Everyone is online all the time in 2019. Big box stores to small businesses, the baby boomers to teenagers. If a business is going to be successful today, they need to have a complete online presence.
There are many different factors that go into having effective Internet visibility for your customers and clients. Multiple components go into developing attention-getting websites and other online platforms that produce results. From proper structure, to the content and images on the site, to the backlinks and search engine optimization, knowing the do’s and don’ts of what to include in your web presence makes the difference between your efforts paying off or being wasted.
Do: Create a Responsive and Up-to-Date Website!
Visitors using mobile devices are increasingly consuming the lion’s share of online traffic. Utilizing responsive web design (which adapts to any screen or device size) with a mobile-first approach is just smart business. In fact, if a site is not mobile-friendly, Google currently imposes penalties by suppressing them in search results.
Make it clear in the first seconds after loading what your company is about, whether that be retail, residential services or dog grooming. There should be no mistaking what type of business you are and what you offer. Make contact information, call-to-action statements or other important details clear and easy to find.
Be sure to update your website regularly. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than an announcement that occurred six months ago or the failure to include news of a recent event or item added to your stock. Keep products, services and other information current.
Don’t: Have a Slow Website!
One of the factors that is increasingly important in determining your ranking in search results is the load speed of your site. Users don’t want to wait and may leave your site in favor of a faster one. There are free tools online that can test your site’s loading speed. If it is lagging, there are several things you can do to increase load speed, including moving to a better web hosting service or upgrading some of the coding on the website. Reducing image file size and using standard web-friendly fonts can help as well.
Do: Have a Secure Website!
A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate proves to visitors that you are trustworthy and provides privacy and protection for their personal data as they visit or make purchases on your site. Your website URL should begin with “https://,” and beginning in July of 2018, visitors are now warned if the site is not a secure one. This can cause potential customers to take their business to a secure site instead.
HTTPS secure sites also tend to have a shortened load time that can rank higher in search results. With Google working to build a Fully Secure Web, a business can hardly afford not to take this seriously.
Don’t: Ignore the Data!
Implement Google Analytics or another reliable data analysis system on your site. We live in a data-driven world, so it is critical to make data-driven decisions in order to have the edge needed to compete. Your online traffic shouldn’t remain a mystery, and analytics can tell you where, when, how long or often a visitor stays on your site, whether a purchase was made and other important factors. Use the data to continuously improve the flow of content on your site.
Information gathered from your Google Search Console can also be helpful. It can alert you when your website is not effectively communicating with search engines or if you are falling short in some way.
Do: Claim and Optimize Your Google Business Listing!
Claiming a Google Business Listing is important in driving traffic and building legitimacy. Add as much information as you can, such as location, contact information, type of products and services offered, hours of operation, etc. Include a content-rich “about” paragraph and a variety of images.
You can see how adding a Google Business Listing can drive traffic to your business via the “Visit Website,” “Get directions” or “Call” buttons on the listing. Consider the results if a consumer Googles a business and finds the listing unclaimed. That can drive potential customers straight into the arms of other companies. You may also want to consider claiming all of your online listings, including Yelp, Yahoo Local, Bing Places and Facebook.
Don’t: Be Afraid of SEO!
SEO is the process of adding quality content on your website to increase consumer click-through and Google rankings for search results. Though it may sound like an intimidating term, once embraced, this facet of your web presence can be one of your best allies.
To be recognized by search engines, content and the accompanying images must be informative, engaging and unique. Meta keywords have been replaced by meta descriptions and schema markup. The latter tells Google what your content means, not just what it says — a key in ranking higher in search results for what you actually sell.
Do: Utilize Social Media!
With 3.196 billion people spending more time on social sites, content is being digested differently than 10 years ago, and 71 percent of those who have had a positive experience with an online business through social media recommend it to friends. Staying current and relevant on social media is one of your most important opportunities for exposure.
Provide links that click directly through to your site from Facebook or YouTube (the top two social networking sites). Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter also target specific audiences. Having a linked and active blog can also drive click-through traffic to your site. Understanding which audiences are best for your market is the key to success and can keep you from being overwhelmed. Give personal attention to any online questions or comments and always offer positive responses. Helpful answers show that you are an actual person who cares.
Don’t: Ignore Your Branding!
Given two items of identical price and content, a consumer will choose the one with the prettiest packaging. This may sound shallow, but it is a marketing truth that applies to your business image as well. Having an attractive, easily identifiable and recognizable logo that informs and tells your story at a glance draws attention to you over other similar products or services and implants itself in your memory. For example, when you see the white swoosh, you automatically think “Nike.”
Logos using appropriate colors, typefaces and overall design show you value your company and pique interest, drawing consumers to you. Branding takes the logo a step further with consistent uses and applications across the company. Even smaller companies should not overlook this vital step and should make sure to include it in their web design.
Do: Manage Testimonials and Reviews!
Nearly 90 percent of consumers read reviews of a product or business online before visiting, and 91 percent trust those reviews as much as a recommendation from a trusted personal acquaintance. On your website, as well as on other listings like Google, Facebook, Yelp, Houzz, etc., it is essential to make reviews and testimonials easy to find and to manage their content.
Cross-post any testimonials or positive reviews received on business listings or social media to your site. Where possible, review comments before allowing them to post. Be responsive to online testimonials, reviews or questions. Always keep replies positive and offer solutions to help prevent negative feedback. This shows other visitors that you care and they will be less likely to put stock in the negative comments.
Don’t: Forget About Email!
As part of your site’s design features, or as part of Google analytics, you should be able to build a database of visitors. Using those contacts to develop an email list is an effective and very cost-effective marketing tool. Emailing those contacts monthly or more often helps keep you in their minds and gives you a likely audience for repeat business. Append a custom-branded email signature that includes your logo, contact information, tag line and other relevant facts.
As you can see, there are several essential factors that need to be incorporated into your web presence so it can do the job it was meant to. It may seem overwhelming to look at all these factors as a whole. Call on the help of a professional web designer to bite them off one at a time and implement them effectively into your site. The payoff will be well worth the effort.