If you are planning or already have a website, what’s your number one goal for it? Do you hope to increase sales? Collect better leads? Raise more awareness for your cause? In order to best position your website for success, you must know what it needs to do. But that’s not enough.
In my years of working with small businesses and nonprofit organizations, I’ve seen some excellent websites produce disappointing results. After investing time and money to build a great website, it’s disheartening to watch it not perform as well as it could. And usually, it’s because of one simple reason.
A website guarantees nothing
I suppose this heading is not entirely true. A website will guarantee to require some time and money to get started and to keep it going. But beyond that, it guarantees nothing.
A common misconception about websites is that if you build one, it will bring in business. I hear it all the time. “I could just sell these online…” Perhaps this may have been true in the very early days of the World Wide Web, when only a relatively few commercial websites existed, but it hasn’t been the case for many years. Yet the misconception still exists. If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this: A website will not automatically do anything for you except cost some time and money.
Why don’t some websites work?
In order to answer that question, perhaps I should ask another one. If you need a new employee for your business, would you hire someone and then not invest in training that person to do the job well? Not doing the right things to help your website succeed in its goals is just like hiring a new employee and letting her or him sink or swim without any support, training, or guidance. This is the top reason I see that some websites fail.
How do you make a website work better?
For this question, there are many answers, and none of them are one size fits all. But they all start with two important pieces of information: your website’s purpose and your target market. Basically, it boils down to good old fashioned marketing principles. You have to know what you want your website to do so that you know that it’s properly designed; for example, if your ultimate goal is to sell products online, you better invest in quality ecommerce software. Likewise, your website needs to appeal to and answer the needs of your target market. Parents looking to swap tips about making homemade, organic baby food will respond to different language, images, and needs than retirees looking for golfing vacation reviews.
Once you’re sure that your website is set up to meet its goals and attract your target market, then comes the work of finding your target market. What social media networks are they on? What words do they use in web searches? There are so many questions to ask.
While there are no magic keys to fix every website, there are some marketing tools that might work to appeal to your target market:
- Social media: Find out what networks your audience uses (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest), and create an account or profile for your organization. Post relevant, useful, entertaining, and/or engaging content, and encourage dialogue with your customers and potential customers.
- Pay-per-click or other online advertising: Some website owners report great success with paying for ads in search engine results. To get the biggest bang for your buck, you’ll need to check out your competition, know the search terms your audience is using, and write appealing ads.
- Videos: Create a YouTube or Vimeo channel, and post your videos you’ve made. The videos could be how-to, interviews, product benefits and features, discussions, you name it! Make sure they appear properly authoritative to your audience, and that may mean hiring professionals.
Whatever tools you use, they work best if they are connected with your website. Make sure your social media accounts and your website link to one another. The same goes for your videos.
There are many more ideas, and you may find working with a professional marketer helpful. All the possibilities can be overwhelming, and you don’t have to do it all yourself. But when you begin to take action to help your website fill its purpose, you will likely find it bringing you the business and awareness you were hoping for!