Don’t lose site: How to create your online presence

Shane Nolan, Director UK & Ireland SMB at Google, shares his top tips for websites that will power your business to success.

shutterstock_336919673Everyone has a website these days right? That’s almost true, but the ubiquitousness of these digital shopfronts often means that people tend to focus on how they want their site to look rather than why they need a website in the first place. It’s not good enough to answer the ‘why’ question with ‘because everyone else has one’. You need to understand how your website will improve your business before you can determine its content and design. Should its aim be to drive customer interaction, footfall and online sales, or communicate who you are as a company? A good website connects your visitors’ wants with your business needs, so when it comes to web design, you need to think of the consumer experience without losing sight of your own business goals.

Consider this – how many times have you visited a company’s website for a phone number, only to discover that contact details are impossible to locate or even worse that there is a form to fill out with a vague promise that someone will get back to you? If you rely on customer engagement for new business, make it easy for your audience to find and connect with you. A ‘Contact Us’ page should be prominent and a phone number needs to appear in a visible location on every page of your site. Some websites offer ‘Live Chat’ to satisfy the consumer who desires an instant answer, whilst others clearly portray an active social media presence.

Every second counts online. People won’t stay on your website for long, especially if it’s difficult to navigate and they can’t immediately find what they’re after. Nobody reads through large chunks of text, so if you have an important point to get across, use pictures, video and punchy wording, always with calls to action in mind. This allow visitors to quickly decide what they want to do next. Explain how you can solve your customer’s problem. If you frame your text in terms of what you can do to help visitors, you will not only better engage them but you’ll also position your brand as an expert in its field and therefore invaluable.

Understand how your potential audience finds your site. Organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and paid Search Marketing (PPC) are areas you need to know about, even if you’re intending to employ an expert. They have some of the highest returns on investment for your marketing spend. Do it right and you can start automating your marketing, allowing you to focus on improving the quality of your business instead of figuring out how to bring in customers to your site. AdWords, which allows you to bid for ad placements based on keyword searches, has helped thousands of small and medium businesses launch into marketplaces and attract traffic to their sites.

Look at King & McGaw, a supplier of art prints to museums, galleries and the public via its website. Managing Director Marc Lickfett says that using AdWords to acquire new customers drives 30% of the company’s revenue. He also uses AdWords to analyse demand and help his business take advantage of new opportunities. When there’s a surge of interest in an artist due to a significant exhibition of their work, King & McGaw can see these searches in AdWords and can then offer prints of that artist’s work.

Giving your business an effective online presence requires more than simple website aesthetics. That’s why we’ve launched Digital Garage, offering free online marketing training to provide the digital skills you need to grow your business. Owning a website is simply the start of your digital journey. Knowing how to get the most out of it needs to be part of your ongoing business strategy.