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Mistaken notions about business websites

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about the internet and a lot of hype promoting the internet as the solution to all problems. People are often perplexed and don’t know what to think even though they may using the internet every day. Is it really necessary to have a business website? Can anyone create a web page? Would I be paying too much to have a professionally designed website?

In hopes of clearing up even a tiny bit of confusion, here are some of my thoughts in response to some of the mistake notions I hear most often.

“I don’t even need a website. My customers know me. I do fine with just word-of-mouth marketing. No one is going to deal with me just because of my website.”

  • That may have been true in the past. But today’s consumers increasingly rely on the internet to find out about products, companies, and people. With the advent of powerful smart phones and tablets, people have the ability to seek answers as soon as their questions come to mind.
  • When your competitors put information and answers at your customers fingertips – and you are invisible – who do you think they’re going to call?

“I have a Facebook page. That’s all I need really.”

  • Social media is very powerful. But like any marketing tool, it has its limitations. Sites like Facebook are good for short posts and picture sharing. You can’t effectively explain your product line, post Frequently Asked Questions, or show charts and tables comparing your products to the competition.
  • A website, on the other hand, gives you an endless variety of ways to tell your story and address the needs of your customers.

“If I build it (a website), they will come.”

  • Customers reward businesses that make it easy to deal with them. Don’t make them do all the work.
  • You need to promote your website just like you promote your new location. Your anniversary sale. Your convenient drive-thru window.
  • Tell them what they’ll find on your website. And what the benefit of using it is to them. Show them how easy it is. Remind them about the website. Keep improving the website. Tell them about the improvements. And repeat.

“I can do it myself. – Or with my neighbor kid’s help.”

  • The internet is cluttered with millions of unfinished website that were started with good intentions until… the neighbor kid had to return to school.
  • The neighbor kid, the friend, or the brother-in-law who attempts to build your website is doing you a favor after all. Right? So you can’t push them too hard. They’re not really accountable to you like a paid professional is. And if they should get stuck, what experience or resources do they have available to get your site back on track?
  • And even if they do get the finished, websites designed by amateurs usually look amateurish. Broken links, slow loading pages, typos and grammatical errors, pages that are forever said to be “Under Construction.” And even if they look good, they often don’t have the right mix of content for the intended audience. Do they have the understanding of marketing, psychology, and search engine optimization?

“I just need a few pages – about me, about what I sell, how to reach me. “

  • Your website should follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your content should be helpful to prospects and customers. 20% can be promotional. If your content is more than half promotional, your prospects will see through that. No one wants to be sold. On the other hand, everyone wants help with the problems they face.
  • If your website is virtually a bullet point list of products, services, brands, and such – you’re not being very helpful to your customers. They’re looking for advice, answers, examples, instructions, comparisons, success stories from customers, illustrations, and more. And they want to interact – to ask questions, give their opinion, help other customers, share shortcuts, request information, suggest product improvements. People enjoy the give and take. And they’re more likely to visit again for more.

“After I launch my website, I can just ‘set it and forget it.'”

  • In the past, businesses may have been able to hang out their shingle and wait for customers to drop in. But today there are more people, with more problems in need of solutions, and more competition, more options available to savvy customers.
  • Despite your most careful planning, it’s unrealistic to expect that your website will feel 100% complete and effective a month after you launch it. You probably forgot something or ran out of time to include it all. Maybe you recognize some awkward wording that needs to be clarified.
  • It’s even more likely that in a few months you have different products and services. Or maybe price changes. You may want to capitalize on some discussions getting notice in news media.
  • The more you talk intelligently online about your products, services, customers, and solutions, the more content you are putting out there for search engines to index. And the more they index your site, the more likely it is that prospects and customers will stop by for more information. And that increase traffic, in turn, increases your rankings with those search engines.

Having realistic expectations about the internet is absolutely essential to see any pay-back for your web efforts. I welcome honest discussion and do whatever I can to dispel the misconceptions hyped in the media.

Here are some more mistaken notions that I will address in future postings. –

  • “I spent good money on this website and I don’t see any impressive results I don’t think I should invest more into it.”
  • “I already have a website, so know I need to buy some Search Engine Optimization.”
  • “Maybe I just need to buy some key words or Google AdWords to get more results.”
  • “The web is technical. I don’t do technical.”
  • “Our web objective is simple – to get as many hits as possible.”

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