There are a few elements that every business website needs.

If your website gets a lot of hits, but they are not converted into sales, well, something is not right.

The site may be difficult to navigate, or maybe something is missing from it and your customers don’t trust it enough.

1. Contact Information

This is one of the most important things people usually look for on a website. They will feel more confident to order if they know they can contact somebody in case they have a question or they experience any problem. Very few people would buy anything from a website that has no contact information at all. As a minimum, your contact page should contain:

  • A physical address (with a map)
  • A contact email address and/or a phone number.

Even if you do not have a physical store, the street address your company is registered at will give your customers more confidence that the company is real and that the site is trustworthy. It will help if you embed a small map showing the exact address.

The contact information should be on a Contacts page that should be easily found in the site's main navigation menu and footer. Don't experiment with alternative placements and names - this is one part of a website that massively benefits from standardization, and customers will appreciate that they can easily find the needed information quickly.

Contact Form

Depending on the nature of the website, you may need a contact form as well.

Sadly, the most popular platform for building a website today - WordPress - has no built-in option for creating a contact form, so you need to use a plugin. Contact Form 7 is one such (free) plugin, which ICDSoft customers may use on their websites. It allows for a quick and easy setup of a contact form on any page.

We would recommend keeping the form simple - require only the minimum so that the customer can contact you easily:

  • An email address (so that you can reply to the client)
  • A field for the client's question(s)
  • CAPTCHA (or other anti-spam solution)

Some webmasters make their contact forms quite complicated, adding different drop-down menus and various required fields. This isn't a good solution for most online businesses, as it may turn away many potential customers that just needed some additional information.

Live Chat / Instant Messenger

Live chat systems have become very popular in recent years. They allow customers who prefer to avoid phone calls to contact a business in a convenient and easy manner not requiring their constant attention.

Many business owners go with Facebook's Messenger solution, which is free and known all around the world, but if you do not wish to use Facebook's app, there are lots of other free alternatives, like Tawk.to for example.

Our new Website Builder allows you to set up a great contact page with a few clicks. You don't need to install or configure additional plugins.

You should only select the Contact Us option when you add a new page and the website builder will create the page, adding your address, a street map displaying that address, and a contact form that will allow your customers to get in touch with you. If needed, you can add a map or a contact form to any other page just as easily.

In addition, the Website Builder allows you to integrate a live chat with ease. It comes with Tawk.to and Smartsupp modules, where you should only paste the code that each chat platform gives you. Seconds later, you will see a chat option on your site.

2. Social Media

Maintaining at least one social media profile is a must these days. This is the place where potential customers usually go to see if your business is still active.

Customers go to your social media to seek information about your business that may not be available on your website, and to check reviews and comments from your existing customers about the goods or services you offer. If anybody comes across your website, it is likely that they will look for some social media icon to check your profile as well.

If you don’t have a social media account, it is time to open one. Facebook will allow you to share various content and lengthier posts, Twitter is good for short regular updates. If you are a fashion brand, you cannot go by without an Instagram account. YouTube is very popular and can significantly help your business, but it requires quite a lot of investment from you.

A social media account cannot replace a website, but it can bring traffic to it. There are businesses that get by with just a Facebook page, but they are losing potential revenue from people without Facebook accounts (yes, such people exist!). Additionally, such businesses put their entire business model into the hands of one multinational corporation. Any change to Facebook's policies could wreak havoc to their entire business.

3. Responsive and Modern Design

More than 50% of the web traffic today is from mobile devices. If your website does not look well on a smartphone or a tablet, it is likely that people will not bother browsing it. They will have to zoom in and out or scroll left and right just to read a couple of sentences, so they will probably go to a competitor’s website that will look good on a mobile device. Browsing and shopping should be a pleasure, not a burden.

In case that your website is not responsive, you should consider rebuilding it. Applications like WordPress (with the WooCommerce plugin) and OpenCart, for example, are a good choice for an online store as they come with lots of free responsive themes.

Our point-and-click Website Builder is another alternative to build a professional site if you need a simple-to-use, yet powerful application. All themes that come with it are fully responsive, so your websites will look good on any device and any resolution. Here is an example of the same website on different devices. Just click on any of the images below:

There are different tools that you can use to check if your website is responsive or not:
https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
https://responsivedesignchecker.com/
Or you can just resize the browser window, or press Ctrl + Shift + M on your keyboard (some browsers may require that you press the F12 key first to open the Developer console).

4. SSL Certificate

Nowadays, the majority of websites use an SSL certificate. The information exchanged between these websites and their visitors is encrypted and an unauthorized third party cannot get it. This includes login credentials, credit card information, etc. This is possible because a number of companies started offering free certificates, which forced vendors to lower the prices of the paid certificates significantly. As a result, obtaining a certificate today is easy and inexpensive.

Nonetheless, there are still many websites that either do not use an SSL certificate, or use one, but do not force the connection to the HTTPS protocol. The latter often happens due to a mistake during the site configuration, or some other issue. Many website owners enable a free SSL or purchase a commercial one, and since the website works over HTTPS, they think that this is all that is required. However, often the site is still accessible at the old plain HTTP URL, which is a problem. Both search engines and clients may still use the old URL, so you should always ensure that the site is properly redirected to the HTTPS version.

Most people will never enter login or card details on an insecure website. The certificate, along with other things, will make your customers feel more secure when they shop online.

5. Testimonials

One of the first things people check when they look for a product or a service is the feedback left by other people. This is why you should have a testimonial page or a section where you can share what your existing customers think about the products and services you offer. You can ask your customers to give you some feedback and, with their permission, you can add it to your site. You can also add their web address or company name to show they are real people. You may be tempted to make up the testimonials but, sooner or later, such a move can backfire. If you offer a quality service, you will not need to do such a thing anyway.

An even better option is to use a third-party review provider, like TrustPilot, Sitejabber, or Yelp. While these platforms will try making you pay for their services, they often provider a free tier, which in our opinion is more than enough.

You can then add a link to the platform you have selected on your own site. The advantage of using a review platform instead of the testimonials page on the site is that people are more likely to trust it. Such platforms usually filter out fake reviews based on complex algorithms, leaving genuine comments that can give people a more objective idea about a given company.

If you don’t know how to add a Testimonials page, our Website builder comes with a number of templates for the layout of such a page. You can add any of them with a click and then add your own text and images.

6. Speed

If it takes 10-15 seconds for your website to load, people will close it even before it fully loads. There is a vast number of studies showing that website speed is a top priority for any website.

Nobody likes waiting forever to browse a few pages to check out a product. Customers expect fast loading speeds and easy navigation. If your site is slow, you should not be surprised if your sales are low and people go to your competitors.

You should make sure that the site is well optimized – images should be in web-friendly formats and should not be too large; CSS files should not load from third-party websites and there shouldn’t be excessive code in them; you should keep the platform you use for the site updated at all times as updates often bring small speed enhancements, etc.

The speed of your website depends on the hosting environment as well. If you use a PHP-based platform for the site for example, make sure that you use the latest available PHP version in your account. New versions can speed up websites significantly as they come with various speed optimizations that result in faster code execution. You can also enable any server-side caching your provider may offer, or use a CDN. Popular applications like WordPress allow you to use caching plugins as well.

Popular platforms to test the performance of your site and pinpoint problems:
https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
https://tools.pingdom.com/
https://gtmetrix.com/

We recommend that you make regular checks using these tools, as an update to your site or to the website test algorithm can send your scores down. Fixing such issues in a timely manner is of upmost importance. If you are running a WordPress website, we recommend that you check our WordPress speed optimization guide:

7. Coupons/Discounts

Who doesn't like promo codes?

It is no secret that people like discounts. Whether it will be a coupon for a specific product, a discount for an annual service, or some other offer for long-time customers, you will grab people's attention. This isn't really about the money, although people will definitely appreciate the lower price. It is more about the attention and care you show to your potential and existing customers.

Adding new coupons every now and then will give you one more reason to post on social media. This way, you can attract more people to visit your site – both directly and through your social media profile. You can also get additional traffic from discount websites or browser extensions that will list your site.

There are lots of popular coupons and deals websites which can also increase your exposure to potential new clients. Signing up and using the services of such websites may be the push you need.

8. Fresh Content

Give your customers a reason to come back. Depending on your business, you can add new products or offer new services every now and then. You can use your social media accounts to share this new content.

Blog

You can also start a blog where you can write about topics related to your business, or add various related images for example. Any new content you add will be a reason for people to visit your website again. In turn, this will also boost the ranking of the site. Search engines favor websites that are updated frequently and get a lot of visits.

Adding fresh content will give you something to share on social networks. It is also more likely that people will share a page from your site if they find the new content useful or interesting. This way, you can keep your customers engaged and bring traffic to your website.

Mailing List

Keeping your existing customers and visitors engaged with your business is made easier by running a mailing list. While there are lots of paid mailing list services online, ICDSoft's web hosting offers include professional email services that can be used to run a mailing list without additional fees. Check out our YouTube video on how to add a mailing list system to your WordPress website using only free tools and the services included with your ICDSoft hosting account:

9. Up-to-date Products and Prices

Do you update the products you offer and their prices often enough? Unless you offer something unique, your competitors may have lower prices or they may have started offering something new. While the price of a product does not necessarily reflect its quality, you should check your competitors every now and then, and make sure you don’t have the highest prices. It may also be disappointing for a potential customer to see one price on your site, but another one in the shopping cart or on the payment page. If anything like that happens, most people will probably look for that product elsewhere.

You should also make sure that what you have on your website matches what you have in your inventory. On the one hand, if you offer something you no longer have, you will probably disappoint your potential customers. On the other hand, if you keep something in your inventory and do not add it to the website, you will definitely not make a sale.

Free Shipping

Customers love free shipping. While it may decrease your profits, your sales are surely going to increase if you can strike a good deal with a shipping company and offer free shipping to your customers. Setting a price level after which free shipping is available is a tried and tested method not only to increase the average customer purchase value, but to increase your overall sales as well.

10. Personalized About Page

Whenever a potential customer comes across your website, they will expect to find out who you are and why they should trust you more than your competitors to buy the product or service you offer. This is why it is important to have a good About page where they can read more about you and your company. Avoid using templates with ready text and stock images – these are easy to recognize and they tell people that your site is probably one of many generic sites on the web.

Be honest and be human. Tell something interesting about you or your company. Mention when it was founded, what made you found it, what your business and personal values are. Clients in 2021 often look for companies that align with their values.

It is important for your site to stand out from your competitors' sites, and while its layout and content are the first things people will see, the About page is what really can make a difference. Make sure to include some real information about your business and the people working there, avoiding generic pieces of text that visitors see everywhere else. This is a sure way to increase the trust in your company and many customers will appreciate the effort.

Wrap-up

Driving traffic to your website is one thing, converting it into sales is another.

You should analyze the behavior of your visitors using a tool like Google Analytics or Matomo (the one we prefer), and see how much they stay on your website or what pages they visit before they leave. This can tell you if something is missing on the site. People browse lots of websites on a daily basis and they are used to seeing certain features. If they don’t see some of them, they will probably leave.

You should make sure that you give your visitors a good user experience - a secure connection, a good and responsive layout with easy navigation, fast loading speed, good and up-to-date content. Do not forget the small perks – discount codes, a personal About page that will speak more than any template, or a social media account where potential and existing customers can follow you. In turn, you can keep them engaged and get more exposure that will be converted into quality traffic and more sales.

There are lots of web design tools these days, and building a site is easier than ever. More and more businesses move online and the competition is fierce. This is why it is important to pay attention to the details and make sure your site stands out among your competitors’ sites. One of the steps is to give your customers what they expect to see on your website.

Ivailo Ivanov
Author

I started working in the web hosting business in 2004 - 16 years ago. My other interests are mountain biking, fine woodworking and raising my kids to be good persons.