Why your website is still your most important marketing tool
I train businesses on how to adopt internet marketing techniques (one of my other day jobs) and even I am surprised at just how much there is to cover. One of the sessions I regularly do is a 3 hour “introduction” to the topic and we only just have time to touch on all of the areas in those 3 hours. Both delegates and I finish that one looking slightly dazed!
But it doesn’t matter how many of these new media you choose to get involved in, the truth is that unless you have a half decent website, there’s not a lot of point. It’s often missed that social networking is excellent for SEO for example – because it always links back to your website.
So, having delivered one of these training sessions recently it seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on what makes a good website. Whether you’re starting out with a new site or know that you need to update what you already have, these tips might be useful for reference:
- Navigation – both for search engines and visitors, it needs to be easy to find the right information on the site. Think of something huge like the BBC website and you really appreciate how important this is. The best way to get this right is start with creating a plan or site map of pages, taking case to think about a natural hierarchy and preferably no more than 3 clicks for visitors to find the page they want. Easier said than done, believe me!
- Clear, easy to read text. Content is good for the visitor so they can find out as much about your products and services as possible, but also critical for search engines. Google for example, will check the title of the page (Page Title, I’ll come to this in a minute) and then look at the content on the page to make sure it matches. It does this by identifying key words mentioned in your text. From a marketing viewpoint we all want clear text to read anyway so you should find someone to write for you if you’re not sure where to start.
- Look and feel. Despite everything being geared to the search engine “spider” these days, for most human visitors the design of the site is important. Colours should be friendly on the eye (and good for disability guidelines, good article on this here from webcredibility), and calls to action should be obvious. You can split test different web page designs even to see which one gets best results (try Google’s website optimiser tool).
- Basic Search engine optimisation. This is mostly looking at on page optimisation and checking that you have a relevant (but different for each page) Page Title, Description and Headings. Your website developer should know what these are if you’re not familiar with them. If you have content management, so you can update your own pages (and you really should if you can), ask for access to these areas as you will need to do these for every new page you create or else have to ask your developer to do it each time.
- Your website address. This is important, and if it’s possible to use a url (the “www” address) with the relevant thing that you do in it, that’s best. E.g MarketingPlanWiz.co.uk has “marketing plan” in the address. This all counts as “relevant” to Google who will check the address alongside the other things on the page we talked about.
There are lots of others things you can add (another blog probably), but these really are the essential components of a good website. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to dive into the world of social media, online PR and the rest… well your website is ready anyway!
Karen McNulty is a Chartered Marketer, trainer and speaker and runs her own marketing business, Marketing Picture. She is also co-founder of online business planning websites MarketingPlanWiz and BusinessPlanWiz.
Photo credit: Simon Collison
What do you think?
Is having your own website as important as it used to be? Are you happy for your business to be represented on another website, like Etsy, for example? Or are social media efforts – on Twitter and on Facebook – enough these days? Let us know in the comments below.