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Make the most of your business web site Print

If you are in business, you will appreciate the need to advertise, and the value that a good advertisement can add to your business. I see business web sites every day - some good, some not so good. There are several keys to making your business web site work for you. As I see it, they fall into three basic categories. In this article, I hope to give you a "five minute overview" on some of the aspects you should consider.

 

Design

 

The first step in getting your web site on-line is design. Avoid the temptation of doing your design as you build your site on the screen. Instead, start on paper. Treat your web site as a brochure, or series of brochures. This will provide you with a familiar starting place from which to work. Once you have the basic design down, consider how you can link the various parts. Break the information down into reasonably small "chunks", which will be loaded by web browsers quickly and avoid unnecessary "frills" (excessive graphics, sounds, etc.). This ensures that people will wait to see each page in it's entirety. These pages may each be small enough that they would only form a part of a printed brochure.

 

Once the design is complete, either on paper or on screen, put yourself in the position of a potential customer. Work through the entire site and ask yourself how the customer would respond to it. Often, I am faced with web sites which I cannot fathom. Even though I have years of Internet experience, these sites represent a struggle to me. How would a novice respond to such a site? Clear layout, decent instructions and neat presentation are key to making your web site work well. Also consider how your "whiz-bang" web site would look on a machine which for example, had graphics turned off. Make the changes necessary.

 

Promotion

 

It doesn't matter how good your web site is if no-one sees it. Good promotion is vital to ensuring that you gain maximum exposure. Obviously, you need to register your site with all the relevant search engines available to you. Check out our list (which contains the most popular engines) and register with those which are likely to be used by people searching for your business or products and services. Check back with those sites at a later date to ensure that your site can be found. I also recommend using "Yahoo" to search for industry specific directories which may be used to list your site. Look under the Yahoo Companies directory for your industry, and also check the other menus.

 

So often, I see businesses which have a web site, but they fail to make the most of it by promoting it on their printed materials - brochures, business cards, letterheads, etc. The power of this form of advertising should not be underestimated. As well, look to list your web site and email address in ALL of your other advertising - newspapers, Yellow Pages, White Pages, etc.

 

Getting repeat visitors

 

As a business person, you appreciate the value of repeat business. It is much easier to keep someone coming back to your business than to gain a new customer. Therefore, you need also to encourage repeat business on (or visitors to) your web site. There are so many ways to do this that you could write a book on the subject. Here are some ideas.

 

Take the time to provide useful information which people will want to refer to over and over. Link these pages to related information about your business activities.

Update your site often. Revise the price lists immediately they change, and remove outdated information straight away. It's a major turn-off to appear at a site which is (or even looks) dated for most "surfers". This reflects on your whole business, not just the web site.
Provide incentives for people to return. Perhaps you could offer give-aways each month. Of course, a customer may have to provide vital information (to help build your mailing list) to become eligible for such prizes.
Consider the use of tools such as a free newsletter which may be of interest to your potential (or existing) customers. Offer the ability to sign up for this on your web site, and email it out regularly. This serves as a constant reminder to people to re-visit your on-line store.

 

Conclusion

 

A web site can do wonders for your business. Often, Internet users will seek out your company here first before referring to conventional advertising means. To gain maximum returns from your effort, it must be well planned and maintained. Your response to enquiries gained through the site must be timely. Above all though, you must take every opportunity to promote the site. An unvisited web site is a very lonely place.

 
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