This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Web Development” blog series.
How to build an awesome website that will grow your business and make you look good!
If you build it, will anyone come?
Imagine working for months to build a new website for your company. You’ve spent a considerable amount of money. You get a design that you love. You’ve got a site map with content that accurately describes your products and services (a moving target for many tech companies, where products change frequently). You’ve tested the functionality and everything works.
Finally, you flip the switch to take your new site live, expecting the world to come to your virtual door to be impressed and amazed by what they find. You proudly announce your new site to the world.
But no one comes. Traffic is the same as it was for your old site. The CEO is not happy. What happened?
It is probably better ask, “What didn’t happen.” Just because you build a new website doesn’t mean more people will rush to visit it. There are features that need to be built into any website, old or new, to help your web pages get found by the people looking for your type of business online. Transforming a website into a productive business engine requires far more than creative design and up to date functionality.
Websites can require a lot of time and money. You want it to be worth the investment, and to grow your business. This guide describes the building blocks for an effective website and how to put them together to make your new site a powerful business tool.
Know where you are
To make sure a new website improves your business, define what needs improving. Are you looking for more traffic? How much more traffic? Measure your current traffic. Set a growth rate that is both ambitious and realistic. If you’re looking for leads, set a number of new leads per month or year that would achieve meaningful growth. For businesses that can quickly convert leads to sales, revenue growth is the most important business goal of all. Even for companies with longer sales cycles, it is increasingly possible to tie revenue to growth to web and other online marketing initiatives with tracking and metrics toolkits.
Who do you want to visit?
Who is likely to buy your product? Address your graphics and content to them. It is easy to get distracted by catchy headlines and sophisticated graphics that impress web designers and your internal stakeholders. That’s great, but you’re not designing a website for them. Think carefully about what your target audience—especially customers (press, investors, analysts are important too)—cares about. Consider the words and images that are important to them, the qualities that build credibility and confidence in their minds. Most importantly, build content around the problems they have and the words and phrases they use to search for solutions.
Getting found online is all about understanding two things: how your customers think and how search engines think. The umbrella term for this effort is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO)—meaning your web pages are optimized around how people search online and how search engines like Google and Bing help them. This involves studying and ranking keywords—the words and phrases people use in your business—to find the ones that are most common in your industry, and build content in the form of web pages and images around these terms.
It is important to get specific with keywords. If your company makes toothbrushes, there are probably hundreds of competitors using the keyword “toothbrush,” which means your new web pages will be buried deep in the search results. But if your company really makes toothbrushes for left-handed people with gum disease, there is probably a lot less content optimized around that phrase, and you’re likely to rank pretty highly when it is used as a search term. This is great since most left handed people with gum disease are likely to use more specific language to search for a solution to their problem, so you’ll pop right up when they start looking for help.
There are best practices for the number of pages to devote to keywords, how many times a keyword should be mentioned on a page, and how to include keywords in other parts of web pages like titles, headings, and tags. It is important to keep in mind that search engines constantly shift their criteria for ranking, as they don’t want to be manipulated by companies looking to “game” the system. This means that the best practices can change as well, so you’ll need to be conversant with the latest standards.
Converting visitors to leads and customers
One of the most overlooked elements of website development is the call to action. Optimizing your website to help your company get found by potential customers is great, but you also need to make it easy for visitors to ask for more information about your company. Calls to action are opportunities for visitors to contact you to learn more. They give you a way to offer visitors what they want, when they want it, how they want it.
To create effective calls to action, you need to understand the buying process for your business. In most cases, people searching for something online go through three phases: research, consideration, and purchase. They start by researching options for solving a problem, consider the options, and finally make a purchase. Ideally, you have content and calls to action in place for each of these phases to help your customers make the right decision.
Calls to action often come in the form of educational guides and offers. For example, if your company makes toothbrushes for left-handed people with gum disease, you might offer an e-book called “Advances in left-handed toothbrush design for healthier teeth.” This would be aimed at people in the research stage. If someone registers to receive this e-book, you know they’re likely researching toothbrushes. A few days later, you might email this person the opportunity to download an article designed for the consideration phase, for example, “How to choose the right toothbrush for left-handed people,” that guides them to a specific toothbrush. A purchase phase offer might be a discount coupon or some other incentive to purchase a toothbrush from your company. With this series of content and calls to action, you have the tools to quickly engage people at each stage of the buying process and to nurture them through it.
Show who you are
Having the right design and content is critical to a successful website, but so is having the right personality. People buy things based on information and trust. You can have all the right information on your site, but you also need to set a visual tone that builds trust. It is important to not just tell people about your company and products. You also need to show them who you are and what you stand for. This usually involves working with a skilled designer who can bring your brand to life and send the right non-verbal message to your visitors. This can be tricky, because sometimes companies get stuck thinking very literally about their product features and benefits, and expect customers to purchase solely on those criteria. Yet we all know that people don’t operate only on facts, particularly when it comes to spending money! In today’s competitive online marketplace, consumers and businesses have all kind of options for how to access goods and services. They’ll choose you if you have the right solution and if they trust you.
Putting it all together
The most successful websites combine a solid SEO strategy with quality content that engages people as they are searching for solutions to their personal and business challenges. It is not a place to shout about how great you are, but to demonstrate to your potential customers that you understand their needs, that you know your business thoroughly, and that you are available to help them at any stage of their purchasing process. In the world of web marketing, you might only have a few seconds to establish the trust and credibility that is so crucial to converting traffic to leads and customers. Creating an effective website is not so much about shouting to passers-bye about your company or product, but about helping them make the right decision for their needs. Do it right, and your new website will dramatically improve your business, Mr. marketing manager, make you look very good as a result!
This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Web Development” blog series.