Your website is your shop window. It is now one of the most important parts of a company’s marketing collateral – but sadly, is often one of the most neglected.
Here’s the story of a mythical company, let’s call it Yellow Bricks. A few years back, Yellow Bricks knew they needed a website – because everyone else had one. However, they regarded it merely as an expensive but ‘necessary evil’. They hired a ‘web designer’, Joe, who was a real whiz with computers (but no sales or marketing knowledge). And so their just-about-OK website was born – but what Yellow Bricks didn’t know, is like a child, a website needs to develop and be loved. In no time at all, their website looked old fashioned and amateur – and worse, no one could find it on Google! So their prospective customers found their competitors on the Internet instead, and they started to loose business to the opposition.
Does this sound familiar? Is your company like Yellow Bricks? Is your Website fit for purpose? Have you looked at it critically recently?
Here are a few acid tests you can try:
- Put in your main service and your location into Google – are you top of the list?
- How easily can you find a key piece of information on your site – like your telephone number or address?
- Has your site been updated recently (in the last week or month)?
- Look at the design: does this reflect your company? Is it modern looking? Is it clean and clear? Does it represent your company’s values?
If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, then you need to take some action! This sounds basic, but all too often, if the basics aren’t right, then your website will under perform – and your prospective customers will go somewhere else.
So let’s look at some of these things in a bit more detail. First and foremost, your website needs to be found. And not just by typing in the name of your company in Google – you need to be found by your services and location as well.
Google and search engines love new and recent content, so you need to be able to add or change the text regularly. In any case, the nature of websites is that if they’re not updated, they become stale. So it’s vital to keep your website looking relevant – this can be done quickly with the addition of a blog or a news update.
First impressions matter! You have only eight seconds to impress your web visitor – so it needs to look good, as it is representing your company. Nowadays, your site may be the first point of contact for a prospective client.
Like clothing fashions, website design has fashions and trends. And people can easily see if yours looks fresh, modern and cared-for. Modern style is exemplified by the new grey-type-on-white background seen in Google itself, and the simpler, magazine-style layout introduced on bbc.co.uk.
These are not just design trends though – they are a recognition that people have become much more internet-savvy. People go to the internet more and more as their primary source of information and are prepared to spend more time browsing a page for the information they want, however are less tolerant of poor navigation and “clutter” that gets in the way.
So, here are few design tips:
- Have plenty of clear space around the text
- Use good quality, professional pictures
- Keep the text short and concise: avoid waffle, long sentences or unwieldy explanations
- Have all the page visible on screen – visitors don’t like scrolling
- Have your telephone number and a ‘enquire’ button clearly on every page
- Make it easy to navigate
- Proof-read it very carefully – get a professional to do this if necessary
- Keep the text talking about what you can do for your customers and why they should use you. Don’t use ‘We’ and ‘Our’ too much, try to say ‘You will be delighted ….’
- Use a large, clean, modern font
- Don’t have ‘intro’ animation – people hate it
Finally, we now move onto the apparently “black art” of SEO!
What is SEO? You may of heard of this, but have no idea what it means. It stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it helps your website move up the Google rankings – you want to be on page one of Google for all your key services and/or products (often location specific, for example ‘Builders Brighton’).
SEO is hard to achieve and it needs to be maintained as well. Like a marriage, you have to work at it – not necessarily daily, but certainly weekly or fortnightly. You can get someone to do this for you for a small (or sometimes large!) fee or you there are some simple things you can do for yourself.
- Have a good quality, short video on your home page (Google loves this)
- Use headings which include key words or phrases
- Name all your pictures and web-pages with meaningful descriptions: don’t give the same description to every page
- Make your website interesting to visitors – Google assesses this and gives you “brownie points” for long-visit times. Google loves unique content as well!
- Have links to and from your website to other sites, such as your team’s linked-in profiles, the corporate Facebook page, suitable directories and blogs
Yellow Bricks sounded as though they were made up. Actually they were a client of mine (but with a changed name). Fortunately, they woke up in time and together we built a new site with built-in SEO. They got their first new customer for a year – straight from their website in the first week the website went live. They don’t take their website for granted now! So, please take a look at your website and check it’s working hard for you!