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Top Tips for Creating an Engaging Website

1) Offer something of value to the visitor – This could be free information relating to your product, service or industry such as articles, tips, advice, resource or guides. Whatever you choose it should make the visitor feel that they walked (surfed) away with something of value, something they never knew before, something that may help them.

2) Make your site easy to navigate and easy to use – The desire to want a flashy, cutting-edge website with lots to see, interact with and choose from can often lead to an over-designed, complicated website. Keep it simple and make sure the visitor can find what they want quickly and easily. Keep the content to the point but offer more for those that like a little more ‘meat on the bone’.

Use menus, sub headings and headlines; try and help the visitor find what they want in one or two clicks, if they want to read more from there they will click further. Talk to your web person about dedicated landing pages, optimised pages, anchor links and CSS as these tools may help you.

3) Avoid large graphics and slow loading video and audio – Whilst these are all great things to include on your site, make sure they are sized correctly or optimised for quick loading. Slow loading web pages can be a huge turn off so talk to your web person/people and make sure that your website loads quickly. Only use what you need or have to use and try and balance the look, functionality and content of the site.

4) Use headlines and sub-menus – OK so I have already mentioned this but it is important; think of you website as a newspaper front page, use headlines and an appropriate number of sections to guide them from the home page deeper into the site. Businesses often fall into the trap of trying to tell the visitor everything from the home page and we are left feeling confused and over-whelmed with the amount of information being thrown at us.

5) Begin a relationship with the visitor – Forget about the statistics on how many visitors that visit your site are actual prospects, the fact remains that your website will get hits from prospects and potential clients. When they get to your site, do they have an opportunity to engage with you, open or begin a relationship with you? For most this will be done through some form of ‘Content Marketing’, such as e-mail articles, advice, newsletters, blogs, subscriptions, downloads, etc.

All of these things are effective at opening the door to your visitors, engaging their interest and opening up a line of communication.

6) Spelling, grammar, broken links and out of date information – All of these are cardinal sins for websites but are so easily left unattended for long periods of time, normally because of the day to day running of the business that gets in the way. A website that is well written, up to date and accurate will convert more visitors than an out of date, over or under populated site with bad spelling and grammar.

7) Give the business a personality – If you are a local business, give the business a voice and give it a human touch. With so many online communities, the opportunities for a business to create a community around their own business are sizeable. Try and engage with your visitors through your blog, articles or downloads; people still buy from people and so give people a chance to share opinion, views or comments and respond to them. Don’t hide from the prospects!

8) Track the performance of your website, change and improve it – Free tools like ‘Google Analytics’ are great to give you an overview of the performance of your site. Whilst it is not an exact science as there are reasons why not every visit will show, it will give you a good enough overview of how people are interacting with your site.

From this you will be able to see what people like and don’t like, where they come from, where you lose them on the site, how long they spend on the site, what content is of most interest and a whole lot more. From this you can change, improve and adapt the content on the site until you reach the point that you are engaging and converting an appropriate amount of visitors.

9) Bring them back – Make sure you have something to bring them back to you or stay in touch with you; this will normally be through your content marketing in the form of blogs, articles, news, events, guides, downloads, etc. If, what you are writing is compelling and offers something of value to the visitor, chances are they will come back again in the future. By using an e-mail sign-up box on your website you can capture the e-mail addresses from people who would like to engage with you, now you can control how often you bring them back to your site through strategic e-mail marketing.

10) Invest time and resource into your website – Your website is your most valuable sales tool, it works for you twenty-four hours a day and engages with prospects even whilst you sleep. Leaving it unattended will soon give the impression that there is nothing of value to come back for and slowly but surely, your visitor numbers will drop off. Invest some time each week to keep the content fresh, meaning the parts that you can and should update like; articles, blogs, news, events, gigs, promotions, offers, etc.

Bonus Tips

1) Once your website is live and ready to show off, share it – We all have a network of contacts that would happily post or share the things that you publish or promote on your website; use them where you can and where it is appropriate. Share links to the free resource on your site through your blog and social media profiles, on your e-mail signatures, on quotes, proposals and wherever it is appropriate; keep them short and to the point and in some cases, subtle.

2) Promote your site – Get involved in online discussions and through your social media profiles; start with one or two and see how they develop. Like anything, it will take an investment of time and these online relationships will need to be nurtured.

Linked-In is becoming more and more popular and offers a local business an opportunity to get involved with local discussions; regional, national and global discussions as well if this suits the business. Once again don’t jump in and start to sell, you will need to share views, thoughts and comments and over time build relationships with the people in these groups and online communities.

3) Longevity and room for improvement – Once your site is complete and by that I mean it does everything you need it to do, it looks good and it works well, you will probably keep it for two or three years before wanting to re-develop it. That said, you may want to continually improve the site, add new features or functions or update some of the content so make sure you have the scope to do this.

Investing in a site with an adequate Content Management System will be a good investment and will pay for itself from the minute the site is live; they also don’t cost as much as you may think.

Final Thoughts

My personal over-riding principles for any website are that it is clean, crisp and easy to use. Offer something of value, engage with the visitor, share something with them, guide them, become a resource to them.

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