What is the Most Important Part of a Small Business Website?

The answer to this questions isn’t as simple as it sounds. If you talk to search engine optimization (SEO) folks, they’d say that SEO is what you should focus on. If you talk to web design folks, they might tell you ease of use or simplicity, but the answer is even simpler than that.

No matter what else you do with your site, if it does not have a strong call to action, it really doesn’t help the company brand. What do I mean by that?

Many sites I’ve audited and reviewed over the last five years have had weak calls to action or worse yet, several calls to action. Why is that so bad? Think about it. When you land on any site, the webmasters set it up to bring you to a decision. Even the news sites have a stated and unstated goal: to keep you on their site for as long as they possibly can. Why? So eventually you’ll notice something that catches your eye and you’ll click on it. Sometimes they get credit for having volumes of people on their site and they call it clicks per thousand (CPM). Sites that are more commerce-related should want you to do one thing.

Let’s look at Amazon. What do they want you to do? Buy. That’s obvious. How do they do this? They entice you to stay for a long time on their site and they’ll even present you with “Customers who bought this also looked at this” type suggestions. The longer you stay on their site, the more things you’ll buy. And if you are logged in, the more they can track where you go, what you looked at, and what tempted you. They’ve got marketing down to a science. Spend some time on that site and notice how they entice you to go to other parts of the site just by their suggestions. It’s a fascinating study in online marketing.

For service industries, however, your goal may be to just get a user to call you or to get a quote. Those are perfectly acceptable forms of calls to action. I say the simpler the better because the less you confuse your visitor, the more likely she’ll be inclined to use your call to action.

There are exceptions but those are not the norm. For instance, perhaps the ugliest site on the internet sells the most rental cars in Europe is Lings Cars. It is clearly the exception to the rule. What is Miss Ling’s call to action? I have no idea, though she gets a ton of traffic and just as many sales. I don’t recommend emulating her site because she gets a lot of bad press about it. Fortunately for her, she has been able to turn that press into a positive.

A call to action is something you, as a site owner, want me as a visitor or potential customer to do. One thing. Not seventy five like Miss Ling’s site, but one thing. The cleaner you can make the site, the easier it will be for visitors to execute that call to action.

clear call to actionIf you are “too close” to your site and don’t really know if you only have one call to action, ask a friend who has not visited the site in a while. Ask her to visit the site and get her views on what she thinks you (as site owner) want her to do. If it’s not 100% clear to her, ask her what you think you should do to make that happen. It’s an inexpensive way of auditing your own site. Actually it’s free.