Tips on How to Build a Successful Website
Your website is often one of the first impression customers will receive about your organization. A well planned website is a vital part of your overall presentation. A key part of that planning is content development. Content is critical both for your visitor and for the search engines who use content for the indexing aspect of the business.
Even if you have a current website you should take a few minutes to look at the topics below and consider how your website presents your organization. When we discuss your needs your notes will help us arrive at an appropriate proposal for your business or organization.
What is the goal of your website?
If you are a retailer then the obvious goal is to create an online catalog which either sells your products or provides enough information to customers to convince them that your product is the one to purchase. If your business is more service oriented you want a website which describes your services and the benefits and maybe does an online estimate. An example of this is a ServiceMaster franchise called www.cleaninawink.com. Their website uses content to help create a need and provides information about the services offered to address that need.
If you want to develop a full e-commerce site we have a shopping cart option which gives you full control of your product including the ability to have Internet affiliates receiving commissions for sending traffic to your site.
Before the Internet exploded websites were mostly
informational. Universities and
government agencies used the Internet for information sharing. It was a different Internet than the one you
see today. Informational sites are
still a large percentage of the Internet content. If you site is intended as an information site you will want to
decide on what information to present and in what format. A common approach to informational sites is
to provide a wealth of content with ads on the side panels. These ads are usually affiliates who receive
a percentage of any sales directed from your site.
Some websites are used as portals or doorways to other services. An example of this is www.medicalcomcu.org which is a credit union. Their website provides basic information about their operation and contains links to online banking services. This approach is common for a business which has access to online services and information and is seeking a front door to those services.
Please take a few minutes to think about the goals of your website and how it will help your organization. Writing these goals down will help you organize your thoughts. A mission statement which we might want to post on your website please have it when we discuss your website needs.
One key item to writing content is to keep in mind that people do not like to scroll through web pages and that statistically people read 20% slower online.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Depending upon the study 65-82% of online shoppers start their search with a Search Engine. In the planning phase you will want to look at the goals of the site and consider which areas of the site you most want a visitor to visit. These web pages will then become the pages which receive the most attention for search engine optimization. Examples of these pages include catalogs if you want to sell online or donation pages if you are soliciting donations. A professional webmaster will be able to provide suggestions and direction for you in ways you are not even aware or.
SEO is a growing field. There are businesses which "promise" page 1 on major search engines. Webmasters such as myself tend to be very skeptical of these schemes. The search engines do not release all of their ranking algorithms. If they did then every sharp webmaster would be taking that into consideration and would make allowances for it. The bottom line to SEO is that you need to plan and prepare your website with your business goals in mind.
Website Content: Content is king. Without good content your website will not be as visible from search engines and visitors will quickly leave your website due to a lack of "stickiness". Stickiness is defined in its simplest term as reasons a visitor will want to stay or return to your site. For now, lets stay focused on what you want your site to contain.
Suggestions for content:
- How-to articles are a great way to provide
content. However, providing too much
information may help visitors too much and eliminate the need for your
products. If relevant, we recommend
providing teaser how-to's which provide just enough information to help but not
fulfill a need.
· Testimonials are a great way to add content to your site. Testimonials should be presented with meaningful content with relevant illustrations.
· Company/organization information is a common requirement for a website. Unless your site is designed as a portal to other sites this type of content will help establish your credibility to wary visitors. If you are a new company you can emphasize the key abilities of the company leadership. If you are a company of just one or two people you can emphasize personal attention and background.
· Links to other websites: One of the factors in search engine ranking is site popularity. Establishing links with non-competing partners will help make your website more visible and can help solidify relationships with these partners. Before pointing to a partner be sure that they give you permission and are going to create a reciprocating link to your website.
· Products/Services: As obvious as this would seem it can be easily overlooked or over emphasized. When placing products and services on your website you should consider which of these you most want to offer and how you want to present them. If you are selling for other people you may want to showcase their products as part of your services to them.
Do not make the mistake of simply moving your brochures online. The Internet is a different media than print. While much of the content may be transferable it should not be treated as a cut and paste project. (Read More on Content Writing)
- Company news: Talk about your companies activities or present news articles. This is both informative and useful search
- BLOGs and Forums: These informational news areas are becoming more common on
websites. A BLOG is typically rather
one sided in that you supply all the content. A forum allows people to contribute material which helps develop an
online community. Visitors who
contribute material to a website are more likely to return to the site. If you choose to have an online community
you will want to plan to have a moderator who will make sure than the forum is
not misused. Spammers and un-ethical webmasters are always using these as places to improve the number of links back to their site.
Look and Feel
The look and feel of a website is often a reflection of the company. Designers often create websites with heavy multimedia content like Flash. Studies have shown that many visitors want to bypass a big flash intro and move on to content. You should consider your target market and look at other approaches in your area of interest when considering colors and overall design. If your target is younger then you will want to create a website which is more consistent with the youth culture. If your target is older then you will want to create a look which appeals to them. My recommendation is to look at competitors and other major Internet sites for some ideas of what is working for those organizations.
Another key consideration is making sure that your
website is an extension of your organizations other printed materials. Consistency is more professional. If your company has a style guide it should be followed for the website.
Flash Movies and slide shows are a welcome way to add active content to a site. They provide an excellent way for you to provide good visual references to your content. In today's environment most computers can handle flash animation.
Key Pages: - Generally speaking the fewer clicks a person needs to navigate a site the better. Web designers call this the "3-Click Rule".
- Home: The
biggest impact page which often determines whether they visit or pass you buy.
- Contact Us: Be
careful posting Email addresses directly on your site. We recommend forms or graphic email
addresses. Spammers harvest email
addresses from websites.
- About Us:
- Company Info:
- Intro pages: These are often pages that come up on the first visit. They are called splash pages.
- FAQ's or Frequently asked questions provide good information to your customers and supply additional indexing fodder to search engines.
Content Maintenance: How often and what content will you want to change? If your product line is stable you will not
likely change products/services that often. If it changes frequently then you will want the ability to change the
content often. Based upon your needs
there are several ways we can address this.
- Database enabled web sites. These sites have a digital file which you maintain through an interface. Your changes are published easily to the
site and changes are immediate. This is
often a great option for general content. If you need to change photographs the process is pretty simple as long
as you can edit the images yourself. This process is not as easy to use if you want creative control over the
- We are happy to make the changes for you. If you want to layout a new page in a
program like Word and then send it to us we can post it on the site for you.
- You can even create pages in other tools like Word and
then with minor editing upload them to the site. We do not recommend this approach. Word is not a good web page editor. Some of the code it
generates may not work on all browsers. However, it is an option.
- Another option is to use a program called Contribute. This tool allows you to be able to edit pages with more freedom than other options. While being the most powerful this is the most expensive option.
There are many other options for changing content which can be discussed when we understand your needs.
Interactivity: How much do you want your site to interact with visitors. For example, if you sell cars and want people to be able to tell you what they are looking for this can be saved as part of a member profile. Interactivity can take many forms from simple color preferences to customized content. As already mentioned you can even allow forums for people to exchange ideas.
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