Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Effective Websites; Realizing Online Potential

NUSTADIA Recreation; LCI Sports Centre

Part 1 of 2; Building Your Online Brand

Written by Robyn T. Braley 

I recently spoke to a group of business leaders who asked the question, “What makes an effective website?” Regardless of how new, powerful, dynamic or successful your website is, you will soon be contacted by an “expert” who will tell you it sucks. What is fact and what is fiction? 

A few weeks ago a client told me how frustrated he was with the number of email and telephone contacts he receives from people who speak an unfamiliar language. I call it webschpeak. He had no idea what they were saying. Mind you, he has a distinct Newfoundland twist to his words. I suspect they didn’t understand him either.

In this post I provide an overview of website basics that will help you evaluate your business site. At a minimum, after reading this you will be able to nod in the right places the next time a web designer uses webschpeak terminology.

The bottom line is that an effective online presence is imperative. People search for products, services, locations and other relevant information online. They buy cars, make hotel registrations, seek manufacturing services, source drillbits or look for jobs. If you can’t be easily found, you are not in the game.

However, once potential customers eventually find you and are confronted with a dated, poorly designed website that takes forever to load and has little relevant information, you are making a negative brand impression.

Dynamic and Responsive

On the other hand, if a dynamic, engaging site that loads quickly, is easy to navigate and clearly demonstrates your products or services pops up, chances are they will want to learn more. First impressions are where you start building meaningful relationships with your customers.  

And one more thing! Today's websites must be mobile responsive. In other words, they must automatically adjust to our phone, iPad, tablet or your smart watch.  

Brand Definition

If you have attended one of my marketing seminars you have heard my explanation of branding. 

"Branding is a process of thematic thinking in which all parts make a significant contribution to the whole. There are no small parts. Everything counts." (Read my blog Branding the Pig and the Cow).

It all comes down to this question. Does your website reflect the value and brand experience your company offers? Does it effectively tell your story? If not, it may be time for an upgrade.  

Online Brand Basics

Building your brand should drive everything you do, especially online marketing.
There are four basic elements to online marketing.
·       Know
·       Like
·       Trust
·       Engage

Your website should create awareness through search engine ranking or linking. Once visitors are aware of your site, is there enough content to encourage them to spend time getting to know you? Will they feel positive – or like - your company?  

After the initial brand experience is there enough to suggest they can trust you? Is there relevant information that will lead them to believe your company will do what your website says it will do?

Finally, are there enough relevant prompts to motivate them to interact with your brand? Will they contact you allowing further engagement and relationship building?   

Three Basic Elements

There are elements to creating a strong online presence; a dynamic responsive website, online marketing, and social media. “Experts” will mislead you by promising great riches due to their abilities in one but not all areas. They are only telling part of the story.

One discipline should not be separated from the other. Each supports the other. When all three processes are part of an integrated plan, good things happen.

Dramatic Changes

The entire online universe has changed so dramatically that a website built even five years ago may not respond effectively to search engines in 2014. To put it simply, today’s websites are created differently using new practices, protocols and technologies.    

For example, remember when great emphasis was placed on key word phrases? Old news. Google now places greater weight on relevant content. Content basically means everything you see.
·       Meaningful text
·       Professional photos
·       Quality design
·       Videos
·       Navigation systems
·       Indexing
·       Regular updates
·       Other (end of article)

It is still a good idea to use key word phrases because other search engines rely on them. That may also change as search engines continue to evolve.  

In my next post I will discuss balanced marketing strategies, photography, SEO and list content elements. I give a warning about domain names and hosting.

Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker and music composer. He is the President of UniMark Creative which focuses on website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. Contact him at robyntbraley.com or unimarkcreative.com.


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