Go to Google or Yahoo! or any search engine on the Web and type in a business specialty — small gas engine repair or clothing manufacturing, legal services or accounting services — each of these categories returns more than two million hits, listing businesses, books, and information on the topic. From Fortune 100 to Fortune 1000, businesses are on the Web talking to their customers and your business probably is, too.
But what if your website doesn’t come up in search engines? And how long do customers really spend at your site? Can customers find what they want easily? Can you quickly and easily update your Web content? A few simple tips can help you optimize your Web site and make the most out of e-marketing, driving new customers to your site, and helping you close more sales.
Four simple tips:
- Design your site to be search engine-friendly.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but if it doesn’t tell a search engine what your Web site is about then it’s worthless. Search engines don’t care if your site has beautiful graphics or animated GIFs. What search engines care about is text — or in other words, information. Search engines use a tool called spiders. These spiders “crawl” over all the millions of Web pages out there looking for meta-tags, keywords description, and title tags. You want these components to have compelling, keyword or keyphrase-heavy content that will make a user click through from the search results page.
- Make it easy for your customers to find what they want.
Customers visit your site because they want information. Your Web site should first exist to solve your customers’ problems and answer their questions — not to promote your brand or open a new marketing channel (although a well-designed site will do this naturally). A common design rule states that a first-time visitor should be able to look at your home page and figure out what your site is about within four seconds. Most importantly, put contact information and how to purchase information up front — or no more than one mouse click away from the home page.
- Using simple and consistent navigation.
Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a website and not knowing where you are or where you’ve been (sort of like traveling and waking up confused in a hotel room in a strange city). Vincent Flanders, author and Web design and accessibility guru, believes that all Web navigation must answer the following questions:
- Where am I?
- Where have I been?
- Where can I go next?
- Where is the Home Page?
By asking these simple questions, you can design navigation that is intuitive and creates a satisfying user experience.
- Use the right equipment.
Building and maintaining a Web site is much easier than you may think, and it’s more cost-effective than many forms of traditional advertising. By making a small investment in time and technology, you’ll get a powerful business tool that streamlines your marketing efforts and gives you more time to focus on your core business. Technology can transform the way your business operates, and it can enhance and support your sales and marketing activities.
You’ll want a business grade desktop or laptop to build your site. Many businesses will also want to host their sites on their own servers. By hosting your website on your own server, you have complete control over when and how your site goes live and you can update your marketing messages immediately. And with your own Web server and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, you can integrate data from your site with your existing business operations. Your server can also run other business applications and offer accessibility to data 24×7 — so your company can achieve higher levels of productivity and efficiency that extend far beyond your Web site.
Set Your Browser for Success
With the economic and competitive pressures on today’s businesses, it is vital to develop effective Web channels that reach out to your customers when and where they want. With some simple optimization and the right systems in place, businesses large and small can use their Web sites to turn clicks into cash.