We all want a website that makes an impression, but it must be the right impression. Find out how to push your website to the next level, without pushing it over the top.
Design-intensive websites with loads of content are often seen by business owners as important elements of a successful website. But, according to Fred Schebesta, managing director of Freestyle Media online marketing agency, this really isn’t the case.
Easy navigation should be one of your top priorities, says Schebesta. Without it, your customers will have trouble contacting you and reaching your product. “The most important thing, in terms of navigation for any SME website, is you need to know where your money page is,” he says. “Your money page is either your contact point, or your inquiry form, or in some cases the checkout and online cart. You want to funnel people through your site to those pages.”
Navigation was an important website design element for Night Nannies, an agency which provides sleep guidance and other specialised services for families in their homes. Although based in New South Wales, Night Nannies is a national agency and uses their website as a main point of contact for expanding their reach and saving time. “It was more important for us to have the web as the main shopfront because we feel that is where the market is going,” says Annemarie Sansom, Night Nannies director. “People are time poor, so most of our clients are using the internet as a research tool as well as to quickly find services.”
For easy navigation, the Night Nannies website features an aspect search. “It’s not a search engine, but if people still struggle to find information on the site they can just put in the search information as well,” says Sansom.
Inquiry forms are also a major business drawing point. “People may not want to ring up, so this allows them to be anonymous,” Sansom explains. “It’s quick and easy, and it can go from their inbox to ours and back again. And there’s no obligation on their part.”
Search and Response
However, having an online inquiry form and funnelling traffic to that page is useless if you don’t respond to visitors. “We always respond to every email and inquiry that’s done through our forms within 24 hours at the absolute latest,” says Sansom. “Every business needs to make sure they’re on top of that.”
Search engine friendliness is also high on Schebesta’s list. “That’s an absolutely critical element to any website,” he says. “Search engine friendliness can make or break a site. People used to look at the Yellow Pages; these days people search for information online and that’s how they find your website.”
Sansom agrees, but doesn’t think search engine optimisation is as simple as it’s thought to be. “There are a lot of cowboys out there doing site optimisation,” she says. “I would recommend any small business do their research because it’s a lot of money to spend.”
Your website should also be credible and clearly get your message across. “It’s important to ensure that your site is persuasive and converts visitors on your site to actual leads,” says Schebesta. He suggests some tips to create a persuasive website, including having fresh content on your site and take down that 1995 press release. Also make sure you have real pictures of real people. Finally, pop your address on the footer, show that you’re a bricks and mortar business and that you will be around tomorrow.
But there is more to web development, including converting visitors into actual customers. “Create a way to capture people, as opposed to just an inquiry form,” says Schebesta. “Engage with them. Getting your customers to interact with you in a conversation will build trust and confidence. For example, give away a simple information sheet or a simple white paper on your site to get their email details. Once you have their email details you can communicate with them and send valuable emails and offers and prospects.”
The Night Nannies site uses a blog to communicate with customers. “The blog is a great way to show that there’s a person behind the website. Also it’s a way of being able to keep the information up-to-date,” says Sansom. “But again it all comes back to another way for search engines to pick you up, because blogs are great for search engines. There’s no point in being on page 20 on a Google search; you need to be on page one or two.”
The Night Nannies website also provides free information to assist converting visitors into customers. “We want to be able to help people, and the reality is we’re not giving anything away,” she says. “We’re saying we’ll come to your home and help you implement those strategies. So having that information onsite is a bonus because information brings the customer to you.”
Night Nannies visitors will also find links to other sites, but Sansom explains that this is part of optimisation and she isn’t worried about driving away customers. “Links going out is just sharing that particular resource, and with the links coming in you’re seen as the authority on that particular topic,” she says. “I’m not afraid to be able to share that resource and show that we are part of the bigger picture.”
While an informative site that conveys your expertise is great, it’s not the easiest thing to manage. “You can have all the information in the world, but if customers get lost it’s pointless,” says Sansom. “Knowing what people want is really hard, so we had to nut it out with someone from IT. Obviously you don’t want to put everything in there—you don’t want to give away all your secrets—but you want to give away little bits.”
Turning to design, your site’s layout should reflect your target audience. “If you’re looking for a very cheap, value-seeking kind of customer, you probably don’t want a very flashy site—just a simple, clean, basic site,” says Schebesta. “But if you’re selling a much higher-end product—one that requires more service and has a higher ticket value—you might want to consider a more design-intensive site.”
The simple and modern design of the Night Nannies website is the reason behind its appeal, says Sansom. “It hasn’t got lots of different colours and the colours are carefully chosen so they’re appealing and easily accepted by the eyes,” she explains. “Obviously we choose pictures that are recognisable as our brand but also relevant to our key market.” The website’s design also follows current trends, including a lack of scrolling—especially on the home page.
Keeping your website organised is essential, particularly the home page. “What’s important is structure,” says Schebesta. “Most internet users are just skimmers and scanners—they skim the pages and scan for bolded words and dot points. So you’ve got to structure the top of your page for those skimmers and scanners, just to push them towards your conversion or money page,” he says. “But below that have enough information for the type of users that research heavily. There are people who make very considered decisions and they can also be very valued customers.
“The other things you need are questions throughout your site to resolve what’s called ‘points of resolution’ in a customer’s mind. It’s critical that you resolve those points within your website in order for them to go ahead and make a purchase. They’re normally the questions your customers will ask you when they pick up the phone and speak to you, so detail them on your
site. They’ll feel confident that you’ve already thought about these questions and then they’ll feel more confident in getting in contact with you, which ultimately is what you’re trying to do with your site.”
What Not To Do
Knowing what to do is one thing, but knowing what not to do is also crucial. “Pure fact sites are a no-no because search engines can’t see them,” says Schebesta. Sites with frames and little content aren’t appealing for customers or search engines.
Flashy sites are another problem. “The key pitfall is that lots of people still can’t see flash, so you need to consider those users who don’t actually have flash software working on their computer, like in a lot of corporate environments,” Schebesta explains. “I think there is a bit of overkill where it’s too flashy and there isn’t enough content or value given to the customer.”
Internet connection speeds also become an issue when sites use flash technology. “Broadband in Australia is defined as people who have a connection that is 56 kilobits and above. So if you are on a 56 kilobit connection you’re still considered to have broadband but you wouldn’t notice much difference between that and a dial-up connection,” he says. A majority of the Australian audience still have a very slow connection. So a flashy site can be a big trap if it takes too long to load, because a visitor can easily close your site down and instead click on the next Google search result, says Schebesta.
The best way to avoid these mistakes is to take care when choosing a web designer. Look at their past work and take key words from the sites of their previous clients. Then do an internet search to see how they rank.
“It’s also important to consider your online marketing before your actual website development because a website is just one part of your online marketing. Your business is not just a website,” says Schebesta. “The key thing is to understand where your conversion and money page is before you start. Then work out ways to actually drive traffic there and create ways to build your database of prospects up—that’s the most important part of a small businesses website.”
Who’s Got It Right?
According to Fred Schebesta, managing director of Freestyle Media, the following three SME sites are good examples of savvy web development.
1. Laser Sight Centres
Converting visitors into customers is a necessity, and these guys have that down pat. With a 4.5 percent positive conversion rate, Schebesta describes their success as “amazing”.
2. Frank Team
Specialising in career development and training, Frank Team have recently launched two blogs that are quite innovative and progressive in terms of online marketing. They also do a great job of providing content and getting people to come in and contact them through their website.
3. Poker Champion
This Melbourne-based company sells poker tables and chips and ships them all over Australia. The online only venture generates a huge amount of traffic as a result of its search engine marketing.