In the past, when people wanted to learn about a new company they would read a brochure, rely on advertising, word of mouth, or call up the company itself. These days, people visit a business’ website to learn about its products, employees, history, and values. I’ve compiled a list of the nine aspects of a website that will have the greatest impact for your company to drive revenue and opportunity. Think of it as a website checkup.
1. Online Branding
A website’s ability to engage customers and facilitate an ongoing relationship with them is the key to successful branding. We all have, at one time or another, been affected by both successful and unsuccessful website branding efforts. In short, if it isn’t done correctly, it hurts a printing company and marketing service provider’s ability to gain and retain business through this channel.
The most important thing to understand is that an online brand is multidimensional. It’s more than just a messaging and identity effort. It is also the degree to which you ensure a positive user experience, optimize usability, and incorporate technology that addresses your user’s needs. When an online brand is done well, it can catapult a company ahead of the competition.
2. Update the Content
Search engines such as Google are cracking down on websites that are full of useless, copied information in an effort to provide valuable content to their visitors.
The Internet has become overloaded with websites that have been set up in an effort to promote and advertise products and services. Consumers, however, have become more educated and want content that is original, to the point, and addresses their needs. In our industry it is as simple as sharing how we solve problems for businesses rather than communicating how we create a printed piece.
Another critical consideration for content is freshness. If you have what you consider to be great content, but it’s three years old, it´s not going to look like your site is much of a priority. The search engines actually track this and monitor how frequently your site changes as they visit for indexing. The more often it changes the better your ranking in the freshness category.
3. Contact Info on Every Page
With 75 percent of consumers going online prior to making a purchase, it is critical to have contact info on your website. After all, we no longer use the yellow pages—we go online to get phone numbers, find an address, and look at business hours.
Your website is an interactive yellow pages ad. A quick check to make sure your phone number, address, and hours are on every page—yes, every page—will make your visitors happy and drive more business into your shop.
4. Easy Navigation
Keep it simple and make sure the navigation is consistent from page to page.
A good rule of thumb is that a website visitor can get anywhere in the website in three clicks or fewer. Simple navigation keeps people coming back to your site.
5. Images and Graphics
If you are easily impressed with Flash, please don’t design your website or navigation with it. Flash frustrates individuals in a business environment, so keep in mind that most of your customers are businesspeople. In addition to that, many individuals don’t have or want a Flash plug-in, and search engine spiders can’t read it.
Make sure that every image on your site has an Alt tag. An Alt tag tells search engine spiders what the picture is as they are not able to read images, only text that describes an image.
Think like your customer and label the image accordingly. Using generic and numeric descriptors isn’t very helpful to search engine optimization or to your customers.
6. Regular Browser Checks
When is the last time you looked at your website in each of the following browsers: Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and the numerous versions of these browsers?
Why does it matter? What works in one browser doesn’t work in all browsers. Don’t be surprised when you pull your site up in the different browsers and find aspects broken.
Unfortunately, if a site is broken in a particular browser, it reflects poorly on the business rather than the Internet browser.
7. Mobile Device Checks
Just as important as it is to visit your site in different browsers, it is equally important to check your site on as many mobile devices and tablets you can get your hands on. Make sure all links work and, most importantly, that your phone number is clickable.
8. Create a Knockout Portfolio
A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Many of the websites in our industry are lacking a portfolio and examples of projects the printing company has created. It takes a little time to pull projects together, however, it is time well spent.
To get started, identify five products you want to promote. Be selective and show only the type of projects you want to do. The quality of the images shown is only as good as your weakest project. When possible, share the back story of the piece you are showcasing. Show your customer’s objective, then explain and illustrate how your company provided the solution. To put icing on the cake, when permissible, post a testimonial from the client.
9. How Do You Look?
Looks do matter—not always in the manner we think. When it comes to targeting our print buyers, clean and simple are best. Avoid things like black backgrounds with white text (inverse text is harder to read), ALL CAPS (we read by identifying word shapes and writing in all caps forces people to read every letter), and numerous fonts (meaning more than three on one page), which leads to distraction and causes visitors to exit a page before taking in all the content. Keep it simple.
In all the years of working in the printing industry and with websites I’ve learned one thing for certain: the companies that are growing may not have the snazziest or best looking websites, rather they connect with their customers and prospects who need to purchase the services they sell.
Tawnya Starr is president of FireSpring’s PrinterPresence (www.MyPRINTResource.com/10007416). She has dedicated her career to educating the printing industry on proven website and marketing strategies. Contact her at Tawnya.Starr@Firespring.com.