Submitted by admin on August 19, 2011 – 4:51
Yes, you need a website. No matter the size or type of your business, if you’re trying to compete in today’s tech-savvy world then you need a website in order to market yourself, gain traction in your industry and simply be found by customers. Today when someone is looking for a dry cleaner, antiques dealer, or hair salon they’re going to Google. Let’s face it, most people don’t even open that big yellow book that shows up on their doorstep each year. Don’t have a website? Only listed in the directory sites? You’re losing customers. It’s as simple as that.
If you do have a site, you want to make sure that it’s working for you. A website can be a powerful tool for your business if used properly. Here are some tips that we use when designing a site for a client. Use them to make sure your site is performing at its potential.
Three words: Search Engine Optimization or SEO as it is commonly called. No clue what I’m talking about? My advice would be to find someone that does. SEO can take your website from the depths of a search result list to #1 with thousands more visits each month. Just by following basic web coding standards (keywords, tags and titles) you can make a huge impact on the amount of visibility you will receive. Really, I’ve seen in happen.
Keep it short and to the point. The internet is all about instant gratification. You know how frustrating it is when it takes more than five seconds for a page to load. Imagine how impatient a consumer will be if they can’t readily find the info they’re looking for on your site. If they have to sift through paragraphs of copy they’re going to close the page. Use big bold headlines to call out important information and bulleted lists to convey chunks of information quickly. People don’t read websites, they scan them. Anything too wordy or verbose is best kept for a blog. And, by the way, there are many businesses that would benefit from having a blog that’s frequently updated with relevant information.
Ease of navigation. Computers don’t yet come with fancy navigational systems that can tell a user exactly how to get to the information they’re seeking. Until that day comes, it’s your job to ensure anyone who comes across your site can quickly find what they need. The most important things to consumers are hours, location and contact information. Be sure that information is easy to find and include a quality search tool just in case.
Stock photos are a turn-off. We’ve all seen our share of posed photos on websites with men in suits shaking hands, an elderly lady smiling into the camera or the perfect family standing outside of their home. Avoid these canned shots at all costs. Real images of your work, your office, your clients, or your business speak volumes about who you are as a company. Just be sure they are of a high enough resolution to be clear on any monitor.
De-clutter. Just like your closets and your grandmother’s attic, your website can only benefit from a little de-cluttering. You have an average of about three seconds to grab your reader’s attention. Busy pages distract from the real purpose of your site and tend to drive consumers away increasing your bounce rates. Multiple navigation bars, sign-up boxes and additional links have their place – they just don’t need to be cluttering up every page.
Check your analytics…often. There’s no better way to keep your site performing at its potential than by learning what’s working, what’s not and continue to make changes based on what you’ve seen. A few minutes a day can help you get to know how your site is performing, predict trends and prepare for high and low points during the year.
There are plenty of free, DIY website tools out there that will get the job done for you. But if you want to stand out from the competition and take advantage of your online presence, hire a professional. Working with a quality web design and development partner will pay off in the long run. They will be able to provide expertise in planning, design, development and technology of your brand new website that will make it easy for you to maintain your online reputation without the headaches and nightmares of going it alone. However you decide to get your business online, now is the time to get it done.
About the Author
Kevin O’Hara, author of this guest article, is the Co-Founder of jellyFace – a communication, identity and design firm specializing in helping small businesses put their best face forward with a competitive edge and a consistent brand strategy. His hands-on work with small business owners, corporations and agencies has him doodling, coding and dreaming about all types of media. Follow Kevin on Twitter.
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