Your website can be your most valuable employee or it can be a discipline problem that always needs supervision. Either way, it represents you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and never takes a holiday.
When a person arrives at your website you have one chance to make a first impression and tell him or her what you’re all about. But you won’t want to stop there. The way we interact with websites has changed over the years.
Your website needs to be more than just a brochure. It can be a platform to popularize and inform about your product or service and be one of your best sales tools. It’s up to you to make sure that it’s pulling its weight.
To make your website as effective as it can be, you’ll want to make sure that you take care of a few key points.
Can customers see your site on a phone or tablet?
Yes. This number one. Your site needs to work reliably and load fast. As a general rule, your site should be up and ready less than 3 seconds after a visitor lands. If it doesn’t then this is where you start. Google has been ruthlessly bashing sites that don’t respond well on mobile devices.
Visually, your site needs to look really snazzy. It needs to look like a pro made it happen. A professional website will look great on all devices. You don’t want to disappoint even one person looking for more information about you or trying to schedule an appointment on their phone. Having a poorly designed site will do more image to your brand than you want to imagine – but you should imagine it and then fix it! The value of a truly professional design is worth every penny. This is an advertising expense that should be part of your budget.
I understand. If you’re just starting out and affording rent and groceries this month seems like a choice, then shelling out a couple of thousand dollars for a new website is not an option. If this is the case then see what you can do with a free service or an off the shelf template. Those are both great starter options. Be aware of the moment that you outgrow them though. Here’s a hint: As soon as you can afford a real website, you’ve outgrown them.
Have a good understanding of who your visitors are (or who you want them to be).
Are you using Google Analytics yet? If not, then get started. The more you know about your traffic the better. Where do your visitors come from? What do they do when they get to your site? Do people tend to get to your landing page and eject from there? Do they make it a few pages inside but still you’re not getting the emails or calls to match the traffic? Analytics can inform about how visitors use your site and where you might want to rethink your approach.
A basic brochure type site is that is all about the business or organization and not about the person visiting the site. That person maybe got to your site with the idea of checking you out but what he or she really wants is to know how you can help or provide a solution for a problem. Rewrite your copy. Think about the problems that your customers have and make sure everyone knows that you can solve them.
Definitely, provide information about you and how you work but focus on how you’ll make your customer’s life a little better. If you’re a tour guide then provide a little adventure and maybe some luxury. If you build boats that means your work might give someone some freedom. You might repair refrigerators but what you do for someone is help them put fresh food on the table. Think about the people, the real people, and what solutions or help you can give them.
How do you generate your leads?
Do people sign up for your mailing list, call you, or use your contact form? Is Facebook hot for your business? How about Twitter?
With the aesthetics, performance, and some of the copywriting challenge out of the way, now you can start fine tuning.
There are some simple tips to get people to contact you.
- If you want leads by phone, make sure your phone number appears on every page. Put it in the header, the footer, or both. Make it obvious. Your designer can handle it.
- Use opt-in forms. Put them in easy to find places. If your design doesn’t allow for one on the front page then there needs to be a strong call to action that either opens the form in an overlay box or takes the visitor straight to the form page. This needs to be easy for them. We don’t want to make them work for their supper.
- Use calls to action all over the place. A good place for a CTA is any place that the visitor might end up.
- Use other forms of media. Once your copy is working well, think about adding something extra. Professionally designed icon sets and photos are available, affordable, and often royalty free, on dozens of stock image sites. Spend some time choosing just the right photo for your blog post and it will make a world of difference. Please though, no images of random office workers (everyone knows that’s not your office), people grinning crazily, or someone in a lab coat holding lab equipment. Everyone will think you’re a hack and not to be taken seriously.If go this route anyway, be sure to buy the image and remove the watermark. If you can budget for it, think about adding an instructional video that explains your product or service. There a quite a few services that will produce an animated clip for a lot less money than you might think.
- Think about specialized landing pages for specific traffic segments.
Turn your website from an untapped resource (or at worst a liability) in a selling and promoting machine.
Photo by Erin Nekervis