Originally Written for VantageSmallBusiness.com in approximately 2010
You’ve heard it before: a website will increase sales, assist current and new clients, and improve your company’s image and competitiveness. You’ve got a website… so where are the visitors and why aren’t you reaping the rewards? The reason is that a website isn’t a magic bullet. Its mere existence guarantees nothing and the wrong website can even hurt your business. How, why and what to do are the important questions I’ll discuss in this article… so read on!
The Good, Bad and Ugly
If you handed a prospective client a business card designed by a five year old, they would likely assume your product or service is of low quality also. It gives a bad impression. Many companies are still holding on to websites that are out-dated or poorly designed. A shoddy website does much more harm than good. The visitor will wonder about your company’s trustworthiness, quality, customer service, and financial stability. Many people will visit the website for the sole purpose of getting a feel for the company. What kind of image is your company portraying? A well designed and organized website will build customer trust, loyalty and confidence. It will also turn more prospective clients into new clients!
If You Build It, They Won’t Come
So you have a great website; visually stunning and full of useful, well organized information. Why isn’t your website taking off with hundreds of hits per day? There are many reasons why, but they all boil down to this one simple fact: no one knows you exist. Your website is lost in the endless sea of other websites. You are competing for the attention of web-surfers who have a nearly limitless wealth of information, entertainment, news, games and more at their fingertips on the web. Not to mention your competitors websites! Is it hopeless? No! It just requires some creative marketing and some Internet know-how.
While your website is new… the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN, don’t know about you yet. That means if someone is searching for your ‘widgets in Townsville’ they aren’t going to find you. Getting into the search engines takes time- lots of time and some effective content on your website. You web-developer may be able to help you with this Search Engine Optimization- but beware of false promises. Any company that presumes to guarantee you a certain ranking is trying to scam you. There is NO way to guarantee this, but there are legitimate ways to improve your ranking, and target your products and services.
If you wait for the search engines to notice you, you might be waiting for a long time. If you are in a field that is highly competitive in the online market like “compute software” for example, you might never get high search engine rankings. Is it hopeless? Never!
You need to find more creative ways to get people to go to your website- and you can start with your current marketing material. Include your website address on all marketing materials, business cards, invoices and cheques. Draw attention to it, and announce it as a new service to your existing customers. Use your current client mailing list to send out a new website announcement and invite customers to take a peak. Offer an online coupon or contest. Market creatively to your target audience, and always make it clear that more information can be found at your website! Talk to a marketing professional that specializes in the web.
Keep your website interesting. In addition to the standard information, make sure that you have something that is frequently updated or changing. News, specials, articles, photo gallery, press releases, tips, instructions, online question and answer, or a discussion forum are some ways to keep your website fresh and keep your visitors and customers coming back. Search engines love new content and existing clients love a website that gives them a value-added service. Free, helpful information is sure to draw attention. Make sure your website is more than just an online brochure- it needs to be useful, helpful and interesting. Make it a valuable resource, and you’ll build a loyal following.
Having an effective website is more work than you thought right? Unfortunately, many so-called web-designers are merely students or hobbyists who don’t know what it takes to create a complete website package. Do your research and be aware that just because your neighbour’s pool boy says he ‘does websites’, doesn’t mean that the money you’ll save is worth it. The web is no longer a curious novelty. It’s an important business medium that separates the successful companies from the rest so make sure your business is cornering this essential market effectively.