Use this website review template to improve your site [FREE TEMPLATE]

In this article I’ll run through the main components in creating a great small business or startup website.

These points come from a free template (Google Doc) that you can download if you want to apply the ideas to your own website.

You can download the template below.

Grab the free website review template

We will email you the full website review template (Google Doc). You will also join 20,000 people and get my weekly emails with business and online marketing advice. 


1. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

What is it about your business that gives it a unique appeal to those in your target market?

Dollar Share Club don't just have a viral video. They also have a very simple USP that is articulated in only a few words.

Dollar Share Club don’t just have a viral video. They also have a very simple USP that is articulated in only a few words.

Some guidelines here:

  • The USP should be something unique about your business that appeals to the inner desires of your target market. The import here is that is appeals. Just being unique isn’t enough.
  • Ideally it can be expressed in a handful of words.
  • It’s supported by proof in the design and copy of your site.

2. Copy

Sales copy that re-enforces the USP and encourages people in your target market to take action.

Paperless Pipeline contains strong copy that appeals to the potential customers and reduces risk to encourage people to sign up for a trial.

Paperless Pipeline contains strong copy that appeals to the potential customers and reduces risk to encourage people to sign up for a trial.

Here are some key considerations to do with onsite sales copy:

  • Headlines that grab attention, intrigue the target customer and encourage them to read on
  • Clear definition of the problem
  • Clearly define the target customer (even in the headline or subheading if you can)
  • Clear presentation of the solution (as much detail as you can about what it is, what it does, how it solves the problem)
  • Evidence of proof that your solution solves the problem (testimonials, social proof, logos etc – anything adding credibility)
  • Clear call to take action
  • Reverse risk and address any objections.

3. Design

Have a modern, simple clear design that looks professional and enables visitors to focus on the content and calls to action.

Best practice example

At around 50,000 employees Apple are hardly a small business but they sure do know how to focus attention on their products with simple design.

At around 50,000 employees Apple are hardly a small business but they sure do know how to focus attention on their products with simple design.

Worst practice example

Word practice example: Hope you like green.

Word practice example: Hope you like green. Green on green call to action isn’t ideal.

Worst practice example 2

People's attention shouldn't be drawn to the background.

People’s attention shouldn’t be drawn to the background.

Here are some considerations for a small business website:

  • Make sure your theme is clean, professional and simple – strong colours or shapes should be reserved for focus points not outlying design
  • Support text with relevant, consistent and professional graphics (limit stock photos – if you can avoid them altogether do so)
  • Break content up using visuals, dot points, ample paragraph spacing etc
  • Don’t clutter the page / limit options
  • Clear calls to action with size, shape and colour used to differentiate from the rest of the page
  • 1 page 1 purpose, don’t try to achieve too many things on any given page
  • Establish a visual hierarchy – make it natural for someone to read through the page and arrive at the goal of the page
  • Make it legible (contrast against background, font size etc)
  • Make sure elements are aligned – small imperfections in alignment can hurt a design
  • Make sure colours are coordinated and consistent and strong colours aren’t overused
  • Generally bevels, drop shadows etc look dated unless you are working with a great designer. Simpler flatter designs are easier to make look professional in most cases.
  • Make sure all elements are consistent (style, colour, size etc)

4. Conversion Optimization

Each page is clearly designed around an obvious and appealing goal.

*Note conversion tips may vary depending on the goal. Here we will assume the goal is to complete a contact form or signup for a product.

MailChimp, beautiful design, large call to action button that stands out visually.

MailChimp, beautiful design, large call to action button that stands out visually.

Here are some conversion tips for various aspects of a web page. You can see these in action in most of the examples provided here.

Overall theme

  • Attractive and simple overall theme
  • 1 page 1 goal
  • Limited clutter
  • Optin stands out in colour and depth or in some other way
  • Visual cues towards opt in
  • Proof of benefits provided if possible

Top pages

  • Make sure your top pages are optimized for email optin (check Analytics for top pages)
  • Homepage (obviously)
  • Blog homepage is often a highly trafficked page
  • About page is often a popular page if the link appears in the top menu
  • Product pages might be the final destination before conversion so these obviously need to be optimized for conversion.

Value proposition

I mentioned above about having a clear unique selling proposition (USP). Now make sure that is turned into a clear reason to take action right now (i.e. sign up or contact you).

  • The benefits of taking action should be relevant to your target audience
  • The value should be clear
  • The steps for taking action should be simple and clear
  • The value should be backed up by some sort of proof (logos, testimonials, images etc)
  • If there can be some sort of scarcity or urgency this will increase conversion


How are you attracting people to your conversion point?

  • Benefit driven (don’t say ‘contact us’ say ‘improve your x today’)
  • Data filled (if practical)
  • Social proof (if practical)
  • Who is it for (if practical)
  • Grabs attention

Dot points or supporting copy

Depending on the conversion goal, this copy might be in the optin location or on the conversion page (i.e contact page or sales page).


Crazy Egg take the approach of specifically listing out reasons why it’s a risk free option to try their software

Here are some guidelines for supporting copy

  • Specifically what the benefits / features are
  • Who it’s for if not specified in the headline
  • Social proof (if practical)
  • Logos / security / memberships / clients / risk reduction (if practical)
  • Deal with objections if possible – i.e. Add message ‘100% privacy – no spam guaranteed’ with a padlock

Conversion images

  • Professional quality
  • Images that add credibility
  • People can work but generally cheesy stock photos don’t
  • Don’t take focus away from the conversion point if possible

Conversion call to action button

Crazy Egg: Simple, benefit filled button - supporting text to reduce risk.

Crazy Egg: Simple, benefit filled button – supporting text to reduce risk.

  • Button stands out in colour
  • Looks like a button
  • Text is benefit filled (if possible) and action-oriented

Conversion locations

Where on your site are you going to aim to get people to your conversion pages? Here are a few options worth considering.

  • Homepage (of course)
  • Sidebar of every page (assuming it doesn’t conflict with another goal of the page)
  • Blog pages (If you have a blog consider the blog homepage, scroll box, hello bar and post signature locations)
  • Pop up (aggressive but effective)

Landing pages

Dedicated landing pages will convert visitors much higher than normal pages within the standard theme. These are particularly effective for email optin.

Best Practice: MindValley Hispano: Courtesy of the Marketing Show this template converts exceptionally well.

Best Practice: MindValley Hispano: Courtesy of the Marketing Show this template converts exceptionally well.

5. Technology

Make sure the technology behind the site is up to what is required of a modern website.

  • CMS – Make sure your site is built on a modern, full featured CMS so you can maintain a regularly updated site yourself.
  • Hosting – Make sure your site loads quickly and has good uptime.
  • Backups – Make sure your site is regularly backed up and can be restored quickly.
  • Compatibility – Make sure your site looks good in all major browsers
  • Responsive design – Make sure your design looks great on smaller devices.

6. Content

Content is the future of traffic and SEO and it’s also a big driver of leads and conversions. Here are some guidelines for producing excellent onsite content.


Kiss Metrics have an amazing blog with epic posts added every day. It is responsible for 70% of their leads.

Here are some guidelines for creating exceptional content.

  • Make sure you have a blog or some way of publishing useful content for your audience.
  • Make sure you are regularly producing quality content. This improves your search engine performance and also shows your expertise.
  • Content shouldn’t be all about you. Great content should be about the reader. Case studies are useful but make sure it’s for the benefit of the reader and focus on how they can apply your results.
  • General content like ‘what is social media’ isn’t that actionable for people. Make sure your content is specific.
  • Put yourself in your customers shoes, work out what their problems are and solve them with your content.
  • If your prospects regularly ask you ‘how much does a pool cost’ then write a post about how much a pool costs.
  • People love openness and honesty, the more you can reveal the better.
  • Try to stay away from making content too technical. If it’s interesting to you it doesn’t mean it’s interesting to your customers.
  • Generic content turns people off. Have a viewpoint and some personality.
  • Plain text content is being replaced by graphic-heavy content (such as related images, audio, video, interactive elements etc).
  • This type of content generally works best particularly for search engines, so make your content in general long and detailed.
  • Make sure your content serves to build desire among your target audience. This will turn your content into a lead generation activity.
  • If you want to become a thought leader in your space, introduce new ideas that people (in your industry) haven’t come across before.

7. Personalization

People want to do business with other people, make sure your website reflects that.

Awesome use of personalization from 37 Signals.

Awesome use of personalization from 37 Signals.

Here are some guidelines for introducing personalization into your website.

  • Use people images, ideally real people not stock photos.
  • Make sure you include social media elements to show you are a real business that real people love.
  • Make sure your content is written by real employees with real author boxes under each post.
  • Include proof that you have real customers that love your business.
  • The owner of the business often drives the business, make sure their presence is prevalent on the site.
  • Make sure you have a great about page with pictures and a great story about the business and it’s people.
  • Make sure your contact page is personable and mentions real people or real teams.
  • Having a clear physical address on your about / contact pages or even in your site footer can help with personalization and proof.

8. Important information

An easy way to kill an otherwise great small business website is to fail to include the most important information. Here are some examples but the important information may be different depending on the business.

  • Phone – Include your phone number on your contact page if not every page (depending on your business and call to action). If your business heavily relies on phone leads then the top right is the best place.
  • Email – Check that your email address or contact form is easy to find (and it works and it’s monitored). Most small business leads go with the first responder.
  • Address – Show a physical address. This gives proof that you are legitimate and adds to credibility.
  • Products – Make sure your main products and services are well represented on your site.
  • Customers – People in your target market will relate to people like them so make sure your customers are prevalent.

9. SEO

There is a lot of information out there about SEO but the fundamentals have remained more or less unchanged for quite a while. Here are some basic guidelines.

If your site looks like this. Good luck to you.

If your site looks like this. Good luck to you.

Here are a few basic SEO inclusions.

  • Clean coding – Making sure it’s coded with clean HTML / CSS
  • Tags – Make sure your site is using the right tags in the right places (for example your post titles are H1 tags)
  • URLs – When someone visits your ‘product-x’ page the address is ‘’
  • Titles – Making sure your site automatically create page titles / descriptions etc based on the content created on the current page
  • Sharability – Make sure any content on your site can be easily shared (i.e. sharing widgets on your blog posts)
  • Authorship – If you have a blog make sure you are using Google Authorship so when people search in Google and find your post, your face (or that of your staff) is shown.

10. Analytics

Google Analytics has become the standard in web analytics.

Google Analytics has become the standard in web analytics.

Base minimum analytics setup:

  • Google Analytics – Standard Google Analytics header code added
  • Goals configured – Tracking of conversion goals established
  • Reporting – System in place to enable the business owner to see how their website is performing

Grab the free website review template

We will email you the full website review template (Google Doc). You will also join 20,000 people and get my weekly emails with business and online marketing advice. 


Additional resources

Dane Maxwell’s copywriting checklist (direct link to the PDF) <<— solid.


Dan Norris is a co-founder at WP Curve and a passionate entrepreneur with an obsession for content marketing.

28 responses to “Use this website review template to improve your site [FREE TEMPLATE]”

  1. Freelance Unleashed says:

    DAN… that my friend is one cracking blog post. In fact i’m going to be using elements of what you said in a presentation to a potential client this afternoon. Cheers.

  2. Edwin Rovers says:

    Dan, great blogpost. Very useful information indead. By the way… the subscribe for download isn’t working? I tried several times already but no joy…

  3. Dan Norris says:

    Hey Edwin I had a few bugs with it mate. It should be working now. If not just let me know your email or email me and I’ll send it through.

  4. Dan Norris says:

    Awesome man I’m glad you liked it!

  5. Temmy says:

    Hello, It’s still not working.I tried several times. Great tips by the way.

  6. Win Nguyen says:

    Hey Dan — just discovered your podcast/blog today searching for John Logar. Gonna listen to your podcast.

    Also, would love to get the template that you mentioned above 🙂 Thanks!

  7. Michael Woodward says:

    Hey Dan, greatly enjoyed the artcile and would love a copy of the template

  8. Dan Norris says:

    Hey Michael sorry mate I didn’t realize it was missing from the article. I’ve put in a direct link to the template up in the article now.

  9. Dan Norris says:

    Hey Win sorry mate, I’ve updated the article now with a direct link to the template.

  10. Michael Woodward says:

    Many thanks Dan

  11. Win Nguyen says:

    Fantastic. Thanks Dan! Listened to all of your episodes so far. John Logar’s and Brendon Sinclair’s are my faves for sure!

  12. Jason says:

    This is awesome! I love that USP is #1. This is the most important thing for any business/web design in my opinion, especially if it’s a custom designed website. I’m surprised how often things like USP, primary calls to action, and general business-related concepts are overlooked in web “design”. Much thanks!

  13. Dan Norris says:

    Thanks man, glad you liked it.

  14. gumpdotfr says:

    Thank you for giving away these advices…. This is so dense, It will take me time to absorb it all. It seems like a course but better as it is from your experience. This page make history on website making.
    John Dow

  15. Dan Norris says:

    Yeah buddy!

    [image: logo]
    *Dan Norris* *Cofounder** WP Curve *
    Mobile (AUS) 0434 152 966

    [image: Facebook] [image:
    Twitter] Latest post: We’re hiring a Content Marketing Intern (with a twist)

  16. Andrea says:

    Am I missing something? I have signed up to receive the template, but cannot seem to get it…the direct link in the side bar leads to another sign up? Please help – this is a fantastic article!! Thank you for your information and clarity.

  17. Dan Norris says:

    It should be emailed to you if you enter your email above. If not here is the direct link

  18. Andrea says:

    Thanks Dan, got it!

  19. Jim says:

    Thinking of signing up for the support package? Will I get my monies worth?

  20. Dan Norris says:

    Hi Jim, feel free to email if you have any questions about the service. We offer a full refund if you aren’t happy.

  21. Ness Baxter says:

    Hey Dan – heard your podcast with Natalie Cutler Welsh – looking forward to your team following up and helping me with my site which is too busy, too green and too much stuff on each page!!!

  22. Joshua Anthony Brand says:

    Lots to absorb but all such great advice. I think that the point on “Use people images, ideally real people not stock photos.” Is very important.

  23. Jane Robins says:

    With all my respects to the author, I would like to recommend a website builder for the far less experienced people who are not too sure where to look for the right service. Well, here

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  25. Rizwan Ali says:

    Thanks dan norris you doing wonderful job for this, i wanted to know the templates how can i find the free template for my website, some one told me try website builder who offer free like webgen , mostly suggested me this website , show me the link if you have.

  26. Yvonne Matthyssen says:

    Thanks for a great informative and educational piece of work. This is sooo much food for thought. I’ll have to eat it one bite at a time! Good luck with your new adventures!

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