It’s all too often that people think that websites are magic bullets to bring them money and publicity. When it doesn’t happen right away (or even at all), some people get upset and think something is flawed with their website. What they fail to realize is that a successful website rarely just happens. It is the result of smart, methodical work on the part of the website owner.
I often tell my own clients that launching a new website is like opening a store in the middle of the desert. No one will know you’re there unless they just happen to stumble upon you. You have to work hard to tell customers where you are and then give them a compelling reason to come and visit you!
Below are eight tips to help you help your website. From planning to checking up, these basic ideas are smart but just scratch the surface. Look through my article archive and stay tuned to my newsletter for more detailed suggestions.
1. Have a strong sense of purpose.
The most successful websites have a clearly defined purpose (or two), and never add anything that doesn’t work to achieve that purpose. For example, is your site’s purpose to sell all-natural baby goods? Or is it to raise awareness of and acceptance for people with autism? Could it be to entertain visitors with humorous photos? It could be virtually anything, but if your purpose is simply to advertise your business or get more customers, you’re not digging hard enough. Be specific! Before you make any changes on your website, ask yourself, “How will this help my website’s purpose?” and you’ll guide yourself to the right answer.
2. Know your target.
You already know from planning your business or nonprofit who your ideal customers or clients are, so apply that to your website! There’s no need spending time, energy, and resources in attracting website visitors who are just going to click on to the next website. Instead, plan to meet your target audience’s needs and desires, not only in the content of your website, but also in its design. Is your target audience older? Use large, easy-to-read fonts. Are you working with people affected by trauma? Soothing colors and gentle wording may just do the trick.
3. Use calls to action.
Once your targeted visitors reach your website, do they know what to do? In order to encourage your visitors to become paying customers or useful leads, you should use a well-placed, well-designed call to action. A call to action on a website is something that attracts and convinces people to take the action you wish for them to take (contacting you, buying an item, etc.) This can be as simple as a large, easy-to-see button or an attention-getting graphic. Take a look at this article for great tips on designing an effective call to action. Just remember that a call to action only works if it leads to a page that converts a visitor into a customer or lead.
4. Use keywords and phrases intelligently.
Much attention has rightfully been given to using keywords on a website, but using them effectively and intelligently is another matter. To get keywords working for you, think instead of key phrases, which are keywords strung together. “Fresh flower arrangements and delivery” will narrow the audience and be more effective for a florist than simply “flowers.” Use key phrases in page titles, headings, link text, and body text just to get started. This two-part article gives you the “dos” and “don’ts” for using keywords and phrases effectively. You should also consider setting aside separate pages on your website for groups of like keywords and phrases.
5. Build inbound links.
One of the best ways to increase your search engine rank is to increase the number of quality links coming into your website. It’s also an effective way to bring in more website visitors, too. Use your web address in forum and blog comment signatures. Ask complementary businesses or organizations to link their sites to you. Advertise in industry directories. Learn more tips for building inbound links to improve search engine ranking.
6. Update your site frequently.
Not only does an out-of-date website look bad for your business or organization, it also looks bad to search engines. Make sure the content on your website is new by updating it frequently (every few months at least!). Updates show search engines that your site is fresh, maintained, and current, and that can mean higher rankings. If you write articles or newsletters, add them to your site as well, not only for freshness, but also for size. Larger websites can edge out small websites in search engine results. If you blog, make sure that it uses the same domain as your primary website, or your primary site doesn’t gain the ranking benefits of the blog.
7. Publicize your website.
In addition to using proven and responsible search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, use offline ways to publicize your site as well. If you have an existing organization, don’t forget to put your web address on everything: letterhead, envelopes, receipts, shopping bags, vehicles, advertisements—anywhere you would put your phone number. This is a small but powerful step that many people surprisingly don’t do! You may also wish to consider running customer referral programs, surveys, and special offers that are available exclusively through your website to generate interest and get people to check you out online. Get creative!
8. Check your site’s health…and take action.
Frequently checking your site’s Google Analytics and error reports will give you a quick gauge of how much traffic your website gets, how people find you, and what they do when they’re on your site. (Read more to get started on Google Analytics.) If you find lots of people leaving on a certain page, look at the page to see what’s not working, and fix it. Check your site’s links, forms, and images periodically to make sure they also stay working, and fix them when they break. You should also take the time to scope out the competition, read blogs in your industry, and keep up with customer trends. You’ll find great inspiration to help improve your own website.
Keeping a website in top shape is work. If you don’t make the mistake of posting your website and crossing it off your marketing to-do list, never looking at your site again, you’ll be well on your way to getting your website working hard for you!