Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail. Heard it before? Sure, we all have. Like every project, developing a website is not exempt from the popular saying. At Canada's Web Shop, we've developed a series of steps we follow whenever we develop a client website. Not only do these steps reduce development time, they also make the website easier for search engines to index and easier to use by its visitors.
- Establish the Main Purpose of Your Site - A website must have a reason to be live. The first step to building an effective website is to decide what you want your website to do for you and your company. Will you be selling product online? Do you want to distribute information? Do you want to generate sales leads? Do you want to create an online sales brochure? Once you’ve figured out what the main purpose of your website will be, it’s time to move on to step 2, identifying your profitable niche products and services.
- Identify Your Profitable Niche Products and Services - Every business has some unique products and services that set them apart from the rest of the competition. Step 2 of the effective website building process is to look at your product/service lineup and determine which of these are niche products and services which differentiate you from your competitors.
Doing so will allow you to effectively market to smaller chunks of your overall market as opposed to using a shotgun approach targeting the entire market all at once. For example, Mystery, Cooking, and Politics represent niche products for the Independent Bookseller.
Another example: If you’re a new real estate agent starting out advertising on the web, using a broad marketing strategy such as targeting all real estate buyers can be challenging due to such high competition in the industry. You’re much better off to decide what type of real estate you specialize in and consider this your niche offering focusing more on this type. Consider sub-areas of real estate such as commercial buildings, downtown properties, cottages and weekend getaways. These are all niche products.
This strategy typically results in better-combined results over time. Deciding on niche products and services early on in the process allows you to focus your efforts towards delivering targeted visitors to your website with these products and services in mind.
Once you’ve identified your Niche Products/Services, you’ll move onto the next step: Determining your demographic target audience.
- Determine Your Demographic, Your Target Audience - Continuing from Step 2 in our November issue, the next critical step to building an effective website is to determine your demographic. Working backwards from your niche products which you identified in Step 2, identify and describe in detail who your niche products will service. Examples could be: Working Mothers, Financial Advisors, Single Parents, Teachers or Truck Drivers. Try to segment your demographic as much as possible -- for example, by age -- so that when you create your website it speaks directly to this group. The more targeted the audience, the better your website will perform.
- Determine Your Geographic Target Market - After you know who your customer is, it’s important to factor in geographical location. This will affect areas such as shipping (if you are selling online), serviceable areas, and sometimes how your website addresses your target audience. Several geographically targeted areas of your website will perform better than a single area which covers a larger geographic one. Think of local portals such as Yahoo.ca or Google.ca geared specifically for Canadians. Once you have decided on your geographic target market the next step is to consider a Pay Per Click campaign, which is an excellent research tool to determine what phrases prospects are searching for in the geographic location you have chosen. For more information on Pay Per Click, please contact us and we will be happy to explain the benefits of Pay Per Click advertising.
- Decide on Target Key Words/Phrases. Determine Supply/Demand - This stage commonly called Keyword Research is a vital phase of developing a website. Finding the most widely searched for terms for your new website and then optimizing your site for said keywords give your development a very distinct direction. Your web copywriters will know what keywords to target when writing copy, your developers will know what keywords to place in meta tags and anchor text, and your marketing team will have a better idea which websites to go after for links.
- Analyze Your Competition - If you’re up against a major challenge in a sporting event, chances are you’ll spend hours watching videos of the rival team. When you start developing your website, it’s game time. You and your team need to take time to study and analyze your competition in painstaking detail. Examine their web page programming code, find out who’s linking to them, evaluate their level of optimization for search engines, find out where they are ranking for the keywords you’re targeting. You’ll need to know exactly what you’re up against. Once you know that, then you can decide on a competitive strategy. Ask us about our competitive analysis services.
- Develop Your Marketing Message and Web Copy - Just like any sales interaction, every section of your website and your website as a whole must have a clear and focused direction. Without a Marketing Message, your website will appear busy, unprofessional, and worst of all, confusing to visitors. Instead of guiding them to a sale, you’ll end up overwhelming them and driving them away.
Early in the website development process, establish a very clear and concise marketing message around which to wrap your web copy. This will increase your chances of getting sales. Keep your content and product offerings tightly focused around a specific area to avoid giving your visitors the jack-of-all-trades feeling. There are many sites out there promoting products completely unrelated to one another. It’s similar to someone sitting at a booth and saying “Could I interest you in this? No? How about this? No? Ok, what about this?” I don’t know about you, but I think my first instinct would be: RUN
- OnSite Optimization - An important part of achieving good rankings on search engines is to make your website a search-engine-friendly website. This is known as On-Site optimization. On-site optimization involves many different things which can be broken down into two main areas of optimization: Content and Structure.
Optimizing Website Content: Content is everything on the page which your visitors can download, read, and interact with such as text, pictures, flash movies, audio, etc. Humans can view all of these but it’s important to remember that Search Engines cannot. A search engine’s main means of determining a site’s content is by its text. Thus, it’s vital for you to optimize your content with a generous amount of it so that search engines can properly index your website.
Optimizing Website Structure: Structure refers to the way your website is physically constructed in terms of links. Imagine a tree with your home page at the top. Each page linked from the home page is another page in the tree and considered a “level” or click below your home page and so on and so forth. Starting from your homepage, a search engine will “crawl” throughout your website feeding on content from each page. How many “levels” deep a search engine will crawl depends on many factors so it’s important to put as much of your important content as close to the top of the tree as possible. The more levels below your home page a particular page appears, the less likely it is to be visited and indexed by a search engine. The “Three Click Rule” is a good rule of thumb for designing a site. Anything beyond 3 clicks deep is not likely to get indexed; especially on a larger site with hundreds or thousands of pages.
- Marketing Your Website - Simply put, the marketing of your website is everything you do to make people aware of your website and the products/services you offer. The goal is to drive people to your website to perform a desired action known as a conversion. This might include purchasing a product or service, leaving contact information, subscribing to a newsletter/rss (Really Simple Syndication) feed, linking to interesting content, or simply visiting a specific page on your website.
Ways to market your website include:
- Pay per Click services such as Google Adwords
- Banner Advertising
- Email Marketing
- Social Media Marketing such as Facebook Ads
- Search Engine Marketing
- Offline & Traditional Media Advertising
Marketing your website successfully involves using one or more of the above methods to drive traffic but care must be taken in order to deliver the right message and accurately track the results of all advertising.
Without marketing, a website is a lot like a billboard advertisement placed in the forest. With no one around to see it, it does very little good.
Step 10 – Start Building Links to Your Website -Google evaluates each link pointing back to your website from another website as a vote to your overall site authority. For this reason, it’s important to develop and execute an ongoing link-building plan for your site. Some ideas for link building are:
- Directory Submission (Recommended)
- Paid and Rented Links (Not Recommended)
- Link Bait Articles (Recommended)
- Article Submission (Recommended)
- Social Media Promotion (Recommended)
- Giving Testimonials (Recommended)
- Soliciting Vendors & Suppliers for links (Recommended)
Submitting to 1 or 2 directories a week is a good way to slowly build incoming links.
Paid/Rented links is often seen as a way of forcefully manipulating search engine ranking factors and can be seen as a violation of Google’s Webmaster Policy. Such violations can result in a ranking penalty or worse, a ban from the search engine index altogether. We don’t recommend using this method and if you do, use it with great caution.
Link Bait articles attempt to use funny, compelling, unique, and/or controversial topics/content to bait people into linking to them.
Writing a good article or several good articles and then submitting them to Free Article Submission sites gives you another way to create a steady supply of incoming links as well as a chance for others to syndicate your article on other websites.
Social Media Promotion sites such as D.I.G.G. and Stumbleupon are great places to submit your linkbait article for promotion. Link building this way is not easy but it can be very rewarding if done right.
Giving your vendors and suppliers testimonials they can use on their website cleverly injected with your link is a win-win situation for both you and your vendor. You receive a link, they get a positive testimonial.
Cold calling or emailing other businesses for links on their websites can also be a way to get links but it’s not the best use of your time. Generally, businesses are reluctant to link to anyone unless there is a very good reason to. At best, you’ll agree to link to them if they link to you which is not what you want. Reciprocal links are seen as artificial and do not carry much weight by most search engines.