If your strategy for growth doesn’t include the web, you’re likely to miss a lot of sales. However, even if you’re a shrewd operator, you can easily spend a lot more developing a web site than you need to. You don’t know what you don’t know. And in the case of building a web site for your business, what you don’t know can be costly.
This is how it usually goes: You meet with a web developer, you will give him some idea what you want your site to do, he gives you some thoughts, and you agree on a scope of work. What you almost never get is the strategic marketing advice that you need to make your web site ring the cash register.
Let’s face it – web sites are a commodity. Just yesterday, I talked to a man who builds web sites. CHEAP. Many of his clients are marketing agencies. After they determine the keywords for their client, they hire him to develop the site. Once the site is up, these agencies do some level of search engine optimization. In other words, they make some changes to make the web site easier for the search engines like Google and Bing to find when a prospective customer types in a search term like “used 1998 Honda Accord transmission”
Don’t be fooled. No matter what the developer says, the cheap sites (below about $1500) don’t have much search engine optimization, though they may look nice. The web developer may very well tell you that your new or redesigned website is optimized, but how do you know?
Good news. You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars, but you have to know what to ask and how to check.
The biggest problem, really, is that the developers don’t usually understand your business, and don’t know the right questions to ask. They don’t understand the complex issues surrounding part look up, or the strategic issues of your customer mix now and/or where you want to migrate it, or shipping issues, pricing issues, and don’t mention cores or they are for sure thrown for a loop.
And you don’t know what to ask of the developer, you just want all the “cool” stuff. A blog? Sure, no prob! (With no discussion about who will post to it DAILY, using relevant terms and content designed to boost traffic to your site.) At my web site, www.MrMissionPossible.com, you can find free information that will help you develop a web site that makes your business money on all these topics and more:
- Choosing the Right USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for your business – Why should someone buy from you? What makes you different? How well does your site communicate that message? What proof do you have for what you’re claiming? If your USP is better quality, be prepared to say how in ways that matter to your customer.
- Choosing a good domain name – Why a domain with a keyword in it is usually better than something cute
- How to compete without Pay per Click campaigns – Put simply, you don’t need pay per click.
- How to drive the right visitors to your site – If you handle imports, you want visitors who are looking for the parts you sell; you don’t want to be overwhelmed by queries for domestic parts.
- How to build a site that will turn visitors into inquiries. Your site must be optimized and simple to use. Remember why they came. A lot of businesses have sites with home pages that are all about the business, pictures, warranties, etc. Make sure that your home page has a big red button in the center of the page that says “Find Parts Now”.
- How to use ethical techniques to improve search engine rankings. Don’t let others talk you into paying for rankings or doing things that will cause Google to ban your site.
- Best practices for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Review the items I’ve included in the best practices grid with your developer.
- All about blogs and RSS feeds – How to get the most from your blog and what should be in your plan before you add a blog to your site.
- Page titles and meta descriptions – Don’t let anyone tell you these aren’t a big deal. You will need to have the web developer hire content writers who know SEO. Expect to pay $20-$50 per page. It’s SO IMPORTANT. If your writers don’t know SEO, they don’t know how to write pages that users like and Google will rank well.
- Use of videos – Google owns You Tube, and you should produce some very simple videos and use throughout the site. DO THEM IN HOUSE. Upload them yourself. Use that little camera you got for Christmas two years ago. Talk 30 seconds about dismantling. 30 seconds about your guarantee. Write your script on poster board and rehearse it for, oh, about a minute. Get the picture?
- Using Press releases to get back links –Do them yourself, or give them to your manager’s daughter who just graduated from college. The best service and the only one I recommend is 24/7 because you can put links in the release that point back to your site. Write about the new equipment you just put in service, or the latest service you are offering. Figure one per month for the first year, and add as many links as you can in the release while making it nice and readable. It’s about backlinks. If it’s a good topic and a well written release, send to the local paper, you will get some coverage occasionally. But remember this story is about web strategy.
- Registering your business with Google & Yahoo Local – Oftentimes you can’t get on the first page for a given term, but you can make it on the map there. And after you make it, ask customers and friends to give you some reviews.
- Reports to track your progress – You MUST track your exposure for your terms growth in traffic and where it comes from.
- Tracking your competitors – Before you start, go look at their sites. There are lots of free tools to tell you what their keywords are, and the “guts” of their site. Or just hit View>Source to see their code, while on the page.
- Understanding page rank – You must understand it, and watch it grow for your site. Google it, you will find more than I could write here.
- Knowing your Customer Acquisition Cost – Use this to evaluate your advertising methods. Did it cost you $400 to run that ad? Did you get 4 calls? Did you make one sale for $1,000? Your customer acquisition cost is $400. That’s humbling. I recently worked with a client that phased out an outside sales staff ($300k per year) after analyzing acquisition cost. He worked on his site, spending a fraction of the savings, his business is up, and he spends more time golfing. Yep, it’s possible.
- Creating a content plan – You must have an ongoing plan for who will produce fresh content like pictures of incoming cars and blog postings.
- Capturing Email – make sure your sales staff is gathering emails IN A SERIOUS way, and you are emailing a monthly or quarterly newsletter. Or even contacting customers that want to hear about new arrivals more regularly. There are plenty of traps with distributing emails in quantities above 100 or so, you will have to use one of the services like Constant Contact. Expect them to ask you how you got your list, and if you have too many bounces or get reported for spam, you can be dead, so pay attention.
Study the best practices grid I’ve included here before you meet with your web site provider. Don’t be afraid to e-mail me for more tips or a question, I’ve helped lots of recyclers and other businesses reach success on the web. I dont build sites, or want to, so that helps me help you without any conflicts.
WWW.URLTrends.com (to study competitors)
Google adwords (just type it in) to research traffic for given terms
WebTrends or other services to track your progress for exposure for selected keywords. If you arent on page one, you didn’t make the cut!
Google Analytics – just type it in to find it. Your web provide will have to put the code on your pages but he knows how.
WWW.WebsiteGrader.com, to review the site and make recommendations. It’s free, and there are plenty more tools like this.
http://whois.domaintools.com/ to see who owns a domain
Other terms to type in google to find free tools – “Keyword Extractor”, “SEO”, “website evaluator”, “SEO tools”.