Do I Need A Website?Posted on
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds
Let me start by stating the obvious, you need a website! In the context of a credit crunch when businesses rely upon retaining and growing their customer base in order to simply survive, the types of businesses that don’t require more direct and widespread marketing are perhaps limited to smaller self-employed trades people. Even here, in practice, the smallest of businesses can find that having a website may reduce costs, increase reach and enhance profits, not least because the internet has long since overtaken the likes of a simple listing in directories and advertisements in the local Post Office.
A website doesn’t need to be particularly sophisticated to work for you, though of course the better the image it projects, the more successful it is likely to be. Smaller companies and individuals may well find that a single page site – listing company name, address, contact details and a brief description of what is on offer to customers – is enough to convince people that you are serious and to reach out to a wider audience. Although some companies may not feel that they need to enhance their customer base, such as a fully booked dental practice, building a professional online image can nevertheless help in building loyalty and thus in retaining existing customers.
The Good, the Bad . . .
In those instances where new customer traffic is vital, then a website is of course an essential marketing tool. However, it is no exaggeration to say that having no website at all is better than having a bad one. Even though some people may be sceptical, there is no denying that we live in a technical age and not getting in on the act is as good as condemning your business to failure – at the very least, it suggests a lack of understanding as to how modern audiences and markets are behaving. You don’t need to be an expert to create an effective website, there are plenty of website design companies that can do the hard work for you. For almost any business it is certainly worth investing a little bit of your time and money with a design firm that will take the trouble to properly understand your business needs and to translate these requirements into an effective online presence.
Basic needs for any website include domain registration, web hosting, graphic design and knowledge of web development. For those that want something more sophisticated in appearance and who want to attract as many customers as possible, then they will need to work with a web design company that can offer wider online marketing skills. These include search engine optimisation (SEO) for natural (unpaid) placement in the search engines; search engine marketing (SEM) if you are considering paying for traffic; Affiliate management if you are looking to drive traffic through this channel; and social media optimisation (SMO) to ensure that you gain recognition in the fast-growing range of blogs, forums and specialist social media sites out there.
An Integrated Approach
All of your online marketing activities need to work together, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. As an example, SEO requires that your website is designed with traffic in mind. From the outset you will need to understand what your potential users are searching for and to drive all optimisation efforts from the set of search terms you identify as a result. A good web design firm will understand how to identify and prioritise these based upon your business. They will then build the site around these terms, with the correct use of a myriad of code elements to support them.
Not all of the elements described above will necessarily apply to every business or market sector and a good understanding of online marketing strategy is something that you should expect from your design partner. If handled properly, however, an effective website and integrated marketing strategy should:-
- Increase awareness of you and your products
- Reach customers all over the world
- Increase your hours of operation
- Improve or replace traditional, more expensive offline marketing.
- Improve efficiency and reduce costs
- Enhance your image
- Create a competitive edge
- Provide information
In the current climate, can you afford not to do this?