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Marketing (part 2) Websites
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By Lindsey Collumbell

With spring just around the corner it's as good a time as any to dust off your website and give it a spring clean. Carry out regular audits, every six months or so, to work out if your website is meeting your objectives. If not, do something about it - your site could be losing you money.



Do you need a website?

If your target market has access to the internet and is likely to go online to find information on your company or what you do then yes, you would benefit from having a website.


What does your website need to do?

- find new customers or markets?
- communicate with current customers?
- be a source of information?
- sell your products/services, i.e. be an online shop?

Having a clear idea of what your website needs to achieve will mean you have a strong website and one that is far more likely to deliver what you want it to.


Who are you aiming your website at?

Before you design your site or write any copy it is important to work out who you are targeting:
- current customers?
- potential customers?
- stakeholders, e.g. staff, shareholders?
- general public?
- media?
- children?

The design and copy should then be created around who you are aiming at. For example, if your company sells children’s toys, then it should have a fun design and words, which will not necessarily appeal if your target market is OAPs!


What should your website look like?

Your website is your company’s shop window to the outside world – how it looks reflects how your company is perceived.

If you have a fun company and image then let your site reflect this with bright colours and fun images. If you want your company to be taken seriously, maybe you are a legal firm, then more sober colours and factual images will portray the appropriate image.

A good idea is to research your competitors and see what their websites look like. Are they all similar and you want to break out of this mould? Do they all feature the same type of information so you should to?


Does your home page grab attention?


Your home page… Is it striking? Informative? Interesting? Stale? Boring? The same as lots of other sites you’ve seen?

Some websites have a home page as a flash graphic (or animation) with the only text saying “Click here to enter”, if you’re lucky enough to come across any instruction at all! A splash page may look nice but it serves very little purpose - they do nothing to help your ranking on the search engines and could quite possibly turn visitors off looking any further.

Think of the “Two-click Mentality” - this is when no piece of information should be more than two clicks away – making your visitors work hard to get the information they want means you may drive them away. A splash page will use up one of these two clicks.


Is your company human?

Adding the human touch to your company, through the information on your website, can help bring your company to life – most sites call this ‘About Us’. If you have a team of staff then a photograph and brief paragraph on each of the main personnel whom customers will come into contact with can be a nice touch. The same principle applies even if you are a sole trader. Most people are nosey - so feed their curiosity.


Do your website visitors know how to contact you?

Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are commonplace, but including an address on your site adds credibility. Would you buy from someone who didn’t want you to know where they were? For some businesses, including an address is not practical – but if you can I suggest you do.


DIY or Professional?

By answering all of these questions you will have a good idea of what to include on your site. When it comes to the design and build stage, please don’t try this yourself, unless you are a web professional!

If you want your company to be taken seriously then pay someone who knows what they are doing to build your website. A site built by an amateur will look amateur and will be how your company is perceived. Is this what you want?

Research published in January 2006 showed that Internet users make up their minds about the quality of a website in the blink of an eye. The report also said that these first impressions last because of what is known as the "halo effect". If people believe a website looks good, then their positive view will spread to the website's content and their view of your company.


Final thought

First impressions last. Unless you give a good first impression, visitors to your site will go somewhere else to get what they want. A bad first impression from you could mean more business for your competitors.
 
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