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10 essential tips for your business web site (Part I)

What should you put in your web site?
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Everything is now going online, yes, even the small scale businesses are already online with their own web sites or by having pages on social networking sites.

Most of these web sites have a paragraph or two about the business, the entrepreneur, and a couple of product photos. But are these enough to get your message across to consumers or to even make a sale online?

Entrepreneur.com, listed down 10 things that every small business website must have.

1. A clear description of who you are

Someone who stumbles upon your web site shouldn\\\'t have to do investigative work to figure out what, exactly, it is that you do. That means clearly stating your name and summing up your products or services right on the homepage, says John Zhuang, of Web-design and SEO-optimization firm Winning Interactive.

"Tell people this is the right website that they have been searching for," he says. "[A clear description] will attract the visitor\\\'s attention immediately within 2-3 seconds, and encourage them to stay on your website longer."

2. A simple, sensible web address

Don\\\'t make things complicated.

"Your domain name is like your brand. It should be easy for a user to type it into a Web browser or an e-mail address," says Ron Wright, the founder of business web design and online marketing firm Accentix.

He adds: "I always recommend the .com domain as users are conditioned to type that extension when they enter a web address. For non-profits or organizations, I usually recommend using a .org domain for branding purposes, but also recommend having a .com version of the domain in case a user accidentally types the .com address."

Wright also suggests avoiding dashes (which can cause SEO headaches) and numbers (which can cause confusion for customers).

3. An easily-navigated site map

Clear links to the most important pages, and a site map, are crucial for guiding visitors to the information they\\\'re looking for.

"Be sure your navigation is clearly laid out. I always recommend using dropdowns in the navigation menu so the visitor can see the content under every heading from virtually any page. You want to make it very easy for your visitors to find what they are looking for, or what you want them to know," Wright suggests.

4. Easy-to-find contact information

You wouldn\\\'t want to lose a customer to a competitor just because you made it difficult for them to get in touch with you.

"Not every online visitor has the patience to click through every page on your website to find the contact information," says Zhuang.

"The best place for the contact information is the top left or top right corner of the home page," he recommends. "It is also a good practice to include contact information in every page of the website in the footer or side bar or even in top right corner, which helps the visitors to find it more easily."

You should also be sure to include several ways for them to contact you -- phone, e-mail, and a standard contact form, are all good options. Forbes also suggests including your address, and even a link to your location in Google maps.

"One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is to force only one way to reach them," says Wright. "The point is to make it very easy for users to communicate with you on their terms."

5. Customer testimonials

Honest words from others help make your products or services more tangible to customers who are visiting you online.

"They help your potential customers to build trust in you, especially if you are new," Zhuang says. "[And they] help shoppers to confirm whether the product [or] services meet their needs."

"People love to hear stories from real people," he adds. "They help people [find out] other things you haven\\\'t said [on] your website."

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Related article:

10 essential tips for your business web site (Part II)

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