Just as an investor does their due diligence, or a business thrives on research and planning, so goes the initial path toward great website development. Often clients want to jump straight to designing a website, or web applications development, without really planning the who, what, why and where. They’ve seen a website they like, and think ‘my website should look just like that!’. A mistake? You betcha! Here’s why:
What makes a great website? Is it that beautiful group of ever changing photos, the music that creates the ambiance, the colors or fancy fonts? They surely look nice, don’t they? Do they bring in prospects? On their own, not really. So, what is important to creating an effective website that will bring you increased business? Is website development pricing important? Let’s consider what brought you to the point of considering a website presence to begin with.
- What is the purpose of your website? Or, Website Development tips:
Do you want a website to let the world know you have a product or service they need? Validate your professionalism? Let the world know that if they are looking for you they will find you? Do you need to have a web presence in order to effectively compete? Bottom line, F O C U S. As it is the core importance of any successful website, start thinking about what your focus is. We’ll talk more about focus in a moment.
2. Who will visit your website?
Effective website marketing is getting your site in front of the audience that needs your information, features, products, etc. That’s why it’s very important you take the time to define who that audience is (i.e. working mom’s under 30, dog owners, retired investors, etc.) It’s crucial that you put yourself in position to bring qualified prospects to your site.The more focused and defined your niche is, the better.
That being said, you are likely not the only business offering your product or services. What is it that sets you apart from your competition? If you are Handy Dandy Inc. how are people going to find your website? Will they need to know your Handy Dandy name, or, will they be able to search for you by your service offerings? For example, if you were to look up handyman in a specific zip code, a list of relevant competitors would appear on the first page of your search engine (Google, AOL, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, About etc.). Now if someone were interested in purchasing tools or equipment, you as a handyman business wouldn’t want them to waste their time, or yours either. How to bring qualified prospects to your site? With focused content, calls to action and well researched optimization and keywords.
3. What will people gain by looking at your website? (or, what’s in it for me? )
It used to be that trade secrets were just that, secret. If you wanted to know about artistic paint finishes, and how to create a certain aesthetic in your home, you’d start your research by reading and finding painters and artists to talk to. If you wanted to actually watch and see how it is done you’d take a class. Value was implied; the ‘experts’ were either certified teachers or published. Knowledge was for sale, and businesses across the spectrum thrived on that. Today, knowledge is still for sale, albeit with a much different approach. The knowledge about what your business focus (there it is again!) provides, and how it can be helpful is what people gain by looking at your website. Offering information keeps them on your website longer, and often gives them value in knowledge – often that the task is more than they alone can manage.
Let me tell you the story of my friend, who is a 81 year old retired Engineering Executive. Always keen for a project and a puzzle, his children gave him an old laptop. The screen wasn’t working properly, so of course the engineer decided to research how to fix it himself. After thorough research on the internet to find help, he found a trustworthy website. Step-by-step this business website taught how to dismantle a computer, fix it and put it back together. Sounded perfect! Before beginning his project, he carefully read through each step. Upon completing the information and with lots of thought, he decided to have the business fix his computer. Why them? Because they provided the information, he needed to make an educated decision. They provided value in their information, as well positioning their business as trustworthy. Latest statistics show that 86 % of people consult online search reviews before buying and 90% trust the reviews. So, to bring us back to our original question which was ‘what will people gain by looking at your website’, the answer must be relevant information and value.
4. Once I have a website, am I done? This brings us to the question of ‘where’. Where is your web presence?
The internet is a complex machine that runs on numbers. The more online visibility your business has, the more qualified people are going to interact with that information if it’s well optimized. The more people interact (go to your website, click on your Facebook, twitter or LinkedIn pages), the higher your website is ranked in the major search engines. That then is the golden ring to effective website development. Literally linking all of your information across the web can be the key to successful website development.
Think of what you put out on the internet about yourself as getting a tattoo…you can remove it, but it’s painful and expensive to do, and very well might leave a scar. This idea of a perpetual digital past was the crux of a recent New York Times article on Social Networking and Reputation Management. Reputations are everything, and in today’s digital world it is your online life that will permeate into your offline life.
The internet has provided a global digital memory that anyone at any moment can scan for the impressions you have left. This global memory bank has sparked the need for a new industry; Online Reputation Management. The goal of this industry is to create positive Reputation Management Strategies. These tactics create links that are easier to find and out-power negative links, making them virtually invisible.
Online reputation management firms try to beautify your image on the internet by bringing what you want people to see into the digital limelight. This is not an easy task. As Facebook and Twitter expand and Google becomes more comprehensive, it can be an overwhelming task for an individual to manage what is said or posted about them.
This is where the professionals come in. For celebrities, bankers, and politicians, with lots to shroud in secrecy, hiring online image fixers can cost upwards of $10,000 a month, but for your average professional some mass market companies claim it may cost as little as a few hundred a year. You may think it’s free to post a picture of yourself at a party having a little bit too much fun, but the cost down the road can a hefty price to pay.
Online life has become a significant part of offline life, and ‘over sharing’ of personal information can be detrimental to your professional career. The internet provides a multitude of places where your information can be stored, shared, and reposted. When you post or upload something it’s like emptying a feather pillow in the wind. Those posts are out there, and it is virtually impossible to get them all back by yourself.
Gathering the feathers, in this case, comes down to attracting search engines to positive content and clearing negative data from social networking sites. Search professionals, or Reputation Managers who understand the infrastructure of the internet, reorganize materials to remove and cover blemishes on your online reputation. One major way to accomplish this is to compile positive content on websites, blogs, and social media in hopes that it will appear strongly ahead of unflattering search engine results.
Search engines are the gatekeepers to the fate of your online reputation. Many online professionals tinker with search engine results, through a variety of means to drive up the rank of favorable links, and drive down the rank of besmirching links, effectively erasing a portion of your digital past memory file. But, be wary of “bargain” rates as some search ‘tinkerers’ use unapproved or ‘black hat’ techniques to game the system. Other’s offer low pricing but only tell you about your problems … is actually fixing them extra?
The bottom line is that you not only have to be proactive, by controlling what you share, but you also must diligently react and manage what others share about you. The pain and cost of removal can be high.