In this tough economy you need every part of your business making a strong contribution to your success. Is your website doing that? If not, you aren’t alone.
Study after study shows that the great majority of websites make little or no positive impact on the business they are supposed to support. This is a huge missed opportunity because a well done site offers a number of powerful benefits:
- It is “open” 24-7. Interested parties can search your site anytime that it is convenient for them, not just during normal business hours.
- One can “visit” your business from practically anyplace on the planet.
- A website can be updated much more quickly and inexpensively than printed material.
Think your site needs a makeover? If so, based on 15 years of website strategy and content consulting, here are key ways to make your site work much harder for your business.
Be clear on your goals. For maximum effectiveness, your website must have a clearly defined business purpose. You need to answer these questions:
- What do you expect your website to do for your business? Be specific. Put your objectives in writing and in priority order. You’ll refer to this list when you work on content.
- How can you make your site work most effectively with your other communications activities?
- What do you want people to do after visiting your site, for example, call you, email, request literature, make an appointment, visit your place of business?
Know your audience. List the relevant characteristics of the people you want to reach with your website. The list might include age, gender, education and income level, degree of familiarity with your organization and products or services, where they live and/or work? The better you understand your audience, the better you can construct your website to inform and persuade them.
Stress features and benefits. The second biggest reason for website ineffectiveness (the first being lack of traffic) is incorrect focus. Most sites are self-centered, that is written and designed from the business’s point of view. This couldn’t be more wrong. Visitors are not coming to your site to wade through puffery about you. They want to know clearly, specifically and succinctly how your products and/or services will satisfy their wants and needs.
Try to come up with your USP, your Unique Selling Proposition, what your products and/or services can do for your customer or client better than anyone else’s. Stress your features and how they benefit the customer. For example, an independent insurance broker, whose website we created, represents a number of insurance companies not just one. So we constructed their site to emphasize that, unlike a one-company agency, they can “shop” a number of insurance providers for the best coverage and rates for their clients.
Make your site easy to use. Most people are coming to your site to find out whether your products and/or services meet their wants and needs and reasons to buy from you rather than from your competition. Make it easy for them. Don’t make them wait for fancy graphics and animation to load and play. People are there for information, not to be entertained. (Creative products and services sites may be an exception.)
Start your home page with a brief, customer-focused summary of the features and benefits of your products and/or services and why you are the best place to buy from. This summary is critical. It is where you are most likely to keep or lose your visitor. Website visitors are much less patient than when they are searching print advertisements and yellow pages.
Organize your website logically and use clear section headings to make it easy for visitors to navigate your site to find the information they want.
Keep your text to a minimum, just enough to adequately tell your story, generally about half as much as in printed materials.
Include testimonials. Testimonials are effective in adding credibility—if they are handled properly. Don’t put them all on one page. Few people will wade through them in that format. Instead sprinkle them throughout your site. Make them brief. Have each focus on a different benefit of your product or service. For believability, get permission to use the full name and, if appropriate, title and company of the person quoted.
Give a “call to action.” Include a call to action to encourage the visitor to take the next step. For example, say something like, For more information on how our services can help you, call or email . . . . Such statements can increase responses considerably, especially if tied to a limited-time offer, if that’s appropriate for your type of business.
Test your site. Ask at least half a dozen sharp people—clients and prospects would be best—to critique your site before going “live.” If they have good suggestions, make changes.
Increase traffic with keywords and links. Attract visitors through keywords and links. Using the right words on your site helps search engine spiders or robots to decide what your site is about and its ranking. The “right” keywords are ones searchers would use to find you. Ask at least a dozen of your vendors and customers what words they would use if they were searching for your type of products and/or services. Work these words into the text on your site several times—without damaging readability.
Links also help drive website traffic. Search engines will increase the ranking of your site when reputable sites link to yours. So ask your suppliers, customers and industry associations to add you as a hyperlink on their sites.
Publicity also helps. The more press visibility your company gets, the more attention your site will receive from search engines.
Talk with your site designer about adding metadata, which are tags and descriptions that help search engines.
If you do a good job with keywords, links, press coverage and metadata, you can avoid the expense and lower credibility of paid search engine advertising.
Creating an effective website is work and may require the help of professionals. But companies that have done it right find their website gives them a low-cost, highly productive “salesperson” 24-7—and who wouldn’t welcome that in times like these.
© Copyright 2012 by Welch Inc.