Small Business Web Design 101

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Your low cost web-site offers your business a means to project itself, to sell its goods and services and demonstrate your credibility in the market place (how often have you checked to see if a company you're interested in dealing with is on-line and looks bona-fide?) Too many businesses assume that once their site is up and running that prospective customers will immediately flock to it and sign up quickly to whatever is on offer.
Not true.
The site has to be marketed - in the same way that a traditional business 'outlet' would have been.
It is vitally important that you market the business in an attractive, compelling user friendly manner.
Consider the content of the site itself.
What should be on your web-site?
  • Examples of products/work previously done/satisfied customer testimonials etc
  • News stories, articles and blogs if relevant.
    Shows you're up to date
  • Links to complimentary sites
  • Community areas allowing customers to discuss your goods and services
  • Appealing Pictures and videos of you and your products and services
Irrespective of how it looks or what it says, there's little point in any of this if no one can find you.
How do you market your on-line presence to ensure that you maximise the number of potential customers seeing you? A few key areas are worth considering; Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - People most commonly use search engines to find what they're looking on the internet- fact! What you have to do is make sure your chances of being found on search engines is maximized.
How each search engine evaluates your web-site and gives it a ranking is a complex process that involves secure software 'crawling' across your site and the internet in general.
Optimising the chances of your site being attractive to this software can again be complicated stuff.
The basics are listed below by way of an easy introduction.
If you're feeling braver or are looking for a more technical perspective have a look at our SEO checklist to maximising your search engine potential.
Keywords - These are the pre-determined words that describe what your business is and what sort of stuff is on our web-site.
For example if your business sold football strips then key words might include 'football', 'strips', 'replica', 'Adidas', Manchester United' etc.
These keywords are used in 2 ways; as 'meta-tags' hidden from view in the 'background' HTML code and secondly, within the body of the text on your web-site.
Careful consideration therefore must be placed on your web-site content as well as the meta-tag keywords.
Sites like wordtracker.
com let you check the popularity of your keywords and you can compare your own level of keywording against other sites on the likes of gorank.
com Keyword Tips;
  • Place important keywords high up on web-pages, and use them frequently particularly in headlines' titles and lead-paragraphs (although not to the extent that it effects the reading of the text obviously)
  • Incorporate common misspellings into your meta-tags covering slightly wrong or rushed user searches eg 'fotball', 'Addidas' 'Manchester Untied' etc on the previous example.
  • Don't try and trick the search-engines.
    When you eventually get found out you'll be demoted automatically.
    Not worth it.
Good site design - A well ordered site can help curry favour with search-engines.
This is probably where a professional designer scores big in comparison to their home made competitor.
Page titles with relevant keywords are important.
Also tagging images on your site with a description of your business boosts your site's overall appeal.
It usually takes about a month or so from launch for search-engines to properly index your site however it can stretch well towards 6 months so try to be patient and account for the impact in your business projections.
You can sometimes pay for a quicker inclusion but beware, this doesn't always guarantee results.
Submitting your site to a search engine is relatively straightforward.
Simply type in its URL and search with something like 'add site'.
For Google go to google.
com/addurl and follow instructions.
Submitting your site to a directory such as Yahoo, DMOZ Open directory or MSN is a little more complex but not much.
These directories are generally human-edited and its firstly your job to follow the indexing through to refine your 'best fit' listing.
intro key categories.
The directory will have a submission form which will request your URL and a brief description of what your site offers.
Pay per click Advertising See those cheeky adverts on the right hand side of your search-engine's natural 'organic' search? Well, they are the result of pay-per-click advertising.
And how do these companies achieve such a well positioned vantage? Simple - they pay for it.
To be more accurate, they have to bid for it.
And here's how it works; If you place the highest bid for a specific keyword or set of keywords, then you rank number one in these paid listings.
If someone clicks on your PPC listing, they arrive at your website.
And you are charged the amount you bid.
So, if you bid £0.
75 per click on 'football', and that's the highest bid, you'll show up first in line.
If 100 people click on your PPC listing, then the search engine or PPC service will charge you £75.
There are many issues to Pay per click advertising however it can best described as 'quick but potentially expensive'.
Yes this kind of advertising can generate traffic to your web-site almost instantly, it could cost you fortune to do it though (especially if you get into a mad bidding war with other company's for domination over good keywords) Ok it might be possible to find a 'niche' in the keywords and end up advertising relatively cheaply but don't bank on it.
There's obviously no guarantee that people who visit your site will end up being customers indeed watch out for 'junk' traffic being channeled through your site from unwanted reaches of the internet.
They create 'clicks' but don't ever translate into sales.
Its fair to say you cannot rely solely on PPC advertising - its just too damned expensive.
What it might be particularly good for though is a short term campaign requiring instant results.
It tends to suit on-line stores too (ie the customer can buy something the instant they find the product on the site) as clicks have a much better chance of converting into an immediate sale than, say, a service of some sort.
In terms of an overall conclusion to this type of advertising? Maybe think of it as part of a short term goal but perhaps concentrate more on the conversions than the clicks! Building backlinks - You can improve your search-engine ranking with backlinks.
These are links that come from other sites directing users to your site and the more you have, the better you're ranking will be (they infer popularity and importance after all).
Among the acceptable ways of building quality backlinks are getting listed in directories, posting in forums, blogs and article directories.
The first step in building backlinks is to find the places from which you can get quality backlinks.
A valuable assistant in this process is a Backlink Builder tool.
When you enter the keywords of your choice, a Backlink Builder tool gives you a list of sites where you can post an article, message, posting, or simply a backlink to your site.
After you have the list of potential backlink partners, it is up to you to visit each of the sites and post your content with the backlink to your site in it.
Build a list - Build a list of interested, responsive, 'hungry' buyers people by offering giveaways, newsletters, notifications of business developments..
anything really that might be of interest to the potential customers on your list.
These regular contacts don't need to be complicated but its worth remembering that whatever you send, you should be sending it to people who actually want and need whast your business offers.
A big list of subscribers doesn't necessarily translate into a willing list of subscribers.
Social Networking sites How can social networking sites like Facebook,Twitter Linked (although not strictly an SNS You-tube) drive your business and improve SEO? First to understand is that this can only be viewed as an additional marketing tool not a substitute.
Sites such as LinkedIn can be helpful in connecting with people you want to meet for one reason or another.
Twitter, Facebook and the like can be helpful when you're trying to notify a group of people about something you want to promote or about a happening of some kind.
Consider establishing or joining a network on your chosen network (Facebook being an obvious recommendation) based on your business or industry category to tap into people's affinity for the topic.
By doing this, you'll cut through the clutter and clearly establish your niche, keeping the interaction focused on the specific subject matter.
Inclusion in a social network not only gives you the option to reach a potentially huge number of people at the touch of a button, it can give your business a personal face and through stimulating your friends to discuss your issues, accept your offers and hopefully visit your web-site, you will once again create traffic to your site and improve your ranking.
Trying to stimulate interest on all these networks sounds like a full-time job, but it's worth pointing out that you can cut and paste some of your content from site to site.
If you, say, put up a YouTube video to create awareness, you might have some discussion on YouTube with the responders and then also put it on your blog, on your Facebook company page, and promote a link to it on Twitter.
Just by generating that single asset, you'll have populated all those networks with content without having to come up with an original piece of content for each of them.
The bottom line is that you can optimise your web-site perfectly but to get a higher search-engine ranking two factors we've discussed count just as much;
  • External links to your site; get as many sites to link to you as possible - the more links to you, the more search engines see you as important.
  • Content; add as much relevant content as possible.
    Worried that you're including too much? Don't - customers will stop reading when they want to..
    The search engines will read it all.
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