Last Tuesday, at the MENTA Trade Fair, a representative from Google’s Digital Garage gave a talk on Digital Presence – how and where your business should be online. Small businesses and startups still have a lot of questions about being online.
If you are a startup or small business, these are the essential questions – “Why do I need a website? How do I build a website? And once I’ve built a website, what on earth do I put in it?” Let’s take a look at each one.
Why does your business need a website?
Regardless of what else you do in your business, or where you do it, being online is vital. For many, this may seem obvious, but seemingly not for all.
If you’re not convinced you need a website, consider the statistics. 94% of Britons are online, for an average of nearly six hours a day. With nearly two thirds of the population on social media – about 42 million people – and 77% shopping online, it makes sense to be where your customers are.
Business that have a strong web presence will realise double the growth and job creation and reach 50% more of the market.
There’s more to a website that just providing basic information. If your website does more for your customers than just tell them what you do and how to find you, then you are among the top 21% of online businesses. This could include ecommerce, interactive help, and customer support.
Your business needs a website – to build your brand, win customers, sell and help customers find you.
How do you build a website?
There are two routes to getting your own website – build your own using a free/almost free platform, or have a bespoke site built.
A free platform, such as WordPress, can be the most cost effective. While the options for customising can be limited, for most businesses these restrictions are negligible. WordPress and other CMS based systems have an enormous range of templates available. Any business will be able to find at least a handful to choose from that will suit their needs.
While the platform can be free, it would only truly be free if you were doing it yourself. Or would it? Consider the time spent building the site, the photographs, copy, video and other content needed to populate it, and the cost of the site will grow rapidly. Hiring a professional web designer to do the job will save you time and help you avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that can undermine your brand and cost you even more time to fix.
For businesses that need something unique, such as a bespoke ecommerce system or a site that represents an experience, having a site designed and built by hand is the best option. The site will be unique, customisable and represent your brand perfectly. But if you’re a startup, that sort of expense is not realistic. Start building, get a web presence and let people find you.
Whichever route you decide, you will still need content. So what on earth do you put IN your website?
There are three basic types of content that you would use to fill your site and make it informative and appealing to visitors.
Copy, images and video.
Writing copy for the web is not like writing for other mediums. Write for your audience, write at a 9-year-old’s level and keep your sentences short. This will make sure the language you use can be understood by a higher proportion of the public. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 200 year old legal firm or a pre-school daycare. If you write above your audience’s heads they won’t understand, won’t connect and won’t get in touch with you.
Images need to be relevant and convey the same tone and theme as the rest of your site – that is, the tone of your brand. Make sure the images are resized to the size that they will be used and optimised correctly. Size matters when it comes to mobile, particularly, as a slower load time will turn visitors away.
Video is quickly becoming (if it isn’t already) the most useful and easy to share medium online. Video makes it easy to convey your brand message and tone with music and timing, and shows your customers things that would go amiss if transmitted using only words or still images. Make sure video is used correctly, in fitting with your brand and embedded to make sure you are not using unnecessary bandwidth.
Now What? Other Ways to Maintain Your Digital Presence
A website is not a baseball field – you can’t just “build it and they will come.” Your customers are browsing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google looking for places to visit, shop and do business with, so you need to have a presence where they are.
Open accounts, link to them on your website and maintain a presence so that people know where to find you. Be there to answer questions, post relevant topics and be current. Make sure that you are representing your brand correctly and continue to think like a customer, as you did when you had the copy written.
There is a lot more to having an effective digital presence that having a website or a Facebook page. To ensure you are attracting the right customers, get in touch and I’ll be glad to help you put your best (digital) foot forward.