By Kelly Meeneghan, Manager
1&1 Internet Inc. (www.1and1.com)
In today’s technology driven world, it is hard to believe that a majority of small businesses still do not have a website. The reliance on the Web for decision-making has taken over the traditional marketing strategies and SMBs who do not adapt to this trend are quickly falling behind. Small Business Opportunities and leading Web host 1&1 Internet have teamed up to offer a free website makeover to a deserving small business owner hoping to take their online presence to the next level. While many deserving candidates were reviewed, one stood out and was named winner.
Personal fitness start-up, Cortney Lynn Fitness is the ideal small business story. With an established career in Marketing, Courtney Lynn found herself dreaming of turning her passion for fitness into a reality and now owns and operates her own personal training company.
“It wasn’t until after college that I got into strength training and really educating myself on fitness and wellness. I had friends coming to me for advice and tips on working out and I loved educating them on fitness and healthy eating. I ended up getting let go from my job last year, which I saw as a blessing in disguise because that is when I realized I should be a personal trainer full time,” says Lynn.
Similar to an interview, a business website is the first impression potential clients and customers receive of a business and strongly contributes to the purchasing decisions of consumers. Past research from 1&1 Internet proved that 46 percent of US consumers have cancelled plans to spend with a small business after discovering a poor quality website. A website should be attractive and beneficial for all visitors while portraying professionalism and credibility.
Prior to winning the Website Makeover, Lynn had an existing website that she created with a free website builder but was fully aware of what was lacking. “I don’t have much knowledge in the website design field, so I know I was missing key factors that you should have on your website in order to keep people interested and engaged,” admitted Lynn.
With the help of 1&1’s design expert, several improvements were made to her fitness website to improve its overall appearance and functionality.
Choosing a Relevant Domain
Creating an effective domain name is an important first step for any small business looking to be found online. It is often considered your company’s trademark and is a means of recognition and branding for your business.
Domain names should be crafted with the Web user in mind and should communicate, as closely as possible, the exact name of the company or business as this will be the most guessed domain. Due to her previous free hosting package, Lynn was not able to personalize the domain address to her business. The long address and complexity of the domain presented a challenge when trying to be found by both potential clients and search engines. At no extra cost with her 1&1 MyWebsite package, a relevant and customized domain now complements her website.
Lynn’s new domain, www.cortneylynnfitness.com, stays consistent with the business name and has a reliable and popular domain extension (.com). No longer will her domain name drive confusion by including the hosting provider’s name among many other elements, but it is short and direct to make it simple for visitors to remember.
Tip: Choose a domain that is relevant for your business but also straight to the point. A long name that references a slogan or business concept does not generate quick recall for visitors. It is suggested to keep it limited to 20 characters or less.
Build Transparency form Your Homepage
A website’s homepage is the deciding factor between if a visitors remains on the site to explore or abandons the site altogether. It is important that all vital information is included and prominently placed above the fold, or section of the page before scrolling.
Lynn’s old website offered little to no information about her business at first glance. All relevant information was below the fold, forcing users to scroll down in order to learn more – a requirement not many visitors are mindful of. It is important to offer as much convenience as possible and this includes providing all information necessary upon first view in order to grab attention immediately.
The homepage should communicate a mission statement or identify the purpose of the business so visitors fully comprehend the nature of the company. With Lynn’s old website, it was unclear exactly what kind of services she offered based solely off the homepage. Was her focus on nutrition, personal training, aerobics instructing, or possibly wellness coaching? Now it is clearly defined in the top of the homepage that Cortney Lynn Fitness is a business dedicated to personal training and group fitness.
Tip: Create a business mission statement or quote from the Founder or CEO. Showcasing this above the fold of the homepage will create transparency of your business and openly illustrate the purpose.
Providing useful takeaway pieces of information keep readers up-to-date and interested on your website. Too much text is both visually unattractive and draining for visitors to read. In fact, research has shown that people tend to be attracted to bulleted or bolded text before any other content. Therefore, bulleting valuable text allows visitors the opportunity to quickly scan the page yet still retain the most important pieces of information.
Cortney Lynn Fitness’ Services page originally contained a great deal of necessary text, which can be intimidating at first glance. Now, having the information separated and in a bullet format ensures that the appropriate take-away messages are obtained quickly and makes it simple for the user to process.
Tip: Keep text easy to scan. Typically, website visitors remain on a Web page for 10-20 seconds. It is important to get your key messages across in a quick and clear way.
Integrate Web Apps
Americans now have higher expectations of their online experiences demanding more interaction from all businesses online – big and small. Once considered a simple “online business card,” businesses now need to provide more interaction and convenience via their websites for visitors.
1&1 has answered this demand and now its MyWebsite packages offers the ability for business owners to integrate hundreds of reputable third party applications. Through simple drag-and-drop functionality, Web apps can be implemented to help streamline all online accounts for increased organization and business management. 1&1’s Web apps are designed to deliver improved ecommerce (Amazon, eBay, Ecwid, etc), communication (Skype, Calendar Wiz, etc), social media (Linkedin In, Pinterest, Google +1, etc), and daily task management (Slideshare, Website Translator, Statistic Summary, etc) for all professionals with an online presence. Furthermore, there are applications available for individual business types like Restaurants (Open Table, Yelp Reviews, etc) and real estate (Trulia Properties, Zillow, etc), for example.
Lynn’s new website can now fully leverage these features. Since she had an existing, active blog, her old website design tool required her to copy and paste each text and image of every post directly into the website to make it visible on both platforms. Now her blog is fully integrated into the actual body of her website so when a new post is made to her blog, it is automatically updated on her website as well.
Also, using a calendar Web app for upcoming classes and availability helps keep her business more organized and avoid any kind of double booking – a potential disaster for any start-up. Focused on her social presence, social media Web apps allowed Lynn to prominently display her active Facebook feed directly on her site. This strategy can help drive awareness to her social account and increase Facebook fans as well as generate effective two-way communication between herself and clients.
Tip: Integrating third party applications into your website is a simple way to synchronize all online efforts and save time in the long run. Facebook, Twitter and blogs are great places to start.
Make Contact Details Cleary Visible
No matter what type of business you have or how impressive your website is, it is irrelevant if customers cannot determine where you are located or how to contact you. Designating a specific area of the website to display static contact information can generate positive user experience and business success.
Previously, Cortney Lynn Fitness’s location, territory or best method for communication was unclear. Now, Lynn’s business information is static on the left-hand side of the website, so these details are visible on every webpage for quick reference. As perhaps one of the most important ingredients to a website, contact details should include the address, phone number, contact email, and territory if the business is a service. Consider a contact form within the “Contact” page as an additional avenue for communication. Omitting both physical address as well as phone number will raise caution and uncertainty for visitors hoping to do business with a company.
Tip: Incorporate more than one way to contact the business (phone number, email address and physical address) on a static location of your website as well as on your “Contact” page. Good locations on a page include the navigation bar or footer.
Cortney Lynn understands the true impact a good website can have on business. Providing positive results in both increased brand recognition and client business. “If your website isn’t good or people can’t even find you, that is business that you are missing out on. It’s important to have a good website that current and future clients can go to and learn who you are and what services you provide,” said Lynn.
Without the extra cost of a Web developer or designer, Lynn can make changes to her website when it works for her – in between appointments, late at night, at the gym, during lunch breaks, or even on the treadmill.
“My new website will hopefully keep people engaged and interested in clicking through to my services to see if I can provide what they are looking for,” said Lynn. “Especially if current and future clients do not have social media pages, the website will be a perfect place for them to access my blog and workouts.”
Small Business Opportunities and 1&1 Internet are excited to see Cortney Lynn Fitness reach new heights with the support of an effective website to help drive success and traffic both on and off the Web.
About the Author:
Kelly Meeneghan is a manager for 1&1 Internet, Inc. (www.1and1.com). As a global leader among Web hosts, 1&1 provides businesses with the tools necessary to get online and be successful.