Dot Commerce: It’s no longer a question of whether your small business needs a website or not. It’s a given nowadays. The question now becomes: how do you create a website that stands tall above your competitors’, one that drives traffic, qualifies leads and guides users on a path toward buying?

Many small business owners aren’t proficient in website design. Why would they be? If you had told business owners twenty years ago the impact websites would have on their bottom line, everyone would be a website wiz. As it stands, most people have a lot of learning to do.

Luckily, there are a few practical, easy-to-understand tips that you can use when creating or updating your business’ website.

Dot Commerce: Website Tips for Small Businesses

Drive Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is complex. In lay terms, it is the process of ingratiating your website with a search engine, like Google, in order to achieve a higher ranking, and thus more visibility. Unluckily, a lot of modern internet users don’t make it to the fourth or fifth page of their search results. your business needs to appears higher for pertinent keyword searches. If your business, for instance, repairs vacuums in Chicago, you would want to rank highly for “vacuum repairs in Chicago” or other similar keywords. To do this, you need a clean, usable website, keywords used in the website search, quality up-to-date content and external links from trusted sites.

Capture Inbound Leads

Lead generation is an important function of a website. Essentially, a lead is someone who has expressed interest in your product or service, and lead generation is the process of turning a stranger into an interested buyer. You can read this to increase sales leads online– it’s an informative article that does a great job detailing four different methods for lead generation. They recommend creating a benefit-loaded landing page, using live chat software to qualify the lead and (as mentioned) upping your SEO game to drive more traffic.

Create Great Content

This tip corresponds directly with the two tips above. Creating and publishing quality content on your website drives SEO, which in turn helps you capture inbound leads. It also offers value. Say you owned a travel wear company; creating blog posts and videos about travel tips, places to visit, packing tips, etc. can encourage repeat visits, social media shares and sales. Set up a regular blog posting schedule and stick to it. Focus on creating a consistent, compelling tone that relates to your business and key demographics.

Keep It Simple

Clutter is a massive obstruction for customers interested in your product or service. Not only does it convey unprofessionalism, but it can literally obscure the parts of your website you want people to see. The contact page or an “action button” (like “sign up” or “download this”) needs to be clear, visible and without distractions.

Websites are fundamental to the success of contemporary small businesses. But if you don’t know your way around a website yet, don’t worry. With the right help and the right tips (read: the ones above) you can create a stylish, simple and successful website.