Imagine you owned a business with two locations next door to one another. One of them has not been updated since 2005, but it contains the reception area. The other is a freshly updated, beautiful and highly functional corporate headquarters. When a customer or prospect shows up to see your beautiful company HQ, they first have to go to the reception area in the outdated, downright scary one.
Assuming there are no updates and the whole place is stuck in 2005, there are likely things that are broken, spots where there are cracks in the paint, dirty windows and computers still running Windows XP (scary, right?). The lights are flickering, and some have burned out in forgotten days. Everyone in there is stuck in 2005, too—they keep trying to talk to you about whether you saw Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire or the latest episode of Lost. They’re all still not sure what to make of this new thing called YouTube.
“Come with me! Trust me, you’ll love the company!” you say to the prospect as you walk them from the one building to the next. Will they manage to make it from the scary building to the nice one? Even if they do, you’ve created a poor context—first impressions and all that.
The outdated building is like an outdated website. If you don’t update your website, it’s like neglecting a physical work location—one that people are going to see. The outdated décor and dirty areas will be off-putting. The old technology may not work as well. Plus, the messaging is old and doesn’t resonate with prospects. You can try and pull them through your website with reassuring content and website copy, but ultimately, if it’s unprofessional, it will turn them off.
Let’s take a step back.
Ok, so a website is an inseparable part of your company—but what is it supposed to do?
Ultimately, your website is an embodiment of your company. While it’s technically separate from your physical company, in today’s digital age, your company and website are really two parts of the same whole.
A website should have three main functions—to impress, inform and inspire. These three functions are inextricably linked to design, technology and most importantly, content.
Your website should be impressive.
If a website is aesthetically pleasing, you’re automatically getting bonus points in the head of a prospect or customer. In that vein, it should also be impressive on mobile. Your website should be in line with current best practices. There should be images, video and a user experience awesome enough to make your competitors envious.
Your website should be impressive in terms of content, too. It should tell your company’s story—not just its history. By that I mean not stumbling over minutiae and exhaustive facts about the company, but giving your audience the story of why your brand is better and different than your competitors’.
Now look, you don’t have to drop huge amounts of money on your website. But you do need technical maintenance, and AT LEAST a pleasant homepage. Otherwise, you’re not even being considered in the same league as your more technically savvy competitors. In this respect, your website is not done. There is always more you can do to impress your audience.
Your website should be informative.
It should be full of useful content. It should be filled with meaningful copy—not crap. Your website should have a clear statement of your company’s value to them (keyword them, not you), useful links to pages that people would want to read and images and videos to back it all up.
Your website is the home base for all of your content. Your company should always have a constant stream of content designed to appeal to your customers. Stopping the flow of content on your website is like stopping the heart of your company. In this respect, your website is not done. Ever.
Your website should be inspirational.
No, it doesn’t need to have a picture of a dolphin jumping into the sunset with the word “believe” scrawled across it. Not that kind of inspirational.
Your website should inspire people to act. Even if they are impressed by your website and informed by its content, your website is useless if it isn’t inspiring action. To inspire action, you have to make them want to get in touch with you. Make it easy to reach out with contact forms. Make your downloadable content irresistible. Inspire them to read your blog. In the constant process to make your audience care about your company, your website is not done.
Your website needs to be technically sound.
If your website is broken in any way, you’re losing leads and credibility. You’re probably also getting penalized by Google—further sabotaging your online traffic.
If you have a pop-up ad that renders navigating the website impossible, you’re losing people. People don’t want to struggle through your website—their time is limited and their options are many.
Make sure your website is maintained properly. Even if a small plugin on your website breaks, it could take down the whole site—which is a lot more common than you might think. Make sure your website it usable on different types of devices.
Your website never ends.
Every now and then, you’ll say, “it’s time to redo our website.” It’ll be a big, all-consuming project, but just because that heavy lifting is completed does not mean you’re finished. Your website is not done. It’s a constant work in progress—like your company. It needs to be updated and taken care of on a technical basis as well as on a content basis. The best websites impress, inform and inspire with quality technology and content. They give users a reason to care—they inspire users to reach out.
Approaching your website like an e-billboard or e-direct mail is a flawed approach. The best practices to make a quality website are different from writing good ad copy. Direct mail is sent to people. Billboards are placed in front of people. Websites are found. They are discovered by an individual who has a need. But there are plenty of other competitor websites that they can find just as easily. You need to assume everyone is going to shop around. They’re going to inevitably find the site that impresses, informs and inspires them.
If your site is full of fluffy words, crap content, broken links and out-of-style images, there’s no way they’re going to care.
To make the best website, think on your brand image. Create the content strategy to form the core of your website and mold your website’s design and architecture around the needs of your customers. Always test everything; always create something of actual value.
Most importantly, be real. There are no magic words, and people can see through bullshit a mile away on the internet.
Your website is not done. It is a constant work in progress. If you slap it up and say, “All done!” you’re going to miss out. Start with content, build your digital image and get out there and show them how awesome your company really is.
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