Five years ago a small business could easily do without a website. Not today…
In this climate of web 2.0, social media and online marketing, a website is considered key to your business success.
If you don’t have one, you really should. A website is a great marketing tool – it can do so much for your business. So before you spend any initial outlay on a website, you need to know what you want it do for you and what you are communicating to the people who are (hopefully) going to visit it.
In my opinion there are three broad types of website: brochure sites, ecommerce sites and interactive sites such as membership sites or customer information sites.
The majority of small businesses, unless they are selling products online, will simply want a brochure site – so this is what we’ll concentrate on.
**The website triangle…**
There are three main elements to any site that you need to consider: design, content, functionality; and each element has an impact on the other two.
For example, when working out your design you need to consider what you want your site to say, what information you are trying to impart, what you want visitors to do when they hit your site and it also needs to visually reflect your business brand.
The same works for the content and the functionality – so you need to consider all three elements together.
But where do you start?
As with most marketing activity you start with your target market – who are they, what do they want from you, why would they buy from you and more.
Then you think about what it is you are trying to sell them and what you are trying to tell them. So I suggest we start with content simply because this will guide how much text is on each page, you know what your message is going to be and you can plan your site and it’s structure accordingly. You can start with design and many people do – but what if your wonderful design just doesn’t work with the content you want to fill it with?
After content comes functionality. Knowing what you want your site to do, the features you want it to have and what you want your visitors to be able to on your site will dictate the functionality you need it to have and that will impact design as you need to accommodate elements such as sign up boxes, contact forms, latest news feeds or a link to your twitter stream.
Then….. ta daaaa – we can go ahead with the design. This actually is the fun part as you can really be creative with how your website looks as long as it fits in with your visual brand such as logo and colours, but also ensuring that it reflects your brand essence and will appeal to your target market.
**Brochure site basics**
This is the most simple and most commonly used type of site – in terms of strategy. It exists to purely and simply to provide information to potential customers and to get them to contact you if they haven’t already.
Key information to include on a brochure site includes:
Home page: this should contain you core marketing messages – telling people what you do and why they should buy from you.
Services/products page: you must tell people what you can do for them – so a list of products or services is key – including the benefits of those products or services to your customer.
About us page: people want to know who they are doing business so often overlooked this is page is key.
Contact us page: your potential customers if interested will want to know how to get in touch with you.
There are other things that are advisable to include on a brochure website and you can have as much information on your site as you want the key is to get people find it, stay on it and read it.
**Search, Site and Stay**
A lot of people I have spoken to about websites over the years assume that “if they build you will come!”. Not true…
If you build it, you need to get them to come….. So how do you do that? In a variety of ways.
At it’s most simple, you must have your website address on every piece of literature or stationery you send out, every email you send out, every single bit of marketing activity you do.
Getting more complicated: driving visitors to your website involves a wide range of marketing tactics, including Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), article marketing, social media, blogging, email newsletters and more.
Once people get to your site the key is to get them to stay. You have about 3 seconds to get their attention if they are just ‘browsing’ and this is done by knowing the type of visitors you are hoping for, writing targeted content and having an eye-catching design.
And even though a brochure site is informational it should still be designed to get visitors to take action some kind of action. This could be to join your mailing list, complete your contact form, send you an email or pick up the phone to call you.
You need to encourage visitors to get in touch with you and this involves having a call to action on the relevant pages of your site.
**So is your website working?**
To know this you need to be able to track the visits that your site receives and you need to establish the Key Performance Indicators that you want your site to achieve.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for a brochure website can include:
– The number of visitors to your site per day or per month (you will need a statistics tracking tool for this).
– The results ranking your site achieves for your keywords (and your Page Rank)
– How many people sign up to your mailing list (if you have one) – out of the number of visitors to your site.
– The amount of people contacting you as a direct result of having been to your site.
If you can track these figures then you will know if your website is doing its job and how well.
On a side note: I would recommend using Google Analytics to assess your site’s performance, it is free and very easy to use and enables you to see a range of information such as which keywords people sue to find your site, where your visitors come from both in terms of how they get to your site (e.g. a search engine or referring site) and where they are geographically based. You can also see how long people spend on your site, how popular each page is, how many pages each visitors goes to and how many leave your site without doing anything apart from hitting the first page.
One last thing to remember is if you are going to make changes to your site, try to do them one at a time and then track any changes in your results. Then you will know whether it has been an effective change or not.