More Than Just Website Presence

Ok so you’ve had a web presence for 3 to 5 years, you did the right thing and developed a website when everyone was saying you had to have one. But what does it actually do for you now? Just having a website presence just doesn’t cut it anymore.

1. Establish a website brief. Answer questions like; who are you targeting, how do you want them to interact with your website, what do you want them to get out of the experience and what information do you need to collect about them. What content are they expecting and how do they want to see it presented?

2. Build your online brand. Develop an online brand that is engaging, that draws people in. First time users should know what your website is about at first glance, in 10 seconds in fact. Use your home page title, the overall design, a positioning statement, page titles, and the navigational elements to quickly communicate what your website is about.

3. Develop great ‘sticky’ content. Content is king but it has to be relevant, particularly to the intended audience for your website. The content has to encourage people to come back for more, to interact with you e.g. offer comment, subscribe, request more information.

4. Pick a flexible open source CMS. You need to be able to easily manage your content, upload it, change it, add images, include page titles and alt tags. Content driven websites change constantly, the system must be open source i.e. able to be programmed by more than just one web developer, don’t lock yourself into a proprietary system.

5. Manage the navigation and usability. Make it easy for users to find the content they are looking for, make the navigation clear and always provide a site wide search function. Ask a simple question up front and then present content relevant to the user based on what you learnt about them. For example, a photography website might ask the visitor upfront if they are an amateur or a professional. The answer determines which educational courses are displayed on the page, which model of camera or even which articles and images are relevant. Content driven websites are relevant to the people viewing them.

6. Communicate regularly. Give plenty of options for ways in which the visitor can interact with you. Newsletter subscriptions, forums, blogs via RSS feed, surveys and polls. Generate outbound communications at least weekly to remind users to visit again.

7. Constantly evolve and add to the content. Develop fresh content daily if possible. The more your website is updated, the more Google will like you but importantly, the more reason for people to visit again.

8. Make sure people know about your website. We all know you can’t build it and expect people to come. Utilise print mediums (editorial, advertising, comment pieces), adwords, linkedin and social media like facebook and twitter to drive new users to your website.