When I was out this morning for my morning walk I noticed that a small tyre repair business which I pass on my route had a nice new web address emblazoned on the side of the owner’s van.
I resolved to take a look at the site when I got home because I am a secret admirer of this little business and have seen it start in the rural area where I live in probably the most difficult economic climate since the foundation of the state.
Despite the difficulties of starting a business in Ireland today, I have seen this little business progress from a shed beside a rural bungalow to two sheds, new equipment and genuine progress and a growing customer base.
And I had decided that if he ever needed a website for his business..well perhaps he would consider my company. But it appeared I had missed the boat-someone else got in before me.
When I got home I fired up the computer and discovered that the web address had no website but the standard message from GoDaddy that the domain had been registered. I checked out the registered owner of the domain name and discovered it was registered to a UK web design company.
I then visited the website of this company and when I checked out their prices I was astonished and incredibly angry.
There is a screenshot below and you will see the prices for yourself-a 2 page website for Stg£499 for example and if you take a look at the “non inclusions” in this service you will see that this does not even include submission of the site to Google. There may well be other hidden extras (eg hosting) also.
Check out the price of a 10 page site-Stg£1,099 with NO Google submission.
I shudder to think what the overall cost of these packages would be with hidden extras included and this is for a 2 page website.
So I resolved to go directly to the owner and tell him that if he had not yet paid for a site he could save himself a lot of money and avoid being ripped off.
When I got chatting to him he told me that he had already paid them €200 and they had done nothing for him. And to add insult to injury they had registered the domain name, which is geographically specific to our small, rural parish in their own name, not in the name of the small business owner.
To make matters worse he had been inundated with phone calls from all sorts of boiler room operations attempting to sell him virus removal software and so forth. I suspect that his web design company had sold his email and contact details to similar boiler room, cold calling operations because he was receiving a spate of these calls in the last couple of weeks since divulging his details to the web design company.
We are now going to build a nice little website for him which meets the requirements of his business-it will be simple, basic and cost effective but exactly what he needs and wants at this point in time.
And he will have a .ie domain name with the exact phrase that he wants and needs for the domain name for his new site.
Seeing hard working, progressive small business owners being ripped off like this is difficult. Unfortunately many unscrupulous operations will take advantage of the ignorance and lack of knowledge of someone like this who understands the tyre repair business but who has no knowledge of internet marketing or websites.
To avoid this happening to you take your time, suss out the website designer/company and take the time to speak to them, check around for recommendations and previous work and don’t be taken for a ride by fast talking, high pressure cold callers.
Arguably not since Johannes Gutenburg invented movable type and the printing press has there been a more significant advance in publishing than the WordPress publishing platform.
While the printing press allowed the dissemination of ideas, firstly in Europe and then the world, the WordPress blogging software has allowed individuals and businesses to publish what they like almost instantaneously on the internet.
The opportunities that flow to small businesses, start ups and entrepreneurs who use WordPress to build their online presence and conduct their internet marketing are enormous.
Small businesses and WordPress
The benefits offered by WordPress software, which is open source and free, are obvious and stunningly effective:
1. the opportunity to tell the world about your business, your goods and services;
2. the opportunity to build your brand and reach an audience you would never have expected possible;
3. the reduction in advertising costs associated with advertising in local or national newspapers or radio/tv.
Any small business owner knows all about the prohibitive cost and difficult to measure return from advertising in
1. local newspapers
2. national papers such as the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, the Daily Star and so on
3. radio stations and television such as RTE, TV3, Newstalk and local radio
4. magazines etc.
The most significant feature of WordPress by far is the ease of use-even for non technical users.
If you can use a WISYWIG (what you see is what you get editor), point and click your computer mouse then you can publish with WordPress. Not too long ago, small business who owners who wished to have a website for their business were reliant, totally reliant, on “tech people”-people who understood technical stuff like html, css and other obscure terms.
This, thankfully, is no longer the case.
Themes and plugins
Along with the ease of use is the ability to change the look and feel of your site with a couple of clicks by simply changing the theme of your WordPress site. And because WordPress is free and open source there are a literally hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes to choose from.
Plugins, pieces of script, which are also free can be added freely with a couple of clicks and will allow you to add some great features to your site such as
1. social media sharing buttons
2. contact forms
3. Google analytics
4. and more.
Relying on the “tech guy”
Relying completely on the “tech guy” in 2012 to promote your business on the internet is a missed opportunity for you and your business. Many smart, astute business owners are taking greater control of their internet marketing and online branding.
Many of the biggest sites online such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and others have easy to use interfaces and loads of free videos online showing you how to use them.
And the easy to use WordPress publishing platform should be at the hub of your online marketing efforts for your business and building your brand on the web, reaching new markets and customers.
For any small business website there are a number of critically important factors that need to be spot on to convey the right message for your business and company.
Here are 9 such factors:
1. Curb appeal
2. Your content
3. Your navigation
4. Consistent topic
5. Keep it simple
6. Search engine friendliness
7. Build trust with visitors
8. Have compelling calls to action
9. Keep your visitors on your site
1. Curb appeal
When you are in a strange place, perhaps traveling abroad or somewhere unfamiliar, and are looking for somewhere nice to eat or have a coffee your decision will be greatly influenced by the appearance of the different coffee shops and restaurants.
Your new visitor to your website is in a similar situation when surfing online so make sure that when they land on your site that they are reassured by the appearance and “curb appeal” of your site. People DO judge the book by the cover and you need to make sure that the look and feel of your site conveys the right message and reassures the visitor that they are in the right place.
2. Your content
The content on your site should be comprehensive and answer the visitors’ question as to how you can help them, who you help and why they should trust your business and do business with you.
Most people are searching the internet for a purpose and more often than not they are seeking to solve a problem they have. Your website needs to give them relevant and accurate information to help them solve their problem and your content can demonstrate your expertise, build trust and reassure the visitor that doing business with your company will satisfy their needs.
Your site navigation should be clear and make it easy to get around your site and find what they are looking for. Most sites have good navigation on their home page but once the visitor goes deep into your site the navigation can fall down so make sure that your navigation on secondary pages makes life easy for your visitor.
You can also enhance this with relevant internal linking in your content which will kill 2 birds with one stone-make it easy for visitors and help to spread link juice for targeted keywords around your site.
Keep the topic of your site consistent. If you have personal views on politics, sport or any other interests your business website is really not the place to vent.
So stay on message.
5. Keep your site simple (but deceptively comprehensive)
Avoid the latest design fads and gadgets-keep your site simple and easy for your visitor and search engine robots to find their way around and find what they are looking for.
You could spend a lot of wasted time redesigning your site every 6/12 months with the latest technological design breakthrough. This time would be better spent adding great content and answering the visitors’ question “what’s in it for me?”
6. Search engine friendly
As well as your visitors you need to think about the search engines in order to rank well in the SERPS (search engine results pages) and ensuring that search engine robots can easily crawl your site is essential. This reiterates the need for good simple, functional design.
7. Built trust with visitors
If a visitor is to buy from your business they will firstly have to trust it-your website offers you a great opportunity to build trust with your visitor.
You can do this by providing them with answers to their questions in great content which is regularly updated and demonstrating your expertise in your area of activity.
8. Compelling calls to action
You need to make your calls to action easy to execute and compelling. Examples would include “call now for a quotation” or “sign up here for your free report”.
9. Keep your visitors on site
Keeping your visitors on site is critical. If you are running a restaurant or any retail outlet for example you are not going to send your visitors down the street to buy their dessert or coffee so don’t do it with your website.
A prime example of an easy way to send visitors away from your site is YouTube videos-when someone watches a YouTube video they are invited by YouTube to watch related videos which takes your hard earned visitor away from your site.
By all means have video on your site-but on your terms. You can host your videos on your own Amazon S3 account for cents per month and you will not be leaking visitors and traffic.
In summary, getting traffic is getting more difficult. When you do attract visitors to your site follow the 9 steps above and increase exponentially your chances of return visits and increased engagement and sales.
If you want your website to convert your traffic into new customers/clients for your business you will need to take special care with the two most important pages on your website.
It will probably come as no surprise that the most important page on your site is your homepage-this is the page that will receive most traffic from the search engines and from where visitors will navigate to other sections on your site.
However many people are surprised to learn that the second most important page on your site is often overlooked when you are trying to build a site that will be a TRUE asset for your small business.
2nd most important page
You may be surprised to learn that the second most important page on your site is your About/About Us page.
The reason for this is simple-if a visitor is sufficiently impressed with what your business has to offer and is seriously considering engaging your services or reaching for their credit card to purchase goods or services from your business they invariably navigate to your About page to satisfy themselves that they have made the right decision.
They are looking for reassurance and your About page is an opportunity for you to confirm that they have made the right decision, won’t regret it and to cement trust with your new customer.
For this reason your About Us page should do a little more than tell your visitors who you help and how you help them..although it should certainly do this. This page should also demonstrate your expertise, credentials, training and convince your visitor that, yes, it is a good decision to go ahead and use that credit card or make that call.
So many About Us pages on small business websites are
- Appear to be an afterthought
And critically fail to reassure the visitor that they have made the right decision in doing business with you.
Three steps to fix your About page
I would strongly advise that you do three things in relation to your About page-
1. Make it reachable with one click from everywhere on your site (you can do this by having it in your primary navigation menu for your site);
2. Use your About page to persuade readers why they should do business with YOUR business by giving some information about your expertise and qualifications and most of all..why they should trust you and your business.
3. Use a picture of you or some person-give your business a human face as you have a much better chance of overcoming the “trust” barrier that is your biggest barrier to sales online.
Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the importance of your About page on your website.
If you are a small business owner and are unsure of how to market your existing business online the 5 point plan below will tell you exactly what you need to know.
Step 1-You Must have Website
So many people nowadays search online for whatever they are looking for rather than the traditional route of using the phone book or Golden Pages.
So if someone is searching for a supplier of office furniture in Dublin or looking for an insurance quote they are likely to use search terms such as “office furniture Dublin/Dublin office furniture” or “Dublin insurance brokers/insurance broker Dublin.”
Therefore you need your website to rank well or come up high in the search results for search terms or phrases relevant to your business. Clearly this is just common sense and there is an undue amount of fog and misinformation surrounding this issue.
Step 2-Your Website Must Rank Well for Relevant Search Terms
As stated above you will want your site to be presented as high up in the search results as possible.
Step 3-A Clear Call to Action
Once the visitor reaches your site there should be a clear call to action (cta) which might be asking the visitor to call you for a quotation or using the “contact us” form to ask for further information.
This call to action, your preferred outcome for each visitor to your website, should be in a prominent position on each page of your site and you should make it as easy as possible for visitors to reach you.
Step 4-Professional Appearance
One of the biggest obstacles to doing business online successfully is the lack of trust between the potential new customer/client and your business.
The gap in trust can be breached by ensuring that your site has a professional look and feel. You can do this by ensuring that your site contains plenty of relevant, helpful information which your potential new client is looking for.
This is what creates trust in the mind of the visitor.
All of these issues will be dealt with professionally and well by a good website creator who knows and understands the business of marketing online.
The most difficult part of this 4 point plan is getting your site ranking well for the best search terms for your business.
There are two ways to solve the problem of ranking well in the search engines (the most difficult part of having a website which is an asset for your business, not a worthless expense).
1) Choose a website builder/designer who can show you demonstrable evidence of an ability to get sites ranking well for targeted search terms and who can do the same for your business or
2) Buy an existing site which is already ranking well in the search engines and which is suitable for your business.
Take a look at these small business websites for sale and see if they are a good fit for your business.
If your business does not have a website you are missing out on many opportunities to grow your business.
There are many reasons why a website is absolutely to the continued success of your business; lets take a look at 6.
1) Permanent billboard
Your website serves as a permanent billboard and form of advertising for your business, even when you are asleep.
It will be working away on behalf of your business 24 hours a day 7 days a week and does not require (nor is entitled to) annual leave, smoking breaks, rest breaks or any other type of break.
Once you build it (or have it built) it will work for your ceaselessly at a very cost effective price.
2) Professional appearance
The vast majority of people nowadays expect any business that is serious about it’s work to have a website.
Not having a site may lead your potential customer or client to wonder just how serious you are about your business if you don’t make the small investment in a professional presence.
3) Contact details
Your site, if designed properly, should have your contact details writ large and make it as easy as possible for potential customers to contact you to make an enquiry, obtain a quotation or purchase a product or service.
4) Relationship building
Run properly, your business website can help you build a good, positive relationship with your existing customers and potential new ones.
This can be easily done in a number of ways such as through email marketing through the use of an autoresponder service such as provided by Aweber.
5) Business growth
Your website, if built correctly, can be a significant catalyst for new client acquisition as it will reach potential audiences which are not possible to reach through traditional advertising such as newspapers, local magazines and so forth.
6) Great ROI
The return on investment in a cleverly built website will be enormous because of it’s ability to build trust with existing customers and to help you acquire new leads.
The cost of web hosting can be less than €10 per month and a domain name can also cost you less than €10 for a year.
There are many other reasons why having a website is essential for a progressive business in 2011 and the relatively small cost of doing so makes this one no brainer of a decision which will repay you many times over.
Website design for small business owners should be about 3 things-
1) Growing traffic to your site
2) Converting that traffic into leads
3) Converting those leads into sales.
Web designers understand web design but very few understand the needs and requirements of small business owners who recognise the need for a website to promote their business and want to get on with what they do best-running their business.
So, here are 3 common mistakes we have seen in websites created for small businesses in Ireland.(See web design Dublin also)
1) Assuming the web designer knows your business
This erroneous assumption will have you going to a web designer who has an impressive looking portfolio and leave the creation of a website to him/her.
This can easily lead to a site that is as useful as tits on a bull.
2) Social media buttons
Social media is a new buzzword on the internet nowadays and sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others have the potential to assist your business.
But not on your website.
When a visitor visits your site he/she should be encouraged to carry out the one action which is your desired outcome. This may be to purchase a product, sign up for a free sample, pick up the phone to call you, email you or make an enquiry of your business.
Nothing should get in the way or impede the visitor from the preferred outcome you desire and telling the visitor that you are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other sites is not what you want.
So, lose the buttons and let the visitor do what you need them to do, and don’t send them to another site for some online socializing.
3) Its not about you
We see many sites that have very lengthy biographies detailing the achievements of the directors and other company officers.
The visitor, when landing on your site, will want to know “whats in it for me?”
You need to communicate the benefit and value of doing business with your company pretty quickly.
And you won’t do this by telling them where you went to school or college 20 years ago and that you play bridge in your spare time when not going to church with your wife of 35 years and adorable kids.
Answer the visitors question, tell them pretty sharply what is in it for them, and convert your visitor into a lead or sale.
If you want a website that is a genuine asset to your business and will show you a serious and significant return on your investment in the medium to long haul.
Web design is a fancy name used by many web designers to justify equally fancy design fees to their web illiterate clients.
But if you as a business owner are concerned with increasing your website traffic and increasing turnover in your business the goal of your site should be simple-to generate as many targeted visitors as possible to your offering, whether you sell goods or services or both.
The single biggest mistake you can make when it comes to the development of your website for commercial purposes is to buy into the notion that web designers who have completed some web design courses really understand what you, as a business owner, need.
Web designers in Ireland (or anywhere else) are generally well intentioned people who love computers, technology, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites and who can create a website for you which will practically give you a foot massage.
But these types of sites, with fancy graphics, java script, video and any other irrelevancies that’s popular for the last 30 days are as useful to a small business owner as tits on a bull..or a lighthouse in a bog.
What the small business owner needs from his site is a veritable hosepipe of visitors which can be converted into leads or sales or both.
So when you are considering investing some scarce capital in an online presence to boost or start your internet marketing efforts for your business keep at the forefront of your mind the single purpose of your site-a truckload of visitors every day.
And I am not talking about traffic from Twitter or Facebook which is the type of traffic that you will never convert into cold, hard cash.
I am talking about visitors who have actually searched for key words or phrases connected or related to your business.
As you know these visitors are the lifeblood of your business.
And if they are looking for a plumber in Mullingar or a hairdresser in Limerick or an electrician in Blanchardstown or whatever your business is involved in, you had better make sure that your site can rank well in Google when they type their needs into the search box on their computer screen.
So..is your website all hat and no cattle? All gong and no dinner?
The bad news is that traditional advertising is expensive and decreasing in effectiveness. Advertising on television was the preserve of big business.
The good news is that now any small business can start it’s own YouTube channel.
Take a look at www.willitblend.com, a website which cost around $1,000 to start and which has seen the ceo of Blendtec, a blender manufacturer in the U.S., blend iphones, ipads, crowbars, running shoes, timber, cameras, and anything else you can think of.
Sales of the company’s blenders increased by 700% and people actually buy dvds of the videos which have been viral video sensations for years. Blendtec’s YouTube channel has over 400,000 subscribers and nearly 200,000,000 views.
And all this started because the ceo, Tom Dickson, noticed that any time he tested a new blender in the factory by putting strange stuff into it (like timber) the people in the factory would stop what they were doing to watch.
The bad news is that not too long ago, the cost of creating, publishing, and distributing a newsletter prevented most small businesses from doing so.
The good news is that now, any business can start a blog within minutes and publish and distribute all the content they wish to new subscribers or existing customers.
Take a look at blogs.indium.com. Indium Corporation is an American corporation which sells soldering materials.
It has no less than 73 blogs targeting the keywords that the marketing communication director identified as important to the company.
He reports that the contact rate from potential customers has increased by 600%.
5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Blog/Website
Most, if not all, small businesses would benefit greatly from having a simple website. But many small business owners, sole traders and partnerships are losing out badly because they have not yet embraced the opportunities presented by a presence on the internet.
5 great reasons for ensuring that you don’t miss out include:
1. Silent salesman
Your business website, no matter how large or small, can act as your silent salesman when your business is closed and there is nobody to answer the phones.
Your website works on behalf of your business around the clock every day of the year and is accessible to a world wide audience. And the best part is that you don’t have to pay it a salary and don’t have to worry about sick leave, maternity leave or any of the other problems associated with being an employer.
2. Attract new leads and sales
Your website, if set up and structured properly targeting the key phrases relevant to your business, can attract new leads and ultimately sales to enhance your profits. Provided your site, and it may only be a one page site, communicates your product or service clearly in an easy to understand fashion you will generate new leads and potential customers to your service and/or products.
3. Brand creation and awareness
Your website can play a huge role in the creation or enhancement of your business brand and combined with social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook, you can reach a whole new audience that you simply can not reach through conventional marketing or advertising.
4. Autoresponder marketing
Your site also offers a great way for you to communicate with your existing customers and leads. A good autoresponer series will allow you to build a relationship with your visitors.
We all know that we are far more likely to buy from somebody with whom we have relationship and who we know. Your site will allow you to develop relationships with people and other businesses that you never new existed.
5. Return on your marketing investment
The return on your small investment in creating or having a website built will provide a very generous return on your investment compared to any other form of promotion or marketing you will engage in.
Remember that when people are looking for stuff now they are far more likely to “Google it” than reach for the phone book.
A YouTube channel and/or a blog/website are only two ways you can sidestep the prohibitive cost of traditional advertising and it’s associated thinking.
Other ways of promoting your business include
- social media marketing
- search engine marketing
- pay per click marketing.
The key is to approach the marketing of your small business with an open mind and free of the constraints which you may have faced as recently as 5 years ago.
Welcome to Web Design Dublin where you can order your great value website to promote your business, school, community group, sports club or whatever organization you wish to establish a web presence for.
Whether you are seeking to establish a web presence or improve your existing one, you recognize that today you are seriously selling your business or group short without a web presence.
Nowadays most people, when looking for an electrician, plumber, hairdresser, gym etc. will not reach for the telephone book or Golden Pages.
They will “Google it”.
And if you are not there, on the web, you can be sure your competitors are.
Small business websites
Running a small business is difficult in these difficult economic times but it is even more difficult if you are not actively involved on the internet with a professional website that tells your story.
Your story might be any sphere of activity from supplying a service to selling goods to running a community group or sporting club. But your story will never be heard to it’s fullest extent if you turn your back on the internet.
As a sole trader or trades person you may only need a one or three page site. But a well designed site can act as your silent salesman as it never sleeps and is always telling your story, your service, your products to a world wide audience.
The image of your business is significantly enhanced in your company business cards, headed notepaper, invoices, statements by the presence of your website address.
And it need not cost a fortune because we at Web Design Dublin understand that the primary question you should be asking when it comes to making a decision about building a website for your business is “whats in it for me?”.
We tailor our advice to your needs, your business, your budget.
To learn more and to get a FREE email consultation and quotation just use the Contact form at the top of this page and we promise to get back to you within 24 hours.