I’m happy that most companies, small businesses, and individual professionals are aware of the importance of having a website.
But is your or your company’s website still nothing more than brochureware — with only pages for Home, About, Products and Services, Who We Are, and Contact Us?
Though the cost of building and running a website today is low — or even free, thanks to such services as Wix and Weebly — the attention it deserves usually results in higher costs (time and hiring a Web guy or gal to go in and make edits when necessary).
But this is changing as small businesses and professionals recognize the need to get found by strangers, and have come to view the website less as a peripheral marketing piece and more of a driver of potential business.
Search engine optimization and search engine marketing strategies are still important, as more and more consumers and businesses spend time online. But what happens when someone actually visits your website? Do they take the action you want?
A website should serve in one or more of the following capacities:
E-commerce Platform. This is obvious if you are a retailer or selling your products online, but e-commerce can also extend to any service which can be purchased directly from a website. A compelling and informative enough website could deliver customers willing to pay for services priced and billed monthly. Having your website deliver paying clients without the need for a live salesperson to step in could boost the bottom line and free up time to work on more complex, higher-ticket sales.
Lead Generation Tool. Perhaps you offer a more complex service, or you are certain that your customers will not buy directly from you anonymously via your website. You can still use your website to attract potential buyers, and if the messages are strong enough, it can spur action, such as the prospect leaving contact information, signing up for a newsletter, downloading an e-book, commenting on a blogpost, or even calling the phone number listed on the website. Such behaviors, no matter how small, need to be tracked and measured against editorial and technical changes to the website, to see what’s working and what’s not. Such contacts can also receive other forms of marketing communications, such as invitations to events, or can be added to drip campaigns using a marketing automation or demand generation tool.
Online Community. With enough content and visitors, you can transform your humble website into a valuable, ever-growing online community. What often starts as an FAQ page or blog can evolve into a robust forum, with users — clients, employees, and industry influencers — contributing hundreds of content pages. An online community can feature profiles, ratings, comments, shares, tags, polls, videos, and other social content, and you can capture valuable insights from your users, not to mention have a handy channel through which to push important company or product news. Bonus: add a social login plugin (‘Sign in with Facebook’ or ‘Sign in with Twitter’) to reap even more profile data from your users.
For any of these strategies, content is still king, since this is what drives search; then once a prospect lands on your website, what they decide to do next is based on what they read or experience. No one can do it all; content creation needs to be a team effort.
Is your content interesting, relevant, valuable, or engaging enough? Better said, it’s not content that’s king, it’s content that converts to a paying client that’s king.