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Make it count - build a website that will boost your business

01 Oct 2010

Once upon a time, a high-quality website filled with rich content was the preserve of large companies with deep pockets. Today though, there are so many tools available – from web design to social media to reporting and analytics – that small to mediumsized businesses can take advantage of to create innovative and high-impact websites.

Make sure you approach creating a new website with some simple fundamentals, and at the end, the time and money you invested will have been well spent.

Whether you are embarking on your first website, or reviewing your existing site, here are the things you should be considering:

TIP 1: ensure your website developer has business acumen, and sees your website as a business tool, rather than as a product.

Ask yourself: what is the real purpose of my website? Maybe it’s to sell more products, raise the awareness of your services, reduce the admin cost of responding to common inquiries, or support a sales campaign, to name but a few. Whatever your objectives, make them appropriate, realistic and achievable.

TIP 2: ensure your website developer offers reports and statistics for your site as well as regular reviews of your website performance.

Consider measuring how many times your brochure is downloaded (saving you printing and postage), how many products are sold via the website, how many new inquiries are generated – the list goes on. Now you can start to calculate what return you are getting from your website.

TIP 3: if your website has a Content Management System, it means you can update it yourself without the cost of your developer charging for their time to make the changes.

A great website should be kept fresh, current and accurate. It gives you credibility, and offers your clients a reason to return, if they expect to see something new or interesting. Set aside time every month to review and update your site, and keep your clients in the loop with the latest news from your business.

TIP 4: check that your web developer offers search engine optimisation, and ask for proof of sites they have optimised and check how well they rank.

Does your website rank for the keywords relevant to your business? In order for the search engines to find your business, your website has to be search engine optimised, or nobody will ever find you outside of typing your company name in. There is a science around achieving results in this area: site structure (meta tags, keywords, on-page optimisation), backlinks (other sites that refer to you) and other online techniques (articles, blogs, social media tools and more).

TIP 5: make sure your web developer demonstrates knowledge about your industry and competitors too. The expertise they provide should take your business to the next level online.

Before you embark on creating a website with your developer, make sure you both browse through some other sites, and note the specific features or aspects you like and don’t like. This will help your developer to understand what your expectations are and allow them to add valuable expertise to the development of your site. Research your competitors – what they do well, what they do poorly, and what you need to do to be better than them.

Ultimately, a good website will help you build relationships with your clients, help you communicate more effectively, boost your credibility, save you time and money, be instrumental to your marketing plan and bring you more sales.

Use your website to get to know your clients, and so they can get to know you. Keep them up to date with great content, and measure your return on investment. If you do it right, it can be the best business tool you’ll ever invest in.

Loren Astridge is a web mentor and franchise owner within web design and development company Datum Connect, and has a strong focus on developing effective online solutions that have a positive impact on businesses' bottom lines.

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