Your website could be worth so much more than the sum of its parts. Chris Sheedy asks the experts what an effective website refresh looks like.
A couple of months ago, after his house was flooded, Leonard Sii urgently needed an emergency carpet cleaning service. He grabbed his phone and did what anybody would do—he googled ‘emergency carpet cleaner’ and rang the first local business that came up. When the carpet cleaner arrived Sii, the founder and director of digital creative agency Sii Studio, asked him how he maintained such a high Google search ranking.
“He told me he pays a specialist to manage his search engine optimisation (SEO),” Sii says. “He also has a content writer constantly blogging about carpet-related issues. Since he began the SEO work, his business had doubled in size.”
“When you tell a small to medium business that they need to spend this money, they sometimes think it is better to print flyers. But for around the same price you can have one year of search engine optimisation, meaning your website is optimised 24 hours a day, every single day. Or you can design, print and distribute a flyer to put in somebody’s letterbox, and they will throw it in the bin because they don’t need that service right now.”
A website that works hard for the business is a powerful idea. So where does a small business start if they want to change their website into a potent, business development machine?
Sii says he starts by asking what his clients would like the website to do. He doesn’t ask how it should look, what colours they prefer, or what imagery they’d like to use. Instead he simply begins with the desired outcome for the business.
“Once you work that out, that becomes the key call to action that you need to create,” he says. “It is about the business’ objectives and goals. That is what I talk to new clients about. Design comes after you nail down your objective.”
Winning the search challenge
If your website is a one-pager, also known as a ‘splash site’, it has to work much harder to earn high Google search rankings compared to a website with more pages, says Ben Brillante, director of digital creative agency Three72 Digital.
Like Sii, Brillante also begins a conversation with a new client by asking what they want their website to achieve. For those with a splash site he’ll recommend expanding to a five-pager containing more information such as a contact form, a list of services and testimonials. These pages assist search engine ranking but can also help with another vital task—promoting the business’ credibility.
“I believe heavily in a website’s role in supporting your credibility,” Brillante says. “For instance, I would disagree that you should have an opt-in box pop up over the home page as soon as a visitor first arrives. Why would a visitor opt in to something you’re offering when you have not yet built any credibility with them?”
The home page instead should be a simple landing page directing visitors to a few effective calls to action—our services, contact us, book an appointment.
“Design comes after you nail down your objective. Once you work that out, that becomes the key call to action that you need to create. It is about the business’ objectives.” – Leonard Sii, Sii Studio
Regular blog posts also help, as long as they are related to the website’s general topic. For example, a travel blog by the local veterinary surgeon is not going to impress Google’s web crawlers. Nor is it going to attract potential customers looking for somewhere to take their sick parrot.
“Focus on searchable keywords and don’t forget to localise your content,” Brillante says. In other words, ‘veterinary practice’ could be mentioned on a vet website from anywhere in the world, but ‘veterinary practice in Blacktown, Sydney’ leaves no doubt as to location.
Building into social media
Once your website is built and optimised for search engines, and regular blogs are being written, it’s time to extend your reach into the world of social media. The more action around your website, Brillante says, the higher your search rankings. This means the more external links to your site, the more impressed Google will be.
Build relationships via social media, Brillante says. Ask customers to link to your page, review your business online and tell friends via social media. Developing a promotion that encourages people to link to your pages, is even better—links are like votes for quality in the eyes of search engines.
“List your business with Google Business,” Sii says. “That way users can immediately see your opening hours, location, a map and images of your business within the search results.”
“And be very active around Google Business feedback. Ask clients to leave reviews, then respond to those reviews. A lot of businesses don’t do this because they don’t understand how important it is for search ranking, but it is much more important than making your site prettier.”
Exploit big data
Finally, a good website will also feed back information into the business about where customers are coming from, which search terms are getting results, where smart money is being spent and where good money is being wasted.
“You need to track everything you do and figure out what creates success and what only creates the appearance of success,” Sii says. “If you get an extra 1000 visitors in a week but only one of those people becomes a conversion, you need to work out what is going wrong.”
Make that original goal the centre of everything your website does, Sii says. “And make it easy for the customer. Concentrate on making one less step for the user. Make every process simple, and you will achieve your goal.”