Have a clear Call to Action ~ What Action Would You Like Your Reader to Take?
When planning your website, have a clear call to action distributed evenly on your website. Have a button on the header, on your home page slide, in your sidebar, in the footer. Leaving a visitor to figure out the objective of your website may cost you a sale. It would be folly to pay a website developer to construct a presentation without having a conversation about a purposeful and clear “call to action”. The purpose of your website should NOT be left up to the imagination of the prospective customer.
Your home page should be clear about what action is expected – “call today” – “go to our clearance page”- “ use this coupon code today to save 35% on your purchase” – “join our mailing list and receive a free ebook”- etc. When selling from your website, steer the visitor in the direction he should take to shop your catalog.
Online stores would benefit from a display of new merchandise or special sales right on the home page with a hotlink to the product. Offering a coupon? Put it right in front of the visitor’s nose from the start. Contact information should be found on all pages. Publishing the city and state of your company location legitimizes you to the new visitor, a ‘frequently asked questions’ or ‘policies’ page for new users offers instant self-help, and email forms you provide should be easy to use.
Would you prefer to close a sale over the telephone? Give the visitor the incentive to call while he has your webpage in front of him. Install a “click to call” button in a prominent place on all your pages for your mobile visitors. Providing a prominently displayed menu of your products/specialties/services and rates may give the visitor the valuable information needed to decide if your company is the right one to call.
A word about sending visitors off your website : don’t. Unless you have an upsell to offer your visitor, do not give him a reason to leave before closing a sale. And, unless you have a very dynamic and professional business ‘facebook’ page, don’t send people there either. Having a page you have not updated in 3 years with pictures of former employees is as sad as my own FB page, which I don’t use at all!
How is your company’s Online Health?
Why is an online self-exam important? If you have not taken a look at your business listings and search engine visibility in the past six months, set a few hours aside to perform an online self-exam.
Imagine an outdated business description being found by prospective customers. Are your products or services up to date? Have you refined or added to your business services? Are contact details accurate? Is your address spelled correctly?
My first step in what I call the ‘discovery’ process prior to a new business consultation is to go to three major search engines and perform some due diligence. I review the sponsored links, I count all the links in which the business name might appear, I take stock of page density, peruse industry directories, look for directory listings, and how many other thriving websites your name may appear on. In my work, I am solicited by international companies trying to sell me advertising, partner with me, and share website links in directories I have not yet heard of.
Like many other very small companies, my own listings are the LAST ones I research. For many of the local small businesses I contract, I also look at what the competition might be using to get a leg up in the listings. If you have a lazy Sunday afternoon, do yourself a favor and see if your business listings are accurate and up-to-date.
Finding Yourself: The Process
STEP 1: Type in your company name in Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL search. Follow all the links, notice how many listings appearing on each page, and how many pages in which you can find yourself. I strongly suggest claiming your Google Business Listing and keeping the business info current.
STEP 2: Type in the industry or service + your local area, region, county or town (i.e. “northeastern connecticut”, “central massachusetts”, “new england”, “downtown Boston”). Will all your competitors appear before you? Do you show up at all? You may want to rewrite your website page titles or descriptions.
STEP 3: Type in your website address (URL) in Google or any other major search engine service – then review all the links that appear. Are there any dead links, obsolete pages, incorrect entries? How many pages of links do you dominate? This morning I discovered an entry created for me in a website designer business directory. For the most part this listing was accurate, however the word “tiny” had been substituted for the word “small” in the phrase “small business website specialist”, making me a “tiny business website specialist. I found no photo, no logo, a misspelled street name, incomplete profiles and descriptions of services, and an opportunity to add nice details for a reciprocal link on my website. I claimed this ad and it is now being reviewed.
STEP 4: Look at the websites of your closest competition. Do the pages load in quickly? Are there any dead pages or graphics that fail to appear? How does your website performance measure up? Pay attention to the page titles displayed in the top of the browser on the competition versus your own website. If the competing websites are real class acts with current social media posts, you may need to rethink your online marketing plan.
Help on the Way
Search engines vary in the number of characters or words allowed in titles and descriptions in your web pages. Testing the copy in various analysis services is a must. Most research and discovery sessions to evaluate business/website visibility will take between three and six hours. Corrections to website copy must be published and tested. Often times, the findings require the client to roll up sleeves and claim free listings to update or correct on his own behalf. A client that expects a hands-off approach to his online presence is setting himself up for failure. The internet is 25 years old, and ignorance of computer operation can no longer excuse you. Consider hiring a third party to take appropriate action in commercial directories and/or social media resources.
We’d like to offer some important guidelines for planning your Connecticut small business website. Nott Marketing Services begins the consultation process during the first conversation or email. We know that every client will have different reasons for establishing a company website. Before proceeding with an in-depth consultation, it will be important that we speak to the company spokesperson or decision-maker for the project. Consult our checklist to prepare.
Your website will require the same planning as any marketing project prepared for your company. The advantage of website production over a printed brochure, besides the expense, is that new ideas and information can be published at will, at any time, for very little expense. So, what will you want to say about your company?
These are things we will need for your project:
have you budgeted for an internet advertising project?
have you budgeted for an ongoing marketing or maintenance plan?
do you have a deadline to meet?
is this a new company or service?
do you have an existing website?
a prepared brief company history or introduction of staff
description of your target market or typical customer
have you collected recent testimonials from your clientele?
name two of your local competitors
do you intend to collect leads from the site?
will you sell or collect donations from the site?
do you have a logo, a design scheme, or preferred color palette?
will a photo gallery or short video be helpful in this production?
give us 2 or 3 domain names (dot-com names) you would like, in order of preference
what online and offline advertising campaigns are currently in use?
HOW MANY PAGES DO YOU NEED? Determine the website’s objective before outlining your project. It is easy to underestimate the number of pages needed for a portfolio, product catalog or store. Main pages include the home, contact, about the company, and a main product or services page. However, a cost-conscious new company with very little material in those pages can get away with a one or two page site. A website is a process which can and should have pages and material added into it later on.
CAN YOU AFFORD WHAT YOU DESIRE? The product catalog a client sees in his/her mind may be cost-prohibitive until the business becomes firmly established. Software installation, programming, photo manipulation and graphic design are time consuming services that require attention to detail. From my perspective, a client commonly requests a project with high expectations of professional results from the web design team, regardless of their ability to pay for the service. Unlike other service providers, we commonly wait months or years to be paid for some projects. If you cannot set aside several thousands of dollars to create and maintain your website, start small and build the site over time.
WRITING COPY FOR NATURAL SEARCH There are rules and guidelines in use on the web for search engine robots, and they change frequently. The code behind the designed page should tell the ‘searchbots’ what the site is all about. Providing complete descriptions of every product you sell is of crucial importance. I have written a few articles to give you a little information about planning your website, the role of social networking in your plan, and the science of search.
PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY FOR YOUR ONLINE STORE Quality photos of your products will help you sell yourself as a reputable merchant! Poorly lit or out-of-focus photos do not belong on your professional product catalog. If you cannot hire a product photographer, buy a new digital camera and tripod – and if possible, take a photography class. In the long run, you will save thousands of dollars doing this yourself.
On today’s internet, responsive websites are given priority. Google has raised the bar for the way the internet determines the importance of your website. I built my first website in 1998 before most businesses and consumers possessed personal computers linked to the internet. A generation has barely passed and today’s indispensable accessory for browsing the net is a smartphone with a 5 inch screen. In between we have viewed websites on fat square CRT monitors, wide rectangular gaming computer monitors and large living room vision televisions connected to Web-tv.
Google has positioned itself as the gatekeeper of the web. The world’s most relevant search engine now serves a different set of search results to smart phone browsers. If your website is not optimized for these consumers, your website will appear behind responsive site links. There is a process to follow now to get visibility on Google. There is a learning curve, and it is not something the average small business owner has the time to delve into.
Today high-speed internet and ubiquitous wi-fi is available to anyone. It’s okay to utilize photography, parallax displays, slideshows and embedded videos to make your company website a beautiful and effective marketing tool.
Today responsive websites Rule. To get your site optimized for all media screens, give Nott Marketing Services a call.