The role a website can play in helping a company outperform its local rivals is widely understood. But for many business owners and entrepreneurs, the key challenge is achieving this on a limited budget.
Commissioning a digital agency to build a site will typically set you back around £3,000 – and unfortunately the bills will keep arriving for ongoing IT support, site maintenance and marketing costs.
Using a freelance designer will typically cost about £500 for a very basic site using a WordPress template. But again the bills don’t stop as usually you won’t be able to edit the site and will have to pay the designer to do so. And there won’t be much in after-sales support or upgrades either.
The cheapest alternative is to take a “DIY” approach – but it is also fraught with pitfalls unless you know what you are doing. And few DIY companies provide the service and SEO or marketing capabilities that you’re likely to need.
It’s easy to see how the associated costs often exclude many SMEs from having a site, or force them to choose a cheap option that simply isn’t fit for purpose.
There is a new breed of “DIFM” (Do-It-For-Me) suppliers now, however, who provide a hybrid option that combines the economy of a DIY approach with powerful SEO and marketing tools and high support levels. DIFM providers can offer the expertise needed to polish up a website, fine-tune SEO and even manage marketing – essential characteristics for an entrepreneur serious about building a strong online presence.
Regardless of which approach you choose, there are four essential points you must bear in mind when setting up a website:
1. Be more visible
With nearly 130 million websites in the UK alone, the internet is becoming an increasingly crowded place. Now more than ever before, a website must be visible – and the way to do this is to climb search engine results, the king of which remains Google.
To attract new customers, a site must come with tools to help it climb Google rankings – which in turn means getting the basic on-site SEO right and building a presence on social media (eg. Google+ and Facebook) and relevant business directories.
And as Google is now placing greater importance on local searches, it’s easier for smaller local businesses to compete for customers. It’s possible for an SME, without spending thousands of pounds, to outrank a larger, national rival on a Google search.
This is obviously great news if you are a local small business. But it comes with a caveat – the need to outperform local competitors on the internet. It’s that relative advantage that can be achieved without breaking your marketing budget.
2. Effective customer management
A key component of any business is engaging with and keeping customers happy – your site must have a CRM (customer relationship management) capacity to help manage your existing clients.
These tools – such as a customer contact list, email marketing, custom enquiry forms and SMS alerts – will significantly improve your ability to stay in contact and engage with your customers.
If, for example, your site has an appointments-booking system, you can enjoy a boost in productivity while also improving customer experience with email confirmations and text reminders.
3. Dynamic content
A dynamic and up-to-date website will be more relevant to a visitor as well as giving them a reason to return.
News, specials and testimonials are a few ways of making your website more exciting and dynamic. And best of all, updating your content regularly makes it more search-engine friendly.
4. Professional design
First impressions count, and a properly designed website with professional images makes all the difference.
Choose colours and pictures that will catch a visitor’s eye and subtly match your branding. The unfortunate truth is a lot of amateur web designers go overboard when it comes to choosing a colour palette.
Use your site to clearly showcase what you can offer via pictures of your products and services. And remember to use top-quality images, as they’re more likely to get noticed on image-heavy media sites such as Pinterest.
Anthony Karibian is the founder of website design firm bOnline.
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