In today's business environment, a website is absolutely necessary. It provides an avenue for people to find you and find out more about you as they sit in the comfort of their homes, while waiting in line at the grocery store, sit on the commuter train, or wherever. Unfortunately too many business take the wrong approach to how they build and market their websites.
Most companies stop their website development once the site is developed, and then move into marketing mode. The website becomes another product they have to market, rather than building a website that is the marketing vehicle for their products and services. We talk about website promotion quite a bit, which we understand is the process of getting the site visibility on the search engines. But getting people to the website is not the end goal.
The website is just another something the business must have in order to do business, but it never fully succeeds in being a tool that works for them to generate business.
Online marketing is different from off-line marketing, primarily in that you have to promote the very tool you use as a promotion for your business. With radio and TV you don't have to go out of your way to get people to listen. You run the ads and people do or don't. Websites must first be optimized in order to help improve traffic and visibility before they can be used as a business generating tool.
No wonder businesses pour thousands of dollars into traditional forms of marketing (phone book, magazines, radio, etc.,) which often produces significantly less return on the investment dollar. When it comes to properly planning and executing the development and promotion of their website, well, it's a bit more complicated.
With some exceptions, every website has its own unique characteristics. When building your site there really is no one-size-fits-all pattern to follow. Your site should be built to fulfill your informational and sales needs, while being effective for your target audience. With that said, there are specific components that almost every website needs in order to be an effective marketing tool.
The home page is the online "face" of your company. It may not be the entry door for every visitor, but it is your front door and you need to make sure that you have it right. The home page should provide an all-encompassing view of what you do or offer while helping to establish trust with the new and repeat visitor.
To be effective, your home page must accomplish several things:
Establish your brand: Your home page sets the tone of the visitor's expectation. Everything from brand identity to confirmation that you can provide what they need must be established here.
Display your offerings: Visitors need to be provided a quick overview of the products, services and information they can expect to find as they dig deeper into the site.
Generate interest: The home page must do more than just provide information of what you offer; it must generate interest in those offerings. It must create a desire within your visitors to click further into the site to find out more and see how they will be benefited by your products or services.
Convey trust: Your home page can often be the first impression you give your visitors, therefore it must be able to establish an element of trust. If you come across as a slick used-car salesman, or a less-than-professional hobby site, your visitors will bolt.
About Us Page
Why do visitors go to the About Us page? Its a good question that is often ignored when web developers fill the content of these pages. Too many sites simply do not provide enough--or the right--information on this page.
The About Us page should be used to provide reassuring company information such as how long you've been in business, organizations you belongs to (chamber of commerce, BBB, etc.,) mission statement, bios of the executive staff. The information you provide on the About Us page is designed to help your visitors feel comfortable doing business with your business.
Contact Us Page
Even if you have your phone number, email address, fax number and snail mail address on every page of your website, it's still important to have a full page dedicated to this exact same information. It may seem odd, but many people looking for your contact info will ignore the information on whatever page they are viewing, looking instead for the link that reads "Contact Us."
Your Contact Us page should provide several different ways of contacting you including email, phone, and a web form. You should also include a physical address and possibly even a map. This is also a good place to display hours of operation.
Product & Service Pages
If you sell a product or a service you need pages dedicated to providing details about what you offer. Many small sites can put all their product information on the home page. This is great, but you still need to provide a page with additional details. If you have more than one product, then it's likely you need a page for each and every product or service you sell.
Product pages need to provide your visitors with everything they need to know to make an informed purchase decision. Price, style, expectations, specifications, size, benefits are all required information, depending on what you're selling. Your product page can never have too much information, provided it's laid out in a user friendly format that sells the product.
Construction of your site navigation can make or break your website's performance. Shoddy and haphazard navigation schemes can easily confuse visitors causing them to make that dreaded click out of your site and onto a competitor. A properly constructed navigation can help visitors easily move from page to page finding everything that they are looking for quickly and easily.
Be consistent: Don't confuse your visitors by changing how the navigation looks or by moving its on-page location to a different area. Be consistent in it's look and placement. There are many different forms of navigational elements: main menus, sub-menus, breadcrumbs, etc. All of them should work together to create a consistent and recognizable flow as the visitor navigates through the site.
Be obvious: Make sure it is impossible for your visitors to get lost on your website. You want them to know where they are at all times and how to navigate back to the current and other main sections. Make good use of breadcrumb links as this provides your visitors a great visual indicator as well as easy navigation.
Be helpful: Large websites with many pages or products can easily create a navigational nightmare. It is essential that visitors don't have to "hunt" for what they want. This can be accomplished by providing clear section headings in your main navigation. You can also assist the visitors by including a site map that can be easily accessed and a properly function site search box.
Putting the Pieces Together
A website is far more than the sum of its parts. While all the components mentioned above are necessary to have a working site, when implemented properly each component compliments the others.
A website, like any ad made for radio, TV or newspaper, it must effectively do the job it was built for: selling. Building a website is necessary for online success, but you have to go beyond the build. Websites must be promoted effectively in order to get the visitors you need, but once there the site must then be able to do its job selling. Too often we promote the site but fail to get the site to promote the products and services we want people to buy. Before you promote your site, make sure your site promotes you.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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