There are many fantastic websites out there produced by smart people who know how to optimise opportunities in the digital world, but many businesses are still running out of date websites which are little more than expensive online brochures. Business websites are as important as great sales people and should be developed with the same level of focus as you would develop your team. In fact, if your website isn’t your best salesman you should take a serious look at it.
It is important to be clear about the objectives of your website before you start to design it. Once it’s up and running, focus on continual improvement to see your website become an incredibly powerful tool in driving your business forward. Here are some vital elements for a great business website:
Beautiful Design, But Make Sure It’s Functional
There’s no excuse for poor design in today’s website world and your website should be beautiful. However, the most important challenge is – is it functional? Can your customers get to the information and services they want easily and quickly? If not, they will simply leave and go to your competitors’ site. Too many sites are limited with boxy designs and excess copy; unless you are running a book site they didn’t come for a good read.
Search Optimised Content & Link Building
Keyword research is critical and needs to be effectively managed to get the right words in all the right places. Too little and you won’t get picked up by search engines, too much and they’ll block you for stuffing. Do your research effectively. Building inbound links to your site is one of the most critical factors in successful search and should be ongoing. This is an area where continuous improvement is vital and the next point can help you do this by creating link bait.
Fresh Content Keeps Everyone Interested
Customers love fresh, new content and so do Search Engines. Blogs, news and articles are often the best way of ensuring your site is always packed with new updates and interesting info. They keep the excess copy away from those all-important landing pages and enable you to keep them functional, while still allowing you to effectively keep your customers engaged and support their research phase. They are also a great way to create SEO links, pointing people back to interesting news and articles on your site.
Mobile & Social Media Optimised
Whichever way your potential customers choose to engage with your business, it needs to be functional at the point of need. Mobile users need it to be clear and simple with big buttons for the most important actions – such as opening hours, call us, or get directions. What’s most important on a great desktop site is not the same as mobile. Social media enables you to engage with customers in a much less formal manner, but carries its own risks. Make sure you maintain a consistent style of communication, and that it stays appropriate to your brand.
Easy Content Management
Business websites need regular changes to be effective – latest news, new offers and promotions, and regularly updated blogs and keywords. Too many businesses create a site once and expect it to continue to perform. Your website must have an easy to use Content Management System (CMS) to enable your team to update and edit without needing to go back to the original designer, which is both expensive and ineffective.
Use Analytics To Get Customer Insight
Tracking your potential customers’ journey through your site is vital to enhancing its effectiveness. Which pages did they visit, which images did they look at, what drove the most effective conversion? Then eliminate the waste and do more of what’s working. You need to track how they got to your site, and optimise the opportunities, and where they go next. If it’s your competitors, then you can focus on why. If your website doesn’t provide you with great customer analytics you need to get a new one
Smart Marketing Tools Impress Your Customers
Make sure you make it easy to capture customer information, and then professionally follow up with an action. The best websites create automatic responses and emails to customer enquiries – warming them up for potential business, but also inform your sales team of the enquiry immediately so they can contact the customer. There’s nothing worse than a form with your details disappearing off into the ether. These are your most valuable prospects and should be followed up urgently. Make sure you are able to use your customer database to keep them up to date on blogs, offers and new developments. Integration with simple email tools is easy with the latest CMS systems, and should not be overlooked.
Andrew Gabriel is an experienced senior executive leader with a proven track record in blue chip international multichannel business and services. In 2012, Andrew joined Intenix Design & Development as a partner to lead the launch strategy for Telaeo, the new business website CMS platform. He also currently works as an advisor for a number of US and EU based technology companies.