We are always amazed at how many pet business owners we encounter who do not have a website, or have a very poor website, which can be even worse. A clear, well-designed, user-friendly website is a must for any type of small business today, including pet service businesses. Whether you are a dog trainer, a dog behaviorist, or run a pet sitting or dog walking business, your website should be your primary tool for advertising and marketing your services.
Why Do I Need a Website for My Pet Business?
Primarily, you need a website because, today, using an internet search engine is the most popular method for finding local businesses. If you do not have a website, a significant portion of your potential customers will never even find you. Also, people tend to research and compare multiple companies when looking for local services or businesses. If you do not have a website, it’s less likely that your company will be considered, as having a website is now considered to be an important factor for the perception of trust and credibility.
Next, you need a website to give potential customers a solid first-impression of you and your business. You only have one chance to make a first impression. There’s no better way to make it a good one by having a clear, professional, user-friendly website. Most people make a clear and lasting judgment immediately upon encountering a website. You can use this to your advantage by sticking to solid principles for designing a website and making key information clearly and immediately visible. Include photos and information about yourself to put a face and personality to the business. People like to connect with other people.
You also need a website to provide all the important information about your business that people want to see. For a pet sitting business, your services and rates should be easy to find and understand, as well as how to contact you. If key information is to hard to find or is unclear, many potential clients will simply move on to the next company. Having quick and convenient access to needed information can make all the difference when clients are deciding on a business to hire. Today, less people are willing to contact a company by phone or email to get basic information they need to make a decision. Especially, when most of your competition already has this information available on their websites.
What Should My Pet Business Website Include?
Having a poorly designed, non-functional, or convoluted website can be worse than not having one at all. So, the primary things your website should include are a professional design, a user-friendly structure, and a clear, useful layout. Fancy design elements can be fine, but contemporary web design trends are more simple and elegant, and people are more likely to prefer functionality over complex design. Although, one design element that you should have is a professionally-designed logo. This is not only important for your website, but for business cards and other printed materials your business uses.
As far as content goes, your pet business website should include the following sections and information:
- Main page (Home page) – The importance of the main page is often overlooked. If someone doesn’t like the look of your home page or can’t quickly identify how to navigate to what they need, it’s unlikely they will be viewing the rest of your site. Use good photos and images on your main page, but don’t overdo it. Make sure that your site navigation is clear, meaningful, and easily located. This is the page where you make your first impression, so make it count. The biggest challenge with your main page is striking a balance between visual impact and providing useful information and navigation. Many designers, today, like to use large “sliders” or “splash page” images. Although these can look great from a design standpoint, most clients are there to find information, and many will hit “back” if they can’t find what they need quickly.
- Services and Rates – This is probably your next most important page. If it isn’t listed on your main page, navigation to your services and rates should be very clear. Make sure that you thoroughly, but clearly, define exactly what services you provide and what those services include. Also, list your rates. Many people are not going to bother contacting you if you do not list your rates. The days of people “calling for a quote” are well behind us. People want to know what you charge before they call to set up service. Also, keep your rate structure simple. Too many pet sitting businesses have overly-complex rate structures that will only serve to confuse potential clients.
- Service Area Covered – Unless you want to be responding to endless inquiries from clients in areas you don’t serve, clearly list the areas you serve, whether it’s by county, town, neighborhood, zip code, or a combination of those.
- Contact Information – List both a phone number and an email address. Listing a physical location gives the appearance of more professionalism. However, if you work from a home location, you might not want to list it. A contact form is a great way for people to send inquiries, and you can use customized fields to get more focused information. But, you should also list a phone number and email address. Contact forms don’t always function correctly and many people prefer more personalized forms of communication.
- About – The “About” section is often overlooked or under-utilized by many businesses. This can be a part of your main page or on it’s own page. This is a great section to include information about you, your background, professional organization memberships, certifications, and credentials. This is also a good place to provide some information about what makes your business unique or why people should hire you. Altogether, this is a great section for marketing your business.
- Testimonials/Reviews – A testimonials or reviews page isn’t required, but it is a good section to include to establish legitimacy and trust. Many people will look at testimonials to get an impression of what other people thing about your business. However, most people put more trust in external review sites like Google, Yelp, or Angie’s List than the testimonials you place on your website yourself.
- Employment – If you want to hire dog walkers or pet sitters, include an employment page with clear instructions on how people should apply for a position or contact you. A customized employment form can be a convenient way to get all the information you need upfront. Also, if you advertise for employment on external job sites, you can point people to your employment page.
What Other Marketing Uses Does My Pet Business Website Have?
Many business have well-designed, user-friendly websites that provide clients with all the key information they need. However, many of these businesses also fail to fully utilize the potential of their websites as a marketing tool. Here are a few ideas about other ways you can use your website to generate client interest and provide an active and dynamic platform for marketing your business:
- Specials/Coupons – Offering specials or coupons is a great way to acquire new customers. You can offer seasonal discounts, special discounts for new customers, discounts for members of the armed services, or anything else you can think of.
- Updates/News – Having a section where you can post news or updates is a great way to show that your business is active and improving. This can give a good impression to both potential and existing clients. It’s also a great way to convey useful information regarding important changes to your website or business.
- Client Gallery – Having a gallery of client’s pets can add personality to your website, as well as promote client involvement and interest in your business.
- Local Pet Events – Having a listing for providing information about local pet-related events or organizations can show that your business is active in the community.
- Resources – Providing a list of useful resources can be a good addition. These can be pet-related resources on the web, or local businesses and other useful information for people who live in your area.
How Do I Get Visitors to My Website
Now that you have a website, how do you get people to see it? The primary ways that people will find your website are through search engines (primarily Google), any web directories that you are listed on, advertisements that you place (online or in local newspapers, newsletters, magazines, etc.), and through word-of-mouth.
The first thing you should do is make sure your business is listed on Google Business listings. These are the listings that show up in Google search results when you search for a business by location. Make sure you fill out all the fields completely and accurately. Also, having good reviews on Google will help you rank better for local searches. Read more about Google Business Listings for a Pet Business in our article which thoroughly covers that topic.
Make sure you employ some basic search engine optimization (SEO). This includes ensuring that you use good page titles, URLs, keywords and phrases in your content, and getting external links to your site. Review our article on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics for Pet Sitting Businesses for more information.
Try to get listed in some relevant online directories. These are less important than they used to be, but every bit of exposure helps and provides another way for potential clients to find your business. Also, make sure that all advertisements, whether online or off, include your accurate website address, phone, and email address.
Getting website traffic is actually a complex topic in itself. See our article on Generating Website Traffic for Your Pet Business for more information.
In today’s web-based marketing and advertising environment, having a website is a must for any business, no matter how big or small. Your website will be the first exposure many people will have to you and your business. So, you have to make sure this selling and marketing opportunity isn’t wasted. Taking full advantage of the potential of your website as a marketing tool for your pet business can make the difference between failure and success.
If you’re just starting a pet business, make sure you build it right from the start. If you already have an established site, but it isn’t doing its job as a marketing tool, then overhaul your site to get it in shape and working for you.