The first step to successful online marketing is to identify your goal. If you are a merchant, you will obviously want to sell your products online on an eCommerce site. For service providers, it might be to build your “brand”; establishing who you are and your expertise online.
Once you know what kind of website you need, you will need to register your domain (the name of your site) and set up a hosting account. If you will be selling online you will need to work with a provider that will support the kinds of services you need for your business, like shopping carts and database management for example.
Naturally, you will need to develop content – the information on your website. The information on your site will need to be relevant for your intended audience. eCommerce websites will need to have merchandise organized into categories and subcategories. Brochure site should have information your visitors need or want. All websites need to be kept current. Visitors will very quickly move on from a site that has outdated content and once they are gone, they won’t be back.
The next step is perhaps the most fun – selecting a design for your new website. I always begin by giving clients “homework”. I ask them to check out other websites, competitors and non-competitors, to see what they like and don’t like. This provides a reference point for the look and feel. It also provides insight into how to organize your content.
The trick is keeping your expectations realistic. There are lots of “flashy” – no pun intended – websites out there. But what will attract visitors to your site and keep them coming back? A simple, easy to use website is best. While I pride myself in providing clients with attractive, easy to navigate sites, I recently came across an amusing article (“The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites”) that drives the point home that “content is king.”
An important consideration is who will be maintaining the website? Will you be paying for this service or will you be taking on this task yourself? When making this decision, think about how much time you want to dedicate to keeping the content fresh, learning the technology and making edits.