Back to Basics: Building a Website 101

With the economy in decline I’m getting a lot of calls from businesses looking to increase their enquiries and sales in a cost effective manner. Many are finding they need to design or re-design their website in order to achieve these goals so I thought it was a good time to go back to the basics of building a website.

For too long a website was more of a vanity item, with no real thought into how it could make you money. Over the past few years there has been more talk on how a website should make a positive return on your investment (ROI) and boost your bottom line. Today that goes without saying and so a website that is not achieving your goals is a drain on your finances and a waste of your time.

The best way to ensure your website is a success is to plan it wisely. Be realistic about your online goals, budget a reasonable amount of money to build it, select the right web team and put time and effort into working together to build and market it. Do all of the above and you have a very strong chance of creating a successful website.

Be Realistic About Your Online Goals

The first step in building a successful website is to define your online goals. So step back and think about what you want to achieve with your website. These goals could include:

  • Promote your products and services;
  • Sell online;
  • Collect targeted leads;
  • To brand yourself;
  • Provide customer support;
  • Reduce postage and printing costs;
  • Build an online community;
  • Collect advertising revenue.

When determining your online goals bear in mind that they don’t all have to be achieved at once. If you are on a budget and can’t afford all the bells and whistles in the beginning plan a website that can have new features introduced over a period of time. Being realistic abut what you can achieve is really important. I can’t tell you the number of enquiries I get from people wanting to build the next eBay with a budget of $200. I kid you not.

Defining your goals is the first step in realising a successful website. Everything about your website should be geared towards achieving these goals. The clearer and more realistic you are about your goals the better the strategy you will develop, and the more likely you will achieve online success.

Set a Reasonable Budget

Once your website’s goals have been defined it’s time to start looking at your budget. When building a website it’s important to look at all the costs involved including website design, content creation, website hosting and ongoing marketing and promotion. Under each of these areas are issues you need to consider:

Website Design

The design of your website can include logo design, graphic creation and photography, such as product photography. Take a look at your current marketing materials and determine what can be used on your website and what will need to be  created from scratch. It’s important to keep in mind that your online image should reflect your offline brand. This can be achieved by using the same logo and colour schemes as well as utilising other elements used in your existing marketing materials.

Content Creation

Content creation more simply refers to the text on your website. This text includes information about your business and the products and/or services you offer. Are you able to write this text yourself or will you require someone to do it for you?

Website Hosting

Once built your website needs somewhere to live. This is known as website hosting. There are hundreds of thousands of website hosting providers which can make choosing the right one a daunting task. When researching your available options keep in mind the following:

  1. Reliability
  2. Speed
  3. Storage Space
  4. Scalability
  5. Support

Your web designer should be able to help you choose a website hosting provider to suit your budget and requirements.

Marketing and Promotion

The final consideration in developing your budget is the promotion of your website. A common mistake is the assumption that if you build it they will come. Not so. The Internet is huge, and growing every day, if you want people to visit your site you need to promote it, just like you would an offline business. Website promotion can include a multitude activities including:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
  • Link Building
  • Newsletter Creation
  • Blogs
  • Promotions
  • Forums

I’ll talk more about these marketing activities later in the article and you can also view our online resources (link at end of the article) for more information.

When it comes to setting your online budget I often find it’s better to look at your budget in terms of what you are prepared to spend in the first 12 months as opposed to just budgeting the initial development of your website. By having a budget for the first 12 months you and your web designer can look at the best way to allocate your money. It may be that you spend 60% building and hosting your website and the remaining 40% to promote it.

Choose the Right Web Design Team

Ok you’ve defined your online goals and set a reasonable budget. Now you need to find someone who can help you achieve these goals. Enter the web designer.

With so many web design firms available the biggest problem will not be finding one but making sure that you find the right one for you. The right web designer will not only make a website that looks good but will understand your site is a business tool that needs to perform for you. In order to find the best web designer for your project you’ll need to spend some time researching the market, looking for potential design firms and talking with them to make sure you are a good fit, that they understand your needs and can deliver a successful solution.

Ideally you want to become a team with your web designer, developing a long term relationship where they can help with your ongoing efforts to create a successful website.

Put Time & Effort Into Marketing Your Website

Once you’ve got your website online you need to market it to attract targeted prospects. A mix of the following internet marketing efforts will be a good start:

  • Search Engine Optimisation – usually best done in conjunction with building your website. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of creating a website that ranks highly in the search engines for keyword phrases related to your business. A motel in Cairns would want to rank well for phrases such as “cairns motel” for example.
  • Link Development – links from credible, related type websites will not only bring targeted prospects to your website it will also help you with your search engine rankings.
  • Advertising & Sponsorships – seek out other websites that you can advertise on. Look for sites that attract an audience you think would be interested in your products and/or services. Consider banner ads, sponsorships, competitions and newsletter advertising, to name a few.
  • Pay Per Click Advertising – the two main players in the Pay Per Click (PPC) market are Google and Yahoo! PPC allows you to create advertisements that only display when specific keywords, chosen by you, are searched on. When your ad is clicked on you pay an amount (or bid), set by you. Bids start from about AU$0.10 and a campaign can be up and running in a few minutes.
  • Online Newsletters – online newsletters are a fabulous way to communicate with prospective customers. It’s an opportunity to showcase your knowledge, provide information about your products and services and promote special offers.

Ongoing marketing and promotion takes time and money but on the plus side you’re able to track and measure your results accurately which will ensure the money you spend is returned twofold.

It’s the old adage, you’ve got to spend money to make money. With the right approach to developing your website and creating a positive return on your investment (ROI) your online efforts will help you build a successful site and help you ride out these economic down times.

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The Google Grail: Getting to the Top

With search engines accounting for up to 75% of visitors to a website, and Google being the dominant player in town, having your website listed and ranking in Google is vital to your online success. In fact not being in Google is like having an unlisted phone number. Unfortunately many business owners discover this to late and are unsure how to rectify the problem. The following article will provide you with a series of strategies to help ensure your site is listed, and at the top of Google’s search results.

There are a number of ways to ensure your website is at the top of Google. The three main approaches I recommend you start with are:

  • Building a Search Friendly Website
  • Optimising (SEO) an Existing Website
  • Implementing a Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaign

Building a Search Friendly Website

If you are about to start building your website you are in the perfect position to ensure your website is designed and built in a search engine friendly manner from the ground up. By search engine friendly I mean a website that is easy for the search engines to find, crawl and index. A search friendly website should also rank highly in the search engines for keyword phrases related to your business.

Unfortunately many web designers have no understanding of the search engines and do not take them into account when creating websites. For this reason it’s important that you find a company that understands how important search engines are and can help you develop and implement a strategy to ensure you are capitalising on the targeted visitors Google can send you.

The first step is to find out what knowledge of the search engines your potential web designer has. if they have none I would suggest looking for some alternative companies. Once you have determined your web designer can help you to create a search engine friendly website it’s time to sit down and discuss the strategies you will adopt. You and your web designer should discuss:

  • Website Goals
  • Your Target Audience
  • Keyword Selection
  • Content Creation

Website Goals

Talk to your web designer about what you want to achieve with your website. This could include generating online sales, attracting targeted leads, increasing newsletter sign ups, online subscriptions, advertising sales and so forth. These goals will help you with the steps outlined in the next few sections.

Your Target Audience

It’s important that you define your target audience(s). Who is your website gong to be targeted to? I would recommend breaking your audience down in terms of:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Location
  • Income
  • Internet skills

It’s also important to consider primary and secondary audiences. Perhaps your main audience are people you want to sell products to but an important secondary audience is existing customers to whom you provide online product support.

Defining your target audience will help you to plan your search friendly strategy. For example whether your online audience is local, Australia-wide or International will have a big effect on the approach you will take in relation to Google.

Keyword Selection

Keywords are the words and phrases that prospective customers type into Google to find products and services they are looking for. Too often businesses fall into the trap of using words they, and their industry have for describing their goods and not those their customers are using. A successful keyword strategy will look at the words your customers are using – this is vital, as they are the ones you are appealing to.

I always recommend you start by brainstorming with your web designer to come up with an initial list of keywords. When undertaking this consider looking at the keywords used by your competitors as well as talking to your existing customers to see how they describe your offerings.

This initial keywords list can then be used by your web designer who will do further research to come up with a list of relevant, regularly used keywords phrases to incorporate into your website.

Content Creation

A main component of any campaign to get to the top of Google includes creating interesting content that encourages other websites to link to you. These “links” help boost the popularity of your website (as well as attracting potential customers) and helps you rank higher in Google.

There are numerus content creation ideas you could consider. They include:

  • Publishing a blog;
  • Hosting forums;
  • Publishing a newsletter;
  • Writing articles on your subject area;
  • Running a topical directory.

These content strategies can be implemented over time and will help your website stand out by containing valuable information relevant to your prospective customers as well as helping your rank higher in Google.

All of this information will help you and your web designer plan and build a website that not only appeals to your target audience but helps propel you to the top of Google. Remember building a website is an ongoing process and working on it steadily over time will help increase your chances of top search rankings.

Optimising (SEO) an Existing Website

If you already have website that is not performing in Google you need to discuss your options with your web designer or a search engine optimisation (SEO) expert. It is important to point out that SEO is a medium to long term strategy. It takes time to implement and see results but once the results start to roll in you will reap the rewards for a long time.

Your SEO or web designer will help you to ensure that your website can be crawled and indexed by Google and will be able to rectify any problems your website may have. They will also help you define your target audience and help you research and select the appropriate keywords for your business (see above in Building a Search Friendly Website) and incorporate them into your website.

Finally they will be able to monitor and track your success and make recommendations to increase your targeted traffic based on your own specific needs.

Implementing a Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaign

The quickest and easiest way to get to the top of Google is to implement a Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign. PPC campaigns are a short to medium term strategy – they can be running within hours and are a great way to drive prospective customers to your website quickly. For this reason a PPC campaign can compliment your SEO efforts. It sends you targeted traffic quickly while you wait for your SEO efforts to kick in.

Pay Per Click (PPC) ads are the sponsored ads you see on search engines such as Google. With Pay Per Click advertising you pay only when a customer clicks on your ad, regardless of how many times it’s shown. You select your search terms and set an amount you are prepared to pay if someone clicks on your ad. When a user searches for, or is using, a search term you have bid for, your ad will appear on the right side of results pages under the heading Sponsored Links. If a user clicks on your ad you pay the amount you bid for that term.

Pay Per Click is a great way to target hundreds of niche keyword terms for a relatively low cost. In addition it is highly targeted and the results are highly quantifiable.

A search marketing professional will be able to help you with ad copywriting, landing page copywriting and design, and set-up and monitor your PPC campaigns. As with building a search friendly website or implementing an SEO campaign you’ll need to sit down and determine your goals, target audience and keyword list. This information will help you develop a successful PPC campaign. PPC campaigns are highly quantifiable which will ensure you can measure the return on your investment (ROI).

By focusing on the 3 strategies above you’ll be in the perfect position to propel your website to the top of Google, ensuring your website receives targeted visitors that you’ll then be able to convert into paying customers.

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