« March 2011 Table of Contents
Business Trends: Web tactics
Timely, attractive websites an important part of doing business
March 05, 2011
Websites have become a standard for doing business, whether a company sells product online or not.
In its 2010 Business Technology Survey, the National Small Business Association reports that 84 percent of respondents have a business website, even though just 26 percent were selling online. Of the 16 percent that don’t have an Internet presence, 67 percent state it isn’t necessary for their business, while 21 percent eschew websites because they are too difficult to maintain and 13 percent say they are too costly.
Despite the pitfalls for some, having a website should be part of a business strategy, says Michael Given, owner of Karma Marketing and Media, with offices in St. Cloud, Minn., and Sarasota, Fla. But creating a website also needs to be more than a one-and-done process.
“It still surprises me when someone doesn’t have website or it features a little man in a hard hat with an ‘under construction’ sign,” he says.
Given, who has built more than 150 sites since starting business in 2003, says clients usually come to him with an existing website, albeit one that is languishing. It was probably built several years ago, he says, and now it needs a professional upgrade.
One of the people who sought out Given for his expertise was Steve Frank, owner of Morey’s Seafood Markets in Baxter, Minn.
“We needed an updated look,” says Frank, who first went online in 1996. He was also looking for a way to update content on his own. “Before we had a [website] provider who kept everything proprietary,” he says.
For Morey’s, having a website to showcase and sell its wares was an extension of the company’s roots, which began with a mail-order catalog in the 1940s. The company used to ship fish on trains, says Frank. Today, Morey’s uses more modern shipping methods, but the retailer, which specializes in smoked fish and Scandinavian delicacies, wants to reach out to customers around the country.
In designing Morey’s site, Given wanted to capture the personality of the store, using photos of the products and the Frank family.
With the redesigned site [click here] and improved search features, Frank says traffic has increased. Morey’s conducts about 10 percent of its business online.
The redesign process, says Frank, involved a series of meetings to decide on concept, review the layout “and then one more to finalize what the site looked like and then they turned it on.”
A good website, says Given, is not only attractive, but provides information quickly and has a logical flow to it. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a big part of Given’s message to clients and a focal point for his business. Even for his own design business, he says, “The way to be found was to rank well in the searches. That was the competitive edge we could add to our clients. It wasn’t just about building a site, but also about finding it.”
Because Google has about 80 percent of the market share, Given makes certain that clients show up on the search engine. To be found, he says, a website’s content needs to include the key words or phrases that potential customers are likely to search for. Instead of using phrases such as “in this business,” which doesn’t key on anything, content should say “in the retail seafood business” if retail seafood is how you want to be recognized, he says.
“Content is the main thing that gets you found,” says Given, “and a good website keeps them there. When we look at a website, we ask them ‘Where do you want to rank?’ and we build it around that conversation,” says Given. “Then we massage the copy to fit that goal.”
Even if a business isn’t selling product online, Given says they still want Internet searchers to find them. “We’re all in business to get new customers, whether it’s e-commerce or basic billboard business. The thinking is the same,” he says.
Because Morey’s is selling online, Frank says he wanted the option to make content changes himself, adding new product descriptions and photos and updating prices. Through the Joomla content management system, Frank is able to make those changes on his end without getting Karma involved. “We’re changing something on the website about three times a week,” notes Frank. The site also uses VirtueMart software for its online shopping cart feature.
Under the new management systems, Given says content and design are kept separate. When it comes time to redesign, a client can retain the content, while separately updating the colors and look.
Morey’s has also begun posting on Facebook and those posts can be found on the website’s home page as well. Store Manager Paul Burton is responsible for the retailer’s Facebook updates. “It’s an immediate conversation with our customers, and people appreciate it,” Frank says.
Given says Morey’s has done a good job integrating Facebook, which is just another means of adding fresh content to the site. If customers are going to use Facebook or other social media, it’s important to stay on top of it, says Given.
“With the web, whatever you put into it is what you get out of it,” he says. If clients keep their sites current and interesting, they will see lead generation and more customers, Given notes.
Businesses with a web presence should update the site with some new content at least twice a week. Even with the rise of Twitter and Facebook, Given describes them as “spokes in the wheel,” but the website remains the hub.
As far as updating the look of the site, that should be done regularly, says Given. “We find that our most successful clients change the look every two years,” he says. “Ones that go three to five years can look dated.” And web audiences are more sophisticated these days, he says, so an out-dated site can impact a company’s image.Contributing Editor Joanne Friedrick lives in Portland, Maine