Updating your website to meet modern-day needs
On Aug. 6, 1991, the world changed forever. It was not the fall of communism, the introduction of flat screen TVs or even the Brother word processing system printer. Most businesses did not know it yet, but in the grand scheme of everything a business manger or owner does on a daily basis, this was the day of the revolution. It was not televised; it was launched on a small monotoned tube screen with a home page titled, “The World Wide Web.”
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, used the new world wide web as “a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.” History, law, the Bible and song lyrics are just some of the topics you could research. To see the old site archived, visit http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/www/theproject.html.
Fast forward 10 years. Websites became more common. Business logos, brand information, phone numbers and locations were available with the touch of a few keystrokes. We began to turn on our computers more and open our phone books less. Laptops were still a bit of a luxury.
Although the first smartphone—the Simon Personal Communicator—was launched by BellSouth in 1994, what we now think of as a smartphone was born in January 2007. Steve Jobs introduced the first Apple iPhone, and the old ways of marketing, advertising and functioning as a business were changed forever. Phones, tablets, laptops and a general lack of patience due to the availability of information has changed the public consciousness.
Websites of Today
Today, websites are no longer static online brochures or directories. Customers do everything on their smartphones, tablets and laptops. Your website must do everything your target audience expects when they are making a buying decision. It also must produce results quickly and in a way that is compatible with a variety of operating systems and devices.
According to Adweek, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. In addition, since 2014, smartphones and tablets exceed computer usage. Are you speaking to 81% of your audience, or are you losing them?
As you create an online presence, a place for the customer or potential buyer to get to know you, your products and how your company will fulfill their expectations, consider that what is not on your website could be as important as what is on your website.
If nothing else, your website needs to be mobile optimized, not just mobile friendly like in the old days. That means your site looks good and can be easily navigated on that any device or operating system.
Also, be sure your site is designed from the ground up for search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing. In 2018, Google and Bing will be viewing any site not “secure” as less credible. If your site does not have an “https” in the URL, find out what you need to do to make it secure. If it is not there, your site will not be taken down from the web; it just will rank lower in the search results than a site that is secure. As you plan on growing your business and online presence, take that into consideration. If you built your website more than five years ago, it probably is time to consider a serious upgrade or a new website entirely.
Keep an eye on your Google Analytics. This free service tells you where users are coming from to reach your site, what keywords got them there, what page or link they clicked on, how long they stayed on your site, who they are, what time of day they found your site, and more. This information will help you identify in greater detail what you need to do to keep your website relevant and competitive. In effect, it guides your updates and content, and provides information you can use in your social media efforts and advertising efforts.
Are you capturing customer data on your website? Whether you are observing how they viewed your site for future targeted marketing initiatives such as a remarketing campaign, or capturing customer information by offering something in return for a registration, you should be capturing and using as much customer data as is available through your website. This is valuable and free.
Be sure you are relaying relevant content that speaks to your target audience. Most retail customers are not concerned with the brand and model of the water equipment you sell. They want to know what it will do and if it will solve their water quality problems. The old saying, “You don’t sell drills, you sell holes,” is relevant here. Your website’s content, which can be found on search engines and directories is the key to being discovered by the right buyer at the right time.
On the flip side, an OEM or distributor buyer is mostly interested in the brands and models you sell. Solutions also are important. Research and technical papers, including PDFs, should be searchable. A business-to-business website is far more direct than a business-to-consumer website.
It is important to keep your website current. If you are not updating the content, including images and links, on a regular basis, it can negatively affect your site’s rankings in search results. Be sure to keep your news, blog and events updated, include training and how-to videos, and update press releases and information about issues that affect your target audience in your geographic area.
Your website should have a good method for sharing events and articles to social media. Posting a blurb about the company holiday party or summer picnic is fine. It shows you are real people, not just a corporate machine. Just know that your social media content should have a good mix of relevancy and not speak over the heads of your clientele. When possible, make sure the content comes from your website so readers are directed to your site. This is inbound traffic from a credible source, which helps your SEO rankings.
When it comes to design elements, not all sites are created equal. I have heard developers say scrolling banners are going away. I also have heard developers say “one-page” websites are the way to go. My opinion to all the above is a definite maybe—perhaps yes, and possibly no. Do not let a developer sell you on a one-size-fits-all solution. Your design elements depend solely on understanding your audience and how they will use your website. You need to know how much information your target audience wants or needs to make a decision. Once you understand your clientele, you will know what elements to include on your website. In the end, your website will be your most effective marketing tool, working in the background while you run the rest of your business.