If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a small business owner wondering what you can do to take your website to the next level. While content seems to be one of the biggest focuse((s for enhancing websites, user experience (UX) is still a top priority that is often overlooked. Nowadays, websites are increasingly prioritizing UX, and for good reason: nearly 90% of website visitors say they are unlikely to return to a website due to poor user experience. Whether it’s difficulty getting real-time help when they need it, not being able to find information, or inability to get in touch with a company, potential customers will quickly look for other options that address their needs if they don’t find it on your site.
Luckily, maintaining a well-functioning, user-friendly site that accomplishes these goals doesn’t have to break the bank. Even if you don’t have these features into your current site, you can add them in through apps and plugins, especially if you use a well-known content management system (CMS) like WordPress. As proof, here are 5 free apps and plugins that you can add to your website to create a better visitor experience and attract customers. (Note: we have not been compensated by any of the below products and companies in any way. The thoughts expressed below are our own and formed through personal use and research.)
Yoast is a plugin that allows your website pages to list keywords and metadata (page description and title tags) for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. As we’ve outlined previously, having an updated, active SEO strategy is key to attracting new customers and making sure those interested in your products and services can find you online. A plugin like Yoast makes including this metadata possible, so that search engines like Google can understand the content/information on your site and direct relevant search traffic to your webpages.
Yoast has been downloaded over 135 million times and is free, but it offers a premium upgrade for $89 a /year that includes additional bells and whistles like social media sharing previews and internal linking suggestions for new content. If you find you don’t like Yoast, there are other free plugins like All in One SEO that can perform the same task to help search engines understand your webpages’ contents. Regardless of which plugin you use, make sure you use it to associate key search terms with your pages so people searching for offerings that you provide will find you.
Drift describes itself as a “conversational marketing” platform, integrating live chat functionalities onto websites. Perhaps more importantly, it allows website owners to set up automated chat pathways that can help site visitors find answers to common questions and access key pages quickly, saving you time while still providing visitors with the information they were looking for. In this modern age where nearly 4 in 5 consumers prefer live chat because of instant responses, live chat helps provide real-time support to website visitors interested in your products/services. This often overlooked feature can provide significant payoffs, as websites that use live chat are overall 85% more likely to convert visitors into customers. In addition, live chat often allows you to save customer information for follow up later, whether for closing deals or responding to their request if they made a request after hours.
Drift’s free plan includes live chat functionality, proactive welcome messages, and storage of up to 100 contacts. Others options include Pure Chat and Chaport, with most platforms offering relatively inexpensive premium upgrades for additional features like multiple users and unlimited contacts.
If you’re like most small business owners, you rely on a digital calendar to organize your work week and notify you of your upcoming meetings. Calendly is an app that allows website visitors to schedule meetings with you that are automatically added into your calendar. It integrates with most existing online calendar platforms (e.g. Google, Office 365, iCloud) to help avoid double-booking time slots and notifies you whenever a new meeting is scheduled. Apps like Calendly integrate with your website to help prospective customers get in touch with your team, leading to conversions and new customers that drive revenue for your business. Instead of a meeting request via contact form which may take several days to coordinate, Calendly allows the prospect to instantly find a convenient time to speak with your team.
With Calendly, you pick your availability preferences (available time slots, meeting durations, etc.) and Calendly will use those to generate options for prospects to choose from. Alternatives include Picktime and Setmore, with each offering its own interface and differentiators. Fortunately, most appointment scheduling apps offer free and/or trial versions and integrate with Google Calendar, Office 365, and iCloud for streamlined calendar organization.
Writing strong content is only half the battle when it comes to having a successful blog, news, or other company-produced content page. The other key to success is to generate consistent traffic on your content pages, whether through SEO, newsletters, or social media shares. ShareThis is a plugin that once installed, allows visitors to share your website postings on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media channels. Considering that companies who blog already generate 67% more leads than those who don’t, adding buttons that allow visitors to share content which they find compelling can help bring additional traffic to your website, leading to an increase in website sales leads.
ShareThis is free to use and includes sharing ability for 40 social media channels. However, it does require coding knowledge (albeit relatively basic) to install, so if you aren’t comfortable with website code, it may be worth asking your site coder to take care of installation. Other apps offering similar capabilities are MashShare and Social9. No matter which plugin you use, the key for your business is to enable sharing your website content across social media to reach a wider audience.
If you have a contact form on your website (which you should if you want to capture sales leads), you’ve probably dealt with or continue to deal with contact form spam. Thankfully, there are now effective solutions for this time-wasting problem. Honeypot helps minimize the amount of bot-related spam you get through your contact form. It includes an invisible (to human page viewers) field that people will leave blank, but that bots will fill in. If the field is filled in, then the plugin recognizes this as spam and will address it as such, saving you the annoyance from getting a Contact Us notification only to realize that it was a bot that works for “Gogoogle.”
Other spam-fighting plugins include Akismet, which is free for personal sites and helps filter spam comments on blog posts, and Antispam Bee, which works in a similar way to block spam comments and is free to use. Most importantly, these plugins help you spend less time dealing with spam and more time interacting with human visitors who are actually interested in your offerings.
Whether you’re looking to make it easier for potential customers to get real-time support or for higher web traffic via social media channels, there are apps and plugins that can help you accomplish these goals at a reasonable or even zero cost. Most of these applications are very easy to install, so even if you aren’t sure where to begin, your web coder should easily be able to integrate these onto your website. Ultimately, these tools work together to help you grow your business by creating clearer pathways to potential customers through your website.