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With the economy in a seemingly perpetual crisis, businesses are under ever more pressure from their finance and managing directors to ensure all business tools and investments are delivering the desired results.
This includes websites ranging from simple brochure websites to marketing campaign websites to multi-channel international e-commerce solutions with integrated supply chains.
To realise the desired business results, businesses should consider how well the website performs against the following seven tactical areas:
- How goal-focused the website is.
- The quality of the content.
- How easy the website is to use by its intended target audiences.
- How well the website projects and communicates its brand identity.
- How search engine optimised (SEO) the website is.
- Social media channel usage and integration.
- Mobile internet users.
Focus on website goals
As your website is a business tool it is essential that it helps users achieve business goals such as investor enquiries, membership, sales and data collection. So before you do anything focus on the desired goals and make sure that you:
- Review your website goals and ask yourself if there are missed opportunities for the website to help your business. This shouldn’t be considered a one off exercise but a continuous cyclical process to ensure the website always reflects the business needs.
- Display contact information on all website pages.
- Measure website performance and user interactions. Google Analytics is highly effective and a great free tool
- Capture user contact information and communication preferences at every data capture touchpoint gently ie., make the data capture optional and offer something of value in exchange of this data.
- Make call-to-actions for desired website user interactions such as registrations, product purchases and contact requests clearly visible across the website.
Website content quality tips
The best content is relevant, clear and useful and available in different media formats; this makes it important to:
- Use photography and video to promote your products, services and events.
- Align page content with photography used.
- Ensure that content can be printed, downloaded as a PDF and also available online.
- Include third party certifications.
- Promote new and updated content and remove old content as soon as it lacks relevancy.
- Spell check and proof-read your content before publication.
- Create content for your target audiences eg., “conferences” and “demonstrations”.
- Cross-sell content across the site.
Website usability tips
Make it easy for visitors navigate the website, locate the information they need and perform the tasks required by following these conventions:
- Navigation controls should use different colours and styles toindicate when selected or activated.
- For sites that include sub-pages, always have a breadcrumbs trail so that the user can tell where they are within the site hierarchy.
- All calls-to-action (secondary, primary and tertiary) should use clear language and styling.
- Utilise link descriptions to provide tool tips that aid the user journey and set user expectations.
- On data capture forms, ensure that mandatory fields are clearly indicated and that any field that fails error validation is highlighted.
- When linking to external sites and/or PDF files ensure that they launch in a new browser window.
- Use imagery (eg., embedded maps on contact pages) to help provide context and clarity to content.
- On large sites provide a site wide free text search.
Website branding tips
Make sure that your website is unique with a recognisable design that is supported by content that invokes an emotional response by:
- Implementing your brand so that it reflects the credibility and reputation of your business
- Your website design considering fonts, styles, browser tab/bookmark favicons and colour palletes and is not limited to the logo.
- Aligning your social media channel branding with your web and print designs.
- Using the same tone of voice for your website copy as you do for social media channel communications.
- Using photography that shows off your products, philosophy and innovation in situ with real examples.
- Rewarding your customers for their custom with useful content and initiatives that encourage repeat visits.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tips
As more than 85% of prospective customers use the internet to find what they are looking for and 70% of users click a search result within the first page of results. This makes having a good search engine ranking essential.
Some easy to implement SEO tips include:
- Google listings are ads. All ofyour pages need unique page titles and descriptions with the page description expanding upon and substantiating the page title.
- Relevancy. All page titles and primary page headers need to be tightly aligned and use the same keywords.
- Link text. Ensure that all your internal links are verbose and make sense out of-context. For example, neveruse link text such as “click here” or “read more”.
- Quality backlink diversity. Get your business talked about within a range of industry blogs, societies, universities and local/national press with backlinks to your site.
- Outbound links. Be generous with your links and link out to other sites within your content.
- Content freshness. Create content on a regular basis that people will find useful, discuss and link to.
- Social signals. Engage with people on social media channels and publish links to your content on these channels.
- Get local. Register your business with Google Places, Bing for Business and Yahoo Local and include local keywords in your content.
- Speed matters. Make sure your site loads quickly.
Social media tips
Love it or loathe it, social media is not only here to stay but will be increasingly be fundamental to all marketing and communications. Businesses need to be active in social media, push and pull content to/from social media channels and encourage user generated content.
This may sound challenging and time consuming, but where better to connect with your target audiences than the social media channels that they frequent?
Some tips that will help make your social media activities successful include:
- Focus on channels used by your customers and target audiences. For B2B companies, this tends to be Twitter and LinkedIn whereas for B2C companies this is often Facebook.
- Define the primary business function of your social media channel. For example, customer services, brand engagement or lead generation.
- Draft a social media policy that establishes who, what and how social media should be used by the business.
- Start slowly and only branch out into other social media channels once you have mastered one.
- Brand your social media channels.
- Use social media to engage with those influential in your industry.
- Be active! Engage with people every day.
- Post information about your products and services on LinkedIn.
- Integrate Twitter feeds on to your website.
- Provide content sharing facilities on your website to allow sharing content via email & social media.
- If you have a blog, allow this to be syndicated via RSS and encourage people to comment upon your posts.
- Be generous and give back to those who interact and share your content.
- You're human - communicate like one and do not hide behind a brand name.
- Don’t link Twitter to Facebook, instead use Facebook’s wall to post different and longer updates that offered by Twitter’s 140 character limit.
- Create Facebook pages for your business and then follow with groups for specific topics or audiences.
- Populate your Facebook timeline with achievements and highlights using imagery and content.
- Claim your Facebook vanity URL (ie., friendly web address) by getting 25 followers.
Mobile site tips
The mobile internet is set to overtake fixed internet access by 2014 so it is important to start planning what to do about mobile now, especially if more than 10% of your target audiences are using mobile devices to access your website.
When planning to go mobile, some tips to help your business get it right the first time include:
- Mobile users are task focused so make sure your mobile site is focused on delivering the content and functionality that the user needs on the move.
- Simplify the site design and navigation.
- Optimise mobile site speed by displayingonly essential imagery which has been optimised for mobile.
- Build the site using HTML5 as this will future proof the site.
- Avoid black backgrounds, try and go for dark fonts on light backgrounds.
- Test the site on the top four mobile browsers in the UK. Android, iPhone/iPod, Blackberry and Opera as these account for 96% of all mobile browser usage in the UK.
NB: It is expected that Blackberry will continue to drop market share in the coming year significantly making this a medium term tactical requirement for businesses targeting UK users only.
- Provide users with the ability to view the desktop website.
- Simplify data entry requirements by reducing the number of mandatory fields, using drop down menus and checkboxes.
- Ensure that phone numbers and email addresses are clickable.
- Decide on your mobile site strategy – this is a choice between creating a separate mobile site or a responsively designed website with a fluid layout that resizes for the mobile device accessing it.