As posted in The Gaston Gazette:
(7/26/15) BELMONT, N.C. – Some of us actually remember a time when websites were nonexistent. Today, your business doesn’t seem legitimate without one. When done well, websites can be a major boon to your bottom line – the most effective ones provide an added benefit of freeing up your time to focus on your vision (or vacation) while your website takes care of business. But in a crowded online marketplace, how does your site get attention? Here are a few tips on how to shake your shingle in the virtual world:
- Establish why you want a website. This is step one, and it’s the most important of all. Ilya Pozin, founder of the web design firm Ciplex, says the first question you need to ask is “Why do I need a site?” not “What do I want on it?” Clarify your purpose. Do you want your site to sell products and increase sales? Inform or convince visitors about your cause or service? Improve brand awareness? All of the above? Establish your priorities – your “whys” – at the get-go, and it makes every step thereafter much easier.
- Usability is essential to success. Time is a hot commodity so you want the user experience on your website to be fast and easy. Most visitors already have an idea of what they’re looking for when they land on your home page. If they have to fumble around looking for what to do next, you probably need to go back to the drawing board. Today’s web designers are making navigation and menu bars upfront and simple across multiple devices to keep your visitors engaged. On his blog, interface designer and user experience manager Paul Olysager warns against common design mistakes such as small or hidden buttons, clunky text, lack of social media and a confusing layout. If your visitors have to think or search for more than three seconds, you’re likely to lose them.
- Stay on brand. There’s nothing at all wrong with snooping through the competition’s website to see what you like and what you don’t. But when creating or revamping your own site, don’t stray from your unique identity. Your website is an extension of your brand and your business, not an afterthought. Everything from your brick and mortar front door to your advertising and your website should present a united branded front. Super-retailer Target is masterful at this, maximizing the color red and its iconic logo across multiple marketing avenues. You don’t have to be a Fortune 100 giant to borrow that savvy strategy. Make sure your online visitors instantly recognize your brand, from the colors to the shapes to the imagery to the tone of the wording. It’s a good idea to see what your competitors are doing on their websites, but then take what you like and make it your own.
- Watch your word count. Few things turn off a potential customer quite like a wordy website. Naturally, you want to shout the benefits of your business to the masses, but in the virtual world, brevity is a must (remember, fast and easy). Use as little copy as possible to make your point and choose words carefully. “Discover Our Benefits” sounds more appealing than “learn about us.” Whenever possible, cut copy in favor of video and animation. Visuals are engaging, particularly among a growing tech-savvy millenial audience. Combine these tools with concise, effective wording and you can create a coveted emotional connection with your visitor. Let your website tell your story with relatable examples, and voila, you’ve hooked your visitor.
- Hire a pro. There are hundreds of services that promise instant websites at little cost. For your hobby, that’s great. But if you’re serious about your business and you want to increase revenues and brand awareness, the “insert info here” options won’t do it for you. It doesn’t take much effort to create a standard, informational website. It might even be eye-catching. But does it target your market? Is it strategic? Are you an expert at search engine optimization, current coding, keyword research and competition analysis? Do you know how to not only create your site, but also drive traffic to it? Are you familiar with establishing domain names and site navigation? Can you monitor your website for stats, load times and conversion rates? If not, you need a professional. A good web designer can deliver a high-functioning, great-looking, well-hosted website for a surprisingly reasonable cost. A great designer, agency or web team can maintain that website as it progresses into the future, providing updated reports, continually driving web traffic and ensuring every page – from “Discover Our Benefits” to “Contact Us” – is current and consistent at all times.
Think of your website as your virtual storefront. Shoppers aren’t as likely to stop into the drab, dark store with a small or convoluted entry. The bright welcoming establishments with neatly arranged merchandise, appealing colors and room to move around are the ones that lure the most visitors. The same applies to your website. By asking yourself the right questions upfront, understanding and catering to your visitors and hiring a reputable professional, your website can become far more than a placeholder on the web; It can be a hardworking marketing tool to boost your business.
Lyerly Agency’s President and CEO Elaine Lyerly and Executive Vice President and COO Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/1MspNJU.