I recently wrote about 10 areas where CEOs can create efficiencies for their companies to double their profits. The top three areas are related to Marketing. With Marketing costing companies an average of 9-12% of revenue, your ability to shave 25-50% off can go a long way to improving your profit margins. In this post, I will expand on the first topic that was covered in that post relating to Web Design.
Today, websites have become a central pillar in every company’s marketing strategy. Many, selling products or service, online or offline, build their marketing strategies around their website. Why? For many industries, building a website to establish presence is a lot less costly and effective than building common brick and mortar venues. More and more buyers and consumers are letting their fingers, instead of their feet, do the shopping for services and products alike.
Websites have become an effective two-way communication medium between businesses and their clients. They are no longer designed to tell a story or inform, but to engage visitors, educate them, and most importantly establish a back and forth communication channel with them.
But not every website leads to the promised land. Building an effective website will get you on the way, and is a very important step. So how do you build an effective website? Here are the basic steps.
Use a Content Management System like WordPress
Build your website in an easy to use and easy to update, yet powerful content management system (CMS). Professionally built websites are often built in Joomla, Drupal or WordPress. In my opinion, WordPress is the top choice CMS platform due to its easy user interface, open source code status, low cost of maintenance, high support with free or paid themes and plugins, and ubiquitous presence and support. Once a website is properly designed and setup in WordPress, adding content and value becomes straight forward.
Use a theme that is appealing and multi-device friendly. More than half of today's web traffic originates from mobile devices. Google assigns lower ranking to sites that do not support mobile devices, like smart phone and tablet.
A site developed with Weebly, Wix and other intuitive web builders that help create professionally looking designs inexpensively and often for free can only go so far in adding value. They do not permit full customization, configuration and automation to take advantage of all the necessities of a growing business website and the marketing strategy that revolves around it. If you start with these web builders, transition to using a professional CMS as soon as you can.
Maintain and Build Your Brand
You want your website to be welcoming and attractive. Less is often more when it comes to design, look and feel. A less crowded and less complicated look coupled with valuable content that is consistent with your brand is the ultimate goal. A good website design fuses science with art. So you need a team staffed with professionals endowed with both artistic and technical talent to properly build it.
Your website should maintain and build your brand and image. Use your logo and your brand colors consistently. Maintain your brand character. Echo your brand messaging and positioning throughout your web pages. Minimize confusion and dilution of your brand by staying on message and ensuring that all your writers adhere to it.
Use Attractive and Relevant Images
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on pricey or custom images. You can get professional looking art for free from Pixabay, Unsplash and Flickr. Do not use copyrighted content without the proper license of use. Companies selling stock photos like Getty Images and AFP will have a hay day coming after you when their smart web spiders find their copyrighted images on your site without the proper license. Unless you know you have the right to use the image, be prepared to pay thousands of dollars in unexpected use royalties months or even years down the road.
To humans, an image is worth a thousand words. But until image recognition algorithms are extensively used online, images communicate to search engines through the words you assign to their titles, descriptions and alt tags. Understanding what the images represent will provide an extra boost to your site’s SEO ranking. So use at least one image per page, make them relevant to your content and fill their meta tags with relevant keywords.
Retain Established Backlinks
If you are upgrading your website, do not dismiss old pages’ URLs; there are likely important backlinks pointing to them. Use identical URLs if they are still valid and SEO friendly, or setup 301 redirects to 404 errors. This will preserve the SEO juice that your old website have already accumulated and pass it on to the new website. If this is getting too technical, ask your webmaster and ensure that this step is completed before you make the transition to the new site. You and your team have worked hard to build a certain ranking with Google and other search engines, why start from scratch when you redesign your site?
Facilitate Generating and Sharing Valuable, Original & Engaging Content
A user friendly CMS like WordPress enables you and your staff to add value to your site consistently and accurately when needed, without the help of technical operators. Leverage your team’s writing abilities and pack your website with original valuable content that your clients and industry thought-leaders and influencers want to seek, read, bookmark, link-back to, email and text about, and share on their sites, blogs and social media walls.
Make sure your website hosts a blog, it will be the cornerstone of your inbound marketing strategy and digital content. We will discuss the differences between inbound and outbound marketing technique and highlight inbound benefits and the importance of a blog in future posts.
Create and link social media accounts to your site (LinkedIn, Reddit, Quora, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Yelp…) Post your blog entries and other free content on your social sites. Use plugins to encourage and recognize visitors that interact and share your content with others.
A robust digital content strategy should be at the heart of your website plan. Valuable digital content has legs to efficiently travel far and wide. It is like a long term annuity; it will generate dividends year after year with minimal incremental investments or overhead. Make every one of your pages a prospective landing page and entice traffic to lead-capturing pages (using forms) with compelling calls to action.
Gate Must-Have Content
Lead-capturing pages comprise must-have content. All your landing pages should create seamless paths to your must-have content and require your visitors to complete a form or provide their email addresses to download, view, listen or read that content. Gated prime value content will amass leads for your salesforce and email addresses for your CRM to automate nurturing future sales opportunities.
Must-have content is your quid-pro-quo content. It is your prime content that your visitors can benefit from the most, but have to give up information to obtain it. They are your whitepapers, podcasts, webinars, eBook, research papers, survey results, case studies, price list, free quotes… Guard this content well to disable users from searching your site for it, bypassing your gates to obtain it. You want to at least end up with their names, company names and email addresses in return for this content, and hopefully their telephone numbers and how they found you.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of valuable content coupled with an enticing call to action to generate traffic and leads. Leads produce new business and email addresses, facilitating a lead nurturing process that we will talk about in future posts.
In short, whet visitors’ appetites with valuable information, lead them to a trove of more valuable information, and get them to provide you their information in return for it. It is that easy!
Apply On-Page White Hat SEO Techniques
Your website must be search engine optimized for Google or all your valuable content will be nothing but a needle in a haystack or a ship lost at sea! Why optimize for Google? Because Google has a monopoly in worldwide searches—well, almost worldwide. If you can optimize for Google, you are likely optimized for other search engines.
SEO requires technical knowhow and specialized skill. But luckily, with SEO, the Pareto principle applies, where 20% of the techniques will generate 80% of the results. Here are the 10 top practices to attain 80% optimization:
- By following the above recommendations, SEO’s best practice implementations are already built into your website! So read them carefully and apply them.
- Identify your industry’s keywords, most used and long tail, vet them, compare them to your competition’s keywords, fill the gaps, disseminate them to your content authoring team and use them in your digital content consistently and frequently. (You can also develop negative keywords that attract unwanted traffic to avoid using.)
- Turn these keywords into anchors pointing to pillar URLs in your site.
- Give each page a unique meta tag title and description. WordPress facilitates this process. You can use the keyword meta tag for your information to internally keep track of the keywords you use in each page.
- Use a meaningful URL. A good URL for this blog post for instance will have the words Effective, Web, Design, and CEO in it. A bad URL is anything cryptic.
- Apply header tags <h1>, <h2>, <h3>… to headings in your content and use your keywords in these headings.
- Apply bold, italic and underline selectively to keywords and key phrases on your pages.
- As mentioned before, assign <alt> tags and titles to all your images.
- Create a sitemap and submit it to Google. If you are using WordPress, install a Sitemap plugin. The plugin will automatically create and update your sitemap and resubmit periodically to search engines. A comprehensive sitemap will ensure that all your pages are indexed by Google and other search engines. Unless a page is indexed by the search engine, it will not be found in any search.
- Use Google Analytics and Google WebMasters to track your site performance and health. They are free to use and offer a wealth of valuable information and steps to improve your ranking. Avoid spamming techniques and other black hat methods that could penalize your site and have it blacklisted.
By applying the above on-page SEO techniques, you will address the basic requirements that will enable your site to start attracting desired organic traffic. I will address off-page optimization techniques like creating valuable backlinks and disavowing bad ones when we discuss SEO in more detail in future posts.
Translate Your Content to Spanish and/or Other Languages
There are many ways a multilingual website can boost your traffic, leads and revenue. Hosting your site in a CMS like WordPress will significantly facilitate the translation and maintenance tasks, reducing costs and update time while keeping all languages synchronized as content in the source language changes over time.
Why Spanish you ask? Did you know that Latinos make up 17% of the U.S. population and are one of the fastest growing ethnic demographic in North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico)? By translating your content to Spanish you can potentially reach millions of consumers and businesses in the Americas (and Spain).
Don’t have the funds or resources to translate your entire site into other languages? Consider opening a window to the world where you translate a landing page into the top 10 languages used online. When done correctly, it can expose your site to over 90% of the world’s web users. Translation services are widely used by small and large organizations to help spread the word about their services and products locally, and across the globe.
Communicating in your clients’ native language instills trust. So do customer testimonials, success stories, survey results, and reviews… They also help visitors better understand your brand, what you commit to and stand for, and set their expectations when they decide to engage you. Visitors are more likely to give you their email addresses, telephone numbers, company names and how they found you online when you establish trust with them.
Your site must also instill transparency in your operations, processes and products or services’ features and details. I am not suggesting that you give away your trade secrets, but you have to give away much of what your clients need to know to engage your service or properly use your product.
An Effective Website Is Worth Every Penny
An effective website could be the best investment your company makes. It will enhance, amplify and proliferate your brand. It will efficiently inform existing and prospective clients about you, your products and services, minimizing support calls and sales efforts. It will deliver quality leads that can feed your sales pipeline. It will feed your email and CRM databases to enable an automated lead nurturing process, working 24/7 for you to convert them to customers and sales. An effective website will attract the right suppliers, partners and investors and connects them with you. Done correctly, it can also scare off competition by erecting barriers to entry. An accurately translated website into less than a dozen languages could become your ambassador to consumers of 90% of the world’s GDP. Diverting much of your marketing budget to create “set and forget” lead generating landing pages, processes, workflows and digital content assets will stretch your marketing dollars and deliver valuable returns year after year.
If you need help building an effective website for your business, request a SCORE Mentor today!
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