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    Marketing: The secrets to web success

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    How does your website fit into your overall marketing strategy? If you don’t know, then it’s time to review your online activities.

    When the Internet took off in the nineties, it was a race to ‘get online’. Many businesses simply put their corporate brochure onto a website and were satisfied that they had an online presence. Some small businesses still spend thousands of dollars on their websites without a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve.

    A successful online strategy requires a clear statement of purpose. This means incorporating your website into other marketing activities, such as advertising, brochures, direct mail, speaking engagements and promotions.

    Remember, your website is competing with billions of others on the Internet. Here are some simple tips for building successful websites:

    When the Internet took off in the nineties, it was a race to ‘get online’. Many businesses simply put their corporate brochure onto a website and were satisfied that they had an online presence. Some small businesses still spend thousands of dollars on their websites without a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve. A successful online strategy requires a clear statement of purpose. This means incorporating your website into other marketing activities, such as advertising, brochures, direct mail, speaking engagements and promotions. Remember, your website is competing with billions of others on the Internet. Here are some simple tips for building successful websites:

    1. Stay focused
    Go back to your original statement of purpose. Does every page on your website reflect your business niche? Too many products or services can make your website appear overcrowded and confusing.
    2. Target your market
    Like any marketing program, you need to consider what interests and motivates your target audience. Do some research to identify what they want to gain from your website.
    3. Design for speed
    Generally, you have 10-30 seconds to capture the visitor’s attention. Remember, not everyone has a fast computer and broadband connection, so design for the lowest common denominator. Keep load times down by minimising large or animated graphics.
    4. Be credible
    Develop trust with your visitor by providing online contact details (including email, postal, telephone and fax) and ensure all inquiries are address promptly.
    5. Simple navigation
    According to UsabilityOne, an Australian company specialising in usability testing and evaluation, if users can’t find what they’re looking for quickly – usually within two attempts – they’ll go elsewhere. Have your website tested to ensure that navigation is easy and intuitive. A search function also makes it easy for users to find information.
    6. Brand your website
    Make sure your website is clearly branded with your corporate style, including colours, logos and messages. Websites that are consistent in look, feel and design are more attractive to users.
    7. Maximise search engine listings
    Search engines are directories designed to make your site easy to find. Forgetting to list with the search engines is like forgetting your advertisement in the Yellow Pages.
    8. Content is king
    Ensure that your website content is useful, informative and entertaining. The majority of online audiences don’t read – they scan. So highlight key words, use sub-headings and lists, have one idea per paragraph and use fewer words to get your message across.
    9. Keep your content fresh
    It’s amazing how many organisations don’t update their web content regularly. A classic example is websites with a ‘What’s new’ page that hasn’t been updated for months or even years. Give visitors a reason to return to your website by posting new information regularly. Also, check your site for maintenance and keep tabs on what your competitors are doing online.
    10. Choose your designer well
    Unless you’re a whiz with HTML and graphic design, you’ll need to use a web designer. Check their portfolio carefully and ask questions about their skills in content, layout, navigation, graphics and search engines.

    A well designed and maintained website is a great marketing and communication tool for small businesses. Give it some thought and planning and the world will be surfing in your waters in no time.

    Renee Hancock is a Group Account Director at Porter Novelli Melbourne. She provides public relations and strategic communications advice to corporate and government clients.

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