Whether your business is focused on the consumer market or business-to-business, you need a good web site. For consumers online is now the most common method of researching and finding a supplier, and for B2B, the vast majority of all significant business purchasing decisions start with online research.
In this online world it is easier than ever to be able to compare and contrast the difference between suppliers. If you don’t have a good web site, potential customers are going to go elsewhere.
But what makes a good website? In no particular order, here are our tips for online success.
Plan your Content
Your site reflects your business. Ask yourself whether it is immediately clear from your domain and homepage what services you offer. Make sure your domain represents what you actually do and if possible includes your product – for example, www.joescomputerrepairs.co.uk is a better option than www.jcr.co.uk. Having more than one "relevant" domain name pointing to your site will also help people searching for your services.
The more you update your site with relevant content the more relevant your site will be and the better your search engine ranking will be. And search engines are almost certainly going to be the biggest source of traffic to your site, so it’s important to put them first.
Search and promotion
Think about search engines and how your website will fit into your overall advertising/marketing/customer contact strategy. Sign up to business directories and relevant forums, blogs and community sites like BT Tradespace. Send out press releases to gain back links and set a budget for marketing your website, for example, through pay-per-click advertising like Google AdWords. Look to liaise with companies you often work with like suppliers and resellers to mutually publish a "We recommend" links on each other’s sites, establishing a “trusted network” of companies you work with.
Don’t forget offline!
Promote your website in all your offline, printed marketing. Every piece of printed material from business cards to letter heads, leaflets, adverts, catalogues, directory listings etc. etc. should have your website address and your domain based email address!
Don’t be afraid to ask
There’s loads of tools around that let you “Do it Yourself” when it comes to creating a website, but that doesn’t mean you have to or that it’s always a good idea. If you can, work with a designer or organisation who understands you, your business and your business goals and how to get you the most impact overall.
Select the right host
Choose a hosting provider that offers reliability in the form of a service guarantee and a range of tools and services that will help you grow your business. These should include search tools, customer service, CRM, consultation, and quality support.
If you sell products through your site, ensure that you have a clear returns policy, prominent contact details and a recognised secure payment partner. If possible, provide a choice of payment methods, such as credit/debit card, invoice, and PayPal.
Have a "Contact Us" page with up to date contact details and a map. Although it sounds odd given that you’re online, always publish a phone number (preferably not a mobile!) and full contact details, so that if needed potential customers can speak to you. This adds to the customer’s confidence that you are a genuine business.
Tell them who you are
Provide as much detail as possible about your business, preferably with an “About Us” page. Again, this adds to customer confidence, and helps them relate to you as a “real” business rather than a faceless online enterprise.
Keep it simple
Over-complex sites and broken sites with blank pages and missing links perform badly on search engines and dissuade customers. Make sure that your website design is as clean, professional and uncluttered as possible with easy navigation and make sure that all text content such as product descriptions is spelled correctly and grammatically correct – NO TXT SPK M8!
Use pictures rather than just words and make an effort with your product images, ensuring they are as clear and as detailed as possible and accurately represent the product they are linked to.
Make an effort!
And finally, it is true that there is no such thing as a free lunch… when it comes to a website, the more effort you put into it, the more reward you’ll get out.