With more than 77% of all American adults now online, and more than 175 million Americans using the Internet regularly, the argument that a website is an essential business tool is resolved before the debate begins. If your company isn't taking steps and making a continuing effort to maximize its website it is leaving customers and revenue behind (for competitors to pick up).
Some of the hesitancy in developing and maintaining a good website is derived from misunderstandings of what it takes to make a website productive. This article shares 8 things you can do with relative ease to enable your website to deliver better results. They are:
1. Make Sure Your Website is User Friendly
Whether in an offline or online environment, your target market can't be expected to buy your product if you do not make it easy to find and purchase. Your website can enhance the ease with which information and specs about your products/services can be found, thereby making the decision to buy them easier. Your website needs to (a) open quickly, (b) be easy to navigate and find information, and (c) provide a painless checkout process. If you can meet these three criteria, visitors will enjoy being on your site, and your sales through the site will increase.
2. Give in to Speed
According to some sources, you have about 30 seconds to convince a visitor to your website to stay there and look for what they came to purchase. If your website takes these same 30 seconds to upload, or you have a 30 second flash that is well prepared but devoid of any message (loved by the graphic design folks and marketing people for its creativity and hated by visitors because it takes time and says nothing), then you will lose visitors even before you have a chance to present your benefits and offer. The key to speed is a well designed site hosted on servers that deliver high speed.
3. Know Who Your Site is Targeting
The better you understand your target market the better your website will perform. Keeping in mind that the website is a marketing tool, and that knowing your market is a fundamental of good marketing, it makes sense that your website should be developed with your market in mind. You need to understand how you market behaves not only in terms of buying habits and spending patterns, but also, in the case of effective web development, online. The online behavior of your market will help you construct the site to meet their expectations, needs and preferences. In most cases the market will demand (a) that your site be updates and provide the latest relevant information, (b) that the site enable their inquiries through the latest online technologies, and (c) that the website be convenient to navigate.
4. Know Your Goals
Just as with offline business, "getting more sales" is not a useful goal in that it is vague, overly apparent, and devoid of any market based elements. You need to approach your website with goals and objectives in mind, not only so that the site can be constructed consistent with them, but also so that the maintenance of the site can be executed to support them. For example, the goals of your website could be "present products in an attractive manner that allows prospective buyers to visual their use and benefits". Another legitimate objective could be "to present information on products and the company so as to educate consumers and broaden our customer base". In both instances, the goals are clearly defined, and the websites constructed around them will be designed in architecture and appearance to maximize the success of the stated objectives.
5. Develop a Smart Web Architecture
When it comes to the architecture of your website - where the information is placed and the paths visitors take to get to it - the most critical tool you can deploy is common sense. Most people will look for information in the place where it is most logical for it to be. If you get creative, or want to make a point with your navigation (or the names you give to the information links you have) you will find that most people will leave your site rather than try to unravel the brilliance you are showing through your very clever structure. In other words, people are on your site to get to something, the easier you make it for them to get there, the better your website is. Period.
6. Operate According to a Plan
Like any marketing tool, your website needs to be tied into your overall marketing strategy and needs to be reflective of your company, its products, and the message and image it seeks to communicate to the market. Your website needs to have a plan of operation that detail, through a process and in accordance with steps, timelines, and accountability elements, the milestones for measuring performance and success. The plan needs to include (a) processes and timetables for updates and announcements, (b) your web marketing campaign, and (c) how your site will compete against similar sites.
7. Market Your Website
Like every other aspect of your business, if you do not market what you are doing nobody will know about it or why what you are selling is something they should buy. There are many ways to market a website and, as with Tudog's approach to traditional marketing, we recommend a basket of tactics. These include (a) organic embedding of metatags and other keywords into the content of your website so as to secure a higher natural listing on the search engines, (b) the purchase of select keywords to ensure high search results when these words are punched in, (c) affiliate sites and appearances on other sites, and (d) targeted web ads. These marketing tactics will assist you in driving traffic to your site, as well as serve to raise general awareness for your company.
8. Monitor Your Activities
The Internet offers excellent opportunities to monitor and analyze your activities so that you can be certain that what you are doing is not only working, but maximizing your potential. The web can help you determine how many people are coming to your site, where they are going inside the site, where they came from into your site, and whether or not they made a purchase. You can use this information to determine the efficacy of your navigation, architecture, content, graphics, message and marketing.
Your website, like all other aspects of your marketing, is a window into your company and a reflection of not only how much respect you have in what you do, but also how much respect and commitment you have toward your customers. A professional website demonstrates a professional attitude. Anything less is