The first question we ask when working with a new client is “what do you want your website to do?”

Simple enough…not really.  Most business owners respond by saying the same thing — “I want my website to make my business more money.”  Simple truth for many businesses is that your website won’t make you money if you treat it like most business owners, unless it is an e-commerce site, but even then there are no guarantees that the site will make you money.  A website can generate revenue [notice I said ‘can’] IF [notice the ‘if’] business owners execute a complete marketing plan along with having a website.

Here are 5 Tips for Maximizing Web Effectiveness

1.  Your Site Must Be Relevant To Your Target Audience.  Who are you trying to reach? Why do THEY want to come to your website? Many business owners go about creating a website that isn’t relevant to their audience. Often, it is nothing more than a digital brochure, touting goods and services, but never really engaging the audience.  What engages an audience (if your audience is to be engaged at all…that’s another post to follow) is content that is relevant to their needs, NOT JUST TO YOUR PRODUCT.  Start with the most frequently asked questions about your product or service and create content that helps reassure, put at ease, solve a problem, answer a question, and yes…give away your secrets.  If you are posting a ‘how to’ blog post…then tell them how to do whatever the how to is supposed to explain. Don’t just give away half of the process and make them contact you for more.  Your audience determines relevancy…not you…and your content should be written with their needs in mind.

2.  A Flashy Site Isn’t Always An Effective Site. I was working with a client who wanted to overhaul his site and he wanted to add all these design ‘bells and whistles’ that had zero functionality or benefit to the audience. He kept saying that HE WANTED A COOL SITE…well, cool isn’t always good. Functional and clean are the keys we believe in and most site users will tell you the same thing. When looking at an effective website, stay clear of bells and whistles and stick with great content, easy navigation and pleasing graphics.  Here are a few things that turn users off — auto start audio or video, pop up talking heads, pop up opt ins that you can’t exit out of, registration that requires a credit card even without a purchase. Stay clear of these items and focus on the user’s experience.  If you utter the words ‘that’s so cool’, you might want to really think about if the user will think it is ‘so cool’ or if it will cause them to leave your site.

3.  Use Your Site To Educate Your Customers.  Do you have a complicated product or service? Does your product or service require lengthy training or details for use? Your website can become your training forum and a great place for your customers to come back to often to get their questions answered.  In today’s learning environment, smart businesses take learning styles into consideration and use their website to tackle two or three modalities.  Consider this, put short how-to videos relating to your product or service on your website for customers to reference when in a pinch.  Take that same information and put it in a text document that is nicely laid out to cover those who like to read instead of watch. Add a ‘need help’ live question and answer tab to your site so people can quickly text their needs. Always put contact information on your site so your customer can get their questions answered.
4.  Use An Opt In Feature.  Effective websites, in any industry, should give the audience a place to opt in. Opt in’s can be used for a variety of business activities — lead generation, content sharing, promotional items, sales, registrations for events, etc. Make the opt in easy to find and quick to fill out. Rule of thumb, don’t over populate your opt in required fields. This causes potential interested leads to exit out of your site and move on. You can always gather more information after you engage with them.

5.  Finally, strategize, plan and plan again before you sit down with a designer.  A good designer will help you ask the right questions to know what it is you really need your site to do and how best to go about it. Let’s face it, you are not in the web design business. You are going to a professional so you can have what you want and need. A good design firm will walk you through the process, tell you when you are wrong [this isn’t Nordstrom, sometimes the client isn’t right] and help you get the most effective site for your budget.

“A good design firm will walk you through the process, tell you when you are wrong [this isn’t Nordstrom, sometimes the client isn’t right] and help you get the most effective site for your budget.”

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Lisa Goodwin Business SpeakerLisa Goodwin has helped businesses all over the U.S. build lasting brands by creating revenue focused marketing strategies, dynamic online environments and cohesive marketing plans.She is currently the CEO of Accelerated Marketing Services, a full service marketing firm based in San Diego, California.