A website can act as an unpaid sales person, 24 hours per day for you – if you let it. There are millions of people searching online now, some of whom are seeking your products and services. It makes sense to capture these people, and without a website you have no way of tapping into this market.
Your website should be far more than just an online brochure. It should aim to:
- Educate the user about your products or services
- Answer the user’s questions
- Ensure you are seen as trustworthy
- Capture information from users, particularly if your product is expensive
What constitutes a good website from a user’s perspective?
A user will generally visit a webpage and give you just a few seconds to capture their interest before hitting the back button. So make those few seconds count!
- Good, clear design – don’t confuse your user.
- Easy to navigate – make it easy for your user to find what they want. Have a clear navigation structure ideally at both the top and bottom of your page.
- Avoid flash or moving images, which will distract the user
- Have a great homepage which clearly describes what you do to allow the user to build trust in you.
- Have multiple webpages set up as “landing pages” for your visitors to land upon, ideally one set up to describe each product or service that you offer. Make it obvious to the user they have found the correct page by including plenty of headings and sub-headings on the pages.
- Have multiple contact methods on a separate contact us page to appeal to as many different types of people as possible. Include your phone number on every page – some clients will always prefer to talk when placing an order, so don’t risk alienating them. Make sure you include your address (which should definitely be a business address not a home address) as some people distrust websites where there is no physical address.
- Give benefits why your products will work, from the user’s perspective. Don’t just tell them what you do – write the pages from their perspective. Try and avoid the word I or We if you can, wherever possible. Try to present your products as fulfilling their needs, anticipate the problems they are experiencing and explain how your product overcomes their problems. This will convince the user that your product is suitable for them.
- Include a -meet the staff page- if possible, complete with staff photos and short descriptions of who they are. This builds trust in your company.
- Add to your content regularly. Consider having a news section or something similar. You need to make it -sticky- which means users want to keep coming back, to see what has changed.
- Provide prices on every page or have a separate price list page. Some users shop around for prices, and disregard websites that do not include prices. Do not regard a PDF download price list as fulfilling this requirement as some users either will not, or cannot download PDFs.
- Advise users of any certifications or affiliations you have, again this will help to build trust. Examples are membership of the FSB, FMB, AIT or anything which is industry specific for you.
What constitutes a good website from Google’s perspective?
It is important that Google regards your website highly, as this means you will be higher up in the listings.
- Choose a clear domain name, ideally with no dashes or underscores. Ideally you will have performed this research and registered the domain name upon the creation of your company.
- Make sure the Page Descriptions (metadescriptions) on every page are succinct and entice the user to visit your website. Often the page description appears next to the website name in searches.
- Make sure each page has a sensible name that matches the product you are offering. Don’t include the name of your company in the title – just the name of the product. Example would be Time_Management_Training. Google allows underscores to break up words. This will also assist with SEO if keywords appear in the page titles.
- A website that changes regularly may rapidly go up the Google searches listings. One way to do this is to make sure you buy a website that can be updated regularly through a Content Management System (CMS). If you are able to, create a blog and host it on your website (try WordPress). Link to the blog from the main website and then make sure you blog twice per week at least on relevant topics.
- Google pays more attention to the headings and subheadings on your page than to the rest of the copy on the page, so make sure you make the headings match what you want to be found for on Google.
- Avoid flash websites as Google is unable to read them correctly. Smaller amounts of Flash images are fine.
- Create a sitemap and upload it to Google. This tells Google about all of your pages so it knows about all of them. Sitemaps can be created free from various tools such as http://www.xml-sitemaps.com . Once you have created your sitemap, you will need to upload it to the Google Webmaster Tools at http://www.Google.com/webmasters/tools or alternatively ask your web designer to do this for you. Note you will need to verify your website first, which means you need to prove you own it. Again your web designer can help with this.
What constitutes a good website from the website owner’s perspective?
As well as worrying about your users and Google you also need to consider yourself and your long term goals for your company. So ideally you need to also consider the following:
- Aim to catch a user’s email address. You can do this by offering a free report, ebook or something similar in exchange for their personal details. Don’t ask for too many details or your users will not bother to fill in the form! Just a first name and email address will suffice. Email subscription systems to consider are Emailbrain and Constant Contact. If you don’t mind writing a series of emails to go out, you can set up an auto-responder set of emails. These will generally go out daily or weekly to those who sign up and the benefit for you is that you don’t need to remember to send them out as it happens automatically. A great example of an autoresponder is Aweber. The benefit of having permission to contact these people is that you can educate them about your product, tell them about great new offers, and conduct market research free of charge.
- Make sure you install tracking on your webpages. This means you will be able to trace back where all your enquiries come from. Two great free tools are Google Analytics, and Hittail (hittail.com) . The main advantage of Hittail is that it works in real time, unlike Google Analytics where you cannot see the results until the next day. This means you can see what people are finding your website for, within a minute or two of them hitting your website. This is particularly useful when setting up AdWords campaigns where every hit costs you money.
How can I set up a website cheaply?
- Buy from a website designer you know personally, possibly through networking. This means you are more likely to get a personal service. If this is not possible investigate options online or hire a freelance from a website such as peopleperhour.com.
- You can register names and set up web hosting yourself online. I have multiple domains set up with Fast Hosting Direct, who charge me £25.73 per year per domain for a domain name, 1 year hosting, and unlimited email addresses for that domain.
- It is possible to write websites yourself however you will need to attend a basic Dreamweaver course first or watch a few tutorials. I would suggest you buy a template from a professional designer as this will save you immense amounts of time, as well as make your website look extremely professional.
How do I get my website found?
Once you have your website set up correctly, you will then need to get it found by users. There are two ways of doing this which should ideally be used together:
1. Use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO will get your website found organically, which means you will appear in the search results without needing to pay for the privilege. The main disadvantage is that you cannot always direct users to the correct webpage, and they may end up on your home page. If they cannot quickly find what they want, they may leave! Another problem is that SEO usually takes several months to work.
2. Use Pay Per Click methods such as Google AdWords. PPC will get your website found instantly by potential clients. You can direct people to the correct page for the relevant product or service which means they are less likely to leave for another site. A PPC Campaign starts working within 10 minutes of its inception so it is instant. The main disadvantage is that AdWords can be difficult to set up at first, so you may wish to attend a PPC Course to ensure this is done correctly. Another problem is that it can be fairly costly so you need to track it closely, particularly in the early stages to ensure you are getting the type of visitors you expect.
Whichever method you use, it is imperative you track your results carefully. You will particularly want to track conversions. Conversions are when a user takes a desired action on a website, which might be:
1. Sign up to a newsletters
3. Contact us request
4. Download of a PDF or similar document
You can install conversion code through Google AdWords or set up goals in Google Analytics, you can either do this yourself if technically competent, or ask your website designer to do this for you.
Once you have started attracting traffic to your website, and started measuring conversions, you will need to measure your results to check your website is performing as expected. Example questions might include:
1. How many new inquiries have been received today from the website (make sure you ask where people heard of you)
2. How many leads have been generated through the website
3. How many sales have been generated from the website
4. What is the bounce rate for your visitors? A bounce is when someone visits your site, realises it does not answer their questions, and instantly clicks the back button. This information can be found in Google Analytics.
5. How many document downloads have there been?
Once you have started measuring your results, you will soon be able to determine whether or not your website is making money, and determine your Return on Investment.
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