If you get your website right you will win more business — that’s the reality of promoting and selling pretty much anything today.
That’s all well and good I hear you say, but exactly how do you go about creating the right website — one that really works for your business?
Having worked on over one hundred web projects for service firms in the past few years, here are the top ten things we’ve learned. I hope they give you some ideas if, like us, you are redoing your own site in the coming year.
If you want a successful website, you’ll need put as much time and effort into planning it as your designer spends on building it. Great design has never mattered more but don’t launch straight into it.
By hiring a web designer or developer with a strong digital presence — someone who creates great content for their own business — you can be sure that they understand how to get your site right.
If you want to create a site that really engages prospective clients look at what you do from the outside in. See your business through their eyes by asking your clients for feedback.
Your story is a golden thread that runs through all your content and illuminates what you do. Get this right and the rest of the content will flow. Hiut Denim’s website, the super-strong message from Finisterre and B2B firm Desynit are all great examples.
Good websites are also packed with helpful and inspiring content. In fact, when it comes to the helpful stuff vs. sales information, try following the 80/20 rule of content.
Effective websites equip the visitor with the information they need at every step of the sales process — from browsing and researching to just about to buy. Think through what your buyers need throughout the journey to becoming a loyal client.
It’s neat to be niche when it comes to the web. Whether you focus on one or many niches, the trick is to serve up relevant content that meets the needs of each sector.
Your website is plugged into a much wider lead generation and lead nurturing system. It’s linked to the social web, to your growing email subscriber list, to your contact database, to smart analytics. Marketing automation is becoming more important — it can improve the visitor’s experience, help you power and manage relationships and measure the results.
If you’re creating a new website, make sure its design is responsive, so that it is easily viewable and useable on any device. With the rise of mobile the power of visual content has never been greater so don’t forget to include video content.
A website is a platform to build on, not an end in itself. Be clear on your content strategy, create a publishing plan for the months ahead and keep adding and sharing great content if you want to get found and loved. It takes time to build up that head of steam when it comes to driving leads from the web but hold firm. If you follow these tips and continue to add value, results will come.
The business case for having a good website packed with valuable content is very strong. Many people now realise that 60% of a sale happens before clients get in touch (or don’t — as the case may be). Your website plays an increasingly important part in the path to new business.
But it’s often sheer embarrassment that finally flicks the switch between “we really must get round to doing something about our website” to “we need to do it NOW”.
Worse than driving away potential leads (who we’ll never meet and can therefore ignore), a poor website makes it difficult to look our best amongst people we respect and want to do business with.
Having an embarrassing website is like having a really messy house. You just don’t want to bring people back there. Ring any bells?
Here are six signs that you’re embarrassed by your website:
If this sounds like your website, then it’s time to take action.
This year, Google has made significant changes to its search engine algorithm, most notably their “Panda” update which devalues sites with poor quality content.
Poor quality content can be anything from plagiarised or duplicate content to text littered with SEO keywords clearly designed to manipulate the search rankings.
Small businesses which have website content that is not up to scratch will find themselves plummeting down the rankings, losing both vital traffic and potential business. So how do you create content for your website that’s inspiring, compelling and, most importantly, genuinely useful to your customers?
The best place to start is by identifying and researching the behaviours of all of the different types of people that use your services. We’re an airport parking specialist, so we understood that families going on holiday regularly book with us. That’s a good starting point but the trick is to delve deeper.
We looked at what issues families may face when travelling to the airport. For example, they tend to be carrying a lot of luggage plus buggies and their children and, as a result, can take longer to get to the airport than most people. Therefore the start of their holiday is often a stressful time. How could we help them further when they book with us?
Providing a solution
If you’ve identified all of the different types of people that may use your services then the next step is to delve into online forums and social communities relevant to your customers to find the kind of questions that they are asking. These questions can be used to generate ideas for content.
Continuing the families’ example, we looked into various parent forums online and saw that they were asking questions such as “what are the regulations with taking food and drink through security?” So we created in-depth content to answer these questions including a guide to Heathrow security and a family travel guide looking at packing, researching and booking a holiday, getting to the airport and what to do at the airport.
Extending your reach
So you understand your customers and have created content to answer their questions — now you need to consider how you’re going to spread the word far and wide to let more people know that your content actually exists.
Create a detailed seeding plan looking at relevant sites to approach with your content and consider writing and distributing a press release to send out via online newswires to help spread the word.
Time well spent
All of this may seem time consuming, and it is! However, if done properly, your efforts will be well worth it. Off the back of our new and improved content we’ve seen big increases in traffic to our website, better conversion results and increased overall revenue. Content is most certainly king.
Oliver Inwards is e-commerce manager at Purple Parking.
We have lots of great blogs and articles about creating website content to help and inspire you:
A funny thing comes over some businesses when they start putting together their web copy. Rather like having a posh “telephone voice”, they write about themselves in an artificially “proper” way.
Instead of saying, “we run coaching workshops for new businesses”, they’ll write “we facilitate training sessions to leverage success for business.’” It’s a bit like having Hyacinth Bouquet answering your office phone. More than a little off-putting.
When I’m writing web copy, I imagine I’m telling someone in the same room. My tone is conversational. I use the same words to explain something that I’d use if you were sitting next to me. Good web copy makes a connection with its reader. Lacing your sentences with unnecessarily long words puts your readers at a distance, and that’s not where you want them.
Sometimes I think it’s a confidence thing. People don’t feel they’ll be taken seriously if they talk in everyday language. Big words are good for hiding behind. My advice would be to take a deep breath, and just tell it how it is.
1. Be clear. Say it out loud before you write it down.
2. Use short sentences. They’re easier to understand.
3. Keep technical language to a minimum. Of course some pages demand it — especially if your offer is a technical one. But your Home page and About Us copy should certainly be straightforward.
4. Be accurate. A conversational tone doesn’t mean you can forget your grammar. Good grammar ensures your writing makes sense.
5. Get to the point. There’s no room for rambling digressions in web copy. Users want information fast, so cut anything superfluous and give important stuff room to breathe.
Read more on writing copy for your website:
If you have a website and want to gain new customers, why not build landing pages optimised for search terms with geographic modifiers. If that sounds like gibberish, I’m talking about creating special pages to attract potential customers who enter (for example) ‘copywriter Norwich’ instead of just ‘copywriter’ into search engines. Because location searches are more specific, there’s generally less competition for them, increasing your chances of achieving good SEO results. For example, as I write, my page on Copywriters in London ranks at #4 in Google and #1 at Yahoo, outperforming the sites of dozens of other copywriters who really are in London! When visitors click through to the page, it explains that they could get practically the same level of service from a copywriter in Norwich and save money, since our overheads are inevitably lower. Is it ethical? Am I bending the truth? Believe me, I’ve agonised over this. But I only considered it when I saw competitors doing the same thing. And all I’m really doing is creating a page about finding copywriters in London, not masquerading as a London copywriter. Does it sell? I believe so, although I don’t always grill my new clients on how they found me (I know I should). You’ve got to be realistic. Drop-off rates will inevitably be high when people seeking local suppliers twig that you’re 100 miles away. But some are bound to be convinced. If you want to do something similar, just create a web page with 300-500 words of text talking about finding your product or service in your target location and linking that to your own offering. Explain how you can easily reach customers in the location and, if appropriate, mention any clients you already have there. Make sure you use your keywords in your HTML page title, heading tags and throughout the text. Aim for a keyword density of around 5% - you can check it here. Use keywords in the document name too (Yahoo likes this). The ‘description’ meta tag carries no weight for SEO, but may still appear in search results. So you can use it to grab searchers’ attention with a punchy message like ‘Looking for an electrician in London? Call our national helpline to find a reliable, affordable contractor.’ (For more help with SEO writing, see this guide to SEO Copywriting.) Remember, your page is primarily aimed at search engines. You don’t really want people to read it! So make sure people who arrive at it can easily click through to your home page, perhaps via a link in the first sentence. To boost rankings further, link to your page from blog posts and online PR articles. The only thing you can’t do is get listed in local online directories for your target locality - although you could always make that possible by investing in a virtual office. A final word of warning - if people do choose you, they’ll be expecting you to match the service a local supplier could provide. Make sure you can keep your promises!
Whether you run a business yourself or are involved in business support, it doesn’t take a genius to recognise that businesses are interested in marketing. (Marketing, business planning and grants have consistently topped the charts since BHP started producing business advice in the early ‘90s.
But the Marketing Donut only makes sense if there’s a gap to be filled. Looking through hundreds of websites offering marketing resources convinced us that there is – and gave us a few key lessons on what we should be aiming for.
Not surprisingly, a lot of sites are driven by advertising. Fair enough, but sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the advertising ends and the content begins. Webpages that look like The Million Dollar Homepage and advertorial whose sole purpose is to get you to hand over your money are absolute no-nos.
Some sites do a great job covering a specific topic, but are far from comprehensive. Fine as far as it goes, but if you’re going to have to look for the right site each time you want a piece of marketing information you might as well stick with Google.
Then there’s a whole range of sites catering to marketing professionals in big corporates (and marketing students who hope one day to be marketing professionals in big corporates). Nice theory, shame about the reality.
SMEs need to understand the issues that matter and how marketing principles apply in practice. Overviews need to be backed up with detail while detailed explanations need to sit comfortably in the bigger picture. Tools that actually help you do the job are even better.
And however good a website’s content may be, if you can’t find the information you want it might as well not be there.
These key principles have informed the development of the Marketing Donut. Have we delivered? – we’ll soon know.