Tips for Building and Maintaining an Effective Website

Our most recent and upcoming Better Business Digital Supplement are sponsored by Redken, Matrix, PureOlogy, L’Orèal Professional, Mizani, Baxter of California, SalonCentric, Essie and Decleor–this is must-see content that you don’t want to miss. 

Anatomy of a Website

Here’s the good news: Your website doesn’t have to do everything, or be everything to everybody. It just has to do a few simple things well: help clients find you online; make it easy to book an appointment; list the services you offer; and convey the essence of your salon brand.

Discoverability is key. Your clients are trying to find you online, and if your salon’s name doesn’t come up at the top of a Google or Yahoo search for salons in your city, your website isn’t working as hard as it should. Search Engine Optimization—or SEO—is the technical term for practices that include using keywords and metatags to capture the attention of the major search engines and cause websites to move higher in the list of search results. Many Web hosts, like Squarespace and Wordpress, come with SEO built in. Even if you are on a platform that offers such help, SEO is one reason to engage the services of a professional, at least in the initial design and launch of your website.

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Happily, discoverability is also boosted by a number of factors that are easier for non-techies to understand (and to do something about). Engagement is a blanket term that encompasses the ways in which visitors interact with online content: commenting, tagging, reposting on social media, online booking. All things being equal, more engagement will equal more hits. >

Tips for Building and Maintaining an Effective Website

❶ Make it easy for clients to find you by putting address information not just on the homepage, but on every page.

❷ A link to an online mapping site, such as Google maps or Yahoo maps, is a must.

❸ Links to all of your social media accounts should be at the top of every page, not hidden away. Social media engagement increases discoverability, meaning your site will move up in search engine results.

❹ Personalize your page with logos, colors and typography that reflect your salon's personality.

❺ Your phone number should appear prominently on every page.

❻ List your hours. And while you're at it, make sure service menus include pricing. The more you make potential clients wonder, the more likely they'll click away from your site without taking action.

❼ Include features that generate engagement.

❽ There is no single more powerful Web tool for salons than online booking. Make it easy, and make it obvious. (Note: It appears on this homepage more than once.)

❾ Give prospective clients a taste of the salon ambience by including interior shots. It's a big part of who you are.

Site Specifics

1. CHANGE IT UP

Offering fresh content is one way to create engagement. Whether it’s a salon blog, client reviews, or rotating coupons and deals, make sure your website is dynamic and ever-changing, giving clients a reason to come back and spread the word via sharing and tagging.

2. CONNECT WITH SOCIAL

Put links to your social media accounts on every page, preferably in a prominent spot near the top. Social media engagement not only increases discoverability, it’s a powerful tool on its own. A prospect may only visit your website once, but if that results in her following you on Facebook, you’ve created a long-term connection.

3. DON'T FORGET THE BASICS

The second goal of your website, making it easy for clients and prospects to CONTACT you, is the easiest to achieve: Put your salon phone number, address and email address on every page. Many salons neglect to do this, probably because they fear it'll look pedestrian or (gasp!) commercial. Get over it. There are ways to make it pretty and make it pay.

4 BOOKING: THE ULTIMATE GOAL

Better yet, cut to the chase with online BOOKING. Your website exists for one purpose: to put clients into chairs. So make it easy for clients to book whenever the mood strikes (or they'll go to someone who does).

Some salon management software has functionality to integrate directly with the booking link on your website. Even if your salon doesn't use such software, it's possible to link to booking sites like styleseat.com or to general market scheduling sites like schedulicity .com. Setting up online booking in a way that works for your salon is another reason to hire a professional web consultant to design and build your salon website.

5 GOING MOBILE

Websites designed to automatically scale to any device ensure that clients and prospects will find you no matter how they’re surfing. Experts now recommend a mobile-first strategy—designing sites first for optimal viewing on a smartphone – since it’s easier to scale up than down.

6 SERVICE MENU, PLEASE

Prospective clients looked you up online wanting to know what you do. Don’t be coy! Every salon should have a SERVICE MENU online, preferably with pricing. Every prospective client has a ballpark price in mind. If you make them wonder whether you're in the same range, they won’t even call to ask. Next!

7 SHOW, DON'T TELL

COMMUNICATING who you are as a salon—your artistic vision, your personality, your niche—is where the real creativity comes in. An online portfolio is a common strategy but can be tricky. Remember that clients looking at a photo online will always project themselves into the picture. Posed, professionally-shot model images can look too finished, too polished or just too “out there” for clients to imagine themselves in the picture. A surer bet is to use layout, design and typography, as well as the message conveyed by the text on your pages, to telegraph your salon’s personality to the online world.

A few final tips

■ Focus most of your effort on the home page: Most visitors will never see anything else.

■ Make sure you have full access to the back end of your website, including admin passwords for the Web host, even if someone outside the company is maintaining it for you.

■ Keep the bells and whistles to a minimum. Think of your website like your front window: Anything you put there is simply designed to get them in the door.

■ Cross-promote your website in the “real world”: Include the URL on business card, salon signage and email blasts.

■ Update your website regularly, just as you would your salon promotions or retail offerings.

Rules to Live by

■ Your website doesn't have to do everything. It just has to do a few things well.

■ Make it easy for clients to make appointments day or night by offering online booking.

■ List the services you offer and post an online price list.

■ Include prominent links to your social media accounts.

■ Use images, typography, colors and design to help convey the essence of your salon brand.

■ Just as you'd use an architect to design your salon, it's worthwhile hiring an outside expert for the initial development of your website.

 

Photography courtesy of matrix (beauty SHOTs); veer (salon)

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