It’s incredible that in a world where people spend 15% of their day on the internet, businesses are still creating websites that frustrate rather than welcome. Right now, across the country, small business owners are spending thousands of pounds on building and maintaining web sites without being able to answer one big question: What do you want your web site to do?
As a way of attracting customers, the web is an incredibly powerful tool. But building a website without thinking about how it fits into your wider marketing plan can be a very expensive mistake, with the average professional site costing upwards of £20,000.
In the past, websites were often created to be an extension of the business identity, an online companion to the brand or physical shop. But very quickly we have become a digital economy; last year in the UK we spent some £14.7 billion on goods and services over the web, and that’s likely to pass £20 billion this year. Customers don’t want to just learn about a product on the web, they want to be able to buy it with a couple of clicks, and if they can’t get it from you then they’ll happily go somewhere else.
Of course, having stuff to sell is no good unless customers can find you, and that’s where a good website strategy needs to start. If your website is going to attract traffic, your website must be designed to attract traffic from the outset.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t find this out until after the fact. They put up the site and then slowly realise that no one is visiting it. So they start spending time and money on banner ads, adwords, search engine listings, bulk email, posting articles, exchanging links and more. Suddenly, it’s the website dictating the marketing rather than the other way around.
The first rule of high traffic websites is that they have to be search engine friendly. Around 85-90% of all web site traffic comes from search engines, so when a customer types in a keyword phrase you hope will bring them to you, your site needs to be one of the top 10 to 30 results shown or that customer will never get through to you.
It’s possible to spend huge sums on getting to the top of search rankings on Google, and conversely, I have worked with companies who have managed to get to the top by spending very little and doing it all themselves. But being king of the rankings on Google is no good if there’s nothing on the site that customers are interested in. So the content and presentation of the site is next. So, take a deep breath, and ask yourself the following questions: Who do you want to go to your site? What do you want them to think? What do you want them to do?
The ‘who?’ question is the easiest to start with. Most likely, the answer will be ‘potential new customers, existing customers, staff, and accidental visitors’. All of these groups will want to see something slightly different, so make sure you understand what that is, and give it to them, quickly. Why? Because impatience rules the internet; you’ve got about 10 seconds to get a visitor’s interest before they click the ‘back’ button. Engage them, entertain them and leave them with something to remember.
‘Think’ and ‘do’ are tougher; this is where the bigger marketing picture comes into play. You could do much worse than concentrating on the four ‘Ps’ of marketing when thinking about the web; Product, Pricing, Promotion, Placement. If you are reading this and have anything at all to do with running a business, you’ll be very familiar with these. Well, they work just as well on the web as anywhere else.
If I can give one other piece of advice, it’s don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to experiment, don’t be afraid to change things, and don’t be afraid to do things with a bit of personality. If customers find something that appeals to them on the web it’s amazing how loyal they can be, but that loyalty will only last as long as there’s something to keep coming back for. That’s possibly why some businesses opt for bells and whistles over content and relevance; it usually takes time and effort to keep things from getting stale. A bit like this column.
Mi liberty is one of the UK’s top 10 ranking marketing and pr agencies, specialising in the technology and mobile industry.
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