Guest article written by Megan Totka, chief editor for ChamberofCommerce.com
sRunning a website (let alone a successful site) is never quite as simple as it seems. This is especially true for small business owners today, constantly multitasking and juggling every aspect of their business, whether they have the time or not. Of course, the evolution and accessibility of the modern web has made the process of online marketing much less daunting.
Breaking down the barrier between the average small business and real-life customers has never been easier. However, many SMBs are still squandering their online success because they’re overlooking one crucial element when managing their sites. What element is that?
Today’s customers, both online and off, are looking for some form of engagement from the businesses they frequent. While the term “engagement” has become the go-to buzzword of the Internet marketing blogosphere, let’s break the word down ala our friends at Merriam-Webster.
Engagement – verb - to get or keep (someone’s attention, interest, etc.)
In a world where customers are bouncing from site to site and business to business without a second thought, engagement is often the missing piece of our online marketing puzzles. While we seem to have everything in order when it comes to sealing the deal, we often forget to interact with our audience.
Yet doing so is easier said than done, isn’t it? Isn’t that what social media is for? How can we possibly make our sites more interactive?
Breaking Your Site Down
You’ve probably put a lot of effort into building your small business site, but let’s take a moment to break your site down. That is, into three categories which ultimately drive your traffic and engagement.
Design – The visual backbone of your site, setting a tone and helping keep your visitor’s eyes quite literally on the page.
Content - The cornerstone of your site, delivering your business message and providing crucial information that will help create new customers.
SEO – The technical foundation for building new traffic, guiding new users into your funnel and, with the help of the two elements above, hopefully generating new business.
The holy grail of success for your small business site is to see these three elements come together and leave a lasting impression on each and every one of your site’s visitors. The process of making this happen simply requires a change in perspective. Assuming you already have a site, you therefore already have a design, content, and search engine optimization techniques in place. It’s how you utilize them that makes or breaks your site’s interactivity. So, what do you need to do to make sure you’re getting the most out of what your site has to offer?
Dare to Design
Asking the design and layout of your business’ website to literally engage visitors may sound a bit ridiculous; however, the idea may not be as farfetched as you’d think. Design is rather subtle when it comes to customer interaction, often working on a subconscious level. It’s been proven that color influences buying decisions, for example, and is not a mere oversight when it comes to marketing campaigns. What is the scheme of your site saying to your customers? Is it delivering the right message? Is your sight laid out in a way that encourages users to browse around or simply shuts them out? Remember, the first step of engagement is making your audience feel welcome. Are you?
Connecting with Content
Time and time again we’ve stressed the importance of compelling content. Your website should connect to your audience on multiple levels. That is, anything written on your site should have a purpose, whether it’s a weekly blog posts or directions to your store. The time of your visitors is incredibly valuable, so don’t waste it. While your content should always pique the interest of your reader, you should also give them something to do with your content. Comment. Like. Share. Debate. Agree. Disagree. A simple call to action can go a long way when it comes to retaining readership.
Optimizing Your Opportunities
SEO may seem like the black sheep when it comes to visitor interactivity. After all, SEO is something that happens in the background, right? It’s technical. It’s less than user-friendly, right? Not necessarily. After all, proper SEO is all about what your users want when it comes to targeted keywords and phrases. As search terms are what drive organic traffic, it’s important that those search terms deliver on their metaphorical promises. That is, if your site ranks for “best pizza in New York,” your site better be ready to deliver visitors a slice in the Big Apple. The better your SEO, the more opportunities you have to interact with an audience.
The Bottom Line
Finding success online is often an uphill battle for small businesses. You can greatly increase your chances of new customers and more conversions online by throwing in more opportunities to interact with your audience. Today’s users are hungry for companies that want to engage with them. Are you and your site living up to their expectations?
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.