Why business websites need fresh contentWebsites for business are sometimes considered a set and forget proposition. Once the design, content and images are up, the site has been published most businesses feel the work is done. But websites like any part of your businesses branding and reputation require ongoing maintenance and development. Without new content, new images, updating and securing of the code your website will stagnate. It will get lost in the information provided by your competitors and pushed to the bottom of the Search engine rankings.
Here comes the Stats on WebsitesResearch shows that approximately 78% of Business to Consumer ( B2C ) and 75% of Business to Business (B2B) purchasers use the both the internet and social media to research suppliers and businesses before committing to a sale. This research by buyers, who have access to hundreds of varying and alternative competitors and suppliers, who read online reviews, then compare different suppliers and pricing lead to self qualifying customer. A self qualifying customer is someone who has educated themselves on the type of product or service they want and by the time they contact a business they are ready to buy instead of needing more information. In fact it has been shown that by providing enough information to potential clients you can reduce acquisition costs for gaining new clients. Consumers engage in research on websites and social media reading an average of 11.4 pieces of content before they make a purchase. If your business website doesn’t have compelling fresh content that is relevant to what a potential customer is looking for then your business is most likely going to miss out on sales. And it isn’t about the direct, immediate sale either. The buying cycle of customers is extended. In previous years the person making a purchase, especially a large and or expensive outlay would do research in the form of asking friends and family, reading magazines, newspapers and visiting numerous stores that stocked the item they were interested in. Usually with in a shorter time frame and with less information than they do today.
More StatsEvery year people spend 36 Billion minutes online with just under 18 Million people doing all of this browsing. That is 27 Billion page views. And these are statistics for Australia only.(2) In dollar terms from August 2014 to August 2015 online sales totaled $17.5 Billion dollars. This was lead by Electronic games and toys which rose by 27.2% followed by Media (17.7%), Fashion (11.4%) and personal and recreational goods (7.3%). All Categories except for daily deals showed growth.(3) Is your business online and selling to this ever increasing market place ?
What does this mean for your Business ?So fresh content, a new blog post or photograph of your latest completed work is important to get up and seen on your social media profiles and website. It gives your business authority. It gives your customers somewhere to go and look at your work, your prices, and your business as a whole. Having your customer base be able to find you online is important for the longevity of your business, the promotion of your business brand and the income you derive from the business. The way to survive in today’s online 24/7 world is to have the information about your products and services up on your business website, the latest photos of your work on social media profiles and your news and blogs circulating on related websites, social media pages, and media outlets. With out a plan and strategy in place to handle your online profile, to handle how your web design is built to interact, how your social media posts and content are timed and displayed, your business is not profiting from the online market place. You and your business will be left behind by your competitors who will take advantage of all the tools and customer engagement process they have to build brand awareness for their potential customers.
What can your Business Do ?So what can you do ? Talk to someone about your business, sit down and map out a strategy for your business. Mesh that strategy into your current business model and lay the ground work for future online sales. Going from nothing to a healthy online profile is going to take hard work, a concentrated effort and a deliberate focus on your website and social media strategy. The sooner you start the better off you will be down the line.
- THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE LANDSCAPE REVIEW FEBRUARY 2015
In a hyper connected world, think 80% smartphone ownership, a business needs to be where their customers are. This sort of reputation management is the new customer service for the age. It is the equivalent of the customer complaint desk or the 1300 number you used to ring. How does your business handle complaints and negative feedback online? Do you have a policy on how to handle questions and comments to your businesses public Facebook page? How about a question on twitter? A picture on Instagram with a comment on quality or presentation? If you answer to this is you don’t or even, you don’t have to worry because you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account for business – then you are doing marketing in the age of the internet wrong. Your customers are online, and they will talk about, share, like and discuss your brand – even if your not in the conversation. Engaging with customers online brings opportunities to your product and services for future sales. The more information, the more answers and the more interaction you have with the public when they are talking about or interacting with your businesses brand online then the more likely you are to be who they think of when they make a purchase. Disruptive advertising (think TV or radio) is a thing of the past. People have always turned to friends and family for information and references to businesses who have been helpful and reliable for them. In the age of Facebook where the average user has around 200 friends how magnified is that social referral system now? Here is a small example of that social referral system in action. Try to imagine if this was your business being discussed. I was recently involved in a conversation about the service and product received by a customer of a particular fast food store. The customer in question was providing photos of the bought meal, the list of what was missing and the rather, in his opinion, small serving provided. He had approached the local store, lodged a complaint via the phone and was simply told by the manager that he doubted there was anything wrong. He then lodged a complaint with the states head office and was told they would look into it. The disappointed and now somewhat frustrated customer moved his grievance online. It wasn’t on the official site for the chain but was in a public Facebook group were posts could be seen by everyone but only able to be written by members. The rather long post went into detail about previous meals and listed dates of the last four meals he had bought there and whether he had made a complaint or not and the outcome of the complaint. Out of the four previous meals three were returned and the store had apologised and fixed the order up. Nothing unusual there the internet has become the goto place to complain about the shortcomings of business. In fact this wasn’t the first time this particular business had come up for a negative discussion on this site. The conversation though that grew up in the comments was unusual in its depth. Some 220 plus later the talk was divided into three distinct camps. Camp one was supportive, agreeing that the provided product was not what they should have gotten. Camp two was on the opposite side of camp one. There was the usual, nothing wrong, stop complaining, its just product basic x, what do you expect its just teenagers working there and my favourite, you shouldn’t complain because starving kids. Camp three were the usual meme throwing jokesters long for the ride. Now you maybe reading this and wondering what this has to do with your business, your website and your businesses online profile. Business branding and online reputation management. The business, the local store, was well aware that discussions took place involving its service and its product. In fact one of the people who were in camp two strongly suggested they were affiliated with it. Mentioning they knew that most of the staff were young, they were under time pressures to produce the food and knew the stores procedures in a bit of detail. Being aware of the type of site this was, being aware that their business was often mentioned in a negative way on this site it makes sense for someone to be monitoring the discussions for mention of their business brand. Online reputation management is something a business in 2015 should be participating in. Online reputation management and business branding go beyond a set of business cards, website and a sign. Your customers, past, present and potential are online in some way or another. They use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, to communicate there likes and dislikes, photograph that new pair of shoes, complain about that sandwich they just bought or how a staff member treated them while making a purchase. In this case a representative should be available to monitor the known chat rooms and be there to help mitigate the negative feedback. Again I’ll ask how does your business handle online conversations about your products or services ? Contact us
You’ve just decided that your business, existing or brand spanking new needs a website to get your brand and your message out there. So you ask yourself, what now? It’s a complex question and a exciting time. Before going to a Web Designer there are a few things you can do to help get the process started. Any business web designer you go to will need to know a few basic things about your business to begin the building of the site. Here are a few of the questions you might want to consider asking yourself when your ready for a business website. What is the goal of my website ? Is it for selling a product or service directly to customers ? Is my website better suited as an e-commerce business site? Who are my customers ? What are the age ranges, locations, or other definable traits of my target market. If I want to sell products from the businesses website how am I going to take payment ? Do I need a merchant account or will I use pay pal? Is there a secondary goal of the website? For instance if a visitor to my e-commerce site doesn’t make a purchase then do I want them to sign up to a product newsletter, or have them leave contact details so a staff member can contact them directly. Or is the website all about branding my product and providing information to potential customers? Many visitors to your website will be simply researching a future purchase or looking for a particular service and getting an idea of pricing, delivery times and other important ideas before committing to a final purchase. Social media connections, do I need all the social media sites or are there ones that are better suited to my business, I.E Pinterest to display winning pictures of my product range? Then there are the decisions about marketing the site, whether to push the launch of the site with online advertising and integrating it into Social media campaigns on a business Facebook page. A website also needs to fit into and complement the current marketing and branding material your business organisation currently uses. Being able to supply a current logo, and any other images or graphics you want you business website to display is also a must. Copyright permission on images that you don’t own need to be obtained. For instance if you wish to use images containing staff from your business you may have to obtain a release form from each person appearing in the photograph. A landscape developer sells his work to a new customer based on work he has previously done, this is often through word of mouth from past clients who show the work they have had done to family, friends and people in their street. A previous client used to carry a photo album of his work around, both before and after shots. It is a very effective tool to not only show how something could look but acts as proof of competent work done by the landscaper. The modern version of this is a website with images of the various gardens before and after on the site, in fact one very effective tool that can be used is for the landscaper to carry a tablet around to each new quote he attends. Calling up the website on the tablet and simply flicking through the before and after shots in high definition colour is an effective tool in showing proof of concept and work to clients. Though with the photography being on the web, express copyright and permission in most cases are required to be held before displaying other peoples properties. And is one of the many things a web designer will help you walk through and understand if needed. When it comes to it, building a new or revamping an existing webpage into a successful, attractive business website that builds your business brand and reputation takes time and a lot of questions. A good web developer will take the time to get to know your needs and your requirements and come back to you with a design that helps build and grow your business online.
Background first: I received a forwarded email yesterday from a potential client, with the original subject line being “1st place on Google” sent by their Business Development Manager who we will call Fred. Now it was obvious Fred and his Company, Startup, band of merry men, what ever the actual business was ( no business name, no 1300, 1800 or company blurb, nothing.) really wanted business cause they went to the trouble of using this really attractive darkish green background for part of the email. All I had to do to get my business, or my clients as the case may be, into the “1st place on Google” was to respond to their Gmail email account and ask for their packages, portfolio’s and proposals. Awesome isn’t ? I’m not sure if you can tell but I was and still am sceptical of the claim. Would your internal scam alarm be sounding by now? What was it for you? The Green background, gmail address, lack of business name or the promise of “1st place on Google“? Or all of them? What happened with that email: To be fair I’d say almost everyone with a business email address, or just and email address, has received this kind of email at some point. Here’s a question to ponder, would you reply back and even pay the people on the other end via Paypal, and give them login details to your website so they could optimise the content? Probably not. I would hope not anyway. But I have recently had a conversation with some one in the coffee industry who did just that. And wondered why their e-commerce site was blacklisted and reported as having malware. The Website Client: They approached me to discuss securing their business website after the fact, and tidying up and retrieving lost copy from backups and trying to go about restoring some of their online stores reputation. The business was relative new, small and started as a husband and wife team but now with a couple of staff working with them. The e-commerce site was built quickly and more the domain of the husband and wife with staff simply taking the emails that came in processing the orders. The Website Audit: I audited the site, not just for faults and malware but for content, errors and SEO/SEM. This is something that is not quick or simple and can take a fair chunk of my day to complete. Especially if it is an “emergency” situation and can’t be done over a period of days to gather and filter information. I gave them a full report, a break down of everything that was wrong with their site. And a time and a price for getting everything corrected as well as getting everything headed back in the right direction in regards to ranking and regaining lost customers. This included setting up website metrics, analytics, proper website security, login systems, password enforcing and regular scans. The owner/managers may have felt at a loss at the extent of the damage to the site, or surprised at the low ranking the site was receiving (it wasn’t brilliant to begin with), the blacklisting of their emails or the fact some of their long time customers were angry, but whatever the reason management did not take the report well. The Result: It was at this point I actually encountered the old “my friends son says its not that hard and he can do it” routine. At which I politely left the conversation suggesting that if he needed to contact me to do the work he had my card. I did not leave a copy of the report. I did leave a summary but definitely not the details. Some of you may be asking why? Others having been down this path fully understand. Having put the research and time in to understanding the situation at hand I felt that leaving my work there in that situation would not just be tempting someone else to follow the report and attempt to do the repair work – yes I would loose out on income, it would also reflect badly on me. My name, my businesses name and its reputation would be reflected upon badly if someone attempted to implement the needed work, failed or worse using the broad picture I had painted in the report.(not that it wasn’t in pretty bad shape as is.) I have been down that path before with past potential clients. The Takeaway: Its never a good idea to pinch pennies when your livelihood is at risk. I can understand the impulse, your e-commerce website business has just suffered a reputation and monetary setback and the urge to reduce costs can be a major factor in decision making. It is however never a good idea when your main website interface to the world of your customers is damaged. Your business website needs to be trustworthy (I.E. a SSL certificate for all transactions), fast to load (Google does rank on speed especially for mobiles), and the website must be clear and easy to navigate. A website for business, an e-commerce website, your website, needs to be secure and not just that your customers need to feel secure and confident while using your website. So when you get that spam email in your inbox promising you “1st place on Google”, maybe a little research of who and where the business is from will prevent some headaches. As for the potential client of mine in this story. They have contacted me again. They did have someone else look at the site and from what little they have said and from what hasn’t been done on the site not much has worked out for them. Yes I have a feeling it was the friends son. It may be a story for another day.
Website contentOne of the things that has come up a lot recently has been the value of content in a website. One of the things that Google and other search engines look for is the words and phrases you use in your business websites content. When, where and how often you use the wording affects the way in which your page is indexed. This is often called SEO, or SEM. That is Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing. Google in particular looks at not just the structure of a site but the way the content is arranged, its readability, length, the page content, and phrasing. They use this to help score your site and thus rank it on search results.
Website LinkingYes there are plenty of companies out there spruiking the use of backlinks, guest blogging, and paying for links from authors to build your sites rankings. This is not a long term strategy that will get you very far. In fact done repeatedly on low quality sites links like this will get you banned from Google until corrected. An example of this was Interflora UK who paid for 150 advertorials in the lead up to valentines day 2013 in regional papers all linking back to them. This promptly resulted in a ban from search results until they at least applied a nofollow on the paid links.
Results require workKeeping your website in a decent search engine ranking is hard work. It isn’t easy and requires constant effort.
- Publishing new content
- Refreshing outdated content
- Making sure your legitimate links still work
- Competitors working harder
- Search engines updating there rules
The Wrap upEssentially the take away from this is, Work. Gaining, maintaining and improving the position of your business website, your businesses online reputation and the amount of potential customers seeking out your business requires constant ongoing effort. There are no short cuts. If some one is offering to get your business on page one of search results for $X amount each month your scam alert system should be at least starting to sound. Achieving a good ranking in Google search results requires consistent, repeated work on your sites, content, links and structure. SEO and your business website’s content go together in producing a page, a site and content you would be happy to have reflect on your business. It takes time, often lots of time and with attention you and your business should see steady growth in the traffic hitting your website.
How a good business website can influence your customers.
Many small business owners have a hard time understanding how a website benefits their business. Especially in the short term.
While the owner of a small or medium business understands how it runs, how well it does from month to month and also understands the use of marketing their brand, most don’t understand the way a well built and designed website can have a positive impact on their bottom line. This is reflected by the 2012 abs.gov.au statistic that only 44.6% of businesses have an on-line presence of any kind.
Yes when you sit down with a website designer they tend to use a lot of three letter abbreviations, SEO, SEM and SLA. But probably the most important three letter abbreviation that is important to any business owner is ROI.
Return on Investment is important to your businesses bottom line. Websites and your business should be complementary. A website should reflect the brand, existing marketing and existing advertising you already do and provide your business with a potential new customer base. When looking at investing into your online image, whether that is a new website, updating an existing one, Social media marketing or Google adwords it is important that your business is able to quantify the results from the money spent.
That return can take many forms, from direct sales, to increased customer participation on your website or social media pages. Increased brand awareness from having a functioning, elegant website with content designed to boost your rankings in search engines can lead to higher top of mind awareness in potential customers which in turn leads to higher sales for your business over time.
In vying for the consumer dollar your competition will try to take every advantage to make sure they are the ones who customers think of when they go to purchase. And a business website can make all the difference – whose business website or Facebook page has the information on what’s in stock, which site can let a customer reserve an item for later pick up or better still which business website will let a customer find the item they are after, let them know if its in stock, let them order it, pay for it, and arrange delivery?
And a large percentage of customers research their purchases – over 75% of all Australians have access to the internet – especially purchases involving larger cash outlays, on the internet, through Google and through comparison of businesses websites, Facebook pages, or Google business pages?
This product research by customers often results directly in a purchase.
If your business isn’t on the web, doesn’t have a website, Facebook page or anything else asides from a directory listing who do you think will leave a greater impression? You or your competition?
And leaving you with one other thing to consider.
Did you know that a business is able to claim some of the costs associated with website and online marketing??
Look at this post from business.gov.au