The Importance of Your Website
The Importance of Your Website
The Internet was first developed in the 1960s. It was born out of a process known as “internetworking,” which allowed separate computer networks to exchange information. The World Wide Web (which is a function of the Internet) was invented in 1990 by Tim Berners Lee. His idea was to have pages that “link” together, creating an efficient means for scientists to share information.
Fast forward a couple of decades. The World Wide Web has grown from a simple means of linking pages to practically a virtual world of its own. It’s a major part of everyday life for many people. Facebook, YouTube, Google, and other enormously popular services all grew out of a simple Internet function for linking pages.
If you are a business owner, having a “site” on the web that current and potential customers can access is of great value. It can be a place for educating people about your products or services, a place where they may interact with you, or even a place to make purchases. (Okay, I’m guessing that you know that, and have known that since about 1995, so I’ll move on…)
Technology for websites and the web has changed dramatically since 1995. Having a website only scratches the surface of the opportunities available on the web. Now there are also the social web, web videos, search engine optimization, paid ads, etc. This might lead you to ask two questions:
- Is it still important to have a website?
- How does a website fit into a larger Internet marketing strategy?
First of all, yes, it is very important to have a website. A website is a piece of virtual real estate that you own and can customize to make it useful for your business. It even has an address that’s yours—e.g. http://www.youraddress.com.
Secondly, your website is the home base of your business on the Internet. It’s where you want people to go. If they are going to buy from you, leading them here should be a key goal in your marketing strategy. Though you might have a large range of visibility on the Internet (videos, podcasts, tweets, etc.), ideally you want those efforts to drive traffic to your website.
Since your website is your most fundamental presence on the web, it’s important for it to be appealing to the people who visit. Step one for your business’ online presence is to have a website that is inviting, informative, and representative of the business you own.
Qualities of a Good Website
Let’s make one thing clear immediately: people don’t care much about your website. They care about what they need or want at the time they visit. Maybe they want to read about your services, maybe they are looking for price information, or maybe they just need your phone number. They only want to find what they’re looking for, and have an easy and pleasant time doing it. In other words, they care about your site only insofar as it serves them. Having a super-cool animation on your homepage might be impressive to you. But unless you are in the business of “super-cool” (like a rock star), it probably won’t mean much to your visitors. It might be fun to have a cool website, but it’s better to have an effective one.
So, what constitutes an effective website for most businesses? First and foremost, a look and a feel. First impressions are important, and most people get a sense of a web page in a fraction of a second. Shapes, colors, layouts, headings, and images tend to give us a feeling. Subconsciously, we do a quick scan that answers some basic questions like: Does this site seem relevant to what I’m looking for? Does this business seem credible and trustworthy? Does this site seem current and fresh, or outdated and stale? Are there indications that other people frequent this site and support this business? How does this site make me feel? Individual elements and the combined effect of those elements give an instinctive or “gut” feeling to the first-time visitor of a website.
Although there are no hard and fast rules about what your website should look like, here are some highly advisable dos and don’ts that you should consider carefully:
DO provide easy navigation
Most of us have had the experience of visiting a website to look for specific information, only to be frustrated because there’s no clear navigation system to guide us. The people who visit your site could be visiting for a variety of reasons. It’s important to think of what those reasons might be, and provide a clear path to what they might be looking for. Be sure to have a primary navigation menu that clearly shows where they can go for the information they seek.
DO have a clear CTA (call-to-action).
Having a clear CTA in a noticeable place on your homepage is highly advisable. You want your visitors to engage with your site and your business somehow. What would you most like them to do? Perhaps you’d like them to watch a video that promotes your products or services. Perhaps you want them to fill out a form to get more information. Or perhaps you’d like them to submit their email address to sign up for your monthly newsletter. Think about how you can get to the next level in your relationships with your website visitors, and encourage an action with a clearly visible CTA.
DO show photos of people’s faces.
One thing that can add warmth and create positive feelings in your website visitors immediately is showing pictures of people’s faces. The pictures could be of you. They could be of your employees. Or they could be of a happy family that uses (or appears to use) your products or services. Studies have shown that people pay more attention to ads and web pages showing human faces. (Warning: Be sure to have the permission of the people in the photos before using them on your web pages. And be sure you have the legal rights to use any photographs that appear on your website. See more about finding photos in the “Gathering Elements for Your Website” section below.)
DON’T have a cluttered look.
Keep the overall layout in mind as you add elements to your web pages. Adding too many elements to a page can look cluttered, unorganized, and unprofessional. It can also distract from the primary messages you want to convey to visitors, such as your CTA.
DON’T have web pages that are too slow to load.
Customers (and therefore new business) can be lost due to slow-loading web pages. You want to keep that from happening as much as possible. One thing to always remember is that the speed at which web pages load depends on how fast the visitor’s Internet connection is. Although a page might load fast for you, it might not for someone else. There is a trade off that comes with having large image or animation files as part of your web pages. For most businesses, it’s better to err on the side of “fast” rather than “fancy.”
DO keep consistent color and style elements on all pages of your site.
People like consistency. Certain colors, layout styles, menus and other visual elements create a certain look and feel. Keeping these elements as consistent as possible on all of your pages is much better than a hodgepodge that seems thrown together quickly and cheaply.
DON’T have misspellings and bad grammar in your text.
Few things are a bigger turn-off than having misspellings and bad grammar on your website. Your website represents your business. Potential customers like to see businesses that are professional, credible and trustworthy. If it appears that you don’t pay attention to the details of your website, they might think that you don’t manage your business well. Take the time to properly check your spelling and grammar.
DON’T make the site all about you.
Try to make your site as much about your visitors as possible, and less about you and your business. It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply touting the accomplishments of the business, rather than emphasizing how the business can serve the website visitor. In other words, instead of the message being “Here’s why we are so great and wonderful,” the message should be “Here’s how we can make your life easier and better.” Be sure to emphasize the benefits potential customers can get from your products or services.
DO have an “About” page
It’s true that your website should emphasize the benefits your products or services can provide for your visitors, but sometimes visitors really want to know who you are. Because of this, you should give them this information in the form of an “About” page. The page can be called “About Us” or something similar, but the name should indicate that it’s the place to go to find more information about you. An effective “About” page is one that reveals authentic details about the business and the people who run it. Using stories and images can be helpful. Visitors to your site should get the feeling they have seen a real person or real people from reading your “About” page.
DO have a blog
Although it requires a steady investment of time, blogging is one of the best investments you can make for your website, as well as your online marketing strategy as a whole. Blogs keep websites fresh and add content that can keep visitors on your site longer. They can help with SEO (search engine optimization) in several ways, and they can complement any social media strategy very nicely. Websites with blogs get much more traffic than websites without them. One of the great things about blogs is that there are really no rules for them. They can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be.
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See "The Internet Marketing Strategy Book" by Barry Abraham
Barry Abraham is the author of "The Internet Marketing Strategy Book." This is a 10-chapter book that gives an easy-to-understand overview of current Internet marketing opportunities.
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