The other day, I was looking for a new place to eat. I did a local search on my Yelp app on my smartphone, and one sushi restaurant stood out to me as looking great. However, when it came time to look at what type of spicy tuna rolls I wanted to order, not only was the menu not online, but they had no website at all! Annoyed by this, I actually CHANGED MY MIND and ended up going somewhere else.

How often do think this happens? Has it happened to you? Most importantly, is it happening to others when they search for your business on the web?

Hopefully not, because there are some facts you should know…

About 90% of adults in the US use the internet, and 97% of those state that they’ve searched online for products and services. Why then, do 58% of small businesses not have a website? (Source: Pew Internet Research, Google Study)

Getting Featured Online – Optimizing Your Digital Phonebook Entry

Do you remember flipping through the Yellow Pages to find a store or service? There were tricks of the trade back then, such as buying large ad spaces or putting A’s at the beginning of the business name in order to appear first in the category. There are similar tricks that you can do to make your website stand out online. Since a website is essentially an extension of your business and can serve as a first impression to potential customers, you want it to be a positive experience for visitors. How can you ensure that happens?

  1. The most important information should be featured and easy to find.

If you’re visiting a website for a business, chances are you’ll want to know the basics. Let’s turn to the five W’s: Who, what, when, where, and why.

Who – What is the name of the business and what does your logo look like? How do you contact the business if you have questions?

What – What kind of products and services do you offer?

Where – How do you get to the business? What are the directions? If the business is mobile, what areas do you serve?

When – What are the hours of operation? How long have you been in business?

Why – What is the business here to do? What makes it stand out?

If you are able to answer those basic questions in an easy to navigate interface, your visitor will probably get what they need and end with a positive feeling about your business. Oddly enough, there are plenty of businesses who don’t include all of the necessary information or make it nearly impossible to find. For example, a study by BIA Kelsey found that 60% of local business websites don’t have their phone number on their site.

Assuming you want to be found and have people come to your business, basic contact information should have its own contact page as well as be in the footer of the site, where people expect it to be.

  1. Your website is a direct reflection of your business.

“If a website doesn’t work well, it is a poor reflection on the business as a whole and shows that the business is sloppy, not tech savvy, doesn’t have enough time, or worst of all, just doesn’t care.”

What adjectives do you want people to think of when they describe your business? Friendly? Upscale? Competent? Outdoorsy? Chic? It may seem obvious, but your website should reflect that, just as much as your storefront would. If a website doesn’t work well, it is a poor reflection on the business as a whole and shows that the business is sloppy, not tech savvy, doesn’t have enough time, or worst of all, just doesn’t care.

To ensure that your message is communicated, think a lot about the overall style you want for your website. Take the time to look at what your competitors have, what you like (or don’t like) about their sites. Think of a color scheme that will support the feeling you are trying to convey. If appropriate, start thinking about what imagery to use. People want to know what they can expect before they commit to visiting your business or deciding to buy. Make sure that you communicate a positive but accurate snapshot of what you’re all about.

  1. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid.)

One thing that people value above almost everything else is their time. If you are overzealous and have a website that features everything but the kitchen sink, it might be time to think about what you can simplify and streamline. Are a lot of people reaching out to you with questions by email? Add a contact form right on the front page. Do you get a lot of phone calls? Add a direct dial button that shows up in the header of the mobile site, allowing people to call you with a tap of their finger.

Following best practices also will help. For example, people want to be able to get what they want with the littlest effort possible. If someone has to click through four different pages before finding what they need, they might get frustrated. Therefore, make sure your menu bar is easy to navigate and includes all the essentials: Home, About the Business, Contact, and Services.

Responsive websites adapt their layout and style to look good on any device.
  1. Go Mobile.

There are many reasons to make your website mobile-ready. Beyond the fact that 90% of U.S. adults have a cell phone and two-thirds of those use their phones to go online (Pew Internet Research, 2014), Google has recently re-weighted their search algorithms to rank sites with mobile-ready design above those that are not optimized. This “mobilegeddon”, as it has been named, is designed to reflect the devices that users are searching with, which have smaller screens than their non-mobile counterparts.

So what does that mean, really? Being mobile-ready, or responsive, means that the website is flexible and will actually change its appearance to fit better on a smaller screen, such as a tablet or smartphone.

The other end of responsive website design, however, is the fact that many people have larger widescreen monitors. Therefore, making a website that looks good on both becomes a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

  1. Get inside your customers’ heads.

A vital component behind the design of the website is who you are designing for. Keeping the demographics and preferences of your ideal customers in mind will make you more attractive to them when they visit your site. Take some time to think about the age group, socio-economic status, preferences, needs, etc. of your customers. Once you have a few general groups, you can turn them into “Buyer Personas” which are imaginary people representing your client base that will drive your design. Not sure what I mean? Here’s an example:

A specialty frozen yogurt store in a hip part of the city will have different customers than a knitting store located in a rural area. The yogurt store might make a buyer persona of “Hip Helen”, a young mother in her 30s who values healthy eating and wants to keep her kids happy, and doesn’t mind spending money on organic products. The knitting store might have “Grace the Granny”, someone over 65 who lives a quiet life, values low prices, and wants great selection on knitting. HubSpot does a great job of explaining this further in this blog post.


Building a website can be an expensive and time-consuming process at worst. However, if done right, it is relatively painless and will generate lots of new and repeat customers for your business. Keeping the previous five points in mind will help ensure that your investment in a website is worthwhile. Whether you choose to build the site yourself, have it custom made by a web development company, or find something in between, it’s a good idea to have ideas in mind before you start.

Ready to get started with a website for your business but don’t know where to go? Think about your priorities. If you have a large budget and don’t want to do things yourself, you can hire a web development company and pay for their expertise. At the other end of the spectrum, if you feel savvy and confident enough, you could get a do-it-yourself website from company that allows you to build everything on your own. If you fall somewhere in the middle and have a limited budget and don’t know much about coding or just don’t have time, getting a semi-custom site built, such as with our mySite program, could be right for you.

If you have questions about getting your business presence online, feel free to connect with us at mysite@getvms.com or call 888-902-6227 to get advice.



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