A fascinating exercise when you have a little downtime is to visit the Wayback Machine Internet Archive where you can view old websites as far back as the mid-1990s. Taking a walk down memory lane often reminds us of how far we’ve come since the Internet became the ubiquitous resource it is today. Back in 1997, when the dot com craze was just heating up, there were a ton of websites springing up. Most were simply online brochures with an email link while a handful were actually e-commerce sites. Compare Apple’s website from 1997 to today’s version. The difference is amazing. While we can see that the current Apple website is significantly more interactive and enables high-level engagement, many companies still treat their own websites like a 1997 online brochure. I’ve identified five reasons why websites – and excellent web design – are much more important today than they were yesterday.
An online presence is critical – especially today
Surprisingly, I’ve run across several business owners who are reluctant to create an online presence or feel it’s something that can be addressed further down the road, after they reach a certain level of sales. This is akin to putting the cart before the horse. It should be understood that most (93%) B2B prospects, and almost as many consumers, begin their buying process by searching the Internet. One of the first steps is checking out the company’s website. No website quickly conveys that the company is not serious about business or about providing information for prospects to easily find. Relying on others (i.e. directories, partners, etc.) to build your online presence is a grave error that many companies still make today.
Websites enable engagement
It’s not enough that a website be found. Today, a website must pull the prospect in and engage them in a way that encourages them to spend a great deal of time on your site. This means ensuring your site has engaging content, either in the form of blogs, partner information, videos and other information prospects usually look for. In addition, getting prospects to provide you with their contact details in exchange for something of value, such as a newsletter, eBook or webinar, will encourage continued engagement. Your website should also be a vital component of your social media strategy, attracting prospects where they reside (whether its Facebook or LinkedIn) and drawing them back to your site for further engagement. Your company’s entire engagement strategy – from email marketing to Pay-Per-Click advertising – should involve your website.
Your competitors are drawing attention
If it sounds like I’m suggesting your company should invest in a website because your competitors are, then that’s exactly what I’m saying. No company operates in a vacuum and customers usually have choices. If a prospect doesn’t choose your company, they usually have half a dozen other companies to choose from. Often, the choice boils down to which company engaged the prospect the best – even if the price is higher. Your website should be part of the emotional connection your company makes with prospects, as prospects based a significant portion of their decision on emotion.
It should be no surprise that we often spend as much time on our phones as we do on computers. Not only are mobile devices convenient and travel with us virtually anywhere, they have the processing capacity that most computers had just ten years ago. When an opportunity comes up to search for a product or service while on the go, no one has to wait until they get back to their computer. They can conduct the search right there and then. With this in mind, having a dynamic site that is mobile enabled further enhances your company’s brand and engages with more prospective customers. If your site is simply an online brochure and was built ten years ago, chances are it will not show properly on any mobile device.
Once your dynamic, engaging, mobile enabled website has been built and deployed, the first part is done. The next part is ensuring everyone who should find your site can find it. That’s where effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in. Incorporating effective SEO into your content and on every webpage within your site should be the baseline, but it starts with developing an effective SEO strategy. Simply incorporating a few keywords into your site is no longer enough. Those keywords and phrases should be researched to ensure they are specific for your company’s brand, position and key objectives. In addition, effective SEO will incorporate internal and external links, as well as backlinks in conjunction with partners or customers. I should mention that an effective organic SEO strategy does take time, but it is well worth the investment. As an interim measure, I also recommend paid advertising and PPC strategies to ensure company websites are found right out the of the gate while the organic SEO kicks in.
It’s all about revenue
If your website is not built to help build revenue for your company, it’s simply an online brochure. Online brochures may have been fine in 1997 (remember the old Apple website), but today, a company website must attract, engage, inform and drive prospects to make a buying decision. Every click a visitor to your website makes should be a click that moves them closer to the actual purchase. Utilizing an effective marketing automation tool, coupled with robust email marketing campaigns, will help provide insight into your prospects behavior and signal when they are ready to buy.
Having a website today should be the bare minimum for any company that hopes to be found by prospects. Building one that incorporates features that will attract the right prospects and engagement them in a way that leads to more sales and revenue should always be the goal.