For business owners, entrepreneurs and marketing managers, the world has changed. A firm's website is a key asset in generating a consistent stream of leads for the sales team. A site is no longer just an "online brochure".
This blog outlines the seven "must haves" for today's websites. If your site is missing these capabilities you're missing out on revenue.
Why the big changes? Too much guff has been written about "web 2.0", what we should really be discussing is "Buyer 2.0". The way target buyers are using the internet continues to evolve rapidly. Whether you are selling to consumers or other businesses, the way buyer's make purchasing decisions has changed forever. Even if they complete their purchase off-line with their favourite salesperson, you can be sure that earlier decision stages have been heavily influenced by online searching.
Simply put, to make an impact with your website today, you need to make one hell of a first impression, and you have seconds to do it. Once engaged you must keep that visitor on your site and exposed to your offer for as long as possible.
So, without further ado, here are the 7 pieces of core functionality your website must have:
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You can have the greatest website on the planet but it's not going to matter if it can't be found. SEO uses techniques that get your website listed when your buyers search in Google. SEO is a science, some would say a black art, in its own right and is subject to regular and sweeping changes by Google. Business owners and marketers should engage with an expert they can trust to keep their site optimised. If you would like to read more about some of the latest changes we have written a free eBook on the topic. Without effective SEO, the only people that will see your webpages are those who already know your company name and type in your URL. SEO ranking is determined by keywords, page titles, meta descriptions, page URLs, heading tags, page content, calls to action, internal links, meta keywords and images amongst other things.
2. Powerful Landing Pages
A landing page is where searchers end up when they click on a link in their searches. Powerfully written landing pages engage the visitor and draw them in. If you do a great job they will stick around; if you don't, they will be gone in a flash. Make sure your site has the ability to build landing pages easily and create content quickly to reflect the latest changes to your business. They must be able to capture a visitor's information via easily created and embedded forms.
3. Exciting & Engaging Content
Good, interesting, relevant content has always been, and always will be, king. All your SEO efforts, fancy website technology and killer landing pages are all useless without interesting content that grabs people's attention.
Creating content can be challenging, but the basic rule is to focus on your buyer's problems and needs. Avoid the temptation to talk about how wonderful your own products or services are, unfortunately your buyers really don't care! Content can come in multiple formats from the website page copy itself to blog articles, to downloadable items such as whitepapers, eBooks, short videos, infographics, customer case studies, demos and free trials.
Put your most valuable content behind a form and ask your visitors for their contact information. Guess what...you have a new lead! Read more in our free eBook on the content marketing revolution.
The statistics around blogging are undeniable. Companies that blog generate 55% more website visitors, 97% more inbound links, and have 430% more indexed pages by Google according to recent research. Blogging works because it adds lots of indexable content to your site (think SEO) offering the search spiders, and more importantly your visitors, engaging content that is fresh and up-to-date. It is vital to build a blog that is fully integrated on your site and not sitting off to one side on another domain name. Otherwise all that valuable "SEO juice" you create by your regular blogging simply leaks away.
Blogging is probably the single most important activity you can engage in to attract vistors to your site. But be warned, it requires commitment. Once per week is really the minimum. Ensure you allocate the role of "blog publisher and editor" to someone. They don't have to do all the work, but they are the one responsible for making sure blogs are posted on time and on topic.
5. Social Media Integration
Social media is here to stay. But exactly how each industry and each organisation uses social media varies widely. Social media should be viewed as a communication channel for your business. It's a way of extending your web presence beyond the pages of your website. Social media works best when it can feed on quality content and so works particularly effectively when combined with points 3 and 4 above. Make sure your site is social media enabled. Make it easy for your visitors to follow you on various social media platforms in a single click. Ensure you have social sharing buttons on your website pages so visitors can share a blog post on LinkedIn or retweet it easily to their own networks.
6. Calls-To-Action (CTAs)
Calls-To-Action are critical elements in creating action in your visitors and leads. They invoke your buyers to "click here", "download" or "register". They are the oil that lubricate your website lead engine, facilitating easy movement between stages of their buying journey.
Use your CTAs as links to core content on your site. For example use CTAs to link from your home page to core content offers on your site such as "download this free eBook" or "Take a free 30 day trial." (see the CTA and the end of this blog for an example!)
Test the effectiveness of your CTAs. Try different wording, different placements, different colours and imagery. A/B testing is an excellent structured process for figuring which CTAs convert best.
7. A Good User Experience
You can nail points 1 through 6, but if site visitors have a bad experience (such as broken or slow-to-load site pages, poor design, or confusing navigation), then all your efforts were still for naught.
How do you double-check? Easy. Google will do it for you. Log into your Google Webmaster account and see if they notified you about any errors their spiders encountered:
We've found it to be a great and easy way to stay on top of the technical aspects of our site.
Enabling your site with these key elements maximises your chance of getting found by your target audience and once discovered, engaging with them and building a meaningful two way relationship. The era of "buyer 2.0" means using your site to dynamically interact with your buyers rather than as a passive online brochure.
Read more by visiting our resource centre and downloading one or more of our complimentary white papers and eBooks. If you are a SMB you might consider checking out our special SMB website marketing offer.