. . . the art of design

10 Things You Should Know About Websites and Online Marketing

10 Things You Should Know About Websites and Online Marketing

I recently had the opportunity to speak with the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center's Grow Smart program.  I was given the topic of "Websites, SEO and Online Marketing."  Then I was told I’d only have ten minutes.  So, I decided to give the top ten things you should know about those things spending one minute talking about each of them.  Here is the content and an info-graphic of that presentation (after I wasted the first 22 seconds explaining what I was about to say).

#1 Education is Sales.

Thirty seconds ago you didn’t know what I was going to say; now you do.  In ten minutes, you will know the most important things about websites.  That’s because (hopefully) I know more about it than you, and I’m sharing it with you.

You (hopefully) know more about your field than your clients.  Use your website to educate them.  If you have a worthwhile product or service, educated clients are always better than uneducated ones.  Education is sales.  This works out nicely because of ...

#2 The Best Thing You Can Do for SEO is Blog

Search engines like Google find and return websites to certain queries based on complex algorithms that take a plethora of factors into consideration.  Among the most weighty are how many and how often people visit your site, the amount and relevancy of your content and the frequency of your updates.

If you blog things pertinent to your industry on a frequent basis and push that content, you stand to improve all of the above factors.  You give more people a reason to come to your site more often.  You insure that your content is relevant, frequently updated and (after time) plentiful.

Keeping an updated blog (or news or education or whatever you want to call it section) is one of the best things you can do for SEO in the long run.  As encouraging as that is, you have to remember ...

#3 Websites are Not Magic Wands

(Neither are videos or marketing while we’re at it).  Websites are tools.  They can be really helpful with the work, but you have to use them for the right job and in the right way.

In one sense websites are ubiquitous in that they are a given; you “have to have a website just to validate yourself,” but they can and should be used in other ways as well.  We’ve already talked about websites as a source of education, but they are also used as systems of communication, stream of revenue and many other things.

However, you can’t expect to setup eCommerce and just let the money come rolling in.  Websites are excellent tools when used properly, but there is still work to be done.  They’re not magic wands.  Speaking of the right tool for the right job, you should know that ...

#4 You Probably Don’t Need an App.

For a while apps were the hot topic, and everyone thought they needed one.  Then they realized how expensive they were and changed their minds.  Well, the pendulum is swinging back the other way, and we have more and more clients asking us about apps.

Nine times out of ten, your time, money and efforts are better spent on a good, responsive website than it is on an app.  The cost of apps goes beyond creation to promotion, and there are only so many advertising resources to go around.  The benefits of apps are limited to non-connectivity, global positioning and push notifications—all of which are becoming more obsolete as technology improves.

I know what you’re thinking, but actually, “Yes, we build apps,” but you probably don’t need one.  However, and this is ...

#5, A Facebook Page Isn’t Good Enough.

Someone once tried to tell me that “you obviously don’t need a website because facebook doesn’t have a website.”  I just looked at her and said, “Sure they do.  It’s facebook.com.”

If you are interested, we can go into more detail about this during the Q&A, but a facebook page is limited in exposure, information, usability, search-ability and promotion.  I could give a dozen examples of how this is not just neutral but actually bad for business, but in short, you need a place on the web where you can easily send your clients, show your information, control your content and can easily be found through search engines.

The right tool for this job is a website;  Facebook is not good enough.  This leads us to ...

#6 Social Media is a Joke.

Now, before my fellow panel members strangle me for saying that, let me tell you what I mean by it.  There are dozens of social media success stories out there.  So, people think that social media is the key.  It’s not.  Telling you so could be an easy way for me to make a buck, but it’s just not true.

For every social media success story there are 1,000 stories of unmet social media expectations.  Here’s why—what works is not social media.  What works is good old fashioned networking—social media is just the platform.

I recently had a client ask me about social media for a medically related service that no one would talk about in a social setting.  I told them that it’s not going to work, and that they would be better off making their information available in doctors’ offices.  Social media is a joke in the sense that people like to hear and to share jokes, but they’d better be funny.

While we’re at it ...

#7 The Only Number That Counts is at the Bottom Line.

I have a client who builds railways—who knew?  Before he was my client, he was encouraged to spend a lot of money on Search Engine Marketing.  He set his limit at $1,000 a month and was thrilled to see the number of clicks and page views and time spent on site in the monthly analytics report.  He sat back and waited for the money to start rolling in.  After about six months or so, it still hadn’t.  He was getting tons of hits but no more business.

As it turns out the people who were visiting his site found it very interesting, but they weren’t buying.  Why?  Because they were searching for model train railways.  He learned the hard way that the only number that counts is at the bottom line.

Return on investment is so key, but it is sometimes hard to correlate.  So, let me tell you now ...

#8 Copywriters and Photographers Are Worth Their Salt.

It is terribly frustrating to build a great looking site, populate it with sample images, suggest a professional photographer and then hear the client say, “Oh, I’ve got a nice camera.”

We have seen some great looking sites muddied to the point of no return by some crappy photography.  The same is true with awful copy.  That’s why we contract with professional photographers and copywriters whenever we can.  I’m a libertarian, so I try to let my clients decide for themselves as much as possible, but I’m telling you now, it is worth it.  They may be expensive, but copywriters and photographers are worth their salt.

You should know, however, that when you hire professionals to do their job, that ...

#9 You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

It’s your company and your site, and you know it better than anyone else.  However, your clients see things differently than you do, and your designer knows the web better than you do.  These are the three people that have to be happy, and not a single one of them can have exactly what they want.

You should get what you want when it comes to what the site does and does not include.  I should get what I want when it comes to how the site looks and feels.  Clients should get (not even necessarily what they want but) what they need.  All of the above have very important voices but should also have a good set of ears, and none of them can always get what he wants.

But that’s ok because of ...

#10 You Should Trust Your Designer.

It’s really great to work with third party marketers like MadLab because they can come to us and say, “The client would really rather see this change.”  And if we push back, they can go to the client and say, “Listen, you’ve got to trust your designer on this.”  They don’t have a dog in the fight, so they can act as an objective mediator and navigate without hurt feelings.

We try to do that internally as well, but at some point, you’ve got to understand that you hired creative professionals to do a job, and you’ve got to trust them to do it.  Designers should listen to you and learn from you and produce a better product because of you.  And all of that should build trust with you, but you’ve got to actually trust your designer.

I’ll say this, and then I’ll be done.  If you can’t trust your designer … fire him.  I’m absolutely serious about that.  Fire him and find someone else, because you should trust your designer.

10 Things You Should Know About Websites and Online Marketing