Since I started my career many moons ago, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many talented individuals and businesses of all sizes and specialties. I’ve learned a lot on the way through research and trial and error. I’ve watched trends come and go, but some core principles have remained true, which I’d like to share with you. Hopefully you’ll recognize most of these or maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.
1) Your website should be built for your customers, not for you.
Build your website around the basic needs of your customers rather than your own. You already know your business inside and out. You’re using industry terminology like a second language. Your customers, on the other hand, may only have a very basic knowledge of your services. Your website should have the answers to their basic questions in terminology that will make sense and resonate with them.
2) Choose your website platform carefully.
There are many platforms out there to choose from with their own pros and cons. First, consider what type of website you will have. Is it an informational site or an eCommerce website? Break down the capabilities and functions you need and research the different platforms that will be the best fit within your budget. Then go further and make sure the platform is flexible. If you need a feature added to it later on, do you have the ability to do so. Would you need to hire a developer? Or is this platform locked down to limited custom programming? What happens if you decide to switch platforms?
3) Talk to your SEO consultant and web team first before you do something big.
So what if you decide to switch platforms? Or you finally got your hands on the domain name you always wanted? Don’t make a leap like this without knowing the facts. Doing so could wipe away years of work and search engine rankings very very quickly. It can cause a dramatic loss in traffic and revenue. Your SEO consultant can guide you through the proper steps that will ensure this type of change is as seamless as possible. They will talk to you about 301 redirects, search engine console, and all of the behind the scenes work needed to keep your business and rankings in tact.
4) A healthy marketing portfolio should be diversified.
Even if you take all of the necessary precautions to keep your website running, things happen. Search engine algorithms can update and jumble around rankings. Pay per click costs can rise beyond budgets and Facebook can make yet another change to their news feed. Fortunately, these things generally don’t happen all at the same time. That’s why it’s important NOT to put all of your eggs in one basket. Your marketing strategy shouldn’t just be about one central strategy. Your sources of traffic and revenue should come proportionately from different channels so when things fluctuate, it doesn’t cause a catastrophic shift in your business.
5) Concentrate on qualified traffic.
Let’s say you run a website that sells home interior wall paint and you ask your SEO consultant to rank for the keyword “paint”. Right off the bat, they should tell you this is a bad idea. The phrase “paint”, on it’s own, could mean many things and bring up very different search results. For instance, is the shopper looking for water color paint? Automotive paint? Tips on how to paint? Or maybe still looking for the dead-but-not-yet-forgotten program Microsoft Paint?
For marketing strategies like search engine optimization and pay per click marketing, it’s best to concentrate on very specific long-tail keywords. In this case, phrases like “home kitchen wall paint” or “yellow nursery room paint” or “discount dutch boy interior wall paint” would be much more beneficial. They will bring in shoppers who are more likely (or more qualified) to buy what you’re selling at a much lower cost to you.
6) Shopping ads are a cheaper way to bring in traffic.
Running pay per click ads on places like Google Adwords can get costly if not managed well. For ecommerce websites, like Yahoo Stores, setting up a Google Shopping campaign is an excellent way to compete with big retailers at a much more affordable price. For accounts I have managed, the cost for shopping ads tend to come in at a fraction of the cost of regular ads and with a much higher conversion rate.
All you need are a Google Adwords account, a Google Merchant Center account, and a data feed of the products listed on your website. Work with a Google Premier Partner agency that can help you get set up and optimized over time to continually bring in qualified traffic and conversions.
7) Adapt with technology.
Over the last few years, some major changes have happened. More web users are using mobile devices. They are using voice-search tools from Siri, Google Home, or Amazon’s Alexa to find information. All of these, and others, have forced the roll out of major updates from Google and forced web & marketing consultants to adopt new strategies.
As an example, Google is in the middle of pushing their mobile-first index update which unifies desktop and mobile search results into one entity. This means they’re looking at the mobile-version of your website first to determine how to rank it.
Voice-search is putting more emphasis on conversational keywords and search results. It’s requiring more defined structured data (schema) to be programmed within a website in any industry. All of these require the knowledge of industry experts to guide you through.
8) Unique quality content will always work.
When I started in this industry, the mantra then was “content is king.” Today, that still holds true, even if it sounds cliche. Investing in well produced content is the basis for every successful website. Content can be defined as page copy, images or videos. Whatever it is, it should be well thought out, informative, and shareable. It should be optimized for search engines while bringing in some type of value to the visitor. They should learn something from it and want to share it with as many people as possible. Websites naturally built on this foundation have been able to survive all types of algorithm shake ups and technology changes.
9) Minimalist design means more emphasis on banners & photos.
Ten or fifteen years ago website designs had many heavy visual elements, beveled effects, and left navigation columns that went on for days. Today, with the advent of responsive design and minimalism, modern website design has become very clean and bare bones. There’s a strong emphasis on typography mixed in with great photography and bold or simplistic banner designs. As “trendy” as design may be, minimalist design also serves a purpose in terms of getting the site visitor to easily reach the end goals you’ve outlined; whether it be purchasing a product, calling you, or filling out a contact form.
Speak with your web design team about routinely designing new banners for specific promotions to keep your website fresh. Work with them on finding quality photos that don’t look like traditional stock images but still do the job of selling your product. And connect with a photographer or photoshop wiz who can make your products or business look amazing.
10) Build reviews.
88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. The majority of those users trust reviews that are only a few months old. You should actively grow positive reviews for your business as part of you day-to-day marketing initiatives. If you’re not, then most likely your reviews will be dominated by people who may have had a negative experience with you. The angry and scorned among us are more incensed to tell others.
Simply asking for a review is the first step. You can use tools to help automate this. They can send the review request directly to a customer’s phone number or email. It can then direct them to the review sites that are most important to you. Building reviews also has positive SEO effects. Be sure to build them on your Google My Business page and directly on your website.
11) Stay connected with social media.
Be where your customers are. They’re sharing their lives and experiences with friends and family on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. By having an active and engaging account for your business, you’re giving yourself another opportunity to connect and market to past and potential customers. Mix in a bit of advertising to drive up post likes, clicks, and page likes. This will help your regular posts reach a larger audience over time.
12) Successful websites change with the times.
As I said before, technology updates mean website changes. Your site should also reflect the evolving needs of your customers. Many times I’ve come across websites that haven’t been updated in years, all while sales slowly dropped over time. Keep up with Google, technology updates and other strategies to keep moving your business forward. Consider incremental updates that will positively impact your business’ bottom line over time.
.5) You only know what you know.
You’re only half of what it takes to be truly successful. Find a great team of people around you who can help fill in the gaps with their knowledge and expertise. They can help you get through the tough times when you don’t know the answers and be there for the good times to share in your success with you. It’s helped me over my career and it will help you too. I know of a web design and marketing agency in Illinois that’s pretty fantastic and friendly too! Contact them today!