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How to make your website work for you

16 September 2010 by

There's no point having a website if no one visits. Paul Clapham explains how you can help to drive traffic to your site.

What is your website for? Is it delivering against that brief? Web technology is changing and competition for the top Google spots is getting tougher - if your website doesn't keep up, it will fail.

First, be clear about the purpose of your site. In most cases it should be to create a profit centre that drives interest, enquiries and sales.


Get found by more prospective customers

So you've got your website and it's out there for everyone to see. Excellent - so why's no one visiting it? Far too many website owners presume that, once their website goes live, users will automatically come. That's the same as assuming that all you have to do to get customers into a shop is to open the front door.

A website requires regular attention for it to deliver results but many business sites get little or no attention or updates. This is a fatal flaw. Visitors to your site expect - and have a right to expect - that the content is fresh and totally current.


Search engine optimization

To be effective, your site has to be found by search engines, in particular, Google. Google typically shows the top 10 results per page for a specific search term. If you aren't on page one for the term that defines your company, your chances of being found are dramatically reduced.


So how do you get on the first page of Google?

Currently the best way to a high ranking in Google is the number of inbound links to your site. Aim to get as many links from as many places as possible, and the more relevant the links, the better. Easy to say, not so easy to do. The simplest way is to pay a search engine optimization (SEO) company to create a link-building campaign. This can be very expensive and out of the reach of most businesses. However, there are techniques you can use yourself, as the box on the opposite page explains.


create fresh content

The more often you update your website, the more often Google will look at your site and index your changes. The more relevant the content, the greater its authority, both in Google's eyes and your potential customers. If you have lots of relevant content it may also encourage other websites to link to you. All this improves Google ranking.

Probably the best way to create more content is to write a blog. Many business owners say they have no time to write their own blog articles, but by not doing so they are limiting the worth of their website and their potential to rank well in Google. You don't have to write much - even if you only manage to write one blog post a month - by writing about the industry you will show your potential customers that you are passionate about your sector and that you clearly have expertise. This encourages trust and confidence. You'll get more business with a blog.

Other ways to create content:

• Upload video to YouTube and embed into your site
• Upload photos on Flickr and embed into your site
• Share presentations via SlideShare


link in to social networks

Once you have your content you need to start promoting it via the social networks. There's an ever-increasing glut of such sites, but the main ones are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Some 11% of all internet traffic is now through social media. By involving your business in these types of communities not only do you have the potential to reach a far greater audience, but also for SEO purposes you are increasing your inbound links.

Think about including social sharing widgets on your website like Facebook's "like" and "recommend" buttons or embedding twitter feeds and bookmarking widgets.


converting visitors into revenue

Once you have the right visitors frequenting your site, how do you now convert them into revenue? One positive method is to tempt them into engaging in a conversation with you. In web terms, there's a choice:

• Filling in a contact form
• Subscribing to a newsletter
• Signing up to download documents, pics or video
• Signing up to trial a product
• Signing up to get one of your services for free
• Signing up to your blog via RSS
• Writing a comment on your blog
• Following you on Twitter

All these are potential lead generators that will allow you to contact or connect to potential customers. They also tell you something valuable about why the customer visited in the first place.


how to make your lead generators effective

If you have potential lead generators on your site, you need to make sure your users know about them. Obvious? Yes, but if your sign-up form is three or more clicks away from your homepage, many users will never see it. So make links or "calls to action" on your homepages and potentially other related pages.

Good calls to action are:

• Use nice big buttons
• Position them prominently above the fold on the homepage
• Offer secondary or alternative calls to action where relevant
• Convey urgency - now, today, unique, special
• Use well-written descriptive copy about what to expect and how easy it is
• Keep those calls to action to a minimum on a page

ONSITE SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION (SEO)

Page titles should be descriptive of each particular page and include keywords where appropriate. Keep it short - max 70 characters

Meta description tag (the description of page content) should use keywords and phrases and help entice users to click on the link in search engines

You should be able to access your page titlesand meta tags in your content management system. This should be built into your site by the designer

Accessible mark-up code (the software used to design it). If your website is designed in Flash it will not be accessible

Good use of headings. Google understands that headings are important and will put emphasis on these when crawling your site. So pack your keywords into your headings

Site structure. Good customer accessibility will typically be good Google accessibility

Intelligent linking - it's important that your site links to other pages within your site and that the links are descriptive, relevant and contain keywords. if possible. Don't use link text like "click here" or "more info". Use product and service-specific benefits

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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