Ten years ago, a website was thought of as just another channel to market a business, not much different than a newspaper or Yellow Pages ad, only with more information and color. Then along came blogging and Facebook, Twitter and Google ads. No longer is a website a lone island or just another piece in the puzzle.
Too often web designers or developers get trapped into thinking small. As an independent website creator you are not just a code monkey or a pixel pusher; you are a business consultant. A business may come to you thinking that all they need is a website, but it is your job to open their eyes to the possibilities.
A website is just the beginning. It is just a beginning to your client and it is just a beginning to the services you offer them. I can’t name the number of clients who have come my way thinking that all they need to do is put a website on the Internet. More recently, many people have heard of SEO, and it’s even become a catch-phrase, the supposed end-all solution to having a successful website for your business. If a business’s website can just get a good listing on Google, it will take care of all their Internet business needs, or so the thinking goes.
It is our job as business consultants to explain to our clients the need, not only for a website with good SEO, but also for social networking and advertising, if appropriate. Before rushing out to consult clients, it is important to have a business strategy already in place. When a client takes that step with you to create or revamp a website, you should already have a strategy to help drive traffic to their website and convert it to sales.
This strategy needs to address four needs in the following order:
- How to drive traffic to the website
- How to catch the attention of that traffic
- How to keep traffic
- How to convert visitors to sales
Wait! Stay with me now. Just because I used the word “sales” doesn’t mean this doesn’t apply to you. I know there are plenty of times that you will make a website that isn’t apparently “selling” anything, like for a non-profit organization, or an informative website, BUT the whole purpose of any site is still to sell something. The something may not be a product bought with money, it could be an idea that you want someone to “buy into” or a church you want someone to attend, but the point of any website is to sell something.
Design should never say, “Look at me.” It should always say, “Look at this.”
— David Craib
Each of these steps deserve their own blog post (which I may do later), but this should get you started.
First, you must have a plan to drive traffic to the site, because without traffic all of the rest of your efforts are pointless. SEO is important, but it isn’t the end game to bringing visitors to a website. It is only the beginning. Consider some kind of strategy for your clients using Facebook, Twitter, blogging, topic articles, and Google AdWords.
Second, once you get visitors to the site you have to catch their attention. It only takes most people a couple of seconds to decide if they are going to stick around or not. This is where the graphic design aspect of a website shines. The first purpose of design is to catch the readers’ attention. Make sure the site you are designing contains graphical elements and not just text. The easiest way to add engaging graphics is to purchase stock photography. It used to cost hundreds of dollars to purchase a license for a professional picture! Now you can do it for only a few dollars at istockphoto.com.
Third, now that you have caught their attention to take a look at the site, you have to convince them to stick around by having great content. This also kills two birds with one stone, because quality, relevant content also happens to be the cornerstone of all good SEO. Of course, your client will probably need to provide this, but if they aren’t very hip on writing a lot about their area of expertise, you might consider interviewing them and writing it article-style. Or you can hire someone else to write at a place like elance.com.
If you have made it this far, then you are golden. If you were fishing, the fish is on the hook and now you just have to reel it in. Make sure on every page you have some kind of call to action “Call us now” or “Click here to buy” or “Join us Sunday Mornings at…” or “Fight along side us by emailing your congressman at this address”; something that encourages the reader to take action.
By understanding and implementing this process, you will turn your client’s website into more than just a website. Their website will be a central hub for marketing to generate leads and sales. And this will turn you into more than just a web designer!
Let me know what you think in the comments section below. What strategies or methods have you found successful in providing a more cohesive service to your clients?
Good info. I had an issue not long ago with a webdesign client whom was bombarded by internet advertising consultants that wanted to tell him how to increase search rankings and web presence.
Unfortunately, client and ended up with asking me to make changes on his site based on these drive-by consultants suggestions. Their ideas were good but the site lacked content to support their ideas and the SEO effort in the site changes was pointless as a result and wasted effort when client couldn’t understand more content was needed to define his services and support the SEO efforts. I had used a simple structure that was based on current content previously.
Also, the client was told to setup a Facebook page and setup a Twitter account to tie into their web presence. Again, all good if you plan to utilize those social networks effectively but that was not the case here. There was nothing to draw people into the Facebook fan page and not enough activity or content to sustain any real network activity on Twitter. They were nothing but placeholders really and did nothing for generating leads or traffic.
I think in future web design projects, I am going to implement the plan for SEO and social media early in the design phase and explain how it all works before being trumped by the drive-by advertisers turning a simple project into another disorganized mess.
All good points Synthetic Tone. If you don’t offer those services someone else will. Also, it is a commitment that requires follow-up. You can’t just setup those social network channels and forget them. They require managing, and all of this should be included in your price.
Hello, i feel that i saw you visited my site so i got here to “go back the desire”.I’m attempting to to find issues to enhance my site!I suppose its good enough to make use of a few of your ideas!!
I have been studying digital marketing and going to seminars to find out more about driving traffic and keeping clients. I must admit I enjoyed your blog post.
In all the seminars and textbook travels, would you suggest using PPC to drive potential leads to your site? I understand that there will be merit, but I am scared to suggest it to my clients as I will have to advise on budget and managing the account.
PS – read your posts with pleasure 🙂
PPC is the best way to control traffic to your website. The bigger your budget the more hits you can bring in. I would only use it if you have a direct path to earn a return on your investment though. If the website includes an online store or is directly selling a product, then PPC may be a very good investment. If not, then I would think twice about what I am paying for, and evaluate what the purpose of the website is for in the first place.