The task of keeping a website’s content fresh and up-to-date can be a daunting one, yet it’s of utmost importance to the success of that website. Adding a content management system (CMS) to your website makes updating content a snap. The cost of implementing a CMS is much lower today than it was when I started in web development. There are several good CMS software solutions available now that require very little customization and are open-source so there is no software costs to implement them. At iLab New Media we do a lot of CMS development, so I have a pretty good grasp of the pros and cons of different CMS solutions and what they can offer a business. So you might ask, “Why does my website need a CMS?”. In answer, here are the five most important content management system advantages.
- Fresh Content – The most obvious reason is that your website will be easier to keep up to date. It just takes a minute to add new content with a CMS, if it’s easy you’re more likely to do it and your website benefits by staying fresh.
- Lots of functionality is available – There are hundreds of free modules available that plug into existing content management systems adding complex programming features with very little effort. Meaning that the cost of adding certain features to your site drops significantly. Some of the modules available include:
- Site search
- Password secured content
- Email newsletters
- Discussion forums
- Photo galleries
- Much more.
- Dynamic content – Not only can you add new pages easily, but new categories can be added and the site navigation will expand gracefully to match. Also old content can easily be updated, new pictures can be uploaded and company news and events can be added. Changes to your website become easy, trouble-free and inexpensive to make.
- Extensibility – New modules are being written all the time and since modules are developed in common languages like PHP, almost anything can be custom tailored to work within the system. Also the CMS software itself can be easily and cheaply updated to fix bugs or security vulnerabilities.
- User friendly interface – The technical features of a CMS intimidate some people, but fear not, the interface is user friendly and easy to learn. So while the your CMS may have lots of technical features available, your interface for adding new content is user friendly and easy to learn.
A content management system used to be practical only for large companies, but with lower costs to implement and the content management system advantages listed here, any website can benefit and see a quick return on their investment. Contact iLab New Media for a free quote on a content management system and see how affordable it can be to add these advantages to your website.
There is a lot of easy money to be made selling SEO (search engine optimization) services, that’s obvious from all the snake oil salesmen that are hawking SEO these days. Not that I don’t recommend search engine optimization as an important step in creating a successful website, I definitely do, but if you’re going to spend your hard earned money on SEO you need to make sure you’re getting your moneys worth. If you are in the process of choosing an SEO company you need to be aware of what to watch for. Unfortunately because the average person has a limited understanding of what goes into SEO they are easy targets for dishonest businesses.
If you are planning on paying for search engine optimization services you should get answers to the following 5 questions before choosing an SEO company.
- Are they eating their own dog food?
Many SEO companies talk a lot about what they can do for your website through SEO, but the proof is in the pudding. Unlike web design where the results are more subjective, successful SEO is easily measured. If the company in question is so good at SEO they will apply it to their own website, how does their own website rank? You should do your own research. If a company can’t get their own site on the first page, do you want to trust them to get yours there?
- Are they obeying the rules?
There are certain sneaky practices used by some, not-so-respectable SEO firms, that can get your site banned from Google or other search engines. Once your site has been banned it can be very difficult to get reinstated and can take months or even years. Make sure whoever is working on your site is following the rules.
- Are they hanging out in bad neighborhoods?
Inbound links, links pointing to your site from other sites, are a major component of your website’s search ranking, and a large part of SEO. If you have links on your site that point to disreputable or spammy websites you can be penalized. You can even be penalized for links on other websites! If spammy sites have links to your site it can be detrimental to your search engine ranking. So make sure the SEO company you choose will be careful who they link to or get links from.
- Do they promise the moon?
Nobody can guarantee you a certain search engine ranking. If somebody makes outrageous claims like promises to get you on the first page of Google this should be a red flag alerting you that this company is not reputable. Beware of choosing an SEO company that makes outrageous promises.
- What century are they living in?The web is still rather new, and the way search engines work has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. At one time not too many years ago, SEO was all about meta tags. Today meta tags are of very little value. Make sure the SEO company you choose is using up to date SEO practices.
You need to be careful when choosing an SEO company because the wrong choice can do very little for your website, or worse, even damage it’s reputation to search engines. These five questions are a good place to start when determining what company should be doing search engine optimization for your website.
Turning web visitors into paying customers
I’ll let you in on a little secret, search engine optimization does not necessarily produce a successful website, better expressed as SEO ≠ $. While it’s true that search engine optimization (SEO) is very important to a website’s success it is by no means the only element of it’s success.
The goals of individual websites may differ quite a bit, for one the goal may be to get a visitor to buy a product, while another may be to get a visitor to call, or fill out a form to request further information. Whatever the end goal is, reaching that objective is called a conversion, in web design we refer to the ratio of conversions to visitors as your conversion rate. The nice thing about web marketing is that everything is measurable, we can know how many people viewed each specific page, how long they spent looking at it and where they clicked when they left so we can use these figures to analyze how a website is performing.
If you are interested in improving your conversion rate, here are the top 5 ways to do that.
- An attractive, professional looking website. It is well known that the look of your website effects peoples opinions of your company, but studies have shown that lasting impressions are made very quickly, a visitor to your website will form a first impression in just a 20th of a second.
- Well written copy. The most under-appreciated ingredient of a great website is copy-writing. People read differently on the web than on paper, they scan more and read less. Copy-writing for the web is a topic for another article but suffice it to say that well written copy will significantly boost your conversion rate. If you are serious about it think of paying a professional copy-writer.
- Keep content fresh. Nothing can turn off website visitors faster than stale content. Make sure you keep up with dated content like event calendars or company news pages, when these kinds of things become outdated it looks as though your website is not kept up and visitors will move on. You will find that changing around your home page or any other “landing pages” every few months will generate renewed interest as returning visitors notice the changes and take a closer look.
- Eliminate hurdles. Whatever the goal of your website is, make it real easy to do. If you are selling a product, put it on the home page. If you are collecting leads, put the contact form on the side of every page. If you want people to call you, put your phone number at the top of every page. Whatever it is,make sure your visitors have to perform as few steps as possible to accomplish it. For contact forms you will get the best results by requiring the fewest fields possible.
- Keep download times to a minimum. Believe it or not, some people are still using dial-up internet access, add to that the increasing number of mobile internet users on slow connections and with bandwidth limits, and you can see that download times still matter. The best way to lose a visitor is to make them wait too long for the web page to load, and when I say “too long” I mean around 4 seconds!
What good is search engine optimization if you abuse your visitors once they get to your website? Give your web visitors a quality experience on your site, make things easy for them and they will repay you by trusting you with their business.
It’s been my experience that most clients enter into a web design contract knowing no more about what they’re doing than they do about molecular biology. I wouldn’t hire a carpenter to build onto my house without some knowledge about what he was doing so I could know what I was paying for. Furthermore I wouldn’t go into surgery without reading up a little on the procedure first. It is generally true that an educated client is a happy client, and for every happy web design client there is a happy web designer. Therefore I present my list of 10 things you should know about web design.
- You get what you pay for
Your nephew said he can design your website for you. No doubt he can design that website, but it will most likely be like the Rolex that you buy from a guy on the street, it looks nice but later you find out it doesn’t work. The same goes for web design firms or freelance web designers with bargain basement prices. If they are offering to do it cheap, chances are they are not giving it the necessary time and attention to create a quality product, which leads me to my next point.
- Designing a good website takes a lot of time
A reasonably decent website today must do many things well. A website needs to work on all browsers and platforms, download quickly, perform well on search engines, meet current web standards, look great and be easy to navigate among other things. Getting all these items right will take any web designer a great deal of time. In addition a really good website won’t be done quickly partly because of the next point.
- There’s a lot of code behind a website
When you look at a website you are just seeing the end result of a whole lot of code that the web designer has written, try viewing a website’s source code sometime to see what I mean. And that is just the HTML portion, there may also be many additional files included in a web page such as scripts, style sheets and images. The point is, don’t judge a book by its cover, a web page has much more to do than just look pretty and chances are some web designer has spent many hours getting it all right.
- Your web designer has trouble with mind-reading
It’s helpful if you approach your web designer with some idea of what you would like in your website. Look at your competitors websites and make notes about what you like or don’t like. Some brief notes about features you would like to see, colors you would like to use and things you hate about other websites would be a big help. Your web designer will find it much easier to be creative with some initial ideas to work with.
- Every browser will render your website differently
There are more different web browsers available now then ever and each handles things a little bit differently. What your site looks like on your browser is not what it looks like on everybody’s browsers. There is no way your web designer can make your website render identically on every web browser. The goal is to make it look great on all browsers, not to make it look the same on all browsers.
- Every screen resolution, monitor and device will make your website look different
This is related to the previous point. Depending on the screen being used to view your website, the screen resolution, and a variety of other settings like color depth, your website will look very different from one device to another. It is often a game of compromises to make it look as good as possible on all and the best on the most screens.
- Fonts will look different on different computers
Windows and Macs handle fonts very differently, furthermore the individual fonts on a computer vary widely. So this is yet another example of what may look one way on your computer may look different on another. Your web designer looks for a compromise that looks the best on most computers.
- You need to play by Google’s rules
Google has about 65% of the web search market, its nearest competitor Bing has a mere 15%. This means that any website hoping to be at least mildly successful online needs to do well on Google which means playing by their rules for search engine optimization. The guidelines that Google offers provide some limitations to what you can do with your website, but the benefits of following these rules are many.
- Visitors will not flock to your site when it’s done
The road to internet success is littered with the remains of websites that have failed to make an impression in the market. The key thing to remember is that a successful website does not just happen. People need to be able to find your website on the search engines when searching for relevant keywords, for this to happen you will need at least some basic SEO services. You will need to promote your website to current and prospective clients, put your web address on all your marketing materials. And one other thing is required to make it successful, our next point.
- Your website will need to change… often
People will return to a website that changes often, but not to a brochure website. The most successful websites are those that are more than just static information about your company, consider incorporating a business blog, discussion forum, RSS news feeds, photo gallery or at the very least have the ability to go in and change things around occasionally.
Now that you’ve completed your crash course in web design basics you are ready to go out there and hire a web designer. You will be a better educated consumer and your web designer will be happy that you have done your homework and can carry on an intelligent conversation on the subject of website design.
Web designers are more like mechanics than doctors although it should be the other way round. Let me explain this statement and how it will help you when choosing a web designer.
Everyone knows somebody who has been ripped off by a mechanic, you know, that slick talking mechanic who really sounded knowledgeable when he told your wife she needed blinker fluid. That’s not to say all mechanics are bad, but there are enough dishonest ones around to make you cautious about where you bring your car. Doctors on the other hand, are mostly reliable. You may hear the story of the person who went in for a tonsillectomy and ended up with a vasectomy instead, and about malpractice lawsuits, but usually these are stories you read about in the newspaper or see on television, they don’t generally happen to people you know because they just don’t happen that often.
The difference is that doctors are licensed, not just anyone can go out and start practicing medicine, mechanics are not, they may be certified but there is generally no government agency or other authority regulating mechanics, anyone could open a shop if they wanted to.
Web designers are like mechanics in this way, anyone can buy “Web Design for Dummies” and Adobe Dreamweaver and start churning out websites, but that doesn’t make them knowledgeable or good at what they do. Web designers are not in demand as much as doctors or mechanics therefore you don’t hear as many stories circulating about the bad web designer, but believe me, they are out there in abundance. You might not have heard about them, but you have no doubt seen their work, and there are many unhappy customers around too. Because some people have been taken advantage of by disreputable web designers or know someone who has, they think the web is not an effective place to promote their business or that the internet has little to offer a business like theirs. The truth is that there are very few businesses that can not profit from the web, if done correctly. Therefore, in an attempt to keep my occupation from sliding into the morass of shady auto mechanics and used car dealers, I offer the following 6 considerations when choosing a web designer.
- Design ability: This goes without saying, but you would be surprised how many people choose a web designer without really looking at much of their previous work. You don’t have to be a design expert yourself to judge this, use your intuition and gut feeling about the design. When looking at previous work by this designer what is your impression of the design, is the information easy to read, does it have a professional feel to it, do the colors work well together?
- Programming skills: Most designers are not programmers and most programmers are not designers, but any web design firm worth its salt will have programmers they work with and if you are looking at a freelance designer, he should either be able to do programming or work with someone who does. Not all websites need programming, a static, brochure type site does not need any, but are you positive that’s what your business needs. The point to keep in mind when choosing a web designer is, a web designer who can get programming done is going to be able to give you an honest evaluation of your needs, while one who can’t is going to steer you away from anything requiring programming skills.
- Satisfied customers: A good indicator for obvious reasons. If you’re in the same city as the web designer in question, ask around, has anyone you know heard any good or bad stories about this designer? Look up some of the websites they have produced, can you email or call to ask about whether they were satisfied with their website? Remember that a satisfied customer does not necessarily indicate a good web designer as the following story illustrates. I was once approached by a man who was interested in getting me to make some minor changes to his website. The site was a circus of colors and movement, it had an annoying music loop that played and took forever to load, it was really terrible. The thing was, the man was very satisfied with his website. Now the case could be made that this was a successful website and the web designer had done his job as long as the customer was satisfied, but I would disagree. The web design must meet not only the needs of the business owner, but also the needs of his customers, if they are not happy with it they may not return, and in time the lack of response from his website may cause him to conclude that the web is not profitable for his business and in turn to shut it down. It was initially successful, that is the business owner was happy, but the long term goals of any website has to be satisfying the customers of the business owner, only in that way will a website be profitable and successful.
- Reasonable load times: One of the primary objectives of any web design project needs to be keeping file sizes as small as possible. Of course there are media rich sites that have very long load times, but is the load time reasonable given the amount of pictures, animations, music or whatever? There is a great deal to learn about image optimization for the web and an inexperienced web designer is likely to not know all of the tricks, so unreasonably long load times may be a good indication that a designer is not very knowledgeable.
- Crisp graphics: This is the other side of the previous point, image optimization for the web is a tricky subject and ones ability as a web designer shows in the quality of their graphics. When choosing a web designer, remember this tip; an image that is not optimized enough may have an excessive file size and long load time, on the other hand, if it is overly optimized, it will load quickly but the images will be blurry or unclear. A good web designer will be able to create crisp graphics of relatively small file size.
- Intuitive navigation: Who hasn’t been lost or confused in a badly designed website? Confusing, inadequate or nonexistent navigation is the hallmark of poor web design. Good design will feature intuitive navigation, think of this like getting into a vehicle you’re not familiar with, you don’t have to think about where the gas peddle is, you just put your foot down where it’s supposed to be and it’s there.
When you take your car to the shop you no doubt make sure the garage is reputable, no less care should be exercised when choosing a web designer. Even if you are satisfied with your website, if it does not do what it was meant to do, that is bring in business and leave satisfied, happy customers, then it’s not a successful website.
Your website may look great but how is its performance? A website can be compared to a car in this way, it is important for it to look good but the real test is in its performance, where the rubber meets the road so to speak. If your website is not out there bringing in new business then you’re broken down on the information superhighway.
The problem is that business persons who pay to have a website developed often don’t know how to judge their website’s performance initially beyond its looks. In the long term they will notice if it is not getting new business but even then they are often not sure what specifically is wrong or how to fix it. You need an easy way to give it a website performance check.
If your website is sputtering we recommend a 10 point website performance check of all moving parts. Here’s the rundown of what’s involved.
You should check:
- HTML code formatting: Is your basic HTML code broken? If it is this could be holding you back. Clean, standards compliant code will work better in search engines, be easier to maintain and is more likely to look great across a range of browsers and devices.
- Download time: Long download times can discourage visitors from viewing your site and can even hurt your search engine performance since Google give preference to the faster loading websites. Remember that mobile devices are often browsing at much lower speeds.
- Image optimization: This is related to the last point, but images don’t just need to be the smallest file size possible, they also need to look good, not blurry or pixelated.
- Browser compatibility: How does your website look on all the most common web browsers? How about mobile devices? You need to look good to all potential customers.
- Web hosting: Your web hosting can have a huge impact on your website’s performance. Is your hosting company’s servers responsive and fast or sluggish and unresponsive?
- Keyword density: How frequently do the keywords you hope to compete with show up in your content? This is an important metric to how you will perform in the search engines.
- Keyword popularity: While we are on the subject of keywords. Just how popular are the keywords you are using? You should carefully pick the keywords you will use.
- Inbound links: More inbound links will help you improve your search engine rank. But be careful, links from low quality or spammy site can hurt your ranking.
- Outbound links: Your outbound links are also important, but just like inbound be careful to only link to high-quality websites.
- Google PageRank: This is a number between 1 and 10 that represents how important Google thinks a website is. The higher the number, the better you are doing.
Once you have completed this website performance check and got those 10 critical points tuned up, your site will be purring like a kitten and ready to tear up the road.
If you need help, iLab New Media can run your website up on the lift, check it out, and provide you our honest appraisal of what it needs free of charge. You will also get a written report of the results of our tests to keep and bring to your own web guy if you want. No obligation and no hard-sell. Just contact us today for your free website performance check.
It is often said that a year in real time equals anywhere from 4 to 12 years in “web time”, meaning that time moves much faster on-line than off. It is true that the content of your web site can become outdated before you’re done writing it. It is always surprising to me how many businesses are satisfied to put their web site online and then just forget about it, as if the web site could take care of itself from there on out. Keeping a web site current does not need to be a daily or even a weekly activity necessarily, but it is very importance to update the content periodically if you want to continue to increase web traffic.
The truth is that the simple task of adding to and updating the content of your website may be the easiest, least expensive and yet most neglected way to increase traffic.
Here are my top 4 disadvantages of not keeping your web content fresh.
- New visitors can recognize old content: If visitors to your web site perceive that your content is not fresh, they may look at it once, but it is unlikely they will bookmark it and even more unlikely they will return. It’s like the difference between a brochure and a newspaper, a customer may pick up a brochure and read through it once, she may even save the brochure, but believe me, she will not be pulling it out once a month to read through it again, and after a period of time will probably forget she even has it. A newspaper, no matter how small, always has fresh content so that if someone picks it up and likes what he has read, he will likely pick it up again later to see what it says now. Your web site is similar, visitors perceive whether your web site is a brochure or a newspaper and treat it as such.
- Returning visitors will not come back again: When a persons visits your site and likes your content, they may bookmark it and return another time to see what’s new. After a period of time when there are no updates, people assume it is not going to change and will stop coming back. It is these returning visitors who are most likely to become your customers, not only do they like what you have to say, but they are interested enough to keep in touch. If you are updating your content frequently you will increase web traffic as your web site becomes in essence a networking tool to business contacts you may never actually have talked to. This allows you to keep in touch with thousands of valuable contacts with very little work on your part.
- Others sites may not link to you: You probably know that getting links from other web sites is a great way of getting visitors to your site, but you may not know that this can also drastically improve your search engine ranking. Getting quality sites to link to you can be a very difficult task, a good webmaster does not link to every site that comes along and asks for a link, only those that will offer some valuable information. If you have a rather static, brochure web site, you will no doubt be able to get some links, but you can get more and better quality links if your site is fresh and ever changing.
- Google likes fresh content: Google will give an advantage to fresher content, so you can increase web traffic through Google considerably just by adding new content every so often. As your old content ages it may begin to slip in ranking so mix it up, add new pages, blog posts or just update your content in those old pages, it will make a difference.
Your web site will get more visitors and more return visits if you keep it updated regularly. This is really not hard, just determine to sit down once a month and write a little bit about what your business has been doing and some suggestions on how your customers can use your products or services. By updating your web content at least once a month you will be helping to keep your site moving forward in web time and will be helping to increase web traffic.
A web site is one of those things that a business often puts off until the last, and then only after pondering whether they would rather have a website or a second fax machine. Yet some of these same companies will spend the price of a website on marketing every month, all the while doing without the most powerful marketing tool they could have, a website. I’m here to tell you that a truly profitable and successful website is within your grasp. Does your business need a website? Any business can profit from a well thought out, professional website, some types of businesses more than others, but all can profit from a good website.
Set your skepticism aside for a moment as we lay out 10 reasons why a business needs a website.
- It will promote your business to new prospects 24 hours a day.
- It present a professional business image.
- It allows you to quickly and inexpensively communicate with customers and business prospects.
- It can provide 24/7 customer service and support.
- It will allow your business to reach out to customers around the world.
- It will help build your brand.
- It can provide product information to interested ones anywhere, anytime.
- It can sell product or services for you while you’re asleep, or playing golf or whatever.
- It will save you time and money; no printing and mailing out information, instead direct them to your website, fewer phone calls for orders or trivial information when these things are available on your website.
- It will give you and edge on your competition.
These are just the basics though, the possibilities are endless, what could your business do with online collaboration, event management or online data management applications? Think about showcasing your best work on your website, or having an email newsletter to keep customers and prospects informed on your latest sales and services offered.
So why does a business need a website? Well, does a business need more customers, does a business need happier customers, does a business need to save money on marketing materials and mailings?
Many people are unhappy with their websites because they have had so little return on their investment, no wonder so many businesses invest as little as possible in their web sites. The problem is not the limited profitability of the internet, the problem is incompetent or disreputable web designers, either do-it-yourself web designers, the high school kid down the street, graphic artists who have a limited understanding of technology or fly-by-night web design firms who care less how successful your website is after they develop it. The internet is complicated and to achieve a truly successful, profitable website requires someone with an understanding of web business and web marketing.
With that goal in mind here are the top 6 ways to drive traffic and make your website more profitable.
- Search Engine Optimization. Not just submitting your site to search engines, because even if you get listed in all of them, if you come up past the first page you might as well not be listed at all. For new clients to find you on the web you need to be at the top of the results for several carefully selected keywords. This may also include pay-per-click advertising campaigns. Read this post on the Secrets of Search Engine Optimization to help with this step to achieving a profitable website.
- Promote through existing channels. Your website is not just a tool for making new contacts, it is also a 24/7 marketing brochure in the hands of any prospects that have your URL. The key then, is getting your website’s address into the hands of as many prospects, clients and interested parties as possible. This could be critical to the success of your website, you just need to include one more line on all of your promotional material (business cards, flyers, yellow page ads etc) with your URL on it. Not everyone is interested enough to call or come in, not everyone has time during regular business hours, many people have more questions they need answered before they make a decision. This is where your website comes in; clinching the deal, answering the questions, making the sale without you or your employees having to so much as answer the phone or lift a finger.
- Establish a newsletter. Now that you have the customers you need to keep them, an e-newsletter can turn your website into a valuable networking tool. Visitors to your site are able to subscribe and unsubscribe to your newsletter and all you have to do is enter your content into a form and click the submit button and your contacts are alerted to any new services or products you are offering, any sales or other developments at your business, automatically, in their email inbox. A must-have tool in developing a profitable website. For help setting up an email newsletter check out Constant Contact or Mail Chimp.
- Track visitors, users and clients. By tracking visitors to your site you will know how many visits your website gets, what pages are being accessed and what features are being used. With this in place you know which portions of your site are the most effective and which may need to be reevaluated. You will also know where traffic is coming from, which marketing efforts are paying off and which are not. Every truly profitable website needs some type of web analytics to track visitors. A good resource in this area is Google Analytics.
- Update content regularly. Why would somebody want to return to your site time after time, give them something to return for by adding new content to your site at least once a month. Web users have high expectations for website content, they expect it to be kept fresh, if they perceive that your website is static or that your content is stale they may not return again. On the other hand if your website features regular updates, news items of interest or short informative articles, they will return regularly. To learn more about how fresh content can lead to a more profitable website read our post 4 Disadvantages to Not Keeping Your Web Content Fresh.
- Write web friendly text. Studies have shown that people online often skim text instead of reading word for word as they would in print. There are several things you can do to make your pages more readable and keep your visitors from getting bored and leaving. Keep the copy on your site short and to the point, use bullets and subheadings wherever possible, and break long blocks of text up into different pages.
By following these suggestions you can make a more profitable website and move your site ahead of the competition.
The web offers infinite possibilities for expanding and marketing your business, yet a business website is often viewed as having two possibilities, e-commerce and as a brochure, probably because these are the most common, but they are not even scratching the surface of what is possible.
Let’s face it, there are probably millions of sites out there offering the same or similar services as your business, how will you stand out from the crowd? The successful web site need not be extravagant, you just need to spend some time thinking about what your clients needs are, and how you can meet those needs online. Often the failure to provide useful web services is caused by a poor understanding of the potential of the web and what others are doing with it.
To help you in planning your website, and the services it can provide, we offer the following 10 ideas for a smarter website.
- Maps to your locations: A very simple yet useful feature sometimes forgotten. The visitor to your website often doesn’t know where you’re located and may need to call for directions before coming by, head off that question by providing a map, because you and your employees have better things to do than answer the phone. For multiple locations you may want to provide a different map for each, or have a dynamic map that pinpoints that location when the location is selected from a list.
- Online order tracking: This is a common feature of e-commerce websites but even if you don’t sell products online your customers will appreciate this type of feature. Whether the product is ordered over the phone, through email or even by coming to your location, if there is any shipping, processing or manufacturing involved it is convenient to your customers to be able to look up their order status on your website.
- Email newsletter: A powerful marketing and networking tool for you to keep in touch with your existing customers and make new ones. To mail out a traditional newsletter can cost quite a bit in printing, postage and handling, on the other hand an email newsletter’s cost is virtually nothing once the website is developed. Advise about upcoming sales, remind about services offered, provide tips and suggestions on how your products or services can be used, your email newsletter will be the cheapest, most cost-effective advertisement you can have.
- Customer poll: Put your finger on the pulse of your customers by adding an online poll to your website. It’s easy and inexpensive to implement and provides direct feedback from people interested in your services, what’s more it comes with a simple administrative page where you can see the results tabulated and change the question.
- Employee contact directory: If you have a number of employees or departments that clients may want to contact, you can help direct those calls to the right place by implementing an employee contact directory. This can result in more satisfied clients when they are able to call or email the appropriate department instead of having to go through a receptionist or phone menu.
- Online catalog: You may not want to deal with the complexities of an e-commerce application or spend the money required to set one up, but, an online catalog could be the next best thing. With your products displayed online and a phone number to order by, you could be selling to people all over the country or even the world. This can be a good way to see if e-commerce would work for you since a catalog is much less expensive to implement.
- Live news feed: There are millions of RSS news feeds available online for inclusion in your website, from the news websites to feeds about specific interests and industries. By including a news feed on your site you encourage visitors to check in often to read the news and give your website an aura of authority.
- Your company news: New and interesting things happen at your business all the time, new products developed, new services offered or maybe a large project completed, brag about it to your customers by adding a company news feed. This could be a simple a list of blurbs and respective dates about goings on or they can be linked to more detailed news articles or press releases.
- Online community: One of the most effective ways of getting repeat visitors to your site, depending on your business, may be to build an online community by including a message board or forum on your website.
- Business blog: A blog is most commonly personal in nature, but many businesses are finding great success in blogging. A blog can bring new visitors to your site, give visitors a reason to return to your site, establish you as an authority in your field and improve your page rank in Google.
You need an edge to stand out from the crowd online and this doesn’t necessarily mean throwing more money at your website, it means working smarter, not harder, anticipating your client’s needs. If you spend some time planning your website and thinking about the above suggestions you should have no problem making a web site that customers return to again and again.