9 Tips for Getting the Website You Need
These days it's not enough just to have a website. Your customers expect you to be web-savvy... even if you aren't. Here are a few essentials to make sure your website is working for you.
#1 Substance, not style
People do not enjoy websites, they use them. Restaurants are famous for getting this wrong. Usually diners want to know menu, prices, opening hours and current bookings, often from their smartphones. Instead, many restaurant sites give them intro's, panning images, auto-playing music and a personal greeting from the owner. Remember, your site is for useful information over anything else.
#2 Call to action
As each website is different, let users know what you want them to do. Usually, that’s to contact you or to buy through the site. The signpost that tells them what to do is a ‘call to action’. Every site needs one – or many versions of the same one. A call to action can be as simple as a header on your web pages: "Call now to book: 07 1234 5678".
#3 Stay fresh
A good website is always a work in progress. Search engines like Google relentlessly push old stuff to the back. Plus, a dated website gives customers the same impression as a faded sign. An amazing example: this site for the hit movie ‘Space Jam’ has stayed unchanged since 1996. Make sure your site looks nothing like this.
#4 Get to know your SEO
Google is good but it is not all-knowing. (Yet.) Making your site easy to find is called search engine optimisation, or SEO. Basically, SEO relies on having the right keywords and phrases in the right places on your site, so that Google, Yahoo or Bing! can match your site with people searching for your products. If you can’t bring in an SEO expert, at least make sure your URLs, page headings and alt-tags are understandable and organised. You can do this yourself through the content management system (CMS) of your website. This bit of housekeeping alone is often enough to push you up the Google results.
#5 Be friends with social media
Google is for people to actively look for stuff. Social media is for people to show stuff to their friends. So, are your customers looking for you or talking about you? Either way, have your social media linking to and from your site. That way, people who find your site can share it, and the people they share with can find their way back to you.
#6 Hop onto multiple platforms
It used to be that people only accessed the internet through desktops and laptops. Over the past decade, people now get online via their phones, tablets, touchscreens, cars and even watches. Each is a different platform; each handles differently. Viewing a site built for a PC on an Apple Watch can be like reading a map through binoculars. So, when you’re planning for the website you need, make sure it’s "responsive". All that means is that the site displays differently depending on the device it’s being viewed on. A word to the wise, though: Don’t let your web developer talk you into thousands for responsiveness. Open source platforms like WordPress mean developers can create responsive web sites for little or no more cost.
#7 Handle the day-to-day stuff yourself
Small businesses can’t afford to bring in an IT contractor for every small change, such as updating your online shop when one item sells out. So, make sure your site has a simple content management system (CMS) and make sure you know how to use it to make simple changes.
#8 It’s better to be better
When prospective customers find you via a search engine, they will find your competitors, too. Your site must be as good – preferably better – than any other site that could steal your business. Search your competitors' sites and see how you can show them up.
#9 www dot what?
Your domain name is the main homepage address of your website. Today, there are around 300 million active domain names, so finding a distinctive, snappy and memorable one is difficult. It's also crucial, because no two businesses can have the same domain.
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