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So you have a website. Great! But how well is it working for you? Do you send your prospects to your site to demo your products or service? Can customers place their orders online? Can new prospects find you on the Internet through search engines? Can your sales staff access status reports and download company forms as needed? Or does your site simply facilitate e-mail correspondence and show that, yes, you are on the Internet and have a web presence?

Many companies consider their website simply as an online brochure. And while the Internet can offer a low-cost method of distributing your information in some very sophisticated and creative manners using four-color photographs, graphics, flash, music, and even animation, this doesn’t begin to tap into what a well-designed website can offer your company. A successful website should streamline the sales process efficiently and effectively. It should also drive Internet traffic to your site.

To be truly effective web sites should be designed for two entities: The End-User and the Search Engines.

The first entity is the end-user, your customer. And two clicks is all you get. If your customer cannot find the information they are looking for or how to place an order within two clicks, they will exit your site and move on to your competitors. Intuitive usability and site functionality are critical to the success of your site. Get your customer’s feedback on your current site. Are they finding what they want with ease? Or does your home page take too long to load?

The other entity a website should be designed for is the search engines. Optimization of your site for the search engines consists of several factors, including: key words, relevant text, site design and navigation, coding, internal hot linking, reciprocal linking, search engine hand submissions, (search engines no longer accept electronic submissions), paid inclusions, paid placement and key word auctions.

Does your company need all of this? Not necessarily, but online marketing and optimization should definitely be addressed in your company’s annual marketing program.

Web site optimization can begin simply with content review. Text on a web site is not the same as copy writing an ad or brochure. The search engines are designed to examine your site for key words and phrases that are relevant to your product offering strategically placed throughout the text. Effectively saturating your content with these words and phrases without spamming is one of the best ways to begin to rank in the search engines.

If your home page is multi-media with graphics and flash, search engines can’t read your site. That doesn’t mean your site can’t have photos and graphics, it just means that they need to be properly placed and contain relevant programming code so they can be read by the engines.

Search engine optimization is a powerful marketing tool that can make your web site found. A web site by itself is passive. Statistics show that customers using search engines have already made the decision to buy, they are just determining where and when.

If you want these potential customers, not only do you need to optimize your site, you need to maintain optimization. Unfortunately what might have worked yesterday to rank your site, will not work tomorrow. Search Engines are constantly changing the formulas used to read sites and thus it is essential to maintain online marketing efforts to fine tune web sites.

Overwhelmed? The first thing to do is evaluate your site. Ask your customers for feedback. What information do they find useful? What information would they like to see? Type in some key words or phrases in some of the major search engines and try to find your site. Talk with your web site company about changes and optimization. Just like your advertising program, web site optimization and online marketing needs to be included in your sales and marketing budget.

And finally, understand that two clicks can mean a sale for you or a sale for your competitor.

On Track Marketing Solutions is a local consulting firm that focuses on integrated marketing strategies designed for today’s economy. You can reach them by phone at (407) 375-5598