11 Secrets of a Successful Website

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If you want a successful website, the first thing you should do is forget about your website and think about your business instead. Here’s how.

1. Define what business you're in

Be very clear about what business you're in.  For example, are you in the business of selling beds or providing a restful night's sleep?  Do you provide finance or make it easy for people to own the things to which they aspire? Do you build houses or provide a family life style. Do you operate a restaurant or provide a romantic experience?

Your customers respond best to knowing what benefits they'll get from doing business with you - and inevitably the benefits are intensely personal for each customer. They’re not what you say they are - they’re what your customers say they are.

2. Understand your target market

People don’t search the internet to find your business - they search the internet to find an answer to their current need.

It’s essential to know your target market. This means the type of industry or consumer sector, the categories of people within that sector, their responsibilities and your market's geographical spread.  It won't help if you look like a teenage entertainment business when you're trying to excite technical or financial managers in the corporate world. Neither will it help if you’re trying to reach a youthful audience using stilted and archaic language.

3. Decide on your own definition of success

It's only when you have clear goals and objectives for your website that you can know whether it's successful or not.  So here's a starting definition:

"A successful website is one that delivers what you expect of it."

Have a clear objective for your website.  It might be to acquire new contacts, generate appointments, sell product or provide an on-line service.  It might be to simply reinforce an existing brand. It could be to re-shape and re-position your entire business. Perhaps you want to increase the value of your business to sell it.

It's quite normal to modify your goal for your website over time, as it starts to deliver what you want.

Whatever it happens to be, every aspect of your website has to move your business toward that goal.

4. Consider what else your website can do

Your website can easily perform many automatic business functions.  Examples include populating a contact database, relationship management, surveys, staff training or rostering, field personnel management, online ordering or shopping, project management, newsletters, manage members, manage events, reduce administration costs, manage a multi-branch network, delivering services to clients, control inventory - and a whole lot more.

Perhaps you want to grow your business yet reduce your office overheads at the same time.

Your website is the “face” of your business. Behind the scenes it can run your entire business in ways that used to be only possible with large Corporates.

5. Decide on your key messages

Once you’ve decided on who you want to be and how you want to be perceived, your key messages must reinforce that positioning.

Each market and each type of visitor responds differently to language and messages (both verbal and visual) that relate to their needs.  Each website objective necessitates its own type of message.  Telling prospects about your service requires a different approach to asking visitors give you their contact details.

6. Let your prospects know you exist

Website visibility requires both online and offline optimisation strategies. It’s pointless having the world's best website if nobody knows it's there.  Every bit of your marketing collateral - business cards, letterheads, emails, brochures, signage and so on should refer people to your website.

Getting found through search engines is inextricably linked to copywriting.  More than just about anything else, great content will take you to the top of the search engine tree.  Getting found harms your business if you attract a lot of visitors to a website that gives the wrong impression or drives visitors to your competitors.

Above all, concentrate on getting found by people, not by computers.

7. Write content for your customers, not for you

We all love to talk about ourselves and what we do. The humbling reality is that others are seldom interested. Prospects will never look for you for the thrill of reading the same clichés that all your competitors - and often businesses in unrelated markets - use.

Unless you’re in the business of delivering online entertainment, prospects only ever look for you because they have specific needs at the time. Unless your message promises to meet that need, they’ll go to a competitor who can.

The fact that your great uncle James founded the business, or that you claim to have the best widgets in town, or your office is green, are all irrelevant. In other words, what’s important to you is likely to be irrelevant to your customers.

8. Get a professionally designed look and feel

Your website must convey an instantaneous favourable impression of who you are, what you offer and whether you're worth doing business with.  A visitor should look at your home page and feel "Yes! - I get it."  All at a glance.  Your website is there to excite your prospects, not you or your website developer.

9. Get mobile

Late 2013 Google announced that they would effectively penalise websites that are not mobile friendly. This means is that your site will likely disappear off page one and slide down the rankings table until eventually nobody will notice you.

More and more people are using mobile devices in all their forms - pads, tablets, phablets, phones, laptops and so on. In other words the very people with whom you want to engage are, in all likelihood, trying to find you on a mobile device of some sort. Ignore their expectations at your peril.

10. Plan, think and act beyond your website

As much as your website can help or hinder your business, what you do off line will help or hinder your website.

As a business it’s important to support your website in every possible way. Online, leverage social media. You might even have market or area-specific individual mini-websites. Off-line your behaviour must deliver on the promise that your website makes: that you are professional, give great service and care for your clients.

Make sure that your signage, marketing collateral and all your correspondence all refer to your website

11. Measure, learn, refine - continuously

There are many tools available to measure how your website is performing, such as hits, page views and other traffic behaviour. Ultimately, though, it’s your customer and prospect reaction that matters most; these, too, can easily be measured.

It’s not sufficient to measure website performance in isolation. After all, you could have lots of traffic, great Google visibility and a fabulous website design, which amount to little more than an ego trip for your website designers.

The most important measurement of all is how your website is contributing to your business, whether by sales, customer loyalty, cost saving, online enquiries, off-line enquiries and so on.  There is no one-measurement-fits-all - each business has its own criteria that depend on the key business goals.

If you’re not getting the results you expect, what looks like poor website performance may well be a symptom of deeper branding, marketing, product or business operating weaknesses that you need to remedy.

 

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