Once upon a time in the dark distant past you could get away with building any old sort of website and it would be great for your business.
In 2010 it was estimated 21.4 Million new websites (See Pingdom report for more details) where added to the Internet in that year. Now if you spent 8 hours every day looking at websites and only spent 1 second on each of the 21.4 Million websites it would take you over two years to see them all. Thatâ€™s just for one year worth of new websites! â€¦And every year new websites are added in the Millions.
This makes getting a new website online a risky proposition â€“ what if you build it and no-one comes!
So if youâ€™re going to invest in a website, then you have to start with the end in mind if you want to minimize the risks.
For that you need to know what the purpose of your website will be -
- Is it to showcase the latest products you have available for your customers to pre-order;
- Perhaps you want to sell directly to customers through your website;
- Maybe you want to generate some interest and get new customers; or
- It may even be about education and teaching people about your products, services or industry.
Once you know what purpose your website will fulfill, you then want to begin researching what type of online marketing works best for what your website will do.
Be Discoverable By Search Engines
To begin, all websites need to have some sort of SEO strategy. With the huge number of websites already on the Internet, you definitely donâ€™t want yours to be lost and never found in Google or Bing search. So talking to an SEO expert will give you some ideas on the things youâ€™ll need to accommodate with your website.
These can be anything from allowing customer reviews, to adding special hidden metadata for the search engines or to simply focus on keywords in your articles or blog posts.
Now with a firm grasp on how youâ€™ll keep the search engines happy, your next step is to figure out how youâ€™ll make your website a draw card for people. There are thousands of different techniques you can apply and all of them work. Itâ€™s a matter of picking the ones that will work for the people you want to attract to your website. â€¦and thatâ€™s the tricky bit.
Work Out How to Reach Your Online Market
In reality getting people to your website is far from a set and forget sort of affair. People are very changeable. As human beings, what we like changes as often as our moods change. Itâ€™s one of the reasons why we have trends in clothing, technology, interior design, cars etc.
As trends change we find ourselves mostly being pulled along with them (How many people do you know without a mobile phone? Are they the exception or the rule?). Itâ€™s the same with online marketing. You either get pulled along with the changes or left behind.
In 2005 you absolutely needed to be on MySpace if you wanted to appeal to the youth market. Today itâ€™s Facebook; and tomorrow, who knows?
If youâ€™d heavily invested in a marketing strategy on MySpace and then left it to itâ€™s own devices, chances are you could have missed the Facebook phenomenon, by being inattentive or lacking the flexibility to change when the trend did.
What history teaches us is that your online marketing strategy needs to be flexible and comprised of multiple channels. That way you can get campaigns up and running, tested, reworked and re-launched as quickly as possible, as well as change channel or technique as soon as you see something isnâ€™t working any longer.
Choose Online Marketing Techniques That Work For You & Your Customers
The online marketing techniques you opt for will also depend on whether you will manage things internally or outsource to an agency.
If you choose the internal option, be prepared to go with techniques that compliment your business culture. For example, Social Media Marketing (right now, most commonly - updating your Facebook Page or tweeting to your Twitter followers) if youâ€™re in the business of managing sensitive information may not fit with your business culture of super secrecy. As was demonstrated in July 2009 by an MI6 officerâ€™s wife, who revealed too much information (As reported by the Daily Mail).
Remember that whatever online marketing techniques you decide to go with, they must be optimized for your target market. Thereâ€™s absolutely no point in creating and running a video marketing campaign if your target market loves thick dusty antique hardcover books and have never heard of YouTube.
Gather Your Website Information
With your online marketing now in some sort of rough plan, you can begin to gather the information your website will need â€“ documents, presentations, photos, videos, audio recordings, specifications, codes, diagrams etc. Keep in mind the purpose of your website when collating this information. Not everything you have within your business will help visitors to your website take the action you want them to.
In fact you may discover that a lot of what will be needed for your website doesnâ€™t already exist. If this is the case, then you will need to get it created.
Only after youâ€™ve got 80% of the information (including pictures, videos, audios and other files you want to provide) collected together is it worthwhile talking to a web designer or website developer.
Control The Conversation With Your Web Guys
Both the web designer and website developer will want to know what the purpose of your website is before they even talk price. So if youâ€™ve spent the time working out purpose and the online marketing strategy upfront, they will be ready and able to give you accurate delivery timeframes and a complete cost for building your website.
Your web designer will get your branding message and the look of your website spot-on very quickly if you are also able to give them a description of who your target market is. For example, they wonâ€™t present you with a pink website if youâ€™ve been able to tell them that your target market consists of male ex-Army officers aged between 35 and 40 who love working out in a gym.
As an online business consultant, I often hear people talk about unhappy experiences with website developers. The way you avoid any type of problem with website developers is to be very clear on what the website needs to do, how it does what it needs to do, what reports you need the website to give you (if you need them) and you get them to show you that it works 100% perfectly (they way you want it) before you pay the final bill.
A word of caution, if you are paying under $1,000 for your website, itâ€™s likely that you will be asked to pay the full amount upfront. In these situations you will either get exactly what you want (you luckily stumbled onto a great website developer who has ethics), or you have just wasted $1,000.
Get Your Website Built The Low Risk Way
Today, getting a great website that will actually add value to your business is all about the preparation.
- Decide what the purpose of website is going to be.
- Investigate how youâ€™ll appeal to search engines.
- Gut feel an online marketing strategy â€“ a rough draft to start.
- Figure out where your target market hangs out online.
- Note down some techniques that sound workable.
- Gather the information your website will need or create it.
- Talk to web designers & website developers about practicalities and costs.
When you put the time in and have a plan of action beyond getting a pretty website online, you are giving yourself the biggest possible advantage of being the one website in Millions that will seen, loved and visited regularly by people who matter to you.
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