If you are in business or are a professional, you probably have a website or are thinking about creating one. A website can be a powerful marketing tool if used correctly.
Your first consideration is to have your website fit in and be a part of you marketing strategy. You and your company have a strategy whether it is informal, formal, written or simply by "default;" that is, reactive rather than strategic.
Clearly if your website does not match up to your marketing strategy and plan there will be a disconnect.
If your website is "disconnected" from your marketing plan you will join the millions of business owners and professionals that have static websites that are more like newspaper or magazine ads.
This old school approach is becoming very old school. Those companies and individuals that are leveraging web technologies for marketing are gaining strong competitive advantages even in regional and local markets.
But as the saying goes, without a map or plan you can end up anywhere and anywhere is not smart business, especially in marketing.
What do you want your site to do? Maybe sell a product, relay information, generate an inquiry, set an appointment, request more info; the possibilities are endless.
That is why you need to decide first what you want your site to do and it should be a solid business decision, in fact one of your most important business decisions.
After you determine you goals, you should assess how appropriate is your site in meeting those goals. Who is your target market? What are your target market's demographics and interests?
In web sales and marketing terms you want to look for the conversion or next step from your target audience. If your product or service is low consideration such as a product sold directly through e-commerce, then your conversion would be a direct sale.
If your product or service is high consideration, such a kitchen remodel or roof, your conversion may be a phone call, inquiry, email, appointment or in-person visit.
If you have no site, determine your budget first and then your timeline. If you have a site that needs to be updated and upgraded, also determine your budget and timeline.
Unfortunately many older websites cannot be upgraded or made search engine friendly and you may have to start again.
Before doing anything, look carefully at the keywords and keyword phrases that your viewers will use to find you. Make sure these keywords are 'loaded' on your site, especially your homepage.
Viewers find your site through keywords and keyword phrases; if these keywords are not on your site how will they find you?
You can pay for ads and pay-per-clicks, the big advantage being you can target your audience. Don't forget that more and more search engine algorithms are tending toward fresh original content also known as organic search engine results.
The good news is that your "organic" content is permanent, or at least until you remove it. Unlike a paid ad that goes away when you stop paying for it, organic content lives on indefinitely making it an excellent value for your marketing dollar.
An important fact to remember is that if you don't update your site regularly the search engines stop making spider and crawler house calls to your site. If your goal is to attract the search engines then you must update your content regularly.
Use promotional interviews, promotional articles, quotes, blogs, links, backlinks and anything else you can to create content and make the search engines take notice. It's all about your content.
Make sure your site, especially your homepage, is full of your logo and brand. If you have neither, develop them. Remember that many expensive logos and brands don't work and you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good one.
If your site is new, you need to optimize it for search engine accessibility. This is known as search engine optimization or SEO. If your site has been up for some time and has lots of content, SEO will be less effective but still may be of value.
Search Engine Marketing or SEM is a more comprehensive marketing strategy plan than SEO. SEM usually implies paid marketing but increasingly free marketing has become very effective depending on the market or space your company is in.
Don't forget your site's look and feel which should match your company's look and feel. If you sell luxury boats you don't want your site looking like you are CraigsList.
Conversely, if you sell discounted goods from China you don't want your site to look and feel like Macy's website.
Clearly some content is better than other content and remember that your content should parallel your marketing plan. But don't forget that even minimal content is now better than no content.
"There may be talk of recession and consumers may be less susceptible to advertising than they used to be, but consumers are still human," says Julia Hyde of Creative Search Media in Scotts Valley, California, "and the science of psychology will still make them spend their hard earned money. The goal is to persuade them to spend it with you."
The bad news is technology is allowing your competitors the same access to web marketing as you have.
The good news for you is hopefully they haven't heard about it yet.