Do you think you are getting the most out of your Website? Have you developed it yourself and wondering if there is anything you have missed? Is your Website a success or has it proved a big disappointment? Do you want to learn how to take some simple steps on how to improve your Website and make it more of a pro-active, every day business tool? If so, the following points should give you a good idea if you are on the right track or if there are any immediate fixes you have to make to your Website.
When we discuss a client’s requirements, one of the first things we ask them is; what are the objectives for the new Website? Typically, this takes them by surprise, since, it is not something they have really considered in any detail. Most likely, their only objective is: their current website looks dated and in need of a redesign; or if it is their first Website, they want it to help generate business leads. Now, these two objectives are perfectly fine, however, in isolation, they will seriously limit the potential of owning a Website. Other key objectives that should be considered are;
- It should be of interest to existing clients. allowing stronger bonds to be created
- The Website should help in the day-to-day running of the business
- To help offer better customer support
- Help the Sales Department close business
- To act as a hub for all marketing activity
- Help reduce administrative overheads
- Help create new business relationships
- Help make the business more competitive
- Speed-up the process of bringing new products/services to the market
To give you more of an idea of how widening your Website objectives can give your Website a greater chance for success, you may wish to view our other article on Why Have a Website.
When writing content for your Website, it is important to consider the different types of people visiting your Website. Most likely, each of these visitor types will have different informational requirements and how they interact with your Website may also be different. Typically, every Website has at least five types of visitor.
For example, a wildlife park will have both adults and children visit their Website. Most likely, children will respond mostly to visual content, whereas the parents, will be more interested in learning more about the facilities, to ensure a good family day out. If you are an Accountant, many start-up businesses will visit your site, in which case, it would be prudent to cover your Start-up service in quite a bit of detail. Perhaps they are thinking of changing Accountant and wondering if it is better to stay with their existing Accountant.
It is only once you have identified the types of visitors visiting your Website, will you be able to write compelling content and structure your Website to encourage strong interaction with it. Create content, then navigate your website as one of your visitor types would, to confirm there is a good possibility they will visit the pages or areas of your Website that you want them to. Remember, when someone visits your Website for the first time, you have around twenty seconds to gain their attention.
Ultimately, the success of your Website will depend on the quality of your written content and it’s ability to turn visitors into clients. It is not easy and can take many attempts to try and get it right. Why work hard to attract visitors, only to see them leave your Website without bothering to take a proper look? The following are some important points that need to be considered when creating content. For more information, you may wish to read our article on How to write compelling website content / copywrite.
- View Website copywrite through the eyes of your visitors. Write for your visitors and not for yourself.
- Remember, it is real people visiting your website i.e. a business owner has a bad meeting with their Accountant. In fact, they are fed up with their Accountant and are considering changing. They get back home, manage to get the kids of the computer and are feeling really stressed when they Google “accountants in hertfordshire” Your website comes up, you have twenty seconds to gain some sort of empathy with them. They need help. They need someone to tell them, things may not be as bad as they appear!
- Use techniques to gain empathy with your visitors
- Identify at least five high level sales messages i.e. professionalism, eye for detail, friendly
- Identify at least five unique selling points, afterall, that is what they will be asking themselves when visiting your site.
- Always put your content through the so what test i.e we have been in business for 20 years. So what! What does that mean to me, the visitor?
- Keep your content blocks short and to the point
- Get feedback from existing customers
When someone visits your Website and navigates to one of your internal pages, it is important to offer them a few options of what to do next, once they have finished reading the content. Simply having a Contact page and a link to it, does not “cut it”. The following are a number of call-to-actions that you may want to consider and can be found on the page you are looking at;
- Make your contact telephone number visible on all pages, ideally, at the top and bottom of all pages.
- Make it easy for visitors to tell friends and colleagues about a particular page on your Website by including a Tell-a-friend feature, as we have done at the top of this page.
- Include email links at the top and bottom of all pages.
- Include links to your Social Media sites at the top and bottom of all pages.
- Include links to your Newsletter registration page. If you do not have a Newsletter system, you should consider doing so. It allows you to reach out to potential and existing customers, instead of waiting for them to visit your site again.
- Hyperlink text within your written content to encourage visitors to visit other pages on your site in the context of what they are reading, as we have done with our Newsletter System, above.
- Include a closing contact paragraph at the bottom of all content and include: a link to your Contact page; contact telephone number; links to your Social media sites; a link to your Newsletter page; and any other important contact methods.
- Include Social Bookmarking on all your pages, allowing visitors to share your website via their own Social Media sites, such as, Facebook and Twitter.
- If you own a WordPress Blog, install a Social Share Plugin that forces the visitor to share the page they are on before gaining access to the rest of the post (as you had to do with this post).
- If your Website is broken into sections, then include sub-menus to the left or right of the main content, to encourage visitors to read other pages in the section (as we have done with our WordPress service, for example).
- Consider implementing a commenting system, allowing visitors to comment on any of your Web Pages (subject to your approval).
- Create some form of electronic download i.e. Year End Tax Strategies, available free-of-charge if they subscribe to your Newsletter.
Most new Website owners wrongly assume, their Website will be found by just about anyone looking for their services or products. Definitely not so! With, literally, thousands of new Websites being added to the Internet every day, Search Engines have the unenviable task of trying to filter the good from the bad. They do this by crawling the Internet using Web Robots. These robots are capable of retrieving vast quantities of information which is then analysed by special algorithms, able to score and rate millions of Websites.
Needless to say, Robots and their algorithms take an objective view of the sites they look at. Like any judge in a competition, Search Engines will judge Websites on certain criteria. Not surprisingly, Websites ignoring this criteria or not giving it enough consideration, are given low scores and placed well down the list of search results. If you are not on the first two or three pages (some would say first page), then there is little chance of being visited by Web Surfers. The following are some of the mistakes we frequently see when asked to review Websites. For more information, you may wish to check out our other two posts; How to optimise your Website for Search Engines and Why optimise your Website for Search Engines;
- Homepage Meta Title Tag does not include key search words/phrases
- Homepage Meta Title Tag includes the business name at the start of the code
- Meta Title Tag is too long
- Same Meta Title Tag used for all web pages
- No Description Meta Tag on any of the pages
- No key search phrases within the Description Meta Tag
- Meta Description tag too long
- Client does not know what their key search phrases are
- Key search phrases not included within main written content
- Poor internal page linking and poor context based links
- No Image Alt or Title Tags
- Poor use of Header Tags
- No strategy for encouraging external links to the site
- Keyword stuffing (viewed as spamming)
- Content, primarily, written for Search Engines and not for visitors
- Pages created purely for the benefit of trying to achieve high rankings
Without a doubt, your Website should play a central role in any and all of your marketing initiatives. Afterall, it is available 24/7 and is, essentially, the Internet version of your Sales and Customer Support Teams rolled into one.
Although, if developed properly, your Website will play an important role as as a new business lead generation tool, it is also a fantastic tool for creating stronger bonds with your existing client base, something that is often overlooked by the vast majority of Websites we review. Rest assured, if your Website is not geared up to satisfy the requirements of your existing client base, your competitors will definitely be looking for ways to bring their own brand firmly into view via their own website.
However, the key is; to make it worthwhile for your clients to visit your website. Experience tells us, most websites have little more than a summary of each of their services, something that existing clients already know, so why should they want to visit your website? In this scenario, you could speak with your sales Team and ask how the Website could help them close business and reduce negotiation timescales.
If you have a key service, such as our own WordPress Developer service, perhaps it would be more useful to create a new section on your Website for this service with it’s own sub-menu of associated pages. These could include a summary page, an FAQ page, a prices page, a Case Study page and any other page that would supply the information and answers to typical sales questions about this particular service. Including video tutorials may also be a good idea, our Simple CMS service for updating your own Website, being one example.
Now, with the above in mind, imagine how much easier and more effective it will be for your Sales Team to, simply, send an email to the client with a link to the section on your website, explaining everything the client would want to know about a particular service. Not only does it give them the opportunity to view the information at a time that suits them, they may be tempted to send a link of the service to other of their friends or business associates. And since they are now on your Website, perhaps they will take the opportunity to view other areas of the site. And all the time; your brand is being firmly imprinted on their mind. Or if you are an Accountant, why not run a blog that allows you to comment on breaking news stories that you know your clients would want some answers to. Not only does it look very professional, it should also cut down on the time answering repetitive questions.
We’ve all seen it: Websites where there does not appear to be any logical navigation structure; pages you know that exist but can’t find; generally, a lack of help for getting from A to B.
The good news is, this is one of the easiest issues to fix in a Website. For most small business Websites, having drop-down menus for your main Navigation Menu (usually at the top of the page) is a good start. From there, visitors will know where they are in the structure of your website and finding a page will be only two mouse clicks away. Create sub-menus for sections of your Website that have more than one page. Our UK Web Design Small Business service is a good example. Include links at the bottom of all your pages to key pages on your Website. Hyperlink text within your written content (in context) to other related pages.
Unfortunately, one of the most common issues and the reason why many Website owners, needlessly, confuse it with an old site and, therefore, in urgent need of replacement. Although there are many aspects to developing a successful Website, the key one is, written content. If you have great content, it can often “gloss over” the shortcomings of the overall website look and feel.
However, since the majority of small businesses have to continually change to keep up with changing circumstances, within a relatively short period of time, the Website soon becomes out-of-date and does reflect them or their products or services. Typically, this leads to disinterest with their own Website, resulting, sometimes, in a Website being “thrown out” and a new Website being developed, even though, all that was required was more up-to-date content.
Obviously, from an existing client standpoint, this is disastrous. Why would they want to visit your Website, knowing that most of it is now out-of-date. In fact, it is so out-of-date, even your Sales Team are reluctant to send anyone to it. You end up with one of your business’s most valuable marketing tools i.e. your Website, being virtually unused and a bit of an embarrassment.
The secret is for you to have the ability to update your own Website when and how often you wish. if you are able to make instant tweaks to your Website or add pages for a new service, then you will be more inclined to do so. Compare this to having to contact your Web Designer, explaining what you want, then having to wait for, what could be, a quote that would not justify the cost of implementing the changes, resulting in, you’ve guessed it; a site that quickly becomes out-of-date and of little help to the business.
With regards to design, we will refer to the look and feel of the Website, rather than the overall structure.
Just imagine you are a small business looking for an Accountant and have arranged to meet two local Accountants. The first Accountant you visit has a “tatty” looking reception, carpet is worn in places, seats have been ripped and taped back together, walls and woodwork are in need of a “lick” of paint, lighting is very poor and makes the reception area look even more shabby. The second Accountant you visit, although the same size, has a very clean and fresh looking reception area. Some nice plants are on view, the wall colour has a relaxing feel to it, leather sofas are superb and the whole area is lifted by a clever use of up-lighting.
Now based on first impressions, who do you think is already ahead in their effort to win your business and become your new Accountant?
The above principles when someone visits your Website are no different from the example given, above. In the “olden” days, it was a big deal to have a Website and it did not have to be the best looking Website in the world to impress visitors. However, as we now know, times have changed. People are more experienced with the Internet and have become much more discerning about who to do business with. First impressions now play a much larger part in whether a visitor remains on your Website and interacts with it.
Basically, your Website should look like it has been professionally designed (even if you have designed it yourself), instead of, as with many websites, as something that has been designed in your spare time with very little functionality, time or thought put into it. Obviously, there is much more to offering a first class service than merely creating positive first impressions. However, here is the point; why would anyone want to, knowingly, put their business on the back-foot by a scruffy, poorly designed website? Why make life easier for your competitors?
Research has shown, more than 80% of Website Owners do not use their Website for anything other than a lead generation tool or a box that needed to be ticked. In fact, many do not even visit their own Website or use it on a day-to-day basis. Why should they, they already know what is on it! The Website tends to be relegated to a URL text on business stationery and cards i.e. the proverbial “box tick”. It is viewed as more of an Electronic Brochure.
With such limited objectives, it is no surprise that the vast majority of Websites never achieve their true potential and in many cases, fail to deliver any real business benefits. Websites are a business tool, many website owners feel are over-rated.
However, with a little re-engineering of the thought processes, or casting away any preconceptions of what a Website is, it is not difficult to understand and quickly learn the true benefits of owning a website. Once you “buy into” the philosophy, you will realise, a well developed and thought out Website is a valuable, pro-active, every-day business tool, with the ability to improve all areas of your business from Customer Service, through to enhancing your sales processes and reducing administration overheads. For a more detailed description of why this is, please read our other article, Why Have a Website? The benefits / advantages.
- By far the most important, your Website should be a front-line tool for helping your Sales Team close and win business. They should be directing people to specific areas on your site, where their contacts can find all the information they have just discussed with your Sales person via the telephone or in person.
- Save on printed marketing collateral by uploading PDF copies to your Website.
- Consider implementing a Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ) to reduce the time and, therefore, cost of having to answer repetitive questions. FAQs can also be turned into a valuable sales tool.
- If you are finding it difficult to track enquiries or customer requests coming into the business, why not implement an On-line Helpdesk system. Not only will it help streamline your support processes, it also gives your visitors proof of your attempts to offer high levels of customer service.
- Improve on this further by implementing Live Chat facilities and interact with your Website visitors in real-time.
- Keep clients and potential clients informed of business developments by implementing some form of Blog or News System. These are great ways to encourage repeat visits.
- Gain valuable feedback from visitors and clients by implementing On-line Surveys or Website Polls.
- Create On-line Website Forms to help gather information and improve internal processes i.e. New Customer Form.
- If you are an Appointment based business, Restaurant, Hotel, B&B or arrange Events throughout the year, then consider implementing an Online Booking system to help reduce staff costs and close bookings.
- Encourage visitors to register for business updates by installing an Online Newsletter system
- Make your existing clients feel important by implementing a Members area only and uploading documents, only they can view.