Not so long ago when looking for information regarding a product or service, the best place to start was the phone book. How quickly times have changed! Australians are some of the highest internet users in the developed world.
According to Nielsen Market Intelligence, 16.2 million Australians viewed 31.8 billion pages online and spent on average 40 hours across 63 sessions in October 2013 alone! So what does this mean for your business?
Currently less than 42% of small businesses have a website.
Having an online presence for your business is important to make sure you can be found by potential customers whether they are at home, the office or on the move.
Does my business need a website?
If a website is the most effective way to reach your customers, there are several types that you may wish to consider:
- A brochure website promotes and informs customers about who you are and what it is you do. This type of website should showcase your products, offer information about a service you provide, your contact details and contain a photo gallery or short video.
- An e-commerce website can drive additional revenue to your business by selling your products or services online. They require more maintenance than a brochure website, but have the advantage that your business is “open 24 hours”, meaning that you could be selling while you sleep! You will need a payment gateway that allows customers to make a purchase (e.g. PayPal).
- An educational or engagement website (e.g. blog, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn) can be used to educate consumers about the benefits of your products or services, allow other consumers to offer input and allow you to directly engage with consumers. You need to carefully consider who your target market is, if they are not likely to engage and converse online, then this type of website should be avoided. These types of web pages can be linked to your existing website.
Before building a website for your business, you should carefully consider what you want from a website. Having a website will affect the way you run your business.
You will need to find time to manage your site, ensuring it’s up-to-date or you may need to reply to an increased number of enquiries or process additional sales.
Some key points to consider before building a website:
- Who is your target market and what would they look for online?
- Do you want to simply promote products or services to encourage more enquiries?
- Do you want customers to be able to purchase your products or book your services online?
- How will having a website affect your time management?
- What changes to your business will you need to make to be online ready?
Just as with the rest of your business you need to set some goals to measure against and adjust to make continual improvement. Ask yourself, do you want to:
- Use your site just to provide further information?
- Increase the number of enquiries and sales leads?
- Educate your consumers?
- Sell and process orders online?
Getting a website URL
A URL (or uniform resource locator) is a unique internet address where your website will sit. You need this in order for your website to be found and viewed.
A URL is not your actual website, you will still need to construct a page that can be found at your URL address.
The most common URL addresses in Australia are those that end in “.com.au” or “.net.au”.
You need to make sure your preferred URL is available. Ideally, a URL should be your business name or a term which best describes what you do or sell (e.g. www.yourbusinessname.com.au).
If your ideal URL is available, it should cost between $15-35 for a two year term. If it’s not available, you may wish to back-order it. However this can be expensive and will only be worthwhile if the current owner releases it.
Creating great content
In order for potential customers to get a good understanding of what it is you do or sell, you will need to publish the right information.
For websites that feature products, ensure you get an accurate description from your supplier and highlight what makes it stand out from the competition.
For those who offer services, write down exactly what it is you offer and why a customer should choose you over someone else.
If possible, have a look at your competitor’s website. Examine what type of look and feel they have, navigate your way around the site and read the content.
If you are a bit unsure as to how best describe what you do, you may gain some insight, but make sure you create your own original content!
Remember that when writing your content, be thorough but concise. When it comes to writing your company profile, or “About” page, it is important to reflect on what your business is and what it stands for.
Try not to put too much content about your history or personal involvement, keep it to what your business can do for its customer.
Designing your website – professional or do-it-yourself?
There are many options to build your site including a range of do-it-yourself (DIY) options.
Self-build website companies usually offer a range of template themes that can be tailored to suit the look and feel that you are trying to achieve. For many of them it is free to use their building software, but you will need to pay them for hosting your website. Companies can be found on Google by typing in “free website templates”.
Most website developers or marketing firms will also use some sort of template to build your site, but you will still need to supply them with content about your products and services.
A professional will be more up-to-speed with current trends in terms of look and design, navigation and overall functionality.
If you choose to use a professional website company, do your homework to see what experience they have and what support services they offer, especially after your website is complete. Also, compare pricing to ensure good value for money.
Some design tips that should be applied to both professionally created and DIY websites include:
- be clean and free from clutter across the pages
- be easy to navigate through to the various pages
- have clear contact details, including an email responder to allow customers to contact you directly from the site
- contain a Google map displaying your location
- use high quality images as these will go a long way to describing your product or service (if you don’t have quality images, consider getting a professional or a friend who is skilled in photography to take some photos for you, or consider using stock photography).
Most importantly, first impressions count! On average you have less than 30 seconds to grab a browser's attention, so make sure your site is going to grab the browser’s attention quickly!