Your website is a marketing tool … use it!
I have been designing and hosting websites for almost 20 years and the most common misconception I face with clients are the following thoughts; “I must have a website so I can make more sales!” or “Once I have a website; I will start making money.” While both these statements have an element of truth; a website isn’t a magic solution to a bad marketing strategy, or lack of any marketing strategy.
If you don’t have a Marketing Plan – here are some references to get you startedSurvey Monkey | The Ingredients of a Small Business Marketing Plan: Entrepreneur.com | Use These 5 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan: Entrepreneur.com
Many people have created a website on quick fix platforms, free option platforms etc. that looks fairly pretty, has lots of info, and bell’s and whistles, but really just “sits and gathers dust” because no-one knows it is there. And that process is more than just SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) etc. Having a successful website requires work and consistent effort – the same as your business does.
Your website should ALWAYS form an integral part of your marketing strategy. It is only one tool in your toolbox and not the entire toolbox. Don’t forget the “old-style” tools like brochures, business cards, networking, email newsletters and the newer ones like social media marketing and many, many others. They all have their place in an integrated marketing strategy.
When planning your website, or an update to your website, it is important to remember that prospective clients don’t know you or your product. A prospective client is looking to have a need fulfilled, someone who cares about them, someone who knows their stuff and can guide them through the choices and options available.
You also need to pay attention to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), SMI (Social Media Integration) and many other confusing terms and processes. So how does a small business, particularly an owner-manged business, navigate these dark and scary waters?
It is not really as complicated as it sounds.
Where do you start?
The first thing we need to look at is the content of your website. Your website forms the core of your online presence and is essential as a reference point for Social Media and other online platforms. It is also the base where you “prove your worth” so to speak and show your knowledge and proficiency in meeting your clients needs.
A good starting point is: If you were a client looking for your products and services, what would you want to know?
Some tips and pointers:
- Your website needs to be easily navigable: when a visitor arrives they need to be able to see immediately where they can get what they are looking for. No-one enjoys sitting for hours searching a website and not finding what they need. The average person will not hang about for longer than 10 – 15 seconds (https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/why-users-leave-a-website)
- Your core offerings need to be visually appealing and “in-your-face”. Remember to phrase these, not in terms of what you offer, but in terms of what you can do for the visitor: written proof, references etc also help here.
- You need to be able to “show your worth” simply and easily. A blog is very useful here as well as past projects, previous accomplishments, awards, galleries etc. Don’t over do it though, keep it simple and current.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Often a catch phrase for lots of money spent with no provable return, SEO is not as complicated as it sounds either. It is also better to work your SEO organically over time. Trying to “force” search engines to index your page by using Black Hat SEO techniques is frowned upon by search engines and can lead to your website being banned and/or blocked by search engines.
You can install a plugin like Yoast on your WordPress site, get your web designer to add and change your meta tags, and also explore the Google Algorithm – the way that Google sorts and finds keywords etc.
Remember that Google is a search engine and they serve their clients. Their clients are people searching for information so misleading or irrelevant SEO processes could harm your ranking but content-rich and informative sites can increase it. Google uses something called E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) as part of the algorithm so be aware of this.
This is a huge topic and I will be writing more about this later – here are some main points to consider:
- Domain Issues:
- The length of time the domain has been registered
- Domain keywords
- Make sure the domain is relevant to the subject matter
- Domain history – has the site had many owners, or been sanctioned by Google previously?
- Country specific tld (.co.za, .ie etc.): may boost local relevance but will hamper global ranking
- Page Level Factors:
- Keywords and titles
- Content length
- Table of contents and site maps
- In depth and relevant information – not too much information though
- Page loading speed
- Duplicated content is not encouraged
- Regular updating and improving of the site
- Outbound and inbound link quality – beware though too many links can reduce your ranking
- Internal site linking and the quality of the linking
- Reading level and accessibility
- Multi-media content increases engagement
- Sloppy coding and HTML errors will reduce your ranking
- Tags and categories
- Citing references and sources
- User friendly layout – ease of access
Integrating your website into your marketing plan
As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, making the best use of your website means including it in your marketing plan. Before we go on I am sure that I don’t need to tell you that, while similar, Sales and Marketing are two very distinct functions:
- The process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service: Merriam Webster Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/marketing
- Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. American Marketing Association: https://www.ama.org/the-definition-of-marketing-what-is-marketing/
- At its most basic level, marketing seeks to match a company’s products and services to customers who want access to those products. Matching products to customers ultimately ensures profitability. Investopedia: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/marketing.asp
- A sale is a transaction between two or more parties in which the buyer receives tangible or intangible goods, services, and/or assets in exchange for money. In some cases, other assets are paid to a seller. In the financial markets, a sale can also refer to an agreement that a buyer and seller make regarding the price of a security. Investopedia: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sale.asp
- To cause or promote the sale of | to make or attempt to make sales to | to influence or induce to make a purchase. Merriam Webster Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/selling
Websites can be used for both functions, particularly when direct selling and eCommerce is introduced, however its main function is marketing – or getting your product or service “out there”. Once you have peoples attention, then the interaction of selling either via a website or direct interaction can begin.
So what needs to be included from a marketing perspective:
- The whole focus of the website needs to be about what the client will be looking for not what you have to offer
- Details about the product
- Details about your company and staff
- Who can the contact in case of emergency or complaints?
- Social media linking and promotion – remember this is from a marketing perspective
- Easy access to resources, sources and documentation
- Proof of competence from clients
- Proof of competence via articles, blog posts etc.
And then of course there is social media integration – more on this coming soon.
I trust in the above I have given you some indication of the wonderful opportunities available if you use your website proactively. We of course remain at your service for any webdesign or social media needs.
Director: KJ McKee Projects (Pty) Ltd
072 212 2376