Given how expensive forking out for advertising can be and the constant need for small business owners to save money, its not surprising that many SMEs are opting for simple transactional websites and using cheaper ways to drive people towards their businesses.
Nicholas Miller is chief executive of marketing and communications company Kyp Systems. The company was active for a year when it launched its website. Miller says it was important to get the site functioning as both a shop window and information platform.
‘You have to be very clinical about how you choose what information you have on there,’ he says. ‘The important thing is to always update your site. Let people know that you do value it as another communication you’re having with them. Touch is important. If you can’t touch them physically, touch them with your message but make sure that it is something relevant.’
Miller observes that, when devising the website, all of the staff were involved in deciding what was relevant: ‘We got all of those responses and prioritised and acted on them and we constantly review those as well. It’s not just based on what our clients say to us but what we see ourselves.’
In addition, Miller commissioned two professors to write articles or ‘white papers’ about the company and its approach to marketing. ‘Not a week goes by when there isn’t something quite major changing on the site,’ says Miller.
Overall, the approach taken by Miller and his team follows what experts advise companies to do when launching and maintaining a website.
SEO vs PPC Advertising
We are now entering a phase where most people have a website and quite a lot of people understand the basics of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and PPC Advertising (Google Adwords for most, but also Microsoft Advertising). Actually making money out of your website is a different matter.
Businesses now want to know where the traffic on a site is going and how it can be directed to the page where user can actually buy your products or services.
Firstly, you need to avoid common pitfalls. Chris Barling, chief executive officer of software company Actinic, notes a lack of responsibility is the main mistake made by businesses. ‘There is a difference between working with experts because you don’t have the full expertise and abdicating your responsibility to make it work because you don’t have the expertise,’ he states.
Once a site is up and running companies are often content to let it be little more than a brochure. The classic SME website will have a smiling picture of the owner on the investors page. They’ll have their brand all over it and you’ll be able to click through ‘what we do’; ‘about us’; ‘contact us here’; and that’s about it.
If you want your website to be an integral part of your business, there are a number of techniques deemed to be effective. Barling recommends splitting how you look at your site into two, so there is a marketing process of getting people to your site, followed by the sales process once people have actually arrived.
‘Pay-per-click advertising has its place but search engine optimisation is the best thing if you do it right, but it takes time and effort,’ he adds. ‘There are a lot of shysters out there who take your money and deliver nothing.’ The point to remember is that SEO is not an exact science because information providers like Google and Yahoo won’t reveal the algorithms they use to conduct searches.
Nevertheless, after some highly educated guesswork, it has been found that certain keywords for ‘long-tail’ searches are effective in getting your company up that listing page. Essentially, long-tail means you need to link keywords to alert search engines that are looking for pages on a site that are deeper and more context-relevant than a homepage.
Clarity of purpose
As you analyse what’s happening on your site, track users, tailor marketing campaigns, keep everything fresh and lively, you can easily be swamped by the information available. To cut through the distractions, be clear about what you’re trying to achieve. Planning is fundamental to the success or failure of a website.