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Making Your Website Work

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After repeated design and re-design, writing and re-writing, stops and starts and re-starts, your web site is finally complete and online.

The layout and colors are crisp, the font is sharp, the content is informative, and the flow is conducive to easy navigation. But, what have you done to market the site? With online sales reaching into the tens of billions of dollars this year, this is not a question to be taken lightly.

Ideally, you had a mission statement on paper before construction of the site began; your Internet presence has a sense of purpose. You are clear on who the site will appeal to and how that audience will be attracted. It’s that knowledge that shapes content development, the selection of appropriate keywords, and search engine optimization tactics.

Get them inside

Be specific:

For example, let’s say you’re selling shoes. What kind? To whom? Any particular brand names? Go to any search engine and type in “shoes”; 32-million responses follow. But, your customers are women. A search for “women’s shoes” yields 2-million responses, still a large number but the point should be getting clearer. Your top selling item is “women’s Gucci shoes”, narrowing the target even further. One way to help achieve this is..

Put yourself on the other side:

How would you search on a topic? Some people type in keywords while others use entire sentences or fragments. While building your content around the sentences that might appear in a search would be difficult, incorporating the 2-, 3-, and 4-word strings of text that describe your core product or service is not. Think like a customer to reach a customer. Do your own searches and see what word strings are effective.

Keep them inside

Encourage interactivity:

Your contact information must be on the bottom of each page, a phone number and e-mail address. You can also have contact page with the full address of your business and an online form visitors can submit, but don’t make people hunt for a way of reaching you.

Link to related sites:

At first glance, this may sound like it defeats the purpose of keeping people on your site. However, your site’s search engine result is affected by the number of related sites to which you link. In addition, links can be configured so they open a second browser window while keeping the original open. It’s good to be connected.

Keep them coming back

Interactivity continued:

Offer periodic online chats with guest speakers who can discuss the topics your visitors are interested in. Or, provide weekly tips, helpful hints, or links to sites that have related information. Become the subject matter expert.

Stay relevant:

Content has to be updated regularly so your site stays fresh. This can also mean regular electronic newsletters to customers and to people who provided their contact information.

Success isn’t free

Launching a business will require marketing dollars; where you spend them is much more important than how many are spent. Consider the words of one entrepreneur: marketing is an expense only when it doesn’t work.

For every product and service, there is a corresponding magazine, or several publications. Most have web sites where you can print out or request press kits to learn about the readership, pricing options for ad space, and other information. However, print advertising can be expensive.

Submit your site to search engines; also consider buying ad space on the results pages for the keywords that fit your business (this goes back to the shoes example cited earlier).

Every town has a newspaper and most have several radio stations. In addition, community papers are growing, and they’re much less expensive than the typical daily. As to radio, stations cater to unique segments of the population. Which format are your customers most likely to listen to?

If possible, include a direct mail component, be that postal mail or electronic. Various sources provide customer lists but be sure what you are getting is up to date.

Over time, it will become apparent that some advertising venues will perform better for you than others. Be proactive: shift dollars from weaker performing places to strong ones; ask people who call or e-mail how they heard about your company; include promotional codes or coupons in print advertisements; use specific URL’s to track online ads; and be aware of new outlets for pushing your message.

At the same time, be patient: advertising requires repetition; in writing ads, focus on benefits rather than features; and if the message is working, leave it alone. And remember, marketing isn’t sales; good advertising only brings customers through the door. Quality service and support have to do the rest.

Alex Lekas is VP/Corporate Communications for AIT, a North Carolina based hosting and e-commerce company serving more than 190,000 domains in 107 countries.

http://ait.com

Making Your Website Work
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About Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas is VP/Corporate Communications for AIT, a North Carolina based hosting and e-commerce company serving more than 190,000 domains in 107 countries.

http://ait.com WebProNews Writer
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