We regularly get calls from business owners who say their website isn't generating call-ins or sales, and they want to know what can be done. A truly effective website needs to perform several functions at once if it is to produce revenue.
Here is a checklist of considerations if you need your site to become a lead generating part of your business.
1. It has to be found - This is the single most important item yet the hardest to achieve on a reasonable budget. Your site has to compete against every local competitor with a site of their own, and sometimes that can be in the thousands.
Most people do not go beyond page one of search results. Placement in the first ten is essential for anyone to find your site and become a paying client. Trying to achieve this is what causes a company the biggest financial dilemma. If your site does not appear at the top of search results, you will have to pay to get it seen.
When your site cannot be found, the only options are to either have a whole new site with newer technology, or to constantly pay for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC).
Any of these can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a month, but each can generate vastly different success.
2. It has to be seen - However a person reaches your site, they must be able to view and interact with it regardless of the device or browner they're using. There has been a recent explosion of consumers using mobile devices to go online.
These devices, phones and tablets (like the iPad) display sites differently than a PC or laptop. Screen sizes are also different; your site needs to adjust accordingly. Many tablets and phones cannot see Adobe Flash at all, so if your site uses any flash elements for navigation, slideshows or videos, those elements may not show up on a phone or tablet at all, rendering the site less efficient or totally invisible. Loading times are considerably longer for mobile devices, so the site must load quickly to avoid losing impatient visitors. 3. It has to be compatible - As above, your site needs to have a version that works with other devices.
The most common mistake is that a site menu often relies on mouse clicking or passing over the menu to show links.
However, phones and tablets use fingers in place of mice. If your menu is mouse based, it will become very annoying for a visitor, or worse, they may not be able to find the clickable links.
4. It has to be friendly - Your site must also appeal to the visitor on several levels, with an attractive design and easy layout. When people are in a rush, as many are online, they tend not to want to leaf through 20 paragraphs to find what they are looking for. Instead, if you can, sum up your core message on your home page and create links to more information.
Also, try to avoid pages that are too busy with several different blocks of content scattered all over the page.
5. It has to be simple - Just as with content, your site navigation must be as simple as possible. The visitor is usually in a rush: don't make them work too hard to find what they were looking for. Wherever possible, keep links within obvious menu locations, such as at the top of the page, or down the left side. Multiple blocks of links all over the page will frustrate a visitor. Do not send people down blind alleys that force them to back out for several pages at a time.
6. It has to be current - Your site should be updated regularly to keep content relevant for both your visitors and the search engines.
Always make sure that copyright dates, news items, any staff listings/ bios and photos, and any contact information is up to date.
There is nothing worse than trying to contact a company and finding that the number or email address has changed. If your 'latest news' is from 2011, a visitor may not even try contacting you, thinking you're probably out of business.
7. It has to be competitive - You should periodically check out the competition online, especially to see if they are ranking higher than you in searches.
As I inform our clients, search engines are like a race, and just because your site was on the first page last month, it is not guaranteed to still be there this month.
Many times, your search result rank is directly affected by the actions of your competitors.
If a competitor's site has recently been redesigned, or they have had SEO performed on their site, they could now push you down the list.
It is also smart to see if any of your competitors are doing anything which you think could benefit your own site.
These could include things like adding video presentations, running special sales, or promoting new technologies, especially anything that saves their customers' time or money.
If any competitors are doing things like that online, just as in the real world, you need to match or even best their competitive edge.
If you have concerns with your web presence, 2014 is the perfect time to look into our WebUpdate system sites, which take advantage of advanced marketing, SEO and promotion features to give your business the best competitive edge online.
Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design,
the award winning web and multimedia design agency in Chesapeake.
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