Too many companies pay for a beautiful-looking website and branding without putting any thought into ongoing goals. A pretty website and logo aren't enough to catch the interest of your prospects and turn them into customers.
So what should you focus on to make sure your brand not only looks great, but helps you achieve your business goals? Here we'll go over the main areas that will improve your online presence and brand image.
FIND YOUR UNIQUE BRAND VOICE AND IDEAL CLIENTS
Before we even begin to talk about technical items, this is the most important thing. I recommend this exercise even before you create or update your business website.
Who are you talking to (or at least trying to talk to)? Have you taken the time to figure out your ideal customer avatar, often referred to as your buyer persona?
Figuring out who you would like to attract to your business - how they talk, where they hang out, what their biggest concerns are - will allow you to tailor all content and writing towards them. If your website speaks in their language, addresses what they care about, and helps them solve their problems before you even get on the phone with them then you are light years ahead of 99% of your competition.
Your ideal prospects will feel this when they land on your website. They'll think, "Wow! This person really gets ME and understands what's important in my world." Have you ever come across an advertisement, blog, or page where it felt like the author was speaking directly to you? How did that make you feel? Were you more interested in that person or company? That is what you want from your prospects.
Many companies make the mistake of trying to be everything to everyone. The phrase "niches make riches" is known for a reason! Think about if you needed a deck built. Would you rather use the company that only builds decks, or the general contractor that does everything? Most people will always choose a specialist over a generalist. When you zero in on one or a few areas you're great at, that's when clients really begin to view you as an expert.
Take the time to figure out who you want to attract, research their needs and lifestyles, and hone in on your best services. Then plan all website and marketing content accordingly. This is not optional if you want success!
[Download our free Buyer Persona Workbook to help you easily complete this step]
SHOW UP IN SEARCH RESULTS
In an age where most business happens online, not showing up in search results can really hurt you. While there’s no real shortcut to showing up consistently on web searches, there are a few quick fixes to get your site to show up on potential customer’s search results.
What are HTML tags, you might ask? You likely see some every day. These are different indicators added to posts and pages that help search engines figure out what your site's content is about. Good tags will help your website and posts show up in search results for your targeted terms.
Title tag - the title of a particular webpage. Here's an example of how it's displayed in a Google search:
Your title should describe what the page is about, and naturally contain its main topic or keyword.
Meta description tag - a summary of what the page is about, seen under the title and URL in a web search.
Ideally, whatever keywords and/or phrases you'd like to rank for should be included in the meta description. Make it natural though. If you're trying to be found for "office supplies", don't just repeat the phrase "office supplies" ten times in your description! Modern search engines are great at figuring out when someone is trying to rank using underhanded techniques like this and will penalize you.
It's ideal to have your desired keyword or phrase in both the title and meta description. This will make it more clear to search engines what your page is about.
Header tags - these are contained within your content itself and help organize it, along with making certain topics easy to find for your readers. Headings and subheadings help search engines determine what is discussed on the page itself, and can further assist in boosting your rankings when done well.
This is a primary heading (H1).
H1 headings are the main indicator of what your page or post is about. They usually appear as the largest. Most pages should only have one.
This is a secondary heading (H2).
These are great for indicating secondary or sub-topics in your content. Most pages will contain a few.
This is an example of heading 3 (H3).
Aaand so on. Headers are useful for organizing different major and minor topics in any content. Most site builders will have options all the way down to heading 6 (H6). These are great for making your content easy to navigate and understand for both readers and search engines.
Image alt tags
Alt tags are basically descriptions for images. By adding relevant alternative tags to images, you are allowing search engines to recognize them, which will improve the likelihood of your page showing up in search results.
For example, when you use Google image search, the reason Google can find relevant images to your search is by using alt text. Google can't actually "see" what the images contain, so these tags are how it finds them.
If you use relevant images with descriptive tags in your content, people may find your website through image searches, again drawing more people to your site.
How simple is your HTML file hierarchy? Check to see if your website’s pages are logically situated and avoid too many unnecessary folders.
For example: ‘NFL=>Teams=>PittsburghSteelers’ is a better folder structure than ‘NFL=>Teams=>NFCEast=>PittsburghSteelers’, because here ‘NFCEast’ is redundant and only serves to push the Steelers page deeper down the order. This complexity makes your site less likely to show up on search results for people searching for Steelers websites.
Read your website content to determine its quality. Too many people worry more about ranking well than providing their visitors with value. Search engines have gotten great in the last few years at penalizing websites that prioritize rank over meaning.
Have you ever clicked on a top page in the search results and been presented with a crappy article with very little worthwhile information? Search for 'blue widgets' and the page you're presented with says something like, "If you're looking for blue widgets, we have the best blue widgets. Our blue widgets come in all shapes and sizes for people who need blue widgets. Don't shop anywhere else for your blue widget desires because our blue widgets are second to none. Blue widgets."
Lots of folks encountered this problem. People would try to game the search engines by using keyword stuffing (see above) and other deceitful tricks to rank higher without actually offering anything useful. Thankfully, search engines are great at seeing and punishing creators who do this now. They want content that is helpful and written with a human audience in mind. It's not enough to simply bring people to your page. Search engines take note of how long people stay and factor that into your ranking, making quality even more important.
Is your content written for search engines or actual visitors? Is it stuffed with keywords? Does it truly add value to your audience, or is it simply there to fill up the page? Answer these questions and make sure it has value for your audience. Value for your audience translates to better search engine rankings.
Optimize for mobile
More prospects are likely accessing your business website more through their smart phones, tablets, or other mobile devices than with a laptop or PC. Around 40% of visitors move on to a competitor if they have a poor mobile experience. Google also prioritizes websites that are optimized well for mobile, giving your site another leg up on the competition if it's optimized.
Make sure your mobile site is different from your regular website - Your mobile website should be simpler than your web version. Complicated designs that load well and look good on computers are often distorted when accessed through a mobile device. Plus, mobile surfers don’t really have the time to sift through a lot of content. Bottom line: your website’s mobile friendly version should be short, simple and sweet...offering your viewers the most important and basic sections of your website.
That said, do provide your viewers with the option to access your regular website through their mobile device, as some viewers will prefer to stick with what is familiar.
Get rid of Flash - Most mobile devices don’t support flash nowadays. It's outdated and extremely insecure. Keep this in mind when optimizing your website for the mobile surfer. Simple images that load fast are your best bet.
Test - Make sure you test your mobile website thoroughly on different operating systems, browsers and devices. What looks good on one device might be totally distorted on another.
GET MORE CONVERSIONS
Your website represents your business and so building and maintaining it needs to be of primary concern to you as a business owner. Have you ever thought, "My website looks great, but I'm not getting any business from it" or "I invested so much into creating my website, but I don't get many hits.” These are very common pains faced by companies, especially smaller ones.
Is your goal to get more in-store visitors? Increase website purchases? Receive more leads from your content? Figure out what you'd like to achieve and use any or all of the website and brand improvement suggestions below to help you get there.
Make sure your site has a significant amount of content and that the content is relevant and meaningful (read the above info about content twice!) Having the right amount of good content adds value and appeals to your target audience.
Don't fill the site with jargon and keywords just for the sake of it. Bad content will drive people away from your site in a hurry, dropping your time on site statistics and signaling to search engines that your page is not worth staying on for long.
Most businesses should consider a mix of both free and paid content. Use your free content to demonstrate your expertise and personality, and draw people to your site for popular search terms for your industry. "Paid" content is generally not exchanged for money, but rather for contact information. This can include in-depth guides, reports, whitepapers, quizzes, tutorials, courses, and any other more valuable content that prospects would be willing to give you contact details to receive. This is a great way to collect new, interested leads for your company.
Nothing has more impact on your prospects than them hearing about your product/service from their peers. We can talk about how amazing we are all day long, but hearing it from an actual customer makes a difference.
Some prefer to take client reviews from various sources and add them to their website. This is great, but you should ensure these reviews match up with others online. If someone only reads glowing testimonials on your website, but Google reviews argue that there are serious issues with your service, they'll be more inclined to believe Google since you don't have control over that platform like you do your own site.
You may consider embedding review widgets from places like Yelp or Trustpilot, or linking to review pages on Google or Facebook, for more credibility with site visitors.
Case studies and testimonial videos make for fantastic content too. They take a little more effort to put together, but can seriously pay off in the long run.
Social media, when done correctly, it is a great medium to enhance your brand presence online. Many simply create a profile and say "good enough". To be successful on social, you need to dedicate the time to building your brand and authentic relationships with your community.
You'll want to outline a regular posting schedule that includes your and third party articles, pictures, video, guides, and anything your audience will find useful. Advertising may be appropriate on certain platforms depending on your business.
Be sure to link from your website to your social media profiles to help drive traffic, and vice versa.
Tell your web visitors how to get in touch with you. They shouldn't have to search the entire site to figure out how to contact you. Provide your contact information/contact form very clearly for them to use.
Call to action
A call to action is a prompt towards what you hope your prospect will do. This includes things like contact us, get a quote, buy now, download, etc. However, make sure these are well thought out and clear.
Our friend Josh Richards from Copy in Action points out, "A lot of sites try to get you to do too much by saying 'Join our list, buy now, call today, get more information'. When you do that, you wear people out mentally and confuse them. They end up doing nothing. Try to give them just one key thing to do on a page with as little distraction as possible."
Incorporate a website tracker that helps you track the leads that come in from your website. You can use services such as Google Analytics that are free and provide you basic details such as number of hits, location, time spent on pages, etc. You can use these insights to find popular pages, posts that could use improvement, how your visitors journey through your site, which avenue they arrived from, and much more valuable information.
Search engine optimization is a key factor in determining the ROI of your website. Make sure your site is optimized for search engines so that it shows up when your prospects search for you. Most people think this SEO is simple, but it takes a lot of time and ongoing work. You might consider hiring a person or company to handle this for you, or training a staff member.