PART TWO OF A SERIES: Web Design for Internet Marketing

We should all strive to be our best, but what’s most important is to be better than your competition. That’s why we spend so much time in the beginning of an Internet marketing campaign to carefully review and assess your top competitors. If you don’t know what’s out there, you have no idea which challenges your website needs to overcome and which strategic advantages you already have. While we promote each business with a uniquely customized approach, there are a few glaring mistakes that we see competing websites make over and over:

Ignoring the Principles of Branding and/or Search Engine Optimization

When it comes to building a successful website, there are two sides of the coin: the technical and the design. Oftentimes, we’ll come across a website that was built by an individual who clearly knows his stuff when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) but obviously hasn’t even given a thought to the design side. There’s no photo of the business or the owner, there’s no logo and there’s no brand strategy. Such SEO-obsessed websites may rank well in the search engines, but they completely lack appeal to real live human beings.

On the other hand, we also come across websites that make the opposite mistake. Upon loading the page, the visitor is greeted with a gorgeously designed Flash page with animations, soothing music and ornate graphical detail. But the problem with sites built entirely from Flash is that they, while lovely to behold, are essentially invisible to search engine spiders. You may have seen a mostly Flash site indexed in the search engine results pages – they’re the ones with the description that say nothing but “Enter Here” or “Your browser is missing a required plugin to view this page.” Not exactly compelling.

The key is to strike a balance between both aspects. You’ll notice that the websites that we’ve built for clients do contain aesthetically pleasing Flash elements and are meticulously designed, but it all flows seamlessly into the meaty content of the page. We have nothing against Flash or other novel, visual flourishes – but in the “content pyramid” of your website, they belong at the tip top. In other words, use sparingly. Build the foundation on substantial, conversion friendly content, yet still make it palatable with artistic design without unbalancing your site’s diet.

Lacking a Conversion Friendly Web Design

Many businesses do a fairly good job of attracting visitors to their website, but that’s not the point of Internet Marketing. Traffic is fine, but conversion is the real goal. No matter what format, tone or approach your website takes, you must have these three conversion goals in mind:

• Call us on the phone
• Contact us by filling out our form
• Bookmark us and visit again

We’ve discussed the importance of a conversion friendly web design before, but it can’t be stressed enough. Your website needs to generate genuine leads, not just rack up your bandwidth costs. And your website design needs to organically guide visitors with a call to action on every page.

Not Giving Visitors What They Want

With search engines, it’s important to remember what the word “query” means. A query is, quite literally, a question. And that’s what users are doing when the use search engines – they’re asking a question.

The question might be, “How much does it cost to get a tattoo removed?” or “How do I find a condo in the Los Angeles area?” or “Who is the best plastic surgeon in Dallas?” or “Who can help me design a logo from scratch?”

Of course, these queries come in the form of search terms such as “Glendora tattoo removal costs”or “Los Angeles condos” or “best plastic surgeon Dallas, TX” but that doesn’t change the fact that these users are looking for specific answers. And when the wind up on your website, it’s your job to provide those answers in a satisfactory, straightforward manner.

In cases where the question is something like, “Which is the best IT consultant firm in Denton?” the answer should obviously be you. To that end, you need to say, “Yes, we are an IT consulting firm, we serve your area and we are the best because…” It all boils down to the three key pieces of information that web visitors are almost always looking for:

• Who are you?
• Where are you located?
• Why should I choose you?

Even if someone initially finds your website with a more specific question, these are the questions that they will ultimately ask next if and when you give them the first satisfactory answer. If a visitor can’t find what they are looking for on your site within a few seconds, they’ll leave. It’s as simple as that. Don’t distract them from the essential information, don’t mislead them into clicking on your page (“Are you looking for low car insurance rates? Then you may be interested in some of these weight loss facts…”) and don’t make it any harder for them to find what they are looking for than is necessary. As Steve Krug would say, “Don’t Make Me Think.”

Conclusion – Their Weaknesses Are Your Strengths

The reason why we take time to analyze what your competitors aren’t doing is so that we can do them instead. This is the easiest and most effective way to gain a clear advantage over your top competitors on those search engine results pages. All it takes is an understanding of what potential customers are looking for in a website and delivering it more effectively than the other guys. Through consistent application of market research, web design fundamentals and proven SEO practices, we are confident that we can help your website outperform the competition.

Give us a call or shoot us an email and we can discuss a strategy that will work for your business in greater detail. Or, follow us on Facebook or @FirmMedia and stay tuned for more web design for Internet marketing posts and webinars.

Christopher Suchanek is a founding partner of Firm Media and oversees all sales and marketing.