Proper Website Design: An Important Part of Your eMarketing Strategy

One of the most important components of any eMarketing strategy is to have a web site that conveys professionalism and confidence. Gone are the days of 1999 when you could throw up any kind of funky looking site and get visitors and sales. Today, web site design requires a bit more thought. In this article, you’ll learn 10 issues to consider when creating a website yourself or having it done by a professional web designer.

1. Website designers are not marketing experts. I know this may come as a shock to you, but most web designers have backgrounds in graphic arts and know very little about marketing. They certainly have been trained on how to create beautiful mascots, color schemes, buttons, and banners.

However, just because a website looks good, doesn’t mean that it will be effective. Part of designing a website is to address the needs of the people who will be visiting it. There are a number of questions that must be answered before going forward with any web design project. For example:

– Is the website laid out in such as way that visitors can get the information they want?
– Is it easy to navigate?
– Is contact information easy to find?
– Does the design match the type of product or service that you offer?
– Is the site designed in such a way that it guides the visitor down a path that ensures you get your “most wanted response” whether it be a phone call, online sale, downloading a report, providing an email address, etc.?

A web site designer who doesn’t have any marketing experience will only be thinking about getting your site to look as cool as possible. It will be up to you to make sure that design does not come at the expense of purpose. If you check out a website such as PlantationFLGuide.com, you’ll notice that the designer does a good job of making local visitors feel at home. The background contains recognizable imagery and navigation is clean and straightforward.

Of course, your site doesn’t have to look like this one. Just keep in mind how the designer is attempting to relate to the audience and build trust.

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2. Make sure your site is coded properly. When designing a website, there can be quite a bit of programming involved depending on how many bells and whistles you incorporate. You may have heard of programming codes such as Flash, HTML, ASP, and PHP.

The notion behind these types of programming codes is to ensure that the web site will function the way you want it to. Some codes are better for certain types of projects than others. For example, asp programming uses a lot of data bases which may be good for sites with lots of data and catalog items and load times need to happen quickly. But it’s important to layout these databases properly or you’ll defeat the purpose.

Flash is behind a lot of the programming where the website has dancing bears or objects that fly around or change colors. But the problem with flash is that the search engine spiders won’t be able to read any words that may be part of the flash objects. This means that the search engine won’t really know what the page is about, and they will likely have a very difficult time trying to rank it for a search term.

PHP, JAVA, and HTML are all safe programming languages that the search engines like. The one you should use will depend on the complexity of the project. The simplest of the three is HTML.

3. Test your site for bugs. This won’t be much of an issue if you use a standard WordPress template. But if you hire a designer to build your site from scratch, make sure they test it for issues. If you’re doing the testing yourself, one very good tool that you can use is Get Metrix. It will identify problem areas and let you know if your site is loading too slowly which can hurt your search engine rankings.

4. Allow others to review your site. Before your site goes live, get some people to review it. Ideally, you should seek out people who fit the profile of your ideal customers.

And when you find these people, give them some review instructions if you can. Remember the questions I raised in item 1 above? When you give a general request for a site review, human nature will cause people to tell you the parts they like and resist the urge to hurt your feelings.

To avoid this, tell them that the website is under design and you want to make sure that the web designer gets everything right. Also ask them to address specific questions like those in item 1.

5. Get the on page optimization right. The pages on your website are going to consist of words. It is those words that will help the search engines figure out what your site is about and where to rank it in the search engine results.

On page optimization means that you have enough of the right words on the page to make things easier for the search engines. So when creating a page, you should identify the specific keyword(s) that you want to rank for and mention the term on the page at least once. For example, if you’re a dentist in Plantation, Florida and want to rank for Plantation FL dental services, you should mention that term or something very similar on the page. You should also include it in the title tag for the page.

The title tag is the title that you see atop each result that shows up when you query the search engines. This tag is not necessarliy the same thing as the headline for the page article. The title tag is strictly used for the benefit of the search engines.

6. Don’t spam the search engines. Spamming can happen in a number of ways. But what this means for your website is that you don’t want to upload tons of articles that are useless gibberish. This will hurt your search engine rankings.

7. Keep adding content. These days people’s attention spans are very short, so they will get bored unless you keep feeding the beast. Add interesting and valuable content to your website on an ongoing basis. Set a schedule and stick to it. If you can post content 4 times per month, then do that every month.

8. Establish a link building strategy. Quality and relevant links are the currency of the Internet. One way that helps Google and the other search engines to determine who should rank number one for a search term is the quantity and quality of links pointing to your website.

So create a strategy for getting other relevant websites to link to yours. When you do this, people from the other sites will click on the link to learn more about your services or products. And as mentioned above, the incoming links will help your site rise in the search engines, thus attracting even more traffic.

9. Don’t worry about search engine noise. From time to time you’ll hear about Google changing things in its search engine, and the entire Internet will be buzzing about the impact. People will be screaming about how the Google Penguin or Panda or whatever update has hurt their rankings.

You shouldn’t try to keep up with all these shenanigans. If you’re not doing anything to game or trick the system, you most likely won’t be impacted. The search engines are constantly tweaking things to fight spammers, tricksters, and black hatters who find little ways to manipulate the search engine results to their favor.

10. Have a marketing strategy. I alluded to this in item 1, but it can’t be said enough. Don’t make the mistake that when you build your website, visitors will flock to it right away. “Build it and they will come” is a classic movie line, but it doesn’t work that way on the web. You’ll need to develop a plan that incorporates all aspects of marketing online and offline.

Marketing Doesn’t Begin Until You Have a Message

talking on bullhornI’ve been doing business online since 2002. So I’ve seen all kinds of schemes come and go. I’ve also had conversations with, and sold products to, many people who wanted to find their fortune online.

During an initial conversation, I would ask the aspiring entrepreneur about the type of business they’re dreaming of starting on the Internet.

In many cases, the person would tell me how the idea popped into their head while taking a shower or driving to their 9 to 5 job. So, I would ask them questions such as…

– Do you know if people are searching for your product or service online? If so, how many?

– Do you know the demographics of your potential audience? (Note: The answer to this one is frequently, “Everyone is a potential customer.” Wrong answer!)

Anyway, it never takes me too long to determine that the entrepreneur is heading down a path with blinders on. They don’t realize that their best chance of succeeding in business is to have a plan, including a marketing plan.

The plan should be written down and be as detailed as possible. It should include specific steps and milestones, along with completion dates. Having such a plan will keep you motivated and on track.

Develop a Strong Message First

In order for people to clearly understand both you and the aim of your business, you need to have a strong message. It should convey the mission of the business and address what makes you different from the competition.

In the world of marketing, this message is referred to as your USP.

The “U” stands for unique. You have to do some soul searching and identify the primary way(s) that your business will stand above the rest.

The “S” refers to selling. You’re going to be offering some sort of service or product and convincing people to shell out their hard-earned money, right? So you want to be clear on what’s for sale, without convincing yourself that it has to be everything under the sun.

The “P” refers to proposition (sometimes referred to as position). When you’re putting forth your offerings, what will you be proposing to buyers? What’s the deal and why is it more special than other items or services that may be perceived as similar?

Now, whether you realize it or not, you’re probably familiar with several powerful and famous USPs. Remember any of these:

Domino’s Pizza – Delivery in 30 minutes or less or you get the pizza for free.

Federal Express – When it absolutely, positively has to be their overnight.

M&M’s – Melt in mouth, not in your hands.

Burger King – Have it your way.

As you examine these great USP’s, there’s one key thing that should jump out at you. Each of them conveys a very attractive benefit to the customer. There is a built-in promise.

Of course, these large companies hired expensive marketing and advertising agencies to nail down their USP into one pithy and catchy statement.

You may get there as well. But don’t try to nail down a cool short sentence right off the bat. Instead, take out pen and paper and jot down all the features and benefits of your product or service. When I do this, I use what is called the “So what?” technique. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say that your product is a high-end Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). One unique feature that you’re offering is a rear-mounted camera. Now pretend that you’re a potential buyer who says, “So what? Why should I care about a rear mounted camera?”

This is when you start to list all the benefits that you can think of for having such a camera. The list might look something like this:

– You’ll avoid running over a child or person who might be behind the vehicle.
– You’ll be able to see what’s behind you so that you won’t damage the vehicle or property.
– You’ll feel more comfortable knowing that there’s nothing in your blind spot.
– You’ll avoid the feeling of guilt in the event you back over a pet or person.
– You’ll avoid higher insurance rates because the risk of backing into something will be greatly reduced.
– You’ll be able to go about your day with a smile and the comfort that you’re serious about driving safely.

Okay, that’s enough. So for each key feature that makes your product special, you would lay out a list of benefits just as I did above. Don’t stop with six benefits like I did. Stretch your imagination. What you’ll end up with is a huge list of compelling benefits. And guess what?

People buy products and services because of their benefits, not the features. The benefits do the selling.

So with your list of benefits in hand, you’ll have the fuel you need to power your marketing and advertising campaigns.

Need to write a long sales letter? No problem. All you have to do is turn your list of benefits into bullet points or paragraphs. Mention the feature and follow on with the benefits.

So there you have it. With a clear marketing message in hand, you’ll be ahead of the crowd. Of course, you’ll have to also understand your market and audience, and tailor your message so that it speaks directly to them.

For more marketing tips, return to the home page www.e-mps.org

Benefits of Direct Email Marketing

For a moment, I want you to remove your local business owner hat and put on your average consumer hat. Now I want you to imagine yourself going to your home mailbox and pulling out all the envelopes, flyers, and postcards stuffed inside.

Like you, I get all kinds of “junk mail” that I never knowingly signed up to receive. Nevertheless, all of the offers and advertisements you receive in the mail are a form of direct marketing.

direct email marketingBut without getting into why you receive certain types of mail, I want you to next imagine seeing a coupon from your favorite restaurant among the pile. It says, “For your next visit, buy one meal at regular price and get a second meal for 50% OFF! – Thanks for being a great customer.”

Now, I’m not big on clipping coupons. But when I see an irresistible offer like that, I’ll take full advantage. And guess what? Millions of people are just like me, and perhaps you, when it comes to certain deals.

My point is this. I retrieve mail from my mailbox every two or three days. But I check my e-mailbox several times a day. Most people are the same way. This is where direct email marketing and the following tips can be a boon for your business.

I’m not talking about spam which is unsolicited email that is spewed out to every email address that spammers can get their hands on. Direct e-mail marketing is all about reaching the right consumers who are ideal matches for your offers. You can buy direct e-mail lists for your area or you can create one from your existing customer base.

For direct e-mail marketing, all you have to do is sit down at your computer, type your offer into a pre-designed template, and send it out to a targeted list of potential patrons. In most cases, you can have everything done in 10 to 15 minutes. Of course, you can surf the Internet and purchase a do-it-yourself emailing program (such as eliteemail.com) that make this a snap or hire someone to do it.

What’s even better is that the cost of sending direct e-mail is nothing even remotely close to what’s involved with direct mail. Think about what it takes to send out a printed offer. You have design and printing costs, envelope stuffing, and postage. It can be an expensive endeavor, especially when you consider that 1% or less of the recipients will take you up on your offer.

Now, I know that restaurants are an easy target when it comes to who should implement a direct emailing program. But every business that wants to increase its sales and profits should have one.

Let’s take a look at another “not so obvious” business that could benefit from direct emailing. For my local area, here’s a Coral Springs dermatologist website that’s nice looking and offers a wide variety of skin care services.

You’ll find things such as Botox injections, chemical peels, laser hair removal, etc. Given that I live in sunny South Florida, I’m sure they are doing pretty well. But I suspect they could do even better. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say that they ask every patient they treat (or that makes an appointment) for their email address. It’s easy to get this information. All they have to do is tell the patient that the email address would be helpful for follow-up and feedback, appointment changes, and discounts that may be offered. I have no doubt that more than 90% of the patients would gladly hand over this bit of information.

With the email addresses in hand, the dermatology office has a world of options. For example, the dermatologist could email patients an electronic coupon that offers a 25% discount on Botox injections if an appointment is made within the next 14 days. The email could also include a refer-a-friend link that increases the discount to 50% if the customer brings in two or more of their friends.

And here’s where direct emailing beats the pants off of traditional direct mail marketing. Most quality emailing programs come with a back-end infrastructure that allows you to see all kinds of statistics related to the email. For example, you’ll know who opened the email and who didn’t, the date and time the email was opened, number of people who clicked on the refer-a-friend link, and more.

With this key data at your fingertips, you’ll be able to determine the effectiveness of your campaigns and refine your process accordingly. As an example, for the patients who took the deal, you’ll be able to segment them into a new emailing bucket and extend additional offers that are similar or related.

And if your campaign was not as successful as you had hoped, you’ll be able to narrow the reasons. Was it the wrong day of the week to send out the offer? Was the email not opened by many people because of a poor subject line? Of course, you won’t have all of the answers until you test several different offers, but the possibilities are endless.

Over time, you’ll gather enough data to determine which offers are worth repeating and which are a waste of time. You’ll also be able to identify minor tweaks that can make a huge difference. Forget testing minor tweaks with printed offers unless you have major bucks to spend.

Think about how this can affect your bottom line in a positive way. You’ll be able to quickly get a cash infusion into your business during slack times or slow days. And the best thing is that you can do it without all the cost and hassle involved with direct mail.