Thursday, January 12, 2012

Things to keep in mind before developing a new website or revamping an existing one

My clients often ask me if they should have a new website? Revamp their existing website? Make it more flashy? Add better content?

My answer has always been, first answer the question – Why do you need a website? Your website is your greatest marketing tool. Its often the first thing that your customers look for online. The advantage is – It is completely under your control. The look and feel can be changed to reflect EXACTLY what your business is about. The content reflects your concepts, ideas, beliefs and thoughts, AND the biggest advantage is, it’s searchable on the search engines! 

Here are some things that you should have in mind whether you want to have a new website or revamp an existing one. 

1. Answer the question – Why do you need a website? Always list the objectives of your website. Do you want a website to reflect your business happenings, to sell, to market your products and services or to simply disseminate information? This will determine the kind of website you want and eventually how you are going to shape your online presence. Based on these answers you can build a website to suit your requirements. Note: Your website is the crux of your web presence. 

2. Identify your target audience: This is a very tricky question, especially if you have an offline business and want to translate your goodwill to an online image! Online audience seek things that are way different from your offline customers. IF you are new to the online world then try to do some research on your competitor’s online presence. If you already have an online presence, use analytic tools to determine the kind of visitors who have engaged with your web presence. 

3. Identify the keywords: Keywords are specific to the online space and these determine your search engine positioning. These keywords assist visitors either searching for you or the products and services you offer, to land on your website. 

For those who are new,
 i. List a couple of keywords specific to your business 
ii.Search for these keywords on search engines
iii.List down the urls’s of at least top three or five websites that are listed on the search engine for each keyword
iv.Use a keyword density analyzer (tools are available for free on the internet, just Google out ‘free keyword density analysis’) on the listed URL’s 

This gives you precise keywords (related keywords, branded keywords) used by all those websites that had top ranks. Segregate the keywords into branded keywords (that is unique to you and your business), industry specific keywords (those that is unique to the industry) and simple search keywords (related keywords) 

4. Develop content: Content has to be engaging, simple, not more than 250 – 350 words per page. It must reflect what you are trying to say in the first 25 words of the first paragraph. If the visitor can get past this, it is likely that the visitor would continue reading. Weave the content around the keywords you have narrowed down on. Note: Don’t try to repeat the keywords so that the search engines could pick up the page, develop content in such a way that it reflects your business, ideas, thoughts and beliefs. 

5. Layout and Design: Depending on your specific requirements choose the platform you want to build your website on. The trend now is to have a content management system that is easy to use and is accessible where ever you are. I have found wordpess to be the best option. They also have templates you could use for your website.

6. Marketing your website: Once you have built your website you have to communicate to your target audience about it. You could do this through – Social Networking sites, Email campaigns, Feedback campaigns (through email and a feedback form on your website – even though it is very irritating sometimes to see a pop up asking for a feedback when you are browsing through things!) 

7. Analytic tools: Use analytic tools from day one to have first hand information of your website performance. There are several free analytic tools on the web which you could use to understand a.The number of people who visited your website b.The pages they have visited c.Average time spent on each page d.A series of pages through which they have navigated (path taken) e.The source of the visitors (from where they have come – search engines, directly typing url etc) f.The keywords the visitors have typed on search engines that has landed them on your website Collecting such data and not acting on it is like having genuine customers and communicating to them about your business. Make suitable changes to your website (layout, design and content) using the analytic data to achieve your objectives. 

8. Continuous Improvement Process: Ensure that you set up a process that is continuously improving your web presence. If you are not updating your website regularly then either your business has stagnated or you are not communicating to the world about the latest in your business! Use analytic tools to measure the impact of your constant updates to your website.