The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
If you own a business or an organization, it is essential to have a company website if you are serious about being noticed and doing business with an international and global market. Wihile you could rely on local methods by advertising yourself in your local town, it is hardly going to get you noticed. Your message will go unheard and you will be relying solely on the wealth of the locals to support your venture. Unfortunately, it is not going to take you far enough and you will be out of business after your first year unless you work very hard at the flow of attracting new customers and keeping old customers returning. In order for some guaranteed success, you will need a good solid website as the forefront visual presentation of your business, access to social media networks, and an understanding of email platforms.
When building a company website, you want to have your visitors and customers more in mind than search engines. Your company website should have high-quality information that cannot be found anywhere else on the Internet and is strictly unique to your company. Just because you are a business does not give you any priority to be the top website in any search engine. The only way to get to the top naturally is to be a popular or important website that everyone wants to visit or by dominating in a specific niche or search query. You could also take the easy route and pay Google Adwords thousands of dollars to be listed up top. If you prefer the natural way, you will have to abide by the rules of every other regular and business website on the Internet. Google offers a very simple list on how to create google-friendly websites that will help both your visitors and search engines to better understand your website and index it faster.
This article solely focuses on the types of basic web pages, in detail, that you should have on your company website. Not all of these pages are required to be on your website, but will provide plenty of ideas if you are a start-up, or have existed for a while now, and are looking to add more information and pages to your company website.
If you already have most of these web pages and want to skip the basics and go straight to the advanced web pages, read more about having advanced web pages on your company website in the article, Essential Web Pages on your Company Website Part 2.
Logo / Brand – While not exactly a page, it is the brand image that defines your company, your corporation, your business, your product, and everything you do. The logo should be listed on every page and should be what you are using to brand yourself in every way, whether you want to share your logo with other websites for them to link to you, or if you decide to advertise your company profile in a magazine article, or sponsor yourself on billboards — you will want to make sure this is the image that everyone sees and remembers about your business. If a visitor leaves your website, regardless if they bought anything or not, the most important thing you will want them to remember is your company logo or brand. Although your products or services are the lifeblood of your company, the image you present for your company is the very first thing people will see. Just by remembering your logo or brand, they will remember something about your company, and are most likely to return in the future. On any website, the logo will always link back to the Home page.
Home – Your home page is the first page that your visitors will see. It is also the link that brings all visitors back to the main page no matter where they are on the website. What you put on it will be the defining moment of how you portray your company, your business, your products, and what you do. Your home page should provide any links for easy navigation across your entire website. A Call to Action button (CTA or CTAB) is a must on the front page. You will be lucky if a visitor reads everything on the front page, but the majority will skim right through it and if they do not see anything appealing, they will be gone in 10 seconds flat. According to The Google Gospel of Speed, your website has about 4 seconds to do its thing. After that, you may have lost a visitor, a lead, a potential client or customer, and they will never return to your website. So ensure your website loads at a fairly comfortable speed.
Menu – Your menu is your primary source of navigation and how your visitors will get to where they need to be on your company website. Ensure that you have a navigation menu that is easily understandable and lists the places you want your visitors to go on your company website. Try to keep the menu simple and do not overcomplicate the navigation menu with dozens of submenus. A complicated menu can scare away or frustrate any visitors very quickly because they cannot find what they are looking for and most likely will make the assumption that if your menu is complicated, so is your company website. Listing the main areas on your menu should be perfect for navigating your website. If you have additional areas that you would like people to visit, you can add those links to the home page, a sidebar, or the footer on every page.
Call To Action Button – Whether you choose to have a button or just a sentence or phrase with a link, you need to make the message you want your visitors to read to sound urgent. If you are selling a product or offering a service, you may want to offer a discount and offer it for a limited time only. Any visitors who come across it will feel the urgency and need to get what you have and get it now before your offer expires. Many infomercials do this — usually stating that if the caller orders within the next 10 minutes, the order will be doubled or additional incentives are added to get the caller to feel the sense of urgency and time running out. Fortunately, a few months later, you see the same exact commercial with the same limited time offer. It works because people who are excited about a product and rushed to buy it are more likely to spend more money on the product — especially if they are offered what they think is a great deal (and it may just be a great deal), but any commercial put on the air has to run its course on television wherever it is aired. You have time to think about it and you have time to call. The same ideology goes for the CTAB (Call To Action Button) — urgency creates heightened excitement and the need to get it now, especially if there is incentive to get free stuff.
About Us – The very first thing I look for when visiting a website is an About Us or About the Company page. I might take a quick glance at the home page for the information, but I know that the About Us page will give me the exact information I am looking for. Lacking this very valuable information negates the whole company as a professional organization. You want this page to answer all those questions people might have about your organization in general. Make sure the information presented is clear and easy to understand.
You will want to list your Social Media Network accounts on this page — though listing them on every page so they are clearly visible will help your social media efforts greatly. Whether you are on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, FourSquare, or any other network, you will want your visitors and customers to engage with you on all of these networks. You will also want to engage with your visitors and customers on every network because everyone has their favorites and if you ignore just one social media network, you may be losing out on visitors and potential customers. By making your company available on every social network, you increase your visibility on all search engines and increase your visitor base with the every opportunity your company websites presents for people to share your website and content.
Company Profile / History / Roots – You could include this page on your About Us page, but whether you have been in business for years or just starting out, people connect with personable and humanized companies. Believe it or not, the majority of your customers do not want to see you fail. They want to know that you will be around for a long time. Whether you are the sole owner or a joint venture, your company has history and people want to know about it! You want to share how you started up, your original vision and what it has become, what gave you the idea, how you surpassed impossible obstacles, and pushed through to stepping stones along the way, to become the successful company you are today. Your visitors and your customers want to hear about it! They want to know who you! So don’t be shy! Share that information!
Overview / Company Overview / Process – This page is different from your About page and your Company Profile. On this page, you will want to provide an idea of how your company actually performs its work; from the time a customer orders the merchandise, to the time you receive and fill out the invoice, packaging, and then shipping. Complete with pictures or videos. Whether you want to provide real photos or video from your organization or you could hire someone on Fiverr.com to create a minute or so animated video for you and provide a voiceover explaining what you do. You could also create a company infographic that will explain what your company does. Infographics have a tendency to be more attractive to people. While you never want to give away company secrets, you will want to make this page idiot-proof so anyone that comes across your website can have a complete understanding of your day to day operations of what is happening in the business. By sharing this information, you can establish trust with your visitors and customers and help them understand what it is your company does exactly. This page should be educational, informational, and fun to look at without going into too much detail. Use the KISS principle when explaining your company operations.
Contact Us / Support – Whether you want to provide a contact form, an email address, or a phone number, your organization better have some means of communication for your visitors, customers, clients, and interests to reach you. Communication is the number one key for any organization to continue its existence and provide customer-friendly service. Being able to contact you goes a long way for a positive image of your company.
Directions / Location – If you run a business where you sell merchandise to locals that may walk into your store, you will definitely want to provide direction from a series of locations: North, South, East, and West. As an alternative, you may include this page on the Contact Us page. Google Maps also offers an interactive map for your users to be engaged with so they may get directions right from their home to your place of business. You may also want to register your business with Google Places, which allows for your website appear in the top of a Google search for faster and easy discovery in order to help people who are looking for your services and are in or around your area.
Donations – If you are a non-profit organization, it is not wrong for you to ask visitors and potential sponsors and funders to donate monetary assets to your organization on a Donations page. You will want to establish that you are a non-profit organization seeking donations from people in order to sponsor certain events or charitable activities performed by your non-profit organization. You will want to always keep your donors up to date with where their money is going and what they paid for by sponsoring your organization.
You may want to create a separate page on the company website recognizing your partners and funders. You may even want to create medallion recognition in the form of bronze, silver, gold, and platinum — for those that have donated a small amount of money to a large sum of money to any sum of money. Every bit of recognition you give to your funders, supporters, and sponsors is a generous courtesy that will likely keep them supporting your organization in the future. You will also want to send each and every individual sponsor, supporter, and funder an email or official letter in the mail recognizing them by individual company or name. Do not send a mass email out thanking your donors, as they will see it is generic, and feel as if you did not personally appreciate their gift of support to your company.
FAQ – While not always necessary, especially if you have answered many questions on your About Us page, this page may be required to answer additional frequently asked questions or common questions for things that may be asked dozens of times a week. Not only will you save yourself man hours of answering emails for already known questions, but you will provide most of the necessary information someone is looking for without having ever interacted with them.
I remember purchasing a product with fine print, which I did not bother to read, that said: “You may purchase only one product at a discounted rate.” When I got my bill, I had actually purchased 10 different items, thinking the discount applied to them all, only to realize, they discounted only one item, and charged me full price for the others. I could not sue them or do anything about it. They had a page that clearly stated their terms of service. So while I was out about fifty bucks, the website I purchased the products from was protected.
Any major changes to the terms of service should be pointed out on the website itself or emailed to any customers who wish to be informed of updates regarding your business.
Blog – While a blog is certainly not required of any company website, it does allow for your website to keep a “freshness factor” to it. It shows both search engines and your visitors that you are alive and active. Your blog can cover an assortment of topics, from daily news to information about the products you offer and what is happening inside your company. You can also offer discounts strictly through your blog to your customers. A company blog allows for your audience to have insider information and a more personal connection into your company and allows you to include them in on your success along the way. Always be careful about what information you put out there and always be careful about what you say. Avoid writing anything negative or offensive and only put positive messages on your website that visitors will want to read and continue coming back to read. This is certainly not the place nor is it ever your place to bash or bad-mouth your competition. Keep your blog up to date. There is nothing worse than going to a company website who is trying to sell a product or service and noticing that their blog has not been updated in over two years or that they only update it once a year. If your blog is not up to date, than it is only safe to assume that your company is not either.
Site map / Links – A site map or links page is for both search engines and humans to discover all areas of your site with an easy navigation map set out in front of them. While not always necessary for smaller sites, large organizations should have a site map outlining pages. There are many tools and services that provide automation services that will automatically create a site map for your website. You will want to also submit your site map to Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools in order for faster discovery of your website and efficient indexing by search engines.
Search – If your website is small, you may not need a search feature, but larger websites that provide a search feature make things more easily discoverable on their website for customers that are searching. A search feature is a must for any e-commerce website that has more than 10 products. By putting products into categories and adding specific tags or keywords, your items will be more easily discovered by search engines and people looking for them.
Showcase: Services / Products – If you offer services or products, you will want to tell or show your visitors exactly what you are offering. This includes samples of your services or products via photos or videos. Whether you have a product of the day or week, you will want to provide any information to increase your chances of making a sale or converting a lead.
Categories and Subcategories – If your website has multiple product categories or services, you will want to list them on the main navigation menu or home page of your website as subcategories so that your visitors can easily access anything they want immediately. Doing this will help you speed your visitor time on the site to find what they want and help you make sales.
Pricing / Rates – Regardless of what services or products you offer, the most important thing that a visitor or a potential customer cares about and looks for on any website: How much is it going to cost? Your pricing system should be direct with no hidden costs, no hidden taxes, no hidden shipping and handling fees, and no hidden fees in general, and it is certainly not advisable that pricing remains hidden until checkout. Your pricing should be fair and competitive. If you are not the only one offering your product or service, you already know you have competition and there are plenty of others who most likely offer it at a cheaper price than you do, so be sure to do your research on any competition you may have and set prices accordingly so they will attract customers and turn anyone who buys from you into a repeat customer.
Newsletter / Subscribe – If you have a product or a variety of services you offer, you will want to send out a weekly or monthly newsletter. A Newsletter or Subscribe page will provide the option for your visitors to sign up. On this page, you will want to provide a solution for any visitors that want to opt-out if they have already signed up to be on your newsletter. You may also want to link to an anti-spam policy that you wrote on your privacy page to ensure your visitors that you keep emails to a minimum. Any more than 2 to 4 emails from your company per month is too much email for anybody and they will be inclined to remove themselves from your list. On the newsletter itself, you should always provide a way to opt-out of newsletters so that they will no longer be received. I can recall a number of newsletters I’ve opted out of, only to have to add the email address to my spam filter, because I still kept receiving newsletters! For some of those newsletters, I did not really want to opt out, but receiving several emails a week was just crowding up my inbox and making emails from those companies annoying.
Create lists and personalize your subscribers into groups. It requires more time and energy, but if possible, learn your target audience groups. For example, when subscribers sign up or purchase something and opt into receive emails, you will want to grab their gender, age, and what type of product information they would like to receive. A 25-year old man is not going to be interested in the purses that your company is offering, but he may be interested in the sports backpacks your company is offering because he enjoys hiking! The 32-year old mother of two young children who enjoys buying products from your website is going to be more interested in products for her children or herself. Sending people emails on products they are not interested in at all will cause many of your subscribers to opt-out immediately or block future emails from your company. People who subscribe to your newsletter are interested in what your company has to say and what it has to offer. Do them a favor and keep them interested by sending them things they want to read and things they are interested in buying!
News / Announcements – If you have not already incorporated a news page into your blog, than you may want to have a separate news page that basically covers any news or information regarding your products or services, including any articles in which your company, brand, or product was featured as part of a Public Relations Newswire Service. Having a news page will keep your visitors, customers, and clients updated on what your company is doing and how your company is doing. If you are a successful company with a good product or services and your company happens to be featured in the media, than you will certainly want to share any positive public information with anyone and everyone!
Testimonials – While these can never be proven true or not, it is still important to publish real positive feedback regarding your brand, service, or product. Having a page dedicated to testimonials will show potential leads or customers that other people have used your brand before and are satisfied with it. They will be more likely to buy or try your service if they read positive testimonial from real people. There are other places, such as Google Places, Google Plus, or Yelp, in which people can leave comments regarding your business as well. If you have an external page, this will only enforce the testimonial, especially if it is a positive review.
Green / Environmentally-Friendly – If you are an environmentally-friendly or green company, in which you reduce your consumption of material goods such as paper in favor of going paperless, payments in the form of Paypal, 2Checkout, or Stripe, or automatic bill payment instead of checks or money orders, having low-flow toilets or using high-powered blow driers instead of paper towels in the bathroom, using emails or e-newsletters instead of sending out business letters or using envelopes, or even have a friendly office in which the lights dim during the day or shut off when someone leaves the room. The thermostat in the office should also have pre-settings or automatic settings for when employees leave the office for the day or when no one is in the office on weekends. Offer paper and plastic recycling to your office employees. If your company does not have recycling, contact your local recycling center to determine how they work for businesses in your area. If no recycling program is offered, handle the recycling yourself or have a employees volunteer to help you by taking home at least one bag of recycling per week if there is recycling in their area. If you offer employee incentive, such as a free lunch or gift certificate at the end of each month or every few months for the person who takes home the most recycling throughout the year, you will certainly get more employees on board to actually do it. You will want to let your visitors know your company is participating in conservation methods to preserve the environment to the best of your ability. You may even go as far as taking photos of your office or green events that your company attends to show your customers you are serious about being green.
Encourage your employees to include a link in their signature with a bold line that states: “Please consider the environment before printing this email.” The message is very powerful and stands out. Make your employees aware that you are a green company and teach them how to be green if they are not already. Most employees who work for green companies are actually happier.
Many people are in favor of green companies and will be more likely to buy your products based on the fact that you are an environmentally-friendly company, even if the competition is slightly cheaper, customers may be more in favor of buying from your company because of your philosophies regarding the environment. You may also be eligible for government subsidies if you are a green company. There are companies that specialize in providing affordable certificates that recognize your company as a green company, which you will proudly want to display on your company website. Going green may save and make your company more money in the long run.
Thank You – A thank you goes a long way for any business thanking any customer. After all, without a customer, there is no business. Not only can you use this page with Google Analytics and Google Adwords tracking code, which could easily help you determine whether a lead or a visitor turns into a client or a customer, but you will always want to thank your visitor for buying your product or service. On this page, you may want to offer related products or services, offer a discount on the next purchased item, give them a chance to sign up for a newsletter, or just thank them for being a customer and tell them politely that you hope they shop with you again.
Only several of these webpages are actually necessary for a successful company website. You do not need to have every single one of these pages on your company website, but they should provide enough ideas for you to have plenty of information available to your visitors to find out about your company, your products, and your services. You always want to be as helpful to your visitors and turn them into customers as easily and fast as possible.
Having a website that is easy to navigate and fast will make a great impression on your visitors and customers. While anything on your company website should be easy to find, depending on the website size, a site map should always be offered in the footer.
Do not underestimate the power of the footer! While Google claims to give those links very little value, they are more helpful to real life visitors who quickly want to get to specific pages on your website. You should also include any up-to-date copyright information in your footer so your visitors know you are a current company and that your website is constantly being updated. You should also have an organized uncluttered footer which includes “quick links” to the most important pages on your company website, specifically a link to your company information and your contact information.
If you have any other interesting ideas for basic webpages that should be on a website, do not hesitate to share your information in the comments!
If you are interested in learning about more advanced web pages you should have on your company website, please continue to read our second article: Essential Web Pages on your Company Website Part 2.
Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.