There’s no question that websites play a key role in today’s business world. Your website is home base for many if not most of your marketing communications. Much like grand central station, almost all communications travel through your website. Assuming you keep your site updated, it offers, at a quick glance, insight into how active your company is in the space. As with any part of your marketing presence, however, simply having a website is not enough. Indeed, a website that appears out-of-date or that is otherwise ineffective can be just as problematic as not having any website at all.
How can you make sure that you are maximizing the benefits of your website? Here are five tips.
1. Search Engine Optimization
Imagine you just started a new restaurant. Your goal is, of course, to entice people to come to your place for their next meal. What if your restaurant doesn’t show up on any map, however? What if people, even if they want to, can’t find you? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps people find your website just like a map can help people find a restaurant. Using keywords, inbound links, and optimized meta and alt tags increases the chances that your website will show up on the first page of search engines like Google. Since people do not tend to look past the first page and very seldom past the second page of results, being seen as soon as someone types a search term in is very important. Even if your website is the most creative website in your industry, without SEO, no one may ever see it.
2. Make it easy to navigate
Once people find your website, it is essential that they find it easy to navigate from one point to another. Equally important is that they are able to find what they are looking for with ease. Make sure, before you launch your site live, that you put it through the paces. Have someone not familiar with the project attempt to navigate the site. Ask them to find information that you know is on the site and see if they are able to find that data without any assistance from you or your team. If a person visits your website and finds the navigation complex or frustrating, they are likely to abandon your site quickly in favor of a site that is easier to manage.
3. Speak to your customers, not to yourself
One of the easiest mistakes to make with any marketing tool, but particularly with websites, is to use jargon, acronyms, or terminology that may be familiar within your company walls but a great unknown to everyone else. Remember that it will be your customers and prospects who will be using your site most , not just you or your co-workers. Make visitors to your site feel welcome by using terms that will be familiar to them. Again, it’s not a bad idea to have a person outside of your company run through the site before it launches live. Does everything make sense to that person? If not, try to clarify your language so that it is accessible to everyone.
4. Avoid Flash
Even if you don’t plan to do anything else to optimize your site for mobile users right now, there is one step that is critical. Make sure you do not use Flash anywhere on your site. The temptation to still use Flash is great. Flash introductions, Flash photo galleries and more used to offer really exciting ways to enhance the website experience. Once Apple introduced the iPhone and the iPad, which are not Flash-friendly, the rules of the game changed. Now, it is considered best practice to avoid Flash altogether. Not only is Flash not available for site visitors using an Apple device, but there are now other ways to enhance your website that are visible regardless of the browser or device. The era of Flash is coming to an abrupt end.
5. Make sure you measure
Websites represent a major investment for your company, not only monetarily but also in terms of time and effort. As a result, you want to make sure you constantly track how your website is performing. Fortunately, measuring website metrics is one of the easier processes in the marketing world. By using a free program like Google Analytics, you can keep track of which pages on your site receive the most visitors, what times of day are the busiest for your site, where your website visitors are coming from, and much more. Your analytics should be checked once a week at the least, and there should be a willingness to make updates based on what the data is telling you. For example, if a page shows an extremely high bounce rate (meaning people land on that page and then leave the site), you may want to look at that page’s content and see how you can make it more enticing. By the same token, if a certain page is performing extremely well, you want to make sure there is a clear call-to-action that can help drive visitors further into the sales funnel.
Websites are essential tools today, but they require regular care and feeding. We hope these five tips offer you a good start in improving your online presence. If you have any questions, just let us know in the comments section!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/courosa/2248644717/ via Creative Commons