Traditional advertising like directories, newspapers, TV and radio are losing their advantage to the convenience of the web every day which presents businesses of all kinds with a new challenge; to develop an effective and successful online presence.
Many Internet first timers can meet difficulties very quickly, new technology brings exciting opportunities and many questions; this guide lays out the basic steps you need to take to build a successful website.
What do you want to achieve?
Not all businesses sell through a website; some will generate enquiries and others may use it like a company brochure. Think about what goals are right for your business then focus on them; trying to do a bit of everything will only frustrate your target market with unnecessary information.
Once you know what your goals are you need to gather content for your website. You"ll need your logo, trade association logos and some good photos of your work, team, and products and if you"re building an online shop you"ll need a price list.
Put together great copy
It is essential to take time on your copy (or hire a professional copywriter!) getting the words and the tone right for your target market; business to business requires restrained corporate dialogue, most tradesmen convey professional with a touch of personal and someone making computer games will want to be youth oriented and cool; remember the style of your copy says as much about you as the words themselves.
Emphasise unique selling points and pay attention to credibility; include a postal address, landline phone and company registration number.
Trade association memberships, previous work photos, testimonials and a guarantee are also good ideas.
Many visitors scan websites just looking for facts, so make sure you highlight important things in bold type and include some bullet point summaries. Try and direct your visitors with calls to action such as "click here to get a free quotation", these call for the reader to respond to what they"re reading and focus on the pages you really want them to.
Finally, make sure you proof read it all and ask someone else to as well, checking closely for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Put together great design
This is the point when it could be a good time to hire a web designer, but however you bring your site together, there are several essential dos and don"ts to look out for.
Bandwidth; or how quickly your site loads, the quicker the better so avoid very large images or videos as they will lose visitors who get bored waiting for things to load.
Browser compatibility; all Internet browsers display websites a little differently, check how your site looks in several; they"re free to download.
Screen resolution; the smallest monitor is 800 pixels wide, the largest over 2000. Websites don"t "stretch" to fill the screen so you need to make sure your site looks good at either end of the scale.
Animations; you know the kind, little rotating things, flashing things; a page littered with them is distracting and irritating.
Dark backgrounds; these can often affect the readability of websites and can be wasteful to print out.
Broken links; you click on "contact" and all you get is a message saying "Page not found"; check every link on every page!
Optimise for search engines
Your website is almost complete, now you need to give a final revision to your copy to make the site as attractive as possible to search engines. Identify ten to twenty keywords that really define your business. So a roofing company in Shropshire may use; "roofing, Shropshire, flat roof, tiled roof, roof repairs, emergency call out". Then go through every page of your site looking for places to put those keywords; don"t overdo it, but make sure they"re in there regularly.
You can also put keywords in your page titles and the invisible META and ALT tags used throughout website code. Be warned that search engines can be upset; to discourage cheating there are a few things they really dislike.
Keyword repetition; "welcome to ABC roofing, a roofing company specialising in roofing services for people with roofing problems or needing roofing maintenance."
Limited content; too little copy and search engines will assume your site isn"t very interesting.
Poor navigation; broken links or complex navigation may mean the search engine can"t find every page so keep it simple and logical.
With your site now ready to go live, look out for part two of this article which looks at how you get online and start marketing, along with advice on hiring in professional web design help and avoiding getting ripped off!