Focus on Your Website Which You Own and Control
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Most medium-sized and large companies have a website. And successful organizations have one too. Yet some smaller or older companies struggle in this area. Some don’t have a website, while others have one, but it’s outdated or substandard.
Here are some tips to help you move forward in setting up a practical online presence you can be proud of.
The Role of Social Media
Some organizations make the mistake of foregoing a website. They try to use social media for their online presence. This is a bad idea. First, they don’t own their social media page and can be kicked off it at any time, for any reason.
Contrast this to a website, which a company owns and controls.
This doesn’t mean to ignore social media, but the goal of social media pages should be to direct people to your website. Think of social media as the spokes of the wheel and your website as the hub.
Although it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to design a professional-looking website, there are less costly options. After all, we don’t all drive a luxury car; sometimes entry-level transportation will do just fine.
In truth, you can make an inexpensive website yourself for under $100. The goal is for it to not look cheap. Most hosting companies offer do-it-yourself website templates you can customize to provide a basic, yet professional-looking, site for your online presence.
If you want to avoid using predesigned templates, WordPress.org is a popular alternative.
Regardless, there are a few beginner mistakes you will want to avoid:
- Stay away from line art graphics or any artwork that looks homemade.
- If you need to resize a graphic, be sure to keep it proportional. Otherwise, it will distort and look odd.
- Proofread the text, verify spelling, use correct grammar, and employ commonly accepted punctuation.
- Have others double-check your content. Then have someone else triple-check it.
- Don’t go crazy with different fonts. Use one or two at the most.
- Have a consistent style and color palette throughout.
- Avoid uppercase text; people will feel like you’re screaming at them. (The one possible exception might be when listing your company name at the top of the page.)
- Use italics sparingly. It’s hard to read in large blocks.
- Don’t insert some nifty gadget on your site. Resist the urge. Just because these features are available doesn’t mean you should use them.
- Also be wary of animation, videos that play automatically, and sound that’s turned on by default. If you irritate a visitor they’ll bounce from your site and never return.
Also, don’t piggyback off someone else’s domain name; get your own. You can inexpensively obtain a domain name from your hosting company.
While you’re at it, set up an email account using that domain name. Post that email address on your website. If necessary, you can have this new address forward to an existing email account.
Search Engine Optimization
Now that you have a functioning website—which avoids all the above beginner errors—you want people to find it. Aside from telling everyone you meet and listing it on every piece of literature and stationery you have, you need search engines to notice and appreciate your website.
This is called search engine optimization (SEO).
Since the search engine companies closely guard their methodologies, SEO is more of an art form than an exact science. Even so, here are some common SEO basics:
- Each page needs a title. This will help both visitors and search engines.
- Each page needs a description; don’t use the same description on every page or repeat descriptions.
- Add correct keywords. Although most search engines ignore them, some search engines may still look at them. Again, keywords should not be the same for each page.
Although some people still pursue reciprocal linking (that is, “I’ll link to your site if you link to mine”), this no longer helps and could hurt your visibility with search engines. Don’t do it.
Many of the companies that guarantee you top search engine placement do not deliver or can’t sustain it. There are experts who can do this, but they are in a minority and their skill is often hard to verify.
If you hire someone to improve your website’s SEO, you have every right to expect results and to hold them accountable for optimizing your online presence.
If you want people to find your site and contact you, the next step to consider is content marketing. This is when you post helpful, non-salesy information on your website as a no-strings-attached public service.
This content should be relevant to your company and helpful to your prospects. In doing so you become a subject-matter expert in the eyes of your audience.
Search engines serve up this content to people who seek it. The result is traffic to your site. After they read what they came there to find, an attractive and helpful website will keep them there.
Hopefully, some of them will want to learn more about your company or your products and services.
A website isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it effort. A website benefits from ongoing tweaking to make it more valuable to your target audience. Also, expectations change over time, as do best practices.
Expect to continue to work on your website on an ongoing basis to fine-tune and improve it.
You can outsource any or all these steps, but it comes at a cost. As an alternative, you can do it yourself. Regardless of which path you take, don’t expect immediate results. It takes time to perfect a website and drive traffic to it.
The best time to make your website was ten years ago. The second-best time is today.
Marketing Management Success Tip
If you don’t have a website, you need one. And if you have a website, work to make it better. In either case, the results will increase visibility and leads.
Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Sticky Series books, including Sticky Customer Service, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Leadership and Management featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.
He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.