Having a website for your business is the most affordable yet most ignored tool in your marketing arsenal. I started SIX15 around the idea that the web can produce positive returns for modest investment. But the web will only work for your business if you put the effort in. And an attractive website is useless if it’s not effective
Getting yourself a website that is both attractive and effective shouldn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars. SIX15 believes those two goals can be achieved at an affordable price for smaller businesses.
The web design industry has matured to the point where a number of tools make websites attractive and easy to use on any device. These tools, when used properly, allow companies such as SIX15 to offer services otherwise out-of-reach for smaller budgets.
Again, you may have a pretty website but does it generate leads or produce the desired results? If not, then that website could be a waste of money. SIX15 believes that a website should have a measurable purpose, and if it’s not giving positive results then something needs to change.
Lets talk about some of the keys to a successful website.
Don’t be held hostage by your developer or IT department — your website should be easy to update
I don’t know how many discussions I’ve had with small business owners who tell me they either don’t know how to update their website. Or they can’t update their website because their developer or IT department “holds the keys” to anything to do with the website, and requires payment or approval before something happens.
It’s your website. You should own the keys. And that means having complete access and control to update content on your website when you want or need it. Even if you have someone on retainer to do content updates for you, you should still have full access.
The easiest way to have complete control of your website’s content is to have your website powered by a content management system (CMS). That is what tools like WordPress offer. That way you’re not messing with techie things like hosting FTP, file managers, text editors, etc. Simply log in using your web browser and type your new content just like you were editing a Word document.
Get cozy with search engines
Google now both a company name and a verb — “Just google it”. In fact, a large percentage of people have Google as their home page on their browser and think Google IS the Internet. And of course, they aren’t the only search engine out there.
As a business owner, having a presence in the search engine results of those millions of searches is hugely beneficial for any online marketing campaign. Here’s a quick test, open up your web browser, go to http://google.com, and type in the service or good your company offers. What comes up? Is your business listed on the first page? Second? Eleventh?
The formula search engines use to rank websites and pages is a closely guarded secret, and in fact, is changing yearly. THERE IS NO SILVER BULLET for effective search engine optimization (SEO). That being said, there are several steps and processes a small business owner can do to make their website appear higher in rankings over competitor sites.
Having a site map of every page on your site is one example. Yet another is aligning page content with certain targeted keywords for your specific niche or market vertical. It’s 2017 and you can’t game the system anymore — Google has grown up and actually penalizes sites that try it. On the other end, having a site that is mobile friendly and fast loading now ranks higher in results.
Don’t fire and forget your website; publish something regularly
Ah yes, blogging. I talk to many business owners asking if blogging is worth it (yes it definitely is). And those same owners ask what they should blog about and how often (more on that in a bit). Here’s the catch: blogging is work. You’re creating a job for yourself or someone on your staff. It’s necessary. The blog won’t write itself.
Having a section on your website that is regularly updated benefits your business in several ways. And by the way, it doesn’t have to be called a “blog”. Call it Articles & Resources, or The Latest from Our Company, or some catchy phrase related to your industry. Whatever you call it, make sure you publish something at least twice a week.
Search engines love to see updated content on your website. And they love it more when at each index of your site there’s something new. And even more when those posts/articles have links in them to other sites and those sites are in turn linking back to your site. This is a form of SEO.
But again, this is work, and I am guilty of this too — once started you cannot abandon your blog. Don’t spend time developing content and attracting a following only to lose interest and stop publishing. Those followers will stop coming to your site and probably never come back. Having a blog on your site that provides information or insight on a subject relevant to your target market is the first step in an effective sales funnel.
Make it easy for your potential customers to contact you
Unlike other marketing channels, your website operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Having an effective website means questions from customers are easily answered, but there needs to be an easy way for them to contact you.
Having your phone number is an obvious one, however, not everyone likes the phone these days. Email is and always be the Internet’s killer app. But don’t just publish your email online. That invites unwanted spam.
A simple contact form with three fields — name, email, message — is all you need. That and perhaps some verbiage on when they can expect a reply from you (sooner the better).
A follow-up email sequence is another step in your sass funnel, once you have a valid email from a potential customer.
Social Media is here to stay — build your brand there, too
Just as you network in person at a local meet up or Chamber event, you can promote your business to segmented audiences on the various social media platforms.
Naturally, each network (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) has its own purpose and user type. So it is wise to do a little research to find out where your target market “hangs out” online. That way you’re not wasting time on Twitter when everyone you need to market to is on LinkedIn all day.
In addition to social media networks, email newsletters are an excellent way to give relevant information to your brand audience. In fact email campaigns have the highs return on investment. SIX15 believes this is due to the fact that it’s opt-in — people want to know what you have to say (pull instead of push), so make sure your website has an email newsletter opt-in form on every page.
Each page needs a purpose
I mentioned this before, but when you’re putting together content for your site, make sure each page has a purpose. Whether that is a click, call or purchase. A call to action should be primary, obvious, and all other content should lead the visitor to that specific thing (e.g. button, form).
Sure, there can be supporting pages of content but those supporting pages can link to or have footer content that has a relevant call to action.
Otherwise, what is the purpose of your website? To look pretty? That won’t get you sales.
Evaluate, measure, and refine as necessary
Again, don’t fire and forget. Your website should be ever-changing with your latest offline marketing effort or promotion. Keep an eye on your website statistics to find out which pages get traffic and which don’t. Then refine the layout and content as needed. Always be tweaking.
If you want to take it one step further, you can set up A/B Tests, which when configured will display a different page layout randomly to visitors. That way you can test in realtime which design or content converts better.
And make sure you’re regularly evaluating your website for security and software updates. The last thing you need is to be hacked and present the worst to your customer.
Remember that search engines rank mobile-friendly sites higher in results than those that are not, so as your website grows and expands regularly test it for speed and mobile viewports.
So what have we covered?
I’ve covered several key points that, when implemented properly, will result in your business having a successful website.
- The website should be easy to update
- Get cozy with search engines
- Publish something regularly
- Make it easy to contact you
- Embrace social media
- Each page needs a purpose
- Regularly measure and refine
Your business website can be your most effective marketing asset, but only if you configure it properly and take care of it.
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When was the last time you looked at your website using a mobile phone or tablet? If it didn’t load or look the way you expected, we should talk.
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