In today’s world, small businesses should be looking to continually improve their digital presence. Your website is where many customers experience your business for the first time – often before they consider reaching out to you for a quote or query. To help you stay competitive online, these are my five simple tips for website optimisation.
Use a local domain
A .com domain might be popular, but it isn’t always the best choice for a business website. Ask yourself where your customers are located; and if your customers are mainly local to Australia, then a .com.au domain may be better suited. For Australian businesses, a top-level domain with .com.au performs better because it tells the search engine your business is relevant to Australian consumers.
Keep your content up to date
Customers want to see your business information, like how they can contact you, when you’re open and details about your product or service. Get the basics right. Tell your visitors who you are, what you do and what you don’t do in a really clear and concise way. Then make sure you update this information regularly, at least once every few months. Search engines favour websites with new content, so this can also help to improve your search ranking.
Monitor site speed
Many users will leave a website if it takes more than a few seconds to load, so make sure your site speed isn’t slowing down business. If you have a web developer, they should be able to help you with this. And if you’re managing the website yourself, check your image files aren’t too large, as this can lengthen load times. If your website requires videos or animations, then try to compress these as much as you can without compromising their quality.
Use search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics
SEO might seem like a foreign concept, but with a few simple tweaks you can help boost your search ranking so customers can find you more easily online. Search engines value sites that follow best practice around keywords, links and backend tagging (among other things). Just about every website has images, so make sure your image tagging is up to scratch because it’s an easy win to help boost your website’s SEO. Add descriptive alt text to each image describing what it represents to help search engines filter your site to the top of the results page.
Maintain site security
Make sure your website has a security certificate that shows a user their data is secure. Being transparent in this area helps you gain and maintain a customer’s trust. There can be serious legal, reputational, financial and emotional impacts if your business is hacked online – for you, your business, your customers and other stakeholders. So, it pays to make cyber security a priority.
Consider these factors today and in the long term to help impress customers with a great business website. With more people choosing to search, shop, book and experience businesses online, it’s worth ensuring you’re taking steps to get found – and ultimately selected over competitors – by customers.
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Prioritise digital capabilities
Your digital capabilities come down to the platforms and tools that you use, from Facebook to Zoom to a booking app. If you’re able to deliver a service or trade online, consider how you can improve the experience for your customers. It could be something as simple as letting customers order their coffee through an app before arriving at your café. If you adopted a Band-Aid digital solution to get through COVID-19 lockdowns last year, it’s time to look at how you can create a seamless experience that will make your product or service more digitally accessible. Small Business Australia offers its members access to loads of content that can help you work through the key digital foundations and the processes for selecting a good supplier (if you’re outsourcing), platforms and more.
Make the most of the local movement – especially online
As outlined in the Telstra Business Intelligence report on Customer Experience, a recent Venture Insights survey found that 70% of all respondents said they now consciously support local businesses. But on the flip side, 70% also said they were restricted in doing so by the limited online presence of many small businesses.
The local movement isn’t limited to face-to-face interactions; it also encompasses online spending. But for customers to consider your business, they need to be able to find you in the first place, which is why your online visibility is crucial. Keep your business information up to date online, like your business address, contact details and opening hours (especially around public holidays). Then make sure you reinforce the message that you are a small, local business in your communications, like in your social media marketing.
Take advantage of support initiatives
There are a number of federal budget measures that may affect small business. The Australian Government has set aside $1.2 billion for Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements to help businesses hire up to 100,000 new employees, irrespective of their ages and level of qualifications. Eligible businesses can access up to $7,000 per quarter towards the first-year costs of employing and training an apprentice (until September 30 2021). This initiative also covers ‘traineeships’, which can include white-collar or service-related occupations. For example, Small Business Australia is helping members with hiring digital business course students to help apply that knowledge in the business.
There’s the JobMaker hiring credit, which offers an incentive for eligible businesses that hire young people. This includes a weekly subsidy, which varies based on the employee’s age.
The Research and Development Tax Incentive has increased and is now easier for eligible small businesses to access. If your business is looking to reinvent the way it does things, or if you’re thinking about developing new products or services, then this may be worth a look.
There are also export market development grants, where you may be able to access 50% of what you spend on marketing, development, sales and promotion activity to establish international markets. Even if you’re delivering a service online, like telehealth consultations, almost any business can get involved in export.
State and local governments may also have incentives for particular industries, so you should keep an eye out for these.
Adapt your workplace
First, check the workplace health and safety requirements that have been issued by your state. You can help improve your team’s engagement and productivity by adapting with their expectations of working from home and coming into the workplace. This will look different for every business and it might take consultation with your team to find the right balance. Get your digital foundations right, like network access, hardware devices and online security, and then keep communicating any updates with your team. It’s important that new ways of working are embedded in your team culture, so your employees are comfortable with the changes and they feel safe and empowered to do their jobs. You should seek guidance from your tax advisor about eligible home office-related expenses and whether there are any instant asset write-offs you can claim. Investments in technology to enable COVID-19 tracing requirements (like QR codes, check-in systems, tablets etc.) are also likely to be eligible for instant asset write-off.
Start the year by evaluating how your business fares in these areas. The key takeaway is that digital literacy is going to be vital in any business for the year ahead and beyond. Keeping up to date with new technologies and being able to morph and work with the digital evolution is how small businesses are going to thrive.