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A website launch is only the beginning…

One of the biggest mistakes that a new website owner can make is to assume that once the launch of their site has taken place, the hard work is over.

Yes – their business now has an online presence, but without further attention and work on their site, the full benefits of being online will not be achieved.

There still several tasks that need undertaking to make the world pay attention to the site and several more that will require ongoing work to keep the site healthy and functional.

Task 1: Get Google to pay attention

It should come as no surprise that Google does not automatically add websites to their search results. They first need to be notified that a site actually exists before they will send a “Googlebot” to check it out.

There are several ways to make this happen smoothly:

  • Add your site to your “Google My Business” account. It’s a best way to get noticed fast.
  • Make sure your site is Search Engine Optimised (SEO) by using a plugin, like YOAST or All-In-One to guide you through the process of SEO setup. These ensure that the search engine “crawlers” find what they need to.
  • Share your new website link around with other businesses and organisations that are already established online. Be sure to link back to them in turn – Google loves inbound and outbound links.

It is important to remember that Google is in control of this process, not you. Their software technicians are always tweaking the search algorithm so what may have worked last week for SEO, may not work this week.

Task 2: Track your site statistics

It is vital to measure and monitor the statistics for your website. By keeping an eye on visitor numbers, popular pages, bounce rates and functioning keywords, you will be able to adjust your site and its contents to achieve the results you want.

The best solution is to sign up for Google Analytics, integrate this with the Dashboard of your website and monitor your search results regularly. If your search ranking starts to decline or you are having a high bounce rate, the statistics will tell you that you need to take action.

https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/

Task 3: Creating fresh content

Not only is fresh content on your website good for impressing site visitors and helping customers, it is also very good for the website itself. Google’s search ranking algorithm has a special fondness for sites with updated, relevant content, and promotes these sites higher on search results.

Once initially indexed by Google, the “Googlebot” re-visits your site every few weeks and checks the content it finds against the content from its last visit. If it finds the same old information every time, you may be penalised in search results and potentially end up lower than your competitors.

A new article in your blog every couple of weeks, a client gallery or testimonials from your customers are very easy to add and can make Google happier with your website.

Task 4: Implement site security

Benjamin Franklin wisely once said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This has never been so true than with a website. There are several vital security components that need to be enacted on your site to discourage Spammers and Hackers from breaching your emails, forms and online files.

# 1 – Get a Security Certificate for your site.

A security (SSL) certificate creates a secure link between a website and a visitor’s browser by confirming the site’s legitimacy and encrypting data between the two parties. This extra certificate is shown in your browser as the https:// prefix at the beginning of a domain name and a padlock in the address bar.

# 2 – Enforce SPAM Controls

Make sure that your online forms are all guarded by Google’s new ReCaptcha protocol – it is now invisible (no more typing in codes) but very effective. Your web server also needs has effective SPAM filters at its core level and most server providers include this in their storage packages.

#3 – Update your plugins regularly

Hackers continually look for ways into vulnerable servers and will use any weakness to break their way into your site. An out of date plugin (or WordPress version) on your site could be the weak link that they are looking for.

#4 – Use the latest version of PHP on your server

PHP is a programming language used in the development of many modern websites. It is vitally important for security reasons to keep the PHP version up to date (usually via your web server’s Control Panel).

#5 – Install WordFence on your WordPress site

Wordfence provides a range of features and options for site owners that help protect their sites from hacking. On top of this, Wordfence provides monitoring of the other components in a site and notifies, via email, when action needs to be taken.

None of the tasks above are “set and forget” – site owners need to adjust SEO triggers, regularly check statistics, add content and enforce security measures to make sure that their sites are fully functional and performing their purposes. Nothing above needs to be overly time consuming but, in the rush of a busy workplace, small tasks can be easily forgotten.

The best way to stay on top of these tasks is to schedule them into your working week, just like any other task. By doing so, you will give your site the best chance of success.

My business has a new online store – now what?

Although regional small businesses are slowly starting to move online, some still fail to grasp how different an online store is to a conventional ‘bricks and mortar’ site.

With the latter, a physical site is set up that all passers-by can see it; both while it’s under construction and afterwards, when the doors are thrown open for customers for the first time.

With an online store, the construction is sometimes done under a “veil of secrecy” but when it’s finished and ready, most site owners automatically expect a flow of traffic through the virtual front door. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. People need to know that the site exists before they can visit it!

It’s important to note that Google doesn’t list sites immediately – it can often take two to three weeks for a site to appear on search results and even then, you may not even make the first page.

My advice – don’t wait for Google. You can promote that brand-new site of yours right now with the following simple tips:

Tip #1 – Add your website marketing into your current “conventional” promotions

This simple tip is often overlooked because some business owners believe that a website is marketed through online methods only.

You can start getting ready for your site’s launch by updating all your promotional materials – business cards, brochures, roadside signs, clothing, pens, company cars, exterior signage, invoices, everything. Anywhere that a current client sees your business name should have the new web address in bold lettering.

If you live a smaller town as I do, get your local newspaper on board for the launch. For a relatively small cost, you can grab some great exposure with an editorial feature. Often these include a half-page “story” on your new site with the other half-page including an advertisement with all your details.

Tip #2 – Utilise your Social Media presence

One of the great advantages that Social Media has over Google is the instant gratification that it gives to every one of our updates, pins, posts or tweets. We don’t have to wait for the search engines to index and archive our information – it is instantly out there. This makes it ideal for promoting a brand-new site.

Most of us already have a Social Media presence so why not use that to your site’s advantage. Announce to all and sundry that you have a new online store and ask your social media “friends” to pass on the news.

Don’t leave it at that though – make sure you create a plan and use your Social Media power to drive everything that your site does. Running a pizza shop with online ordering? Hold instant competitions to boost slow nights. Got a brand-new outfit in your e-commerce boutique? Get one your staff to model it and post it on Instagram and Pinterest. Offering free shipping for today from your e-store? Get the word out instantly with a tweet on Twitter.

Tip #3 – Hold a launch special (with coupons).

Use your newly re-vitalised social media presence to share a coupon from your online store – the software that runs your eCommerce component (i.e. WooCommerce) probably already has one built-in. A coupon is a code that, when applied to the checkout area of a site, generally applies a small discount or bonus such as free shipping. They are designed to only be used once – automatically cancelling after use.

People love coupons – and they’ll also share them like crazy, quickly spreading the word about your new online store.

Conclusion

Try out those three tips and will be giving your e-commerce store a red-hot start in its online life. Don’t procrastinate and wait for people to find you – get out there and “grab the bull by the horns.” A site owner is in absolute control of the future (and potential success) of their online business. It won’t happen by itself – some hard yakka is required.

Why does your small-town business need a big business website?

Putting my obvious bias aside (and many other business owners will back me up here), I firmly believe that if you are operating a business in the 21st century, irrespective of where you are or what your business does, you must have a website.

Smart phones, tablets and computers are everywhere in our modern society and they are all “jacked” into the internet 24/7.

For the business owner, this means, regardless of who your customers are, they will be searching for you on Google. Very few people are reaching for the Yellow Pages these days – it takes far too long (no wonder the Yellow Pages have begun to move online) and can be confusing with the numerous listings. But if your customers can’t find you on Google, I’ll bet that they will certainly find your competitors in the search results and you will lose their business.

This also applies to businesses that traditionally operate out of a small-town community, like Innisfail, where I live and work. It’s important to remember that there are no borders to business anymore and, because of technology, the world is much smaller than it used to be.

Despite these facts, I still find myself, on a regular basis, trying to convince businesses in my hometown that a website is a necessity – even for them!

Here’s three of my counter arguments: –

A website expands your business beyond the borders of your community.

With a website there are no boundaries for your business. Once online, your site can sell products and services around the globe – it can even sell them while you are asleep! And, with the multitude of shipping options available nowadays, you can “move” your products very quickly to any destination on the earth.

So, why would you settle for doing business in a tiny demographic when you could go global?

As Donald Trump often says, “Think Big!”

A website can level the playing field for the “little guys”

Regardless of the size of your small business or its location, your website can compete on the same level as any other business in your industry. You may not have the flashy storefronts of your competitors or the sheer magnitude of their operations, but a website doesn’t have to worry about these things.

Your site can compete on the same level if it offers:

  • An easy to use interface.
  • A clear Call to Action (CTA).
  • Helpful service (through contact forms, online videos, pop-up chats, tricks or tips).
  • High quality products or services.

In short, if your website can deliver the same service as expected from the “big guys”, it has a chance at grabbing customers that would have once dismissed you as “too small”.

You can connect with customers like never before.

Businesses, both large and small, can now build their brands and followers through the use of an effective Social Media strategy. With very little effort, you can start a conversation with your customers and, as a result, grow a better understanding of their needs and wants.

Conversely, customers can carry on these discussions completely separate from your business involved and, as long as those discussions are positive, this will help to build the public image of that your brand.

Examples of this include:

  • Fashion products being spruiked by customers on their Instagram accounts.
  • Special announcements being launched instantly on Twitter.
  • A loyal Facebook following (a great source of testimonials).
  • Hashtags leading directly back to the source – your website.

A properly built and managed website allows a small-town business to build and expand beyond what was traditionally possible. By making your business easy to find, helpful and value for money – you will not only encourage locals to stick with you but may just hook into some lucrative “outside” business and from there – the only way is up!

Five Home Page “Tricks” to lower your Bounce Rate.

Information Overload = High Bounce Rate = Poor Website Performance

Five "Tricks" to lower your Bounce Rate.In numerous blogs, books and forums, small business owners are told from the very beginnings of their online forays that content marketing is a must for a successful website. Any solid marketing advice will say “You must create FAQs, blog posts, videos, podcasts, Facebook feeds, how-to sheets, free e-books, Tweets and Pins for your site to REALLY connect with your target audience.” This is good advice, after all, Google loves fresh content and so do those visitors who return to your site.

But there is inherent danger with all this information – having been told to create it, some website owners get carried away. And, unfortunately, your website visitors may not appreciate this content as much as you do – especially if it is displayed to them all at once.

By this I mean, displaying it all on the very first page of a website – also known as the landing page.

If you overwhelm your visitors as soon as they arrive on your site, you may find that this overload of information result in a “Bounce Rate”*. 

The key to solving this problem is to remember this simple point at all times: your site visitors have arrived at your site seeking only one of two things, information and engagement. Think back to any site that you have ever visited – you have sought out those sites out to either find out more about the business and their services/products or, engage them in further conversation (which can take many forms) to potentially make a purchase.

So how do we avoid information overload on key pages of your website?

Try to keep information in line with the five basics of a good home page:

1. A catching headline that includes your keywords.

If you are a plumber in Innisfail, use a title liked “Professional Plumbing Services – Innisfail.” Keep Google happy by staying under its preferred title length which is 70 characters.

2. A solid sub headline paragraph (or two) that briefly describes who you are and what you do.

Visitors love a story so you could also talk about what you can do for them but don’t get use jargon, remember to apply the K.I.S.S.* principle here.

3. Display your immediate contact information in the top right hand corner of the page.

If you want people to ring you, show the phone number in a large font. If you prefer emails, show the email address. Remember to keep it all mobile friendly by ensuring that both of these can be clicked/tapped.

4. Make your Call to Action very clear.

In most cases, this is what you prospective customers will be looking for so make it STAND OUT! Don’t make customers search for your latest deals or booking forms, make them so obvious that a blind person could find them.

5. Everyone loves a good slideshow (that’s why every site these days has one).

But don’t just use it to display pretty pictures – make it part of your marketing plan. Make it part of your HOOK* to immediately engage your visitors.

Get those things right on the front page and everything else is superfluous – put the extra information on other pages. Use your navigation effectively and your visitors can find it if they want to dig further.

With the advent of Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, there is the ability to create a multitude of cascading pages for your website so there is no excuse for not using this to your advantage.

Keep the front page of your small business site clean and simple using the five items above and monitor your Google Analytics. Done effectively, you will watch that bounce rate drop away as your prospective customers come and, most importantly, stay.

* the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.

* K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple Stupid

* a hook, which is a short phrase or jingle designed to entice a customer to purchase a product or sign up for a service.

Tropical Coast Web Design