As we kick off the New Year, there stands a reasonably good chance that a lot of people will have a bunch of resolutions that will fit into two neat categories: Get fit, and make more money.
Now, I can't help you with the getting fit thing other than to say eat less and exercise more.
There you go, I'm a fitness guru all of a sudden. However, I might be able to help with the making more money stuff if you're the owner of a website.
You see, getting your website found is pretty important. If you've got a site and nobody is going to it, then it's not really doing its job.
It's a marketing tool, and marketing only works if people look at it. It's like having a billboard covered in plastic wrap. Pointless.
So, you need to get it found. The way most people will tell you to do this is to get your site ranked in Google. That's not a bad idea because if you get higher rankings, there’s a chance you might get found more often.
However, how you do it is important, and if you do it wrong, then you might cause problems with your site.
And there are easier ways.
You should also relax.
It will not happen overnight.
If your boss says “I want number one Google ranking in one month”, then you need to go back to him and say, “sorry, it can’t done.”
It’s as simple as that.
Relax, do it right, to it carefully, and the results will come.
For the purposes of this exercise, I want you to ignore Google altogether.
That's not because it's not important, but because I want you to concentrate on other things.
I want you to think about getting customers in ways other than Google, ways that are potentially more profitable, cheaper and much quicker.
And the bonus is, you're helping your site's rankings all the time in Google while you do this. We're turning the whole ranking thing on its head. And we're doing it in three simple steps.
Step One – Analyse the Structure of Your Site and Check Usability
Is your site easy to navigate? Don't rely on your own intuition, instead, get someone to look at it or even better, use this free service: peek.usertesting.com
For free, this is pretty amazing. A real person will take a look at your website and send you a video of them looking at it and commenting on what they find.
Why is this so important? Well, others will view your site differently to you. You know where all the pages are, how to use the contact form and how to find the information you've posted. Others won't.
With this tool you'll be able to find out what's wrong with your site navigation, buttons, links etc. and then you can fix them.
This is important, because if users have trouble finding information, they'll go away. People are fickle, and for every bad website out there, there's an enormous amount of good ones taking their business.
Don't let them take yours!
Here are some typical problems with websites that are easily fixed, but could be losing you customers:
Buttons that don't do anything
There's a certain way to do stuff on the web, and one of them is to make links look like links and buttons look like buttons. When I see a button on a website, then there's a chance I might want to click on it. However, if I click and nothing happens then I'm left frustrated.
Make sure that anything that looks like a button has a link on it to somewhere.
You probably don't need multiple levels of navigation that scroll off the screen. There are some truly amazing menu systems out there that have lots of incredible features. They allow you to have scroll windows, slideshows, multiple levels, etc. and mostly, they're annoying.
Firstly, to download all that stuff takes time and, therefore, slows down the website. Secondly, they're confusing. I want an easy way to navigate to the place I want without having to work through a complicated menu.
No calls to action
I mistakenly used to think this was just a useless marketing buzzword, but I was wrong. Calls to action are incredibly important, and they need to be prominent on your site. If you're still in the dark, here's an example:
Get it? Yeah, easy. It's just a button or a link (although buttons are usually better) that tells the visitor what to do in order to get in touch. But importantly, it grabs contact details.
Those contact details can then go into a…
Step Two – Build an Email List
Email is by far the most efficient method of marketing your products or services. For a start off, it's a captive audience. If people have signed up to your mailing list, then it's probably because they've already met you, have worked with you or have already bought something from you.
And it doesn't matter if you have a hundred people, or a hundred thousand on your list, emails, even though they are only read by a small percentage, will give you a better click-through rate than any other method of promotion.
The easiest way to get started is with a system called MailChimp. It's easy to use and cheap (in fact, free when you start), so it's the ideal system to get you into this magical world.
A few tips, though:
- It's OK to add people to your list if you've done business with them, or have collected their emails in other ways. It's not OK to trawl through websites or the Yellow Pages to collect them.
- Even though the rules on B2B emails are a lot less strict that B2C, you still don't want to annoy people.
- When you get a business card off someone, just ask if it's OK to add them to your contacts. Mostly, they'll say yes. When someone gives you their details, it's unlikely they're trying to hide from you, so just add them to your list and away you go.
- The frequency of emails is important. You don't want to bombard people with emails (although evidence shows this can work), but you also don't want to go weeks without sending them something.
- If you're giving away some information as part of a call to action (see above), make sure their email address goes on to your list.
Step Three – Fill out Your Content
Some websites are thin. That means they don't give away much information at all. We see this a lot in the engineering and manufacturing industries where some find it difficult to write content. That's OK, there's probably plenty of content already out there that you can use, so find it and use it.
For example, if you sell steel, can you find case studies discussing where it's used, what the tensile strength is, how people use and manipulate it in strange ways?
What are people looking for when they need your products? Do they seek out properties, strengths and uses? Can you write content based on any of those attributes?
Content really is the most important part of your website, and keeping it up to date and relevant is they key to attracting more visitors and therefore, a better Google ranking.
But of course, you need to get people to read it, and that's why collecting email addresses and then using them to promote your content is so important.
And it’s also why, for now, you should build your lists and ignore Google altogether.