We get many calls from business owners because their website isn't generating calls or sales, and they want to know what can be done to boost visibility. 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 literally every one of your local competitors with websites, 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 client or customer. 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 hundreds or even thousands to get it seen.
When your site cannot be found, the only options are to either upgrade your site to newer technology or to pay every month for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC). SEO and PPC both cost thousands of dollars a month, but each can generate vastly different success.
2. It has to be visible. However someone reaches your site, they must be able to see and navigate it regardless of the device or browser they're using. The last few years have seen an explosion of mobile devices. Mobile tablets show sites differently than a PC or laptop. Screen sizes vary, so your site needs to adjust to them. Mobile phones have even smaller screens that your site information must fit into. If it doesn't, the visitor may leave.
Most mobile devices cannot see Adobe Flash. If you have flash navigation, slideshows, or videos, they may not show up.
Loading times are also longer for mobile devices, and the visitor may be paying for cell data, so the site must load quickly, perhaps not loading some larger items if necessary to save time.
Also, never make video start when the page loads.
3. It has to be navigable. As above, your site navigation needs to work with all potential 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 finger swipes and clicks in place of mice. If your menu is mouse based, visitors may not be able to move around your site.
4. Navigation 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 one menu section, such as at the top of the page or down the left side. Multiple sets of links on a page will be confusing.
Your links should also be visible on all pages; never send people down blind alleys e.g. pages that they can only get out of by repeatedly clicking the back button.
5. It has to be friendly. Your site must appeal to the visitor visually on several levels, with an attractive design and easy layout.
6. It has to be basic. When people are in a rush, as many are online, they do not want to leaf through 20 paragraphs of text to find what they are looking for.
Sum up your message on the relevant page in 500 words or less and create links to more information if necessary.
Also, try to avoid pages that are too busy with several different blocks of content scattered all over the page.
7. It has to be current. Your site should be updated regularly to keep content relevant for both your visitors and the search engines. Always check that copyright dates, news items, staff listings/bios and any contact information is up to date.
There is nothing worse than trying to contact a company and finding that the number is disconnected or email address has changed. If your 'latest news' is from 2011, a visitor will think you're probably out of business and move on.
8. It has to be competitive. You should periodically check out your competition online, especially those who 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 results are affected by changes that your competitors make to their sites.
If a competitor's site has recently been redesigned, or they have had SEO performed, 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, 2015 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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