Putting it very simply, if you're any size of business and you're not on the web you don't exist. This may be blunt, but it's true. Nobody will be able to find you. The simple truth is most people don't even bother to open a phone book anymore. Google is now their first port of call for any information and that includes looking for local businesses. Mike Henden explains:
With a range of Social Media channels and the myriad 'business builder' website tools out there it would seem that any idiot can build a web presence for their business themselves. With this modern technology readily available, why on earth would you pay an outside agency for professional help?
“My business doesn't need a website. I already have a Facebook page.”
While Facebook should definitely should form part of your online marketing mix, it's not designed to take the place of a website. Facebook pages are most effective when viewed by Facebook users. And not every potential customer has (or wants) a Facebook account.
Furthermore, a Facebook page can't tell the whole story about your company. You can advertise offers and post completed projects. It’s a great way to communicate with individual customers who ‘like’ your page. But there are limitations. You probably will end up with a lot more to say about your business than you think, and you can't do it all on Facebook. And building a reputable Social Media presence across all channels takes time and effort. Essentially this means posting small amounts of new, relevant content regularly. That means no re-posting of cat videos. The golden rule where Facebook and other Social Media are concerned – ‘if it’s not done well, it’s better not to do it all all’.
“I can build my own website! I'll just use one of those online site-builder programs.”
Well yes, there are a proliferation of online site tools available that can give good, bad or (sometimes) downright ugly results. SquareSpace, Wix or Weebly are just a few of the list of website builders out there. But invariably there are limitations. What is the 'real' cost, both in terms of keeping the site online, and the time involved in setting it up in the first place? Where will your site be hosted? How secure is your data? What happens if you get 'hacked'? How many pages will you need? How fast will the site load? How easy is the site to set up?
Chances are you'll end up with something that will be functional, but probably won't look quite as 'slick' as you would like. Which doesn't really matter because, if you haven't considered the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) side of things, very few people are actually going to see it.
All too often it ends in tears. A quick search of any online job board will reveal numerous posts from business owners asking for “help with my [insert name of online site-builder program] website please”.
“Websites don’t work! I've already got a website but I'm not showing on Google.”
This could be due to any of a whole lot of reasons. If your website is new, it's possible Google hasn't even rated it yet. If your website is older, Google may be actively penalising you. Reasons that you might get a bad rap from Google include:
- ‘Lifted’ content. Contrary to popular belief just because something’s on the internet doesn’t make it ‘public domain’. Website content, including images and text, is the property of the creator or owner of the website concerned. Simply putting it on your web page doesn't make it yours.
- Your website isn't ‘mobile friendly’. A few years back Google announced that there had been a big increase in the number of searches conducted on its platform using mobile devices. To make things easier for all users, websites that worked effectively on all devices would rate higher than those that worked best on desktop computer systems. This not only includes page layout and legibility, but also download speeds and the overall logical 'footprint' (size) of the site.
- ‘Spammy’ content. Using the same few keywords to create repetitive page headlines and content gets you a big black mark from Google. It looks bad and reads worse. And people are going to bounce straight off your site. Just don't do it.
- Bad backlinks. Not so long ago it was thought that ALL backlinks were good and helped drive traffic to your website. But not any more. While a limited number of backlinks from reputable sources add credibility and can drive traffic to your site, ‘bad’ backlinks from link exchange sites and similar are now penalised by Google's ‘Penguin’ algorithm. When it comes to links Google now prefers ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’. The simple rule is, ‘think before you link’.
- Your website is ‘stale’. You haven't uploaded a new product image, edited a staff profile, written a blog post or made an announcement since it was built five years ago. Admit it, even Google is bored!
The most effective business website is one that establishes and reflects your business and personal brand and values. It includes informative and original content that is optimised for SEO and it’s linked to relevant social media channels. These are the services that all reputable web design companies offer their clients.
So how does your online business presence measure up?
- Online marketing