If you’re maintaining a business website, we don’t have to tell you how many best practices and moving parts there are to keep track of.
By Lauren Shufran
Your homepage plays a very different role than your product pages do; your About Us page may take a slightly more colloquial tone than your other pages; and each of your landing pages has a different persona in mind—which means, from a psychological perspective, it’s doing something just a little different from your other landing pages.
But beyond these subtle and nuanced differences, there are some through-lines and consistent elements that every page of your website should have. Here are six of them:
1—Make sure all your copy is prospect-oriented and benefit-driven
This is a particularly easy best practice to forget on the About Us page, which is a real misnomer: None of the pages on your website are about you; they’re all about your prospects and customers. Generally speaking, prospects only care about your business insofar as they care about what value it can add to their lives. Keep this fact front-of-mind for each bit of copy you write for your site.
What this means is that you’ve got to have your prospects’ pain points, fears, and aspirations front-of-mind at all times. What are they struggling with that your product or service can alleviate? What keeps them awake at night? Where would they like to be five, ten years from now?
It might be worth recalling, here, the difference between features and benefits. Businesses often mistake features as prospect-oriented information; but it’s the benefits your prospects really want to hear about.
A feature is a fact about your product or service. It may be what sets your offering apart from your competitors, but it’s no more than an attribute. A benefit, on the other hand, answers the question—posed from the prospect’s point of view—“What’s in it for me?” (Imagining your prospect in front of you, saying “So what?” can be a really useful exercise in marking this distinction.)
So, for example, a feature of a razor might be that it has five blades. But the benefit is that you won’t see your five o’clock shadow until five o’clock the next morning.
2—Offer social proof wherever you can
Social proof comes in a variety forms: awards and recognitions, press and media mentions, endorsements, community service, logos of both the professional organizations you belong to and the clients you’ve worked with. The most powerful form of social proof is probably the customer testimonial; and it’s worth distributing your testimonials—as well as those other forms—throughout your website (even if you keep a dedicated testimonials page).
Why, you ask? Well, in the first place, no matter how many claims you make about your business—and how eloquent you are in your self-praise—site visitors will be rightfully wary. You have a stake in your own business, after all. But those organizations that bestowed awards upon you? Those clients willing to review your business? They have no stake whatsoever in whether or not you make that next sale. And it’s words from those unbiased positions that are bound to hold the most weight for your prospects.
In the second place, every page of your website has one (or more) friction points: those places where prospects are likely to encounter resistance to conversion. (Think your pricing page, or your contact form, or your checkout form, or every CTA—call to action—button you offer). You’ll want to place your social proof at these sites. It’ll serve as evidence that others have made the “right” decision in doing business with you… and it’ll give your visitors that last bit of confidence they might need in order to move forward.
3—Make your visitor’s journey clear and their next step easy
Visitors are typically guided through your website by way of two elements: your navigation menu and your CTA buttons. Between these two elements, there’s no reason a user should ever get stuck on any page of your site. If you’ve thoroughly researched your customer personas, know your site’s visitor range, and have a keen sense of what to offer prospects in each stage of the buyer’s journey, you should have no trouble directing any visitor through their own personalized journey with intuitive navigation and clear calls to action.
For instance, your homepage will ideally offer three separate calls to action—for prospects in the awareness, consideration, and decision stages. Each of these stages marks a different level of commitment and a different level of readiness to purchase. Prospects in the awareness stage will be looking for CTAs that lead to broad educational content; those in the consideration stage will be looking for content that solves more clearly defined problems; and those in the decision stage will be looking for that “Schedule a Demo” or “Start My Free Trial” CTA.
Your prospect “categories” may become more granular from there; and it will be up to you (and your A/B tests) to determine how many clicks—and how much information—each visitor will need to answer their question or fulfill their intention in coming to your site.
Of course, prospects and customers aren’t your only site visitors. You’ll also want to think about job-seekers, prospective investors, potential business partners, and so on. Those visitors might be best “spoken to” in your footer or in your main navigation.
The point is to keep asking yourself these questions: “Who comes to my site?” “Who else comes to my site?” “What pages are they likely to land on through search?” “And will each of them know where to go next from those pages?”
4—Let users know how to reach you
Remember that people are still drawn to doing business with people, not with interfaces—and there are a ton of reasons they may need to contact you while they’re engaging with your website.
Maybe your FAQ isn’t answering their particular question. Maybe they’re halfway through the checkout process and decide they feel more comfortable completing their purchase over the phone. Maybe one of your forms is broken, or they want to make a specific request about an appointment they just booked through your site.
You get the idea. Let visitors know you’re a real business in the real world, and not just a set of virtual pages fronting as one. (Visitors who don’t even need to contact you will experience increased confidence in your business for your willingness to make yourself contactable!) So position your company’s email address, phone number, physical address, and social media buttons in the header or footer of every page on your site. Consider a contact form in your footer. Consider offering a live chat feature.
If you’re a human being who has spent any amount of time on the internet (and we presume you are), we probably don’t have to tell you about the value of images, videos, charts, graphs, infographics, and so on. We’re a visual people living in a visual age; and it will be of great advantage to keep this in mind as you curate every page of your site.
This is perhaps especially important if your business website is an e-commerce shop (in which case, stellar product photos will be crucial), or if you offer a portfolio of your work. But don’t discount the value of, say, explanatory videos on your FAQ, or a creative timeline on your About Us page… and of course, a compelling featured image for every blog post you publish.
Your site visitors will decide within milliseconds whether or not they’re interested in what your site has to offer; and the more visually compelling your pages are, the more likely they’ll be to vote “yes.” What’s more, visitors will arrive at your site with a range of capacities for absorbing information. And the more visitors you can speak to across that range, the more that will stay for the conversation.
6—Engage in content marketing
In one sense, this is another way of saying “keep a company blog”—which you should be doing! But since this list concerns best practices across your website, we recommend it for your other pages, too.
Content marketing means creating content that doesn’t seek to advertise or sell, but to meet a customer need. Through it, your business establishes itself as an authority by solving problems, answering questions, and educating your prospects. Of course, it does so by using the same language your prospects and customers use to describe their problems. Through these keywords—and thanks to SEO—you attract traffic. And that traffic has a higher likelihood of converting in the long run, because you’ve given them value over time.
While your business blog will ultimately be your content marketing machine, “content marketing” can, and should, happen on other pages of your site. This means that every bit of site copy you write should contain keywords appropriate to your prospects. It also means you should be asking how you can educate visitors across your site. Offer white papers, e-books, case studies, external studies, and guides where you can.
Of course, this won’t mean you’re not selling your product on your website! It’ll just mean you’re offering your visitors more value than your product alone.
And that makes gratified visitors.
If you’re looking for more comprehensive information about specific site elements—those “nuances” we mentioned above—head over to Zoho Academy’s Roadmap to Your Best Business Website. We dive deep into About Us pages, testimonials, FAQs, CTA buttons, and more.
Lauren Shufran is a Content Strategist at Zoho Academy, a knowledge base from Zoho that helps SMBs run their day-to-day operations better. She has 8 years of experience building curriculums and teaching undergraduate courses in writing and literature. You can find her on Instagram, @shakespeare_and_mindfulness.