Your HVAC business gets one chance to make a strong first impression on its prospects online. When someone visits your site, his or her first impression will either be a cause to contact you, or leave — possibly landing on a competitor’s site.

What makes the difference? How do you turn your site into an effective lead-generation machine? The answer, in large part, relates to strategic website design.

In the HVAC industry, there are certain principles at work, guiding effective web design that builds business. To create the kind of site that attracts prospects, generates leads and helps you grow your business, keep these best practices in mind.

Simple site design. Skip the cluttered, oversaturated website design that overwhelms and confuses visitors. Instead, opt for simple, easy-to-navigate pages. You want your website visitors to find information easily and quickly.

Uncomplicated navigation menu. Part of simple organization includes the setup of your site’s navigation menu. Stick to six or fewer main items (the most important pages on your site), with other pages grouped in sub-menus, if necessary. Make your “contact” page the last item in the navigation menu.

Prominent contact information. Your location address, phone number and email address should be front and center throughout your site, making it simple for someone to contact you. Make sure this contact information matches your listings in local directories and review sites.

Company information. Expect visitors to want to know who you are and a little bit about your history. This information should be provided in a way that communicates why your business is the one to choose. Keep in mind you have only moments to grab the attention of prospects and draw them deeper into your site. Distill your company message into a simple statement or two on the home page, and provide more in-depth content on your “about” page.

Services information. Prospects not only want to know who your company is, but also what it does. Create pages for each of the services you specialize in to give visitors information about what you can offer them.

Location information. Where do you work, and what cities do you serve? If you’re targeting specific cities or regions, create content that uses those terms. Setting up unique pages for each individual city you service, for example, is a great way to build rankings for those areas.

Pricing information. One of the most likely places to lose prospects is when they have to contact you just to get an idea on pricing. If you can display fixed rates or estimates on your site, you may be able to increase your website’s lead conversion.

Calls to action. When it comes to website design, if you want a visitor to do something, you have to ask. Looking to build leads? Put a contact form throughout your webpages and ask visitors to fill it out for a free quote or more info. Want visitors to call your office? Ask them, clearly and obviously, right next to your number.

Testimonials. Online customer testimonials and recommendations are gold. Prospects feel more confident about working with a company that is respected and showcases a website filled with positive testimonials.

Fresh content. You don’t have to be in the content creation business to see the benefits of regular blogging. HVAC websites that are regularly updated with blog posts of fresh content tell search engines they’re active online, and communicate authority to visitors. What should you blog about? Start with what you known best — HVAC tips, stories, etc.

Keyword-optimized content. Want to rank higher in search results when local prospects are hunting for what you do? You need keyword-optimized content. All your webpages and blog posts can be more powerful when they’re optimized for keywords relevant to your services and geographic location(s). That way, when someone goes hunting for “affordable HVAC near me” in your city, it’s easier for your site to come up.

Professional photos. If you think HVAC is an industry where attractive photos don’t matter, think again. A picture speaks a thousand words, so if you want to communicate value quickly, pictures are vital. Skip the stock photos that anyone could have on your site, and opt instead for photos that communicate more about your team, your services, your area or other information about what you offer.

Turning your HVAC website into a round-the-clock marketing tool is a worthwhile decision — one that can keep bringing you prospects and business. So, to make your site as effective as possible, use the best practices above. Give your website visitors the information they need, and make it easier for them to want to contact you.