How to Improve Your Small Business Website

Websites are powerful marketing tools. Some are magnificent, drawing you in  and making you look deeper. Then there are those that fall far short because they are sloppy, hard to decipher, and lack inspiration.  Your website is often the first impression you make to your customers or clients. The website needs to be about your customer or client – not about you. It should help them find a solution to their problem.

The good news is that there are simple and immediate solutions that you can implement to keep prospects on your site longer and convert them to customers.

Five Simple and Immediate Solutions to Improve Your Small Business Website

Create a clear purpose

When a visitor comes to your website, your purpose needs to be clear and obvious. Do you want a prospect to enter her name and email into a website opt-in form? Are you trying to sell a product or service? Are you interested in educating the prospect over time? Your website should be designed to efficiently guide visitors directly to the information that they are seeking. It must have a clear and direct purpose.

In the overcrowded world of the Internet, you only have three seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. If your visitors are confused (even slightly), they are going to leave your website in order to find a more obvious solution.

Highlight your benefits

A prospect visits your site in order to solve a problem. It is your job to convince them that your product or service will accomplish this. You can succeed by highlighting the benefits that your prospect will receive if they purchase your product or service.

Will your product make your prospect happier? Will it save them time? Will they be healthier or wealthier? Your prospect must understand they will receive an obvious and important benefit if they purchase from you or select your service.

Keep it simple

Keep your web copy concise and to the point. You should use short paragraphs, bulleted lists and bolded and underlined text to highlight items of importance.

Time is precious. More than ever before, your visitors are looking for a solution to their problems in a quick and timely manner. They don’t have hours to browse through your website looking for the answer.

Give your visitors reasons to trust you

As soon as a visitor comes to your site, it’s paramount that they feel that they can connect with and trust you. There are a number of ways to increase the trust factor. Make sure your contact information is prominent and easy to find. Your website should be free from grammatical and spelling errors. Your site should have the look and feel of a well-established and successful company. Research suggests that trust must be established for prospects to either give you their information or make a purchase.

Offer something irresistible

No matter how spectacular your website may be, we know that visitors rarely make a purchase on their first visit. In fact, it can take up to twenty-seven exposures to your brand before they’re ready to buy.

That’s why it’s essential that you capture your visitor’s name and email address so that you can continue to communicate with them. However, you can’t just throw up a form on your website expecting your visitors to hand over their personal information.

You need to offer your visitors something irresistible in exchange for their name and email address. Ideally, it should be something they would gladly pay money to obtain. It might be an entertaining special report, educational ebook or engaging quiz. (Let’s face it, a long-winded whitepaper or subscription to your newsletter isn’t too irresistible.)

By giving away something irresistible to your first-time visitors, you’re able to market to them over time.

There are numerous ways to improve your small business website and keep prospects engaged in your website and convert them to happy clients and customers. If you revamp your website with a clear and specific purpose, keep things simple, create a sense of trust and offer something irresistible, you’ll soon find yourself with an abundance of new sales, clients and happy customers.

Best WordPress Plugins – Miscellaneous

WordPress is an incredibly flexible, easy-to-set-up and manage web publishing platform that has been downloaded more than 60 million times since its launch in 2003. As of August 2013, WordPress is used by nearly 19 percent of the top 10 million websites. The content management system’s popularity has spawned thousands – nearly 30,000 in fact – of plugins that expand the basic functionality of WordPress. At Connect4, we routinely use 45 WordPress plugins. We use some plugins, for security, admin, and SEO, for example, on nearly every site we create.

The problem with WordPress plugins is that many of them present as much trouble as they do opportunity on a website. Not all plugins play friendly in the same sandbox. And not all plugin developers continue to provide updates for their plugins. Plugins that haven’t been updated in a year make for a security risk. So make sure you consult with your webmaster or web developer prior to installing any of these plugins. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have a backup before trying out a new plugin.

Today we are going to talk about essential wordpress plugins that fall into the miscellaneous category.

Miscellaneous

  1. WP Greet box
  2. Co-Authors Plus
  3. Print Friendly and PDF Button
  4. nRelate Related Content
  5. Edit Flow
  6. WordPress Editorial Calendar
  7. Custom Post Donations
  8. TablePress

WP Greet Box

This plugin lets you show a different greeting message to your new visitors depending on their referrer url. For example, when a visitor clicks through from Twitter, they will see a message suggesting them to tweet the post and follow you on Twitter. You can also set a default greeting message for new visitors (not matching any referrer URLs) suggesting them to subscribe to your RSS feed. Having these targeted suggestions will help your blog increase exposure, loyal readership, and reader interaction. Best of all, this plugin is compatible with WPMU and various WordPress cache plugins (so you do not have to sacrifice speed).

 

Download WP Greet Box

Co-Authors Plus

Assign multiple bylines to posts, pages, and custom post types via a search-as-you-type input box. Co-authored posts appear on a co-author’s archive page and in their feed. Co-authors may edit the posts they are associated with, and co-authors who are contributors may only edit posts if they have not been published (as is core behavior).

 

Download Co-Authors Plus

Print Friendly and PDF Button

This plugin by Joost de Valk (developer of the wildly successful WordPress SEO by Yoast) automatically creates printer friendly and PDF versions of your pages without the hassle of having to create a print CSS file. No coding, hacking or programming required. Simply install the Print Friendly & PDF plugin, activate, and choose settings for full customization. It also gives your user the ability to remove images and paragraphs of text, so they really only have to print exactly what they want.

Download Print Friendly and PDF Button

nRelate Related Content

This is the best way to display related content from your site, and/or your blogroll. Nrelate is not just another related posts plugin. What’s particularly cool is that the plugin continuously analyzes your website content and displays other related posts from your website. This ultimately leads to higher site page-views, and a better user experience.

 

Download nrelate Related Content

Edit Flow

Edit Flow empowers you to collaborate with your editorial team inside WordPress. Edit Flow is modular so you can customize it to your needs:

  • Calendar – A convenient month-by-month look at your content.
  • Custom Statuses – Define the key stages to your workflow.
  • Editorial Comments – Threaded commenting in the admin for private discussion between writers and editors.
  • Editorial Metadata – Keep track of the important details.
  • Notifications – Receive timely updates on the content you’re following.
  • Story Budget – View your upcoming content budget.
  • User Groups – Keep your users organized by department or function

 

Download Edit Flow

WordPress Editorial Calendar

Did you remember to write a post for next Tuesday? What about the Tuesday after that? WordPress doesn’t make it easy to see when your posts are scheduled. The editorial calendar gives you an overview of your blog and when each post will be published. You can drag and drop to move posts, edit posts right in the calendar, and manage your entire blog.

 

 

Download WordPress Editorial Calendar 

Custom Post Donations

This WordPress plugin will allow you to create unique customized PayPal donation widgets to insert into your WordPress posts or pages and accept donations. WP Plugin for creating custom PayPal donation widgets. PayPal for WordPress. WordPress ecommerce.

Donation Widget Types

  • Standard Donation – One editable donation amount field.(DEMO)
  • Fixed + Additional Donation – One fixed donation amount with an additional editable donation amount field. (DEMO)
  • Per Item + Additional Donation – Fixed donation amount per item with an additional editable donation amount field. (DEMO)
  • Per Item + Additional + Fixed Donation – Same as above, but includes a fixed additional amount. Possibly a shipping charge. (Pro version only)
  • Campaign Donation – Donations plus Fields for Name, Address, Occupation and Employer. Meets Federal Election Commission (FEC) requirements. (Pro version only)

Download Custom Post Donations

TablePress

Even though advances in HTML and CSS have moved web developers far beyond the use of tables for organizing website content, every once in a while you have a need for actually displaying content in a table. The most common scenario is if you need to set up a pricing table. That’s where TablePress becomes a very useful WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) WordPress plugin.

 

 

Download TablePress

 

Best WordPress Plugins – Comments, Contact Forms & Forums

WordPress is an incredibly flexible, easy-to-set-up and manage web publishing platform that has been downloaded more than 60 million times since its launch in 2003. As of August 2013, WordPress is used by nearly 19 percent of the top 10 million websites. The content management system’s popularity has spawned thousands – nearly 30,000 in fact – of plugins that expand the basic functionality of WordPress. At Connect4, we routinely use 45 WordPress plugins. We use some plugins, for security, admin, and SEO, for example, on nearly every site we create.

The problem with WordPress plugins is that many of them present as much trouble as they do opportunity on a website. Not all plugins play friendly in the same sandbox. And not all plugin developers continue to provide updates for their plugins. Plugins that haven’t been updated in a year make for a security risk. So make sure you consult with your webmaster or web developer prior to installing any of these plugins. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have a backup before trying out a new plugin.

Today we are going to talk about plugins that control comments, contact forms, and forums for WordPress.

Comments, Contact Forms & Forums

  1. Contact Form 7
  2. Thank Me Later
  3. Discuss Comment System

Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 is the most widely used wordpress contact form because it is easy to use, extremely flexible, and free. Contact Form 7 can manage multiple contact forms, plus you can customize the form and the mail contents flexibly with simple markup. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and so on.

contactform7

Download Contact Form 7

Thank Me Later

Have you ever posted a comment on a blog, or provided your email to a site and then received an email a few seconds after doing so?  You automatically think, “Well either that’s the most obsessive blog admin on the web, or this is an auto-generated email.”  Well, with Thank Me Later, you can make your ‘Thank you,’ emails far more personal through the ability to customize certain fields, and the best part… you can tell it to send hours after you the signup.  The beauty of this is the fact that it provides a much more personal touch to the emails that are programmed to be sent to new commenters and visitors. Thank Me Later sends ‘thank you’ emails to your commenters. Simply write a message saying thanks and it will be emailed after a time of your choice — 5 minutes, a day, a month, whenever!

thank me later

Download Thank Me Later

 

Disqus Comment System

Disqus, pronounced “discuss”, is a service and tool for web comments and discussions. Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.

Download Disqus Comment System

 

Ten Website Design Trends for 2014

Website Design trends are constantly changing. Every year brings new standards. This year’s website design trends include unique typography, flat design, large hero areas, mobile, videos instead of text, long scrolling sites, simple color schemes, simple content, no sidebar, and new technology. Some of these website design trends will stay and others will go but this post gives you the scoop on what we predict the top ten website design trends will be in 2014.

1. Unique Typography

For many years websites have used standard serif and san-serif fonts like Helvetica.  In 2013 there was a shift to more unique fonts with personality. This trend is definitely going to continue in 2014.

2. Flat Design

You can thank Apple for this one. With the release of iOS7 came the design aesthetic most commonly known as “flat design.” While eliminating drop shadows and gradients might seems like a good idea in some cases to give a more updated look to things, Apple took it to a whole other level by dropping pretty much any design element it could.

Apple has for a long time been a trendsetter, and what Apple does, the rest of the world seems to follow. iOS7 has been out for a while and already there are a flood of sites coming online every day with new “flat” designs.

3. Say Goodbye to Sliders and Hello to Large Hero Areas

Large hero areas (the “intro” area, often an image with a little amount of text, at the top of a website – a borrowed term from print design) on website home pages are very popular right now. Look at Line25’s Sites of the Week for the first week of January and you’ll see that almost all of them reflect this change in design.

4. Greater Focus on Mobile

Now that responsive web design is more commonplace, developers and designers are focusing more attention on the mobile audience (which is growing constantly). Integration with social media, asking for email subscriptions, long scrolling sites (see below), and fast loading sites all help make the mobile Web a more friendlier place in 2014.

5. Videos in Place of Text

Why read about something when you can watch it? In 2014, you will start to see websites with large videos in the hero area. The cost of video production is going down and they are increasingly easier to share online and on social media.

6. Long Scrolling Sites

Sometimes these are called one-page sites. This is a design feature that has come full circle. Websites used to have way too much content on long scrolling pages and then there was a shift to more complicated menu structures and additional pages. Responsive design and designing for a mobile audience has led us back to the idea that it’s actually comfortable to scroll down through content. The difference that 2014 brings is a greater attention to design – look for long scrolling sites with plenty of white space, unique layout, and fonts.

7. Simple Color Schemes

In 2014, we will see a lot more website with very simple color schemes. And by simple, we mean really only one or two colors.

Take for instance the UIKit site above. That site has only one hue: blue (in design and art, white and black aren’t considered colors, but neutrals). The use of a more simple color scheme seems to come with flat design (discussed above), but not always. The site above uses blue predominantly throughout the design, but it is the only color you see.

Some websites being launched now are using very little color, or even forgoing color all together. White, black, and everything in between are popular color schemes now, and adding just a hit of another color, such as red, adds drama and impact – all things that garnish attention when used in the right way.

8. Simplified Content

Simplified content means short bursts of content, a la Twitter style. Over the years as a population, our attention spans have become shorter, so designers have compensated for that by putting content in short bursts instead of long narratives. Not many areas (aside from blog posts) have more than 250 characters. This is because readers are scanning as a new way to consume content.

9. Dropping the Sidebar

You see this more in magazine and news sites, but many are experimenting with dropping the sidebar altogether. This allows for a more visual with content.

10. Manipulated Imagery

In 2014, we are going to see sites with images that have color overlays, blurred images, or even images that are reminiscent of Instagram images with filters.

11. Bonus – Cool New Website Technology

We are going to continue to see websites experiment with cool new HTML5-driven technology. For example, Tobi’s Story’s website is a great use of really cool things done in a great way.