by: Bill Ringle
Question: What do you call a web site that hasn’t been updated in awhile?
Answer: A “cob-web” site, of course.
And who wants to do business with an organization that projects an old, musty image? As any business owner can tell you: certainly fewer people than you’d like.
Updating your web site doesn’t have to be laborious or a Herculean effort. Many well-intentioned professionals are stymied by the technology (if you can use a word processor, you can update a web site) or by the content (blank sheet of paper syndrome translated to the computer screen). Having a roadmap with a few examples can help get past the initial inertia, which is what I hope to share with you now.
The success ratio of a business web site is something I explain to my coaching clients and to conference audiences every week. It is simply the number of times someone takes the next desired action step over the number of people exposed to the message. For this example, say that the desired action step is to fill out an inquiry form. If 1 in every 100 site visitors filled out your site form last month, and you make changes to your web site and notice that this month, 11 visitors out of 100 filled out the form, you’ve raised your success ratio!
Here is a 10-point checklist for making your business web site a client magnet:
Get the word out in every way possible. Sounds obvious, right? OK, quickly jot down a list of how you’ve promoted your web site in the last month. Submitted to a search engine? Good. Checked to make sure the web address is on your business card and letterhead? Good. Keep going.
Update or add photos. People connect with other people’s faces faster and more strongly than with text alone. If you don’t have pictures handy, you can go high-end and hire a photographer or go low end and stash a 35 mm camera in your desk for opportune moments such as your next product launch or company picnic. Remember to re-purpose photos that might already be ideal, such as those used in your newsletter or annual report. (Just check with your legal department to make sure you have permission, first.)
Add testimonial quotes. Third party credibility helps put people at ease that they’re not purchasing an untested product or service. A few simple sentences that position you as someone people would enjoy doing business with are all that’s needed.
Pre-announce a new product or service. This is a way to reward visitors for their visit to your site. If we’re releasing a new product in June, we will have a pre-announcement available on our web site several weeks prior and may offer a significant discount during this period, depending on our goals. My company has done this with tangible items such as special reports as well as with services, such as our web site marketing review. The word of mouth exposure is fantastic.
Survey your customers. What issues or problems are they struggling with that you could provide help with? The web offers many great alternatives for online surveys that can give participants instant feedback on their input. Remember that your survey doesn’t have to be exhaustive. In fact, experience has shown that several short surveys are more desirable than a single longer survey for web business users.
Add a new format to your web site. Though a dozen come to mind (including streaming audio, QuickTime, Flash, XML, midi, …) the most practical for most non-technical managers and business owners is Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat allows you to produce documents on your word processor that can be shared and read by any computer user, regardless of platform or software that they own. The viewing portion is available as a free download and the portion to create Acrobat documents is very affordable (less than $200). Acrobat documents convey more sophistication and are much easier to produce than HTML. Visit for more information.
Review your hit log. Most likely your ISP or your web consultant automatically generates this information using an analysis tool like the popular WebTrends , or the lesser-known but more versatile FunnelWeb . Business leaders recognize the importance of reviewing their web site activity reports to see what pages are the most popular, changes from previous months, and to measure the results of changes made to the site.
Promote your site. If you’ve got the budget to outsource this function, great. If not, use one of the two leading software packages for submitting and monitoring your web site’s placement in search engines: Web Position Gold ($149) or VSE’s BeFound ($90). Once you own the tool, use it monthly for best results.
Be a secret shopper. Don’t you think the Burger King manager sits down and eats a Big Mac at the McDonalds down the street every now and again? It’s not because he’s tired of Whoppers — he’s hungry for new insights, perspectives, and tips to improve his own business. Take a similar approach. Visit 3-5 sites each month for the sole purpose of gathering ideas to improve your own web presence. You can look at direct competitors as well as sites that are simply well done. Involve your whole staff so you learn together.
Make your position known. Write your positions on issues important to your target audience. Content is still king, and visitors judge web sites not just by their slick design, but by the information offered. Don’t know what to write about? Survey your visitors. Post the position paper in Adobe Acrobat format. Promote that particular page using your search engine tool, then track the results using your web site analysis software.
As you are beginning to realize, the power of effective web site marketing is in making small, steady changes that benefit your target audience, calling attention to the changes, and measuring the results that those changes bring to inform your allocation of resources for the next round of changes. Success builds upon success, one step, one improvement, one customer action at a time. It’s not rocket science, and there’s no faster way to eliminate those horrible digital cob-webs from stale sites.
About the Author:
Bill Ringle educates and inspires business leaders from high tech and professional service companies who want to unlock the growth potential in their companies. He also works with mid-market company executives who want their teams to act with more of the best qualities of entrepreneurs. As a professional speaker, Bill Ringle presents keynotes and concurrent sessions at conferences, retreats, and business briefings across the United States. As a business growth strategist and eBusiness expert, Bill Ringle leads programs that enable leaders and their teams to achieve breakthrough results, including for such organizations as the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurship and the Small Business Association.
Entrepreneurs can find more resources to build their business at: www.mybusinessgym.com