear that some technologies are better-suited to this purpose than others.
With the right hosting service, content management system, and website builder in place, you can easily integrate new tools whenever you need them. If other developers have already made those tools work together, all you have to do is connect them through a readily available API.
While every business is different, there are a few solutions that almost every organization can implement to boost growth and streamline operations. Customer relationship management (CRM) software and sales enablement tools are valuable assets for any business because they help you make the most of your customer interactions.
CRM tools improve the customer experience
Supporting your customers at every stage of the sales cycle is key to maximizing customer retention and increasing the amount of money they spend. CRM tools like HubSpot and Salesforce give businesses the ability to capture and analyze user data to better serve customer needs.
Sales enablement tools
Sales enablement tools give your salespeople the resources they need to close deals more effectively. These resources may include content, knowledge, and customer information drawn from your CRM, among other things. Solutions like Highspot and Pardon help information flow smoothly between marketers and salespeople, improving the profitability of sales projects.
Payment platforms for ecommerce functionality
Incorporating a payment platform on your website is a great way to transform customer interest into immediate revenue. This is obvious when it comes to selling retail products and digital assets, but it can also work wonderfully with services and other non-typical ecommerce goods.
Service providers like photographers, consultants, and marketers can use ecommerce tools to create a seamless ecommerce experience, too. The key is using “productized services,” which promote your service in a scalable, easy-to-understand package with a fixed cost.
For example, if your business provides accounting services for $30 an hour, you could publish and sell a 10-hour accounting service package that costs $300. This makes it much easier for service providers to improve sales volume using ecommerce payment platforms like Stripe and Square, since those solutions don’t generally support hourly payment structures.
Equip your website to achieve business goals
The right combination of web infrastructure and marketing software can transform your business website into a powerful, scalable marketing machine. These tools help business owners automate some of the most valuable and time-consuming processes in digital marketing.
Outfitting your website with an efficient suite of marketing tools will give you more time to focus on your core business. Use these tools to make your website work for you, and not the other way around.