If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re a business owner. And if you haven’t spent the past two decades under a rock, you may even have a website. But what has it done for you lately? If you answered “Nothing,” then it’s time to focus on fixing your website and marketing it better. Choose not to and you’ll miss out on some of the 273,785,413 North American internet users (according to Internet World Stats) online today. The majority of these users are probably not finding your website and most likely never will. All you need is a tiny percentage of these online users to find your website, and you’ll be golden. Once they do, you better be sure that your site is going to keep them there until they find what they came looking for, sign up as a lead or make a purchase. Of course, to do this successfully, time and time again, will require a common sense approach.
Evaluate Your Design
Is your website ugly as sin? Is it full of wonky code, poorly formatted text and blurry or skewed images? Does it take forever to load? If your site does more to drive visitors away than draw them in, you have a problem. No matter how well you implement and execute a marketing plan, it is bound to fail. Don’t invest in something that’s not working—take the time and fix it.
The best websites have layouts that are intuitive, making it easy for customers to find what they need. They incorporate colors and imagery that enhance the company’s brand. And the code—what’s going on behind the scenes—is clean, pristine and functional. While we’re at it, the design should be responsive as well. This means you’ve had it developed to interface with desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and mobile phones. According to a 2012 TechCrunch survey, mobile devices are now the dominant Internet platform.
Move on to Content
Your website may rival the Sistine Chapel in beauty, but if the content isn’t there, it’s still worthless. Consider the reasons customers surf and end up on your site. Some want to learn more about your business, while others are interested in making a purchase or enlisting your services. Still others are searching for information only you can provide. If they don’t find what they need, you’re in trouble—they’ll leave without saying a word.
Common sense dictates investing in quality content, not filler or gobbledygook. This means writing copy that is unique, relevant, informative, useful and easy to read. If this isn’t your strong suit, hire a professional. And while you should include a few keywords—those little gems Google uses to index your website in the search results—don’t overdo it. We’ll cover that later.
Play in Traffic
We’re not talking about cars in the street but about website visitors. There are several approaches you can take to attract them now that your design and content is up to snuff. A blog is one of the best ways to add the metaphorical meat today’s info-hungry consumers love. But don’t publish crap. Every post needs to be unique, informative, insightful and if possible, entertaining—better yet, all three. If you wouldn’t want to read it, your customers won’t either.
Social media is another approach you can take—and one that is almost essential in this day and age. After all, your clients may be spending a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter. Americans spend 27 percent of their total time online on social networking sites and social media produces double the marketing leads of pay per click campaigns, direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows.
Don’t forget email marketing. It’s still a tried and true tool for connecting with prospects and retaining customers. Again, content is key, and you must avoid the common errors that kill an email campaign.
Don’t Give into the Dark Side
Sure, SEO is important. Some estimate search engines generate 40 percent of online traffic, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of website marketing. The tools outlined above can actually add a great deal to your bottom line. In fact, you should really check out this article from our blog, “Unmasking the BIG Secrets of SEO,” before you even begin to obsess about ranking techniques. Unfortunately, many of you won’t—and the resulting penalties will hurt your business in the process.
What are some of the things you shouldn’t do if you elect to focus on Search Engine Optimization? First, don’t stuff keywords into your content—including title tags and meta descriptions. Not only will you render it virtually unreadable and piss off website visitors, but you’ll also enrage the search engine gods.
Don’t try to hide text. While visitors won’t see that white on white copy at the bottom of your site, you can bet the search engines will—and it won’t make them happy. You should also avoid copying content from other websites. In this case, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. It is plagiarism, and Google will penalize you for it, even if the law does not.
Finally, don’t pay for links to your website. Search engines hate this “black hat” practice. While Google looks at the number of links to your pages when determining rank, it also considers their quality. Link and article directories are always poor quality—the links they provide are as well. Don’t waste your time trying to be sneaky and think you’ll get one past the search engines, because you won’t and it will only hurt you in the long run.
Voltaire, the witty French philosopher and writer, once said, “Common sense is not so common.”
Spend just ten minutes examining the websites and marketing tactics of your not-so-good competitors and you’ll see he was correct in his assessment. Fortunately, you now know better—and your approach should prove it.