1. Treat your website as your shop window on the high street. It may be the principal way in which your customers and potential customers see and engage with your business, so make the most of it. Today branding and corporate identity flow as much or more from your website than from your premises, stationery or brochures.
2. Constantly remind yourself what your services and products are, and specifically what needs they fulfil to the markets you serve. Also ask yourself who precisely are the people your products is targeted at, and combine these with the imagery and content of the website so the pages talk to those clients and markets.
3. Take the time to regularly update your site’s content. This is important because the vast majority of web site owners do not keep their sites up to date. Because the site is your shop front, if you care for it and devote adequate resources to ensure you do, it will pay off. Your clients and Google will both notice that yours is an active business and one that is actually doing something. Google will also see you are updating the content and will visit your site more often, update your listings more often, and potentially improve your Google ranking and site’s Page Rank as a result.
4. Write content for the website that is specifically targeted at the main search phrases that people will use on Google. These can be targeted at specific products or services, the customer ‘need’ that is being fulfilled, or the geographical areas where you most wish to do business.
5. Develop a strategy for marketing your website, and discuss and agree short, medium and long term goals with your web developer or Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)/web marketing specialist, like Freetimers. Once the strategy is developed, make sure you can fund it. SEO and marketing on the Internet used to be inexpensive or even free, but now, those days are largely gone, and to be successful you should expect to have to pay for it. Be careful about who you appoint to do your SEO, there are basic rules to follow, but it is almost as much an art as a science. Make sure they have a track record and can demonstrate it. Many web designers know very little about SEO and note that rudimentary optimisation of title and meta tags will be very limited in the effect they will generate on their own. Never, ever, believe anyone who guarantees top results. Google constantly changes what it does, so NO ONE can be certain what it will do tomorrow, let alone next year. Remember that SEO and some other forms of web marketing (like Google Adwords) are much more highly targeted than off-line advertising because people who have the need for your product or service are actively searching for you. This means that generally, you will get more bang for your buck on the internet than advertising in a magazine, for example. We’ve seen a lot of people waste a lot of money on un-targeted offline advertising, only to find later that SEO or Adwords were much better and cheaper. The site needs to be up to the task, however!
6. If you are doing it right, your website will never be complete. The changing environment will always mean something more should be done. Google also will continue to evolve, which means your content, how it is delivered, and your SEO will require ongoing and continuous tweaking to be the most effective. At Freetimers we manage 550+ websites, and it is clear the people who are proactive with updating their site and SEO are the ones whose sites are the most successful, by far. One of our clients recently won a big award for their site, but that was after producing 13 phases of major new development on the site, over 3 years.
7. Consider how the Internet can improve the delivery of your services or products. This can mean ecommerce, but it can also mean integrating some or all of your business’s processes and procedures with your site. More and more of our clients are seeing this back-office integration as an important way forward, improving sales, communications, delivery and efficiency for the business and your clients simultaneously, and reaping profitability improvements at the same time.
8. Start to re-consider your product distribution strategy. Many manufacturers who have used distributor networks/retailers for taking their products to market are finding their profits squeezed partly because of the increased competition derived from the Internet. To balance this loss of margin, many are now entering the retail market themselves, either with or without their present distributors’ knowledge. Should your business be offering the product directly, online?
9. Is your website’s design and structure up to date? Does it fulfil all your needs? Design, in particular, has improved radically in the last 3 years, largely because of improved software (such as Flash and online video) and hugely improved broadband speeds. We have found taking advantage of the better design potential does have a big effect on business, and some of our clients who have recently updated their design have seen material improvements in visitor and page view rates, even in a recessionary environment. Web-users, therefore, are much more appreciative of design and improved functionality, so clients can use updated design to help differentiate themselves from their competitors.
10. Add more ‘calls to action’ to your website, or improve the ones you have. It is amazing how adding a reminder to ‘phone us’ or ‘email us’ or ‘click here to buy’ can have a big effect, but it does, so make sure you do it.