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You are either online, or your competitor is!
These days people are busy. They go to the Internet for information because it is easy to find what they are looking for.
A lot of SME (small to medium enterprises) fall into two categories with websites. They are either not on the Internet at all, or they have made the correct decision to have a presence on the Internet, and have paid $200.00 for a website.
Is your business easy to find on the Internet?
If it isn't let's hope your competitors are as hard to find as you are.
Right decision, wrong implementation.
If your competitor has a website, it is a fair bet that you should as well. Having said that, establishing a website that is going to form part of your business’ marketing and promotional arsenal, needs to be approached in a systematic and measured way, the same way any new business or large project would be. The site will be a 24/7 salesman, whatever purpose you use it for, so you need to decide if you are going to give it the resources required to make your salesman a star performer.
The purpose of this web page is to list the fundamental areas of any website that must be addressed for it to stand out from the crowd. It is really a checklist of topics that if all the boxes have been ticked, you will have a website that will perform better than 99% of the websites on the Internet. The Internet is awash with websites that aren’t worth the hosting fee that is paid each month, let alone adding any value to the business.
This web page is written on the assumption that you haven't got a website, and you are at the planning stage. If you already have one, it won't hurt to read through this page, as we find most website owners have to do some major reconstruction of their sites after visiting this website.
You can use this web page for
This page has been kept brief to give you an overview without information overload. For a more technical explanation of topics on this page, go to our Resources page.
- Your own checklist if you are building your own website.
- A checklist of items that you can make sure your website builder has included in your website.
- Audit your existing website yourself.
Let’s start the planning process.
I am assuming that you have completed your business plan. Refer to our online e-Business fundamentals page for some direction if you haven’t. You need to have covered areas such as
The information you gather during the business planning process gives you content you will use on your website pages. This information will also make your first decision relatively easy, what is the objective of your website.
It could be one or more of these options;
- Product or services identification
- USP (unique selling proposition, what differentiates you from your competition)
- e-Commerce. You will sell products from the site.
- Enquiry generation. Business opportunities will be created from either an enquiry form or by direct contact.
- Company profile. The website gives an overview of the products and services provided by your Company. It is essentially an online brochure and may contain a lot of technical specifications of your products. This is really what 90% of the websites on the Internet are. Most have little or no sales copy, and any expectation of sales or enquiry generation would have to be low.
- Generate advertising revenue. Your site has excellent content or offers a great service for free, and gets advertising revenue from companies wanting to appear on the site.
- Generate referral revenue. Your site again has excellent content or offers a great service for free, and gets a commission by referring visitors to other companies' products or services.
Assuming the major objective of your website will be to generate more business, or be the sole generator of revenue for your business, then as has been stated elsewhere on this website, two fundamental criteria for a successful website have to be achieved.
What are the two criteria again?
- Sufficient unique visitor numbers
- Marketing effectiveness by having enough persuasive elements in the sales copy to convince the visitors to your website to take the action you require, be it to purchase something or make an enquiry.
Let's examine these in more detail.
Visitors To Your Website
The quantity of unique visitor numbers is dependent on how “visible” your website is on the Internet. If the promotion of your site is poor, few will visit. If few visit, your success will be severely limited.
So How Do You Promote Your Website?
Because 87% of Internet users find products using search engines, your website needs to appear on the first page of the most popular search engines and directories when a search term relating to your business is typed into their search query box.
If you are paying for a listing or indexing on a major search engine or directory, it is even more important that you ensure your website appears near the top of that search engine's rankings.
So How Do You Get Ranked Highly By a Search Engine?
We will use “Blue Widgets” as the fictional product you are selling on your website to show you how to employ some of the more important elements yourself.
- Keywords are the key to why a search engine will rank your site highly. An Internet surfer seeking information about “blue widgets” will key “blue widgets” into the search engine’s search query box, click on search, and wait to see what appears on their computer screen. The search engine then searches its data bases for any website pages that contain the words “blue widgets”. If any of your website pages contain the right number of keywords in the right places, that page will be ranked highly. The Internet surfer will normally choose a result that is at the top, or one that looks like it may yield what they are looking for. This leads me to the next most important element.
- Title. When we refer to title, we are not referring to title as in book, but the HTML (hypertext markup language) title that every website page has. This title appears in the search engine results as the blue underlined hyperlink to your website. Imagine if these two search results appeared in a search for “blue widgets”:
Which link would you click on? Note the use of keywords in the title.
- Home page
- Blue widgets, all you need to know
- Description. The description is similar to the title, but a website page doesn’t have to have a description. If it doesn’t have a description, the search engine will randomly search out words surrounding the keyword and use these. That is why you often have nonsensical phrases following under the title such as "……blue widgets are not for……". It is far better if you provide a description full of keywords that are relevant for that page.
- Headings are used by search engines as an indication of the relevance of the page. By headings we mean actual headings used in the text that are seen by anyone reading the web page, but it is also identified as a heading by the HTML code. Headings text is surrounded by h1 to h6 HTML code. You need to use keywords in headings.
- Frames are not liked by search engines. This is why you will notice even the best websites don’t use frames even though they are a nice feature. Frames are evident on websites when only part of the page changes when a hyperlink is clicked.
- YouTube videos. If your website features a YouTube video, Google appears to favour those websites.
- Links from other sites to yours are extremely important.
- Keywords should appear in text hyperlinks that link to other pages of the web site.
- URL selection. If possible select an URL with relevant keywords. A URL such as www.ajhenderson.co.nz tells the search engine nothing about the business. The URL www.carrentals.co.nz tells the search engine this site contains information about car rentals.
For more SEO elements and technical details, refer to our SEO page.
This is all very well if you have been indexed by the major search engines such as Google or Yahoo, struck it lucky and appear on the first page search results because your product or service is unique. What if you are in a highly competitive sector? How else can you drive visitors to your site? Here are some ideas that cost nothing and can be implemented immediately:
- Emails. Set up an auto reply to any emails that you receive that contains a link back to your site. It goes without saying that any emails you send out should contain a link under your contact details.
- Articles. Write a 300-500 word article rich in keywords with a link back to your site, and post it on a site such as ezinearticles.com.
- Post classified adverts on the Internet.
- Submit press releases on press release directories.
- Submit a PowerPoint slide show to a slide show directory.
- Join forums and blogs. Use keyword rich content, and include a link back to your website.
- Social bookmark your link on one of the social networking sites.
Other techniques that can be employed to drive traffic to your site are
- Email marketing
- Viral marketing – you give something small away for free or sell it cheaply like a downloadable e-book on “An introduction to Blue Widgets” which has your website link in it
- Affiliate marketing – you engage others to sell something on your behalf, and when successful, they receive a commission
- Stationery – all your business stationery should show your website address.
Getting visitors to your website is only half the equation of a successful website.
It is probably the easier of the two criteria mentioned. Now you have your visitor, how do you persuade them to either buy something or contact you?
You need to develop a strategy of how your website is going to persuade your visitor to do what you want them to do, and what elements of persuasion are required to be present in your website. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer wanting your products. What would you be looking for in a website that you may want to purchase goods? High on my list would be credibility. Does this crowd look credible? Is there enough information on the site for me to make an informed decision? What risks are involved? Your website has to provide answers to these sorts of questions, and quickly.
Six questions are asked by any potential customer of any business:
- Are you trustworthy?
- Are you believable?
- Do you understand what I want?
- What's in it for me?
- What do you require from me?
- Is what you are offering worth it?
Websites have very similar credibility issues as any bricks and mortar business. The big difference with websites is they are just one click away from losing the potential customer. There are no physical barriers to stop the visitor clicking away from your site and on to your competitor's website.
You need to think about how you are going to persuade your visitor to do what you want them to do.
As mentioned earlier, most websites really only introduce the company, show what services or products are on offer, show a price, and let the visitor make up their mind as to the next step. Hopefully they make contact with you or purchase something.
Depending on hope isn't going to cut it. You need something much more powerful.
Referring back to the 6 questions above that have been a part of selling since the first sale took place, your website's persuasiveness strategy depends on it containing the following elements;
Let’s Summarise Where We Are
- We know the objective of our website.
- We know the fundamentals of SEO (search engine optimisation) that we have to build into our website.
- We know the elements that will make our website persuasive.
- We have developed a strategy for persuading visitors to take action.
We have now entered the website planning phase.
You needed a good understanding of what has preceded this stage because some of the information needs to be incorporated into your website as it is being built. An example of this would be sales copy. You need your sales copy to be persuasive, but you also need to keep one eye on how the search engines will rank that copy. If your sales copy is extremely persuasive, but mentions “Blue Widgets” only once in 800 words, the page will probably rank poorly. (I say “probably” because as is the way of the World Wide Web, I have been able to rank home pages very highly with only 12 words on the home page).
We are now at the fun part of actually deciding the website content.
The first action is to create a sitemap. A sitemap shows what pages will make up your website and how they are linked. On a piece of paper, or if you are clever use a process flow program such as Microsoft Visio, and map out your site. Basic pages you need are
- Index or home page. This is the main page from where all other pages are linked
- Contact details page
- Company page (about us)
- Services provided or products page
- Trade terms page
Because of the amount of work involved, it may pay to divide up your pages by implementation stages, stage 1 being must have immediately, stage 2 enhancements to stage 1, stage 3 nice to have.
Once you have your website built, DO NOT submit it to a search engine for inclusion in their database. Google for one will give your website a lower ranking. Let them find you through back links you will be creating. Indexing by the search engines may be slower this way, but results in a higher ranking. We have some tricks that you can employ that will dramatically speed up the process detailed in the SEO page, but you didn't get it from us.
After all this effort, the work isn't finished yet. Once the website has been indexed by the search engine you are targeting, (I suggest that would be Google, it being the most widely used search engine), you will eagerly submit a search on the Internet based on the keyword or phrase you have identified as the most relevant to your business.
If you are extremely clever and all the stars are aligned, your website will appear on the first page of results. Most often this isn’t the case, and you will now need to make incremental changes to your website based on intelligence gathered from your monitoring system.
What Monitoring System?
This amazing tool gives the website owner a huge amount of information. Looking in detail at just the area of visitor data, the list below is just a small sample of what is available:
Some ISP hosts also provide this kind of information to the website owner as part of their service, but the hosting fees reflect the service provided.
Once you know how your site is ranking, if it isn’t on the first page of search results, your priority is to get it there. You need a reasonable hit rate of unique visitors before you can start testing different Titles and Descriptions to see if your persuasiveness strategy can be improved. If your site ranking is 150, and your unique visitor hits are 5 a week, this isn’t a large enough sample to start changing anything.
Another free Google application is Webmaster Tools. This tool focuses more on your website's health, external links coming into your site and search query click through data.
Just some of the data collected includes
- Crawl errors
- Crawl statistics (the number of times Googlebot has crawled the site in the last 90 days)
- Blocked URLs
- If there is any malware on your site
- Keyword search queries and how many clicks resulted for each keyword
- Links to your site
- Sitemap data if you have submitted one to Google
- HTML improvement suggestions
- Content keywords
- Settings to your website, for example, do you want your site to appear in Google search results as www.example.co.nz or example.co.nz without the www. Google treats them as two different websites.
You get the idea, tonnes of free data. Even if you are not a website guru, you as the owner can access this data to see how your website is performing, and get changes made based on the data you are receiving.
Go to our Resources page where the information on this page has been expanded and goes into more technical detail for those who want to construct or improve their own website, or for those who want to understand what they need to focus on and get their own webmaster to alter.
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