Originally posted on Business2Community.com

Every business today has to have a website, even if only to serve as a basis for customers who are researching stores or service providers in their local area.  A local business information website is not difficult to set up – there are many templates available that simplify the process and still give you control over the look and feel of the site.  Knowing what to include on your website can be tricky, though. You want to have all of the essential information on your site to help viewers choose you over your competitors.

Above all, your home page is the best opportunity you have to let people know how you differ from your competitors. Consider the homepage your business’ sales page – include a short paragraph about the business and explain how your business helps customers.  Here is where you want to make your value proposition stand out.  For a great example, see Dr. Joseph Lee’s website for his dental practice in Mountain View.

Here are some additional website must-haves:
1. Each product or service should have a separate page with a description. You can list all of the products and services on one page and then have each one link to a new page with detailed information.
2. Never, ever launch a website without a contact page. What good is a business if consumers can’t contact you?
3. Including the prices of your products and services will motivate some customers to order right away. If you’re not upfront about your prices, consumers will wonder why.
4. Any quality business should have positive reviews and testimonials showcased on their own page.
5. Include a frequently asked questions page and add to it as you notice repeat questions.
6. Any valuable business will be committed to providing consumers with everything they’re looking for. Include links to helpful articles that in some way relate to your business.
7. Your “About Us” page is where you’ll introduce yourself, your business and your style to the public. This is where you’ll gain your reader’s trust, so make sure the writing is of high quality and that your purpose is effectively communicated.
8. Any business that sells a product should have a money-back guarantee and it should be included on the website.
9. Online shoppers are often concerned with privacy. A lot of personal information is being transferred to the website. Include a privacy policy on your website so that customers know their personal information, including their address and credit card number, is protected.
10. Your website should have a site map, which makes it easy for some visitors to find what they need right away as well as helping search engines list your pages correctly in search results. For people who don’t have time to browse your website, a site map will immediately send them where they need to go.
11. In order to protect your website and its intellectual property, make sure to include copyright information on every page.
12. Updating your website with the latest news about your business is a great way to make sure visitors perceive your business site as fresh and up to date.

Having a website is just one part of having a strong online presence.  It can serve as an anchor for all of your online marketing efforts, such as directory listings or online display advertising.  Don’t let the internet pull your customers away!  Even local businesses can leverage the power of the internet to help them increase offline traffic.