How effective is your company’s online presence? Does it validate your position in the marketplace? To be most effective, your company’s website should serve as a resource to provide customers and prospects with useful information about your company’s products or services, and help promote the benefits received from using your products and/or services. Even if your company’s yearly marketing budget may not include a line item for a website overhaul, there are still several budget friendly ways in which you can ensure the website is supporting your company’s marketing objectives.
The Website: A Marketing Focal Point
The corporate website is a critical component that links together many aspects of a company’s marketing initiatives. A company’s website is often the first place where people go to find out more information about the company, products and services. Therefore, it has to simultaneously speak to many different audiences while conveying a consistent and cohesive brand and message.
In thinking about the strength of your company’s online presence, ask yourself, when was the last time you updated the website and what you accomplished? Was it to just to change a job listing or a management bio, or did it make a marketing impact?
Keeping your marketing message and brand current is key when it comes to your website impact and audience acceptance. Your website copy and website design should be timely and consistent, appeal to the wants and needs of your prospects and customers, anticipate their pain points and cater to their needs as they initiate a relationship with you.
Does your website do the best job it can to accomplish this? If not, it may be time to make a few website updates. The following provides some guidance to help you determine if your website needs updating, the most important areas to focus on and cost-effective ways to accomplish these updates.
When to Update and What to Evaluate
As your company grows and products and services expand, it is essential to assess how well your website is serving its purpose as the focal point to your company’s marketing activities. Good questions to ask to help determine if your website needs updating and if so, the areas to pinpoint to bring your site up to speed include:
- Does the look and feel of the website complement your company’s other marketing components, such as marketing collateral, email templates, direct mail pieces, tradeshow booths or advertisements?
- Does your website’s content match the marketing messages in your company’s collateral, emails and direct mail pieces?
- Does your company’s name appear in the top 10 organic Google search results when searching for it, or product or service names or other keywords that are important to your business?
- Is the copyright date more than two years old?
Depending on your answers, you may find your company only needs to update its messaging. Others may discover content, optimization and design updates are all needed. Either way, large project or small, ensuring your website is appealing to the wants and needs of your target audience, while also maintaining consistency with your company’s marketing and branding is essential. Below are a few of the key areas to evaluate and update, as necessary, to ensure your website is meeting your company’s marketing objectives:
Content: On average, a person will spend only a few seconds on a website scanning content to decide if they have landed on a site that will give them what they are looking for. Therefore, it is essential that your content clearly outlines what your company does and how customers and prospects would benefit from your products and/services. When revamping content on your website, key pages to focus on include:
Homepage: Your website’s homepage is the main portal to your company’s online presence and should remain up to date at all times. To maintain the content on this page it is important to continually create awareness of your company’s value proposition. It’s also important to ensure the messaging is correct and up to date, and that links to news headlines, awards and event announcements are current.
Products & Services Pages: With every campaign, Web content on the products and/or services pages should be reviewed to ensure messaging and positioning are accurate. Case studies, fact, product and sell sheets should all be evaluated along with product shots to ensure consistency.
News & Events Pages: Content on these pages should be updated as frequently as possible. Customers and even prospects are always interested in knowing what the company and its employees are involved with and what advancements or improvements have been made to products or services. With every update, include a link on your homepage and in your company’s e-newsletter back to the news and events page. This will keep your audience informed of your company’s recent developments, helping your company, and its products and services, to stay top of mind and increase traffic to your website.
Side Note: When updating your content on any page, it is also important to make sure the page is optimized for search engines by assessing if corresponding keyword updates should be made to help search engines stay current with your company, products and services. Additionally, when making these updates, be sure to retain valuable content and those important keywords that help to differentiate your company, products and services – especially those that you know customers and prospects still search with.
SEO: Speaking of traffic, implementing and maintaining a sound Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plan for your company’s website is paramount to help ensure your company is reaching its target audience. A good SEO plan moves beyond keywords and incorporates a variety of elements. When first approaching SEO, it is always good to start with performing an assessment of your website to see what areas could be better optimized. Website Grader is a free tool that scans every page of your site and provides you with a report noting ways in which to better optimize your site to help boost organic search results.
To that end, registering your site with free directories like DMOZ and ZoomInfo can help increase inbound links to your website, thereby increasing your website’s position in search listings. Additionally, once you have made any updates to your site, it is ideal to submit the updated, optimized pages to search engines like Google to help the new content to be indexed faster. To help stay current on how well your site is ranking, and what content visitors to your site find most appealing, it is suggested to use an online analytics tool. Google Analytics, which is free, can help you monitor the frequency and type of traffic to your website. It is helpful to monitor your account at least weekly to see what search terms are bringing visitors to your site – and once at your site, to see how long visitors stay on your site and what pages or content interests them. The following are a few suggestions that can help you continue to increase rankings:
- Ensure your meta data is up to date and that the page content correlates with the meta data for a given page
- Provide links within your site to other areas of the site with relevant content. This not only makes it easier for visitors to navigate the site but ensures search engines can easily find the most relevant pages for a given topic or key word.
- Write articles on topics of interest that are aligned with the key words most relevant to your business
- Post articles [or a summary of them] on third party sites and link them back to your site
- Start a blog and link text and postings back to select website pages
- Post comments on other people’s or companies’ blogs and link back to your website
- Take advantage of the many sites out there with paid listings or free listing options on topics that are relevant to your business and gain links back to your website
Design: When evaluating your company’s website design, it is best to approach it with a long-term view. Updating the design of your site is something that should involve extensive planning. The look and feel, navigation and content format are three important areas to analyze, and when arranged well can help visitors form a favorable impression of your company.
Look and Feel: One of the first things to approach is to ensure the website’s look and feel is complimentary to your company’s other marketing materials to help maintain a consistent brand image. If a customer or prospect receives an email or direct mail piece leading them to your homepage or landing page, the design of that page – from the colors and images used, to the messaging and content – should match the design of the email or direct mail piece. It is helpful to try and put yourself in the mindset of a customer or prospect, and then go through your website, beginning with your homepage and clicking through to every other page, to evaluate whether or not a consistent look and feel is in place. If it has been several years since your company last redesigned its site, it could very well be an indicator that a total site redesign might be needed.
Navigation: Ensuring the navigation of your site is easy to follow and directly takes visitors where they want to go is a crucial component in your site’s overall design. Think about it, when you’re online and searching for something, you want to find it quickly. Remember to always think of your website in terms of being a resource to customers and prospects. If they can find the information they are looking for on your site quickly and easily, then there is a greater likelihood they will return to your site – which in turn will help to increase the overall ranking of your site.
Some companies may find that they need to simplify their website’s navigation. Others that have new products or services will need to add pages and update links throughout the entire site to connect old or existing pages with new ones. Remember, adding or removing pages adds an extra layer of depth to the redesign process. Ensuring you have properly installed redirect commands from old pages to new, and have kept important keywords and meta tag descriptions is essential to help visitors navigate your site and for search engines to properly index new and updated pages.
Content Format: In regard to content, ensure you have the right balance between text and graphics on each page. A website with a simple, clean site design, and relevant content and images is always well received. Most visitors skim text rather than actually read it. Therefore provide information in a concise manner. It is helpful to use headers, sub headers, bulleted paragraphs and images to help break up content and make it easier to read. Using a readable font and font size, and highlighting keywords throughout your text is also good. Additionally, always remember to clearly direct the visitor’s eye to the call to action on each page.
In Looking Ahead, What to Remember
When assessing updates to make, be mindful of your company’s goals and objectives and how the website can effectively support marketing messages and activities. For those companies who have limited resources internally, employing the help of a firm who focuses on website design, updates and / or optimization is worth the investment. In the end, keeping your Web presence current is critical to ensuring a successful and professional marketing presence for your company.
Need a trained, objective third eye to help you with your website? Contact Launch Marketing today.
photo via: http://bricklightmedia.com/maintenance-plans/