Get More Mileage From Your Site

You have launched your web site and now what? “If you build it, they will come”—well, not exactly. Without a marketing strategy to accompany your web site, there is no roadmap to getting visitors to your site.

Remember that your web site is a part of your whole marketing strategy and not your only route to increasing and retaining your customer base.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

When your designer creates your site, there are technical aspects that can make your web site appear higher in rankings when a user does an online search. There are also fee-based options to increase your search engine rankings.  Optimizing your site for search engines helps your site appear in the search results list.  Make sure that SEO plays a part in your web site design.

Traditional marketing

While the world wide web has become the center of communication and finding out about everything, potential customers still respond to traditional marketing. This means that you have to get your name out there, whether it be in printed advertisements, sponsorships, mailers, or on your business card. Saturating the market with your brand message and company name is still a key component to a successful marketing plan.  Your web site is a part of your business plan, it isn’t the only part!  Even if you are running a web-based business, you have to invest in ways to get potential customers to your web site.  Be creative and perhaps you can save money (think social media and free networking events). Building your site is only a portion of the process; make sure to plan to get customers to it.

Update your content frequently

Many businesses build a web site and then allow it to stagnate. It is critical to update your web site content frequently and engage users with a reason to regularly visit your site. Consider posting monthly newsletters, weekly special offers, coupons etc. Do not underestimate your customers’ desire for a bargain or their interest in knowledge.  Once your site’s content becomes outdated or starts to look like it is from the previous era, it is time to re-assess your goals and determine whether you want an online presence or if it’s time to let your domain name expire.

Online marketing

Another option for getting customers to your web site is online marketing. You can advertise online, send customers newsletters or promotional materials via email, and create viral marketing campaigns through networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.  Most of us may have good intentions to return to a web site, participate in an online promotional offer, or take a survey, but life sometimes gets in the way.  Make it easy for your customers to remember you and your service through various online marketing channels.  Consider hiring a professional who specializes in online marketing and communications. It may be worth the investment.

Writing Content for Your Site

Sometimes writing, for print or for the web, can be a daunting task, especially if you are not an experienced writer. Here are some tips for helping you when it is time to write your site content.

Keep it simple and short

Outline the basics of your topic. If you already have printed promotional materials, look at the text and try to pare it down to the essentials. It is easier for your web site visitors to read bulleted lists, so consider taking a paragraph and creating a list from it. And be sure to leave out flowery wording; it is wasted on the web.

Tackle the text in pieces

Thinking about creating content for your whole site can be overwhelming. Take it page by page and set small goals. Using a site map can help because it provides an outline for what content you need and how it will be displayed to the user.  If you don’t have a site map, think about writing the old-fashioned way: write an outline!  An outline is a great place to start and helps organize your thoughts, and eventually your site, so that you can begin writing each page.

Consider your audience

Because users tend to scan text, make every word count. What are the essentials? If you had only three things to say to a potential customer, what would they be? Targeted, purposeful content gets the message across successfully.

Don’t worry about getting it right the first time

When you decide to write your content, let the words flow! Your first draft doesn’t have to be what appears on your site. You can always edit your writing to make it web-friendly and more concise.  Try sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind about your topic.  Then you can use that to choose what is most important, and it may spark more content ideas.

Hire a professional

If you are short on time, consider hiring a professional to help you develop content for your site. There is nothing wrong with consulting an expert!

Five Myths about Web Design

1. Flash intros are cool

Truth: After the first time, these Flash-based intros—almost like mini ads or videos—begin to annoy users when they repeatedly visit your site.  Additionally, Flash intros block what users really want to see—the content on the site. You want users to return to your site, so anything that might detract from your goal is not the best plan.  Using Flash intros is outdated and an instant red flag that your site’s strategy needs a facelift.

2. Lots of navigation options means the site is robust

Truth: Keeping the options to between five to nine choices reduces confusion. If your site is content robust, consider utilizing a secondary navigational menu.  Without content hierarchy, users become lost or confused and don’t know where to begin to find information on your web site. Bundle the content intuitively so you are doing the work for your users. This does not mean that each page is not accessible off the Home page; what it does mean is that you refrain from showing too many options all at once.

3. Personal e-mail is acceptable

Truth: Using your personal email address does not convey a professional, business image to users. Put to rest any doubt that your business is legitimate and portray a professional image by using your company’s domain for email. Not only do you look polished, you also don’t look cheap!

4. Animation conveys a fun message

Truth: Flashing/moving graphics, aka animated gif files, and scrolling/flashing text are distracting and outdated.  Newer technologies, often called “sliders,” are an improved way to display multiple images or text through gradual transitions such as fading.  Your site can have a fun feel and brand message, but you can achieve this is numerous ways.

5. The more text, the better

Truth: Repeated studies prove users scan web sites and rarely read the details. The old adage applies: less is more.  To help provide robust content to your users, you can utilize content hierarchy, much like traditional outlines, on your pages to make skimming easier for your audience.