Your website is your new storefront. Since most consumers own smart phones and have internet access, having an online presence is key to gaining new customers.
D￼igital marketing expert Trista DeVries spoke with the Venture Zone to give you some tips on building your business site. Trista is the CEO of Trista DeVries & Co., a web design and marketing agency geared toward women entrepreneurs. Visit her website at this link.
1. Keep your site focused on your business.
"It has to communicate who you are, what you do and what your value proposition is,” says Trista. If you have more than one gig going on, keep them separate. Your dog-walking services should go on one site and your custom-made jewelry should be somewhere else. Otherwise, you’re not clearly communicating who you are, and customers may get confused by the mismatched themes on your website.
2. Figure out which platform fits your needs and research the available options.
There are countless platforms available for hosting your site, including Etsy (Etsy link here), Shopify (Shopify link here), WordPress (WordPress link here), Wix (Wix link here) and Squarespace (Squarespace link here). Each platform has different advantages. Trista recommends starting with Squarespace if you have fewer than 25 products. For stock around the 150 mark, Shopify is a better option. Both sites have a free trial option, so you can experiment to see what best fits your needs.
3. Know what your call to action (CTA) is and how your site will serve that function.
What’s the point of your site? Are you a blogger who wants people to sign up for your mailing list? Make a prominent button that will encourage visitors to subscribe. Do you sell clothing? Get a “buy” button. Want customers to download your how-to guide? Get a download button.
Craft your site with that CTA in mind. Your content should engage visitors and prompt them to sign up, download, shop, or whatever it is you want them to do. The service you provide should be clear to your page visitors and it should be easy to find out how to contact you for a quote.
4. Ads: okay for content sites, but not okay for e-commerce or business websites.
For a bit of extra cash, you might choose to use ads. If you run a blog or other content-based site, Trista says it’s okay to use ads that are relevant to your customers. However, if your site creates direct income—meaning you sell products or services—then avoid the ads. They give the page a tacky feeling and cause page visitors to see other brands when they should be focused solely on yours.
5. Host ads that are relevant to your customer by selecting the ad providers you wish to see on your site.
When ads are irrelevant, annoying or unnecessary, they deter customers from sticking around. Use an ad provider such as Google AdSense (Google AdSense link here), which lets you choose the content your audience will see. For example, if you do podcasts on technology, show ads that are tech-related and would interest your customers. Don’t show ads for unrelated products like makeup.
6. Track your efforts—online and offline.
Brand analytics are customer data that you track, such as how many of them engage with a post you create or which websites they’ve visited. This gives you an idea of your customers’ interests and where you should spend more time on promotion.
Do your own brand analytics for individuals and groups with whom you have an offline connection. Trista recommends keeping a spreadsheet with names, contact information and how you know them. Did they approach your table at a convention and take a business card? Are they a regular customer for house-calls? Write it down. Check the data regularly to look for patterns. You might find that convention booths aren’t bringing you much business but appearing at community events garners you more customers. Use this information to create effective marketing strategies.
As for online data, use a program such as Google analytics or analytics within your social media channels like Facebook. These programs track your individual customers and give you information on which sites they’re coming from.
7. Know your customer and do the research.
It’s important to define exactly who your customers are before you begin marketing to them. Do you make naturally-scented soaps soft enough for baby skin? You’re not marketing to babies obviously, but you’re probably marketing to moms. In that case, Trista says, find out where moms are, such as on Facebook groups or at community events for families. Would these moms be interested in natural products? Look for holistic living groups online or in your city.
Make sure you talk to them! Get out there and connect with real people in your target audience and ask for honest feedback. Do a lot of people react to a common allergen in your soap or think it’s too dry? Take note, refine your product and get feedback. Repeat.
8. Use as little text as possible to clearly communicate your message.
The best advice for making your site look great is to leave lots of white space. “If someone comes to my site and reads only the slogan, they should want to know more and click,” Trista says. Keep it short and simple, choosing words with impact. Keep text to a minimum and build your visuals—like pictures and graphics—around it.
9. Use high quality photos such as professional photography or inexpensive stock photography.
Don’t use blurry or bland pictures. It’s worth the investment to hire a photographer or at least to use inexpensive stock photos. Images are one of the first things people pay attention to when they browse your site, so use photos to make it look as appealing as possible.
If you plan to take pictures yourself or get a friend or family member to, the equipment doesn’t have to be expensive. Buy a lightbox rig on Amazon for less than $15 to make pictures look more professional. (Get it at this link.) If you’re using your phone’s camera, it shouldn’t be more than five years old, or the pictures will be lower quality.
10. Begin with basic SEO to build a foundation for the future.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of driving more traffic to your website via search engines like Google or Bing. There’s a lot to learn but start by focusing on keywords. Include them in your post titles and tag pictures with them. For example, if you sell car parts, tag posts with words like “car, auto, driving,” etc. This makes your site more likely to show up when someone searches something containing those words. Google also lets you pay to be at the top of the search results.
Keep in mind that this list is to help you get started. For more in-depth knowledge, make sure you do your research and consider hiring a consultant and a web designer. Again, your website is your store front. Instead of walking by on the street, customers browse and stop if they see a site they like, so it’s worth the time and cash to start building something great.