This holiday season marks Dream Seed Multimedia’s sixth. When I reflect on the kind of work I was doing for clients by the end of 2006 and what I’m doing now, I find it interesting to see just how online marketing has changed is such a short time. In honor of my sixth Christmas with Dream Seed, I thought I’d share with you six big changes I’ve noticed in effective small business and nonprofit websites.
Change 1: A website needs a stronger purpose.
In the early days of my business (and even earlier when I was designing websites years before I was in business), people wanted websites because they were cool, or because it seemed that the competition had sites. Sometimes, despite my protestations, not much more thought went into them. Now that websites are everywhere, people are now moving beyond using a website as an electronic brochure and thinking about how their websites can most effectively serve their businesses. This planning ahead leads to better success later.
Change 2: Websites can do so much more.
Many websites have moved beyond the electronic brochure. In the early days of the internet, websites really were nothing more than postings of static content. Later, we realized that financial transactions and commerce were possible. People could interact with one another and have conversations. Videos and podcasting became popular. Now websites are just one part of an ever-evolving internet that allows almost full-scale interaction from person to person (think Facebook and Skype), financial management, and complete business solutions…and all are interconnected at the click of a button. What solutions can your website really do for you?
Change 3: The competition is more fierce.
I remember hearing people say that they didn’t really need a website. They couldn’t think about how a website could bring in business. Those days are over. A website is now a foregone conclusion for customers who are looking for a place to do business. However, the flip side to that is that there are millions more websites than there were just a few years ago! That really heats up the competition, and it’s more important than ever to make sure that your own website stands out from the crowd and showcases your unique selling proposition.
Change 4: Search engine optimization and marketing matters.
When search engines were new, they were a miracle that organized the internet and made it searchable. Soon after, it became apparent that if you wanted your site to be found, you wanted it to rank highly in search results. Throwing a few keywords in the text and in meta tags seemed to do the trick (as did some other sneaky tactics). Today, what you do on your own site (keywords, updates, content) are only part of the puzzle. What other people do with and about your website matters so much more today. Your social media presence (and audience interaction), customer reviews left on other websites, people’s behavior on your website, and other websites linking to you are crucial in determining your search engine ranking. But even more important than that, people are beginning to realize that search engine rank is not as important as turning website visitors into paying customers.
Change 5: Social media is a crucial part of online marketing.
Honestly, in 2006, it seemed that general consensus was that social media was a passing fad, just for kids, just for tech-heads, and the like. We now see that it isn’t going away. Just like your website, your presence on social media is quickly becoming a necessity, not an option. More of your customers are on social media, and there is a growing number of people who only use social media, not any other websites, when they’re online. Companies are now embracing that by recruiting employees through Facebook, providing customer service on Twitter, and more. If you’re not actively engaged in social media yet, you might want to make it a priority in the upcoming year.
Change 6: Mobile devices cannot be ignored.
It is expected that by 2014 (or even 2013, depending on the research) that the majority of internet interactions will be done on mobile devices—smartphones, tablets, e-readers—and that computers will become the minority device. Anyone who’s used these mobile devices knows that not all websites work as easily on them as they do on a computer. That’s why many companies have already created mobile versions of their own websites, or even apps for customers to use. Businesses and nonprofits hoping to keep their online presences relevant in the future are already making plans for their mobile strategies.
There you have it! At the end of 2006, I only saw glimmers of a few of these changes, and others weren’t even in my imagination. But now they are a reality in how business on the web works. You can use these to your advantage and lead yourself to success in the new year!