Business Technology

Businesses can avoid failing online with intelligent website investments

7 min read

05 February 2015

You can succeed online if you don’t cut corners, but the online customer is no longer an easy win.

Ten years ago the internet was a very different environment to the one we have today, and ten years ago I built a simple online shop. I didn’t make the website keyword-focused, did no off-site marketing and it looked basic. In spite of that I sold a lot of units – such was the extent that demand overtook supply in virtual space. You did not require a sales strategy, you did not require ongoing marketing and updating, you just needed to publish a simple website and you were in the fast lane of commerce.

Flash forward to today and the internet is a vast, interactive, competitive, commercial beast. Today – if you are serious about setting up a website for a business, there are no shortcuts and there are no easy wins like there used to be. So many startups are not up to speed when it comes to the level of investment needed to maintain a serious website that intends to demonstrate growth in sales and stature. 

The confusion remains because there are signs to say otherwise. For instance, free website templates are readily available, as is ‘dirt cheap’ hosting. People designing websites for less than the market rate appear attractive on paper, but don’t always deliver to the brief or expectations – I have seen this so many times. 

This is perhaps the reason why websites on the internet are growing exponentially in number and the reason so many business websites simply fail after an obligatory period of floundering.

According to Alexa, there are over 180 million active websites and Google says the internet has over 30 trillion individual pages. Type in a query for a service or product on Google and the return of potential sites can be in the millions – so getting in front of a customer has become harder and more challenging than ever.

To befuddle those fighting for that edge, the rules of SEO are often changing, although quality websites, thankfully, are now more likely to rise above the ones trying to trick search engines. As this is now a buyers’ market – if your page doesn’t look right, isn’t instantly easy to navigate or has no obvious value proposition, a high bounce rate is guaranteed, which translates to no sales. 

Today if you are going to set up a website for business – whatever that business is – you need to consider investing in the following:

Find out what the key considerations are on the next page.

Today if you are going to set up a website for business – whatever that business is – you need to consider investing in the following:

Quality and relevant design by an experienced designer

The quickest way to fail is getting your first impression wrong or unprofessional. Get advice, research your market and test on people you know and don’t know.

Remember that every page is a potential landing page

People spend ages designing their home page but often run out of energy for the the subpages but because of the way search engines work people are just as likely to landing on your subpages as much as the home page so make sure all pages communicate your USPs and are optimised for search engines.

Onsite search engine optimisation

Make sure that whoever builds your site and writes the copy does it in a search engine-friendly way as advised by Google.

Quality original imagery, elements on page

Stock imagery and poor quality imagery can put people off.

Creating and managing multiple social media channels on a daily basis

Updating on-site information from the website updates and offers to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Man these with staff – they are not an afterthought. Also consider film in explainer videos – YouTube is the second-biggest form of social media.

Maintaining a blog with a good writer who understands your business

The blog is a staple requirement now – it shows thought leadership, embraces the customer community and it help SEO in terms of keeping the site active, keywords and long-tail search queries.

A sustained PR campaign for quality external press to link back to your website

Online newspaper and magazine articles as well as key influencers like popular bloggers can link back to you to funnel traffic your way.

Pay Per Click advertising campaigns

The investment amount is your call but using PPC has the potential to increase conversions and track customers.

Analytical software such as Google Analytics 

As with any business – unless you analyse the way your customers interact with you, you won’t know what you are doing wrong or what you are doing right. What are the reasons people are converting to a sale? Adapt your website with any new intelligence around user interaction. 

Today you need to approach your website in exactly the same way as someone would approach the challenge of setting up a bricks and mortar shop in the high street. You need staff, you need to challenge competitors, you need brand design, and you need to keep ahead with your customer interaction and draws. Importantly you need to monitor all the time and make decisions around your observations. 

Apply the rules of running a shop to your business website: invest, design for customers, market, analyse constantly. Sometimes, free and cheap does not help your costs but eventually increases them as your growth is stunted. Invest intelligently and nurture your brand.

Tom Vaughton is the managing director of digital marketing business Varn Media.

Image via Shutterstock.