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Establishing an online presence allows you to engage with customers all around the world. If you want to do that effectively – on a global scale or for your neighbourhood store – you need an effective website that reflects your unique business identity.
If inclined, you can make yourself a five-to 10-page property using a prepackaged design and taking some classes. However, you may need to lower your expectations for increasing traffic, leads, and revenues. Or you can opt for a webmaster/developer to give you a unique design that looks pretty, takes advantage of marketing plugins, and meshes with your long-term vision.
Remember that your tech wizard usually is not the person who also writes, edits or proof reads your copy. You’ll either need to write content yourself or hire a content writer/editor to choose photos and write headlines designed to capture attention for your story. The best content is text that has been written for the Web, rather than simply copy-and-pasted from a print source.
Tech specialists also generally do not design or stage direct the marketing journey for visitors to your website but they often know about best practices for SEO (search engine optimization) and analytics.
If trained for online marketing, the writer/editor and designer also understand the path that moves visitors through the website to the desired outcomes. UX (user experience) designers are top-of-the line because they test the visitor journey all along the way during development.
Make no mistake: A successful website is a marketing tool supported by essential technology. My goal for this blog is help you understand the importance of having a marketing person work alongside your tech specialist for best results.
My Top 8 Gateways to an Effective Website Foundation
Are you planning to have your website custom designed or will your webmaster work with an open-source content management system such as the powerful WordPress platform. Ask your developer to explain their reasons for choosing either format and I remind you that unique design is more expensive. You also will want to know if the independent contractor you hired for the original design will be around in a few years to take your calls for changes.
Here’s the 8 Gateways:
- Go through the exercise of identifying the Personas you want to visit your website. If you skip this step, your content can easily misfire and messages will not reach your intended online audiences. This means your sales funnels will misalign, as well.
- Find the keywords that appeal to your audience AND to the search engines to help position your website amidst the 1 billion in existence.
- Implement SEO to help rank your website higher for your industry within the search engines. Effective SEO involves organic keyword ranking, external link building, and related key words known as Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). Ask which third party tools your webmaster is using for ongoing SEO.
- Realize that content remains king. Web content is the reason why people come to the web pages you develop. It is also the reason why those people share your site with others via social media, links on other websites, or even just good old fashioned word-of-mouth.
- Install Google analytics.
- Ensure that calls-to-action appear on every page. Please understand that invitations to join your newsletter are passe today. Offer useable content for an irresistible exchange of an email address.
- Strategically select social networks for the Personas you want attracted to your website. You would be surprised how many websites have social icons appear on their home page that are not linked to their websites.
- Specify permissions. You are engaging an independent contractor to perform work on your property. It’s a good idea to have “permissions” laid out for all directories and files of your account.
The tragedy with website design – and where I concentrate my attention – is when marketing solutions are not built into the foundation. It’s very possible that your tech guru is not also a marketing genius.
3 Levels of Websites
Most templates today are based on a responsive framework, which allows for adaptation to computers, tablets, and mobile devices; each application is unique. Ask your designer about the appearance of your website on each device. Better yet, see for yourself how it looks on your smart phone.
You can expect these services.
- Custom logos and graphics incorporated into your website. Slapping cheap-looking logos and graphics onto a website at the last minute can ruin an otherwise great design. Consult with your graphic designer before your site is finalized so you can ensure your graphic identity enhances – not blemishes – your image.
- Quality images. Original photography is ideal and another good idea is to purchase stock images from photo galleries. Make sure the images have alt tags to identify the pictures because unidentified images are useless to the search engines. Lifting photos from Google Images may get you involved with expensive copyright infringement.
- Website maintenance. A good website that supports less tech-savvy users grows with the business it represents. You don’t want to hire a tech wizard every time you need to adjust your website. Also inquire about a content management system that’s easy to use – even without a lot of technical knowledge.
We recommend integration of an ESP (Email Service Provider). It’s nearly impossible to run online marketing campaigns today without automated marketing systems in place and you want to keep your endgame in mind when building a productive website. The most basic functionalities include:
- Email templates
- Landing page integration
- Internal page linking
- Subscriber lists uploaded by the user for distributing messages
- Email distribution of personally tagged messages to subscribers
- Statistics and reports of email campaigns and individual emails to measure success.
If you rely on a prepackaged solution and want tweaks to suit functionality, you will be forced to compromise on aesthetics, website performance, and the ability to customize that functionality into the future.
Here’s what you get.
- Coding of customized solutions. Designers need to decipher everything about your functionality requirements. It’s like an electrician who needs to figure out how previous electricians re-wired your home. Developers then need to start coding a custom solution that gives you exactly what you need.
- Integration of solutions into your existing website. You may want more functionality wherein the developer will need to understand your existing framework to guide the entire development process.
- Ongoing customization, upgrades, and technical support. Familiarity with your code gives an advantage in making these changes as fast and painless for you as possible.
To ensure that you’re grabbing customer attention and generating reliable leads and valuable conversions, you need to keep a web designer on retainer. In addition, good website managers:
- Tailor your website to your specific industry context and scale of operations;
- Make sure that your website is functional and beautiful across platforms, including desktop, mobile, and tablets;
- Ensure that your website is in step with ever-changing technical requirements and design standards;
- Provide you with a minimum of service hours per month;
- Gives you a process for how they will contact you moving forward. Ask if they respond to requests in under 24 hours and complete updates or maintenance projects in under one week.
In addition, expect these services.
Site assessment. Designers and programmers will comb your site from top to bottom across multiple browsers and platforms to determine its strengths and weaknesses.
Design updates. Tweak or overhaul your website’s appearance and infrastructure to maximize usability and functionality.
Web applications. If needed, supply a web store, a feedback form, social media integration, or any other type of web application.
Regular reports. Ensure that you know exactly how your site is performing, by receiving detailed and customized reports. These reports help guide decision-making and direct on-the-fly changes to the consulting service package.
Don’t Forget 10 Opportunities for Communications
It’s pretty easy math…if you only post a website for your business story without using basic marketing tools, you’re probably losing 80% to 90% of the people you could be reaching. Maybe more.
If you use 2, 3 or more channels, you leverage marketing effectiveness. Here’s the methods to consider.
- Tags for blogs
- Anchor text (internal/external pages)
- Calendar of events
- Board/staff directory with bio and contact info
- Scrolling news
- Live streaming video
7 Steps to a Stress-Free Website Plan
Now that you’ve decided on the type of website, you can think about how to work with your contractor.
1. Determine ongoing business needs
- Updated website content
- Smooth performance with reduced errors and optimal load times
- Updated plugins
- Troubleshooting bugs or hosting issues
2. Monthly metrics
- Updated template for your website version
- Updated plugins
- Backup of database and site files
- Database optimization
- SPAM & revisions cleanup
- Security and performance scans
- Performance optimization
- Monthly site backups
- Email support
Plugins for website platforms often are created by multiple authors, and are consistently updated to newer versions to comply with the latest version of the service or to address security issues and bugs. It is not guaranteed that the mandated updates will not break the website, nor that plugins will continue to function if not updated.
For this reason, having a trained web specialist on hand to monitor the website is necessary to update plugins, rollback plugins, replace plugins or even adjust the theme to continue optimal performance.
3. Pricing and payments. Once you become a client, understand the payment method you undertook for the contract. Website design often is invoiced in advance and recurring services are charged automatically on a monthly basis for services.
4. Cancellation of any recurring service depends on your agreement. To cancel your recurring payment or change payment method, contact your contractor prior to your payment’s due date.
5. Protect yourself from others with admin access. You acknowledge that your contractors have access to independently edit or update web pages within your platform of choice. This means that you’ve entrusted them with your passwords for all third party platforms.
6. Acknowledge subcontractors who attempt to update the website and damage the design or impair the ability for the web pages to display or function properly. This may result in time for repair.
5. Damages will be assessed at an hourly rate of X per hour with a one-hour minimum. Work to repair the website from third-party modifications is outside of the support time and scope of the on-going website care.
6. Website designers are not responsible for the software performance or hacks. Designers did not design the platform software or plugins used on the website, nor do they usually host the platform it runs on.
7. What about liability? The webmaster does not represent, guarantee or warrant that the functions contained in the webpages or internet website will be uninterrupted, error-free, free from loss, corrupted, attacked, hacked, or other security intrusions.
Websites are like a telephone number; you need one. They reflect your vision, the quality of your products or services, and the experience your customers can expect from their relationship with you.
Building a productive website draws on several skills and a collaborative team effort. Setting out a process for managing the build of your website will help to avoid disappointment and too-high expectations.