EDITION: February - April 2014

How to create a good business website

By Cila Warncke
Why is a website necessary?
A good website is as vital to growing your business as stock on your shelves and a sign above the shop door. In this era of near-universal smartphone usage the web is the first place people search for products and services; it is also where they go to compare prices, locate a shop, check opening hours, or ask questions. Without a website even the most successful business is invisible to a huge swathe of its potential customers, and is missing out on a chance to enhance its sales, reputation and credibility. Whether you are a freelance pet groomer, a musician, a retail owner, or president of a major corporation, a strong website is a business necessity.

1. Setting up a site
The first step in creating a site is deciding what format is best for your business. This means outlining your objectives: Do you want to sell products online? Educate people about your services? Create a gallery to showcase your creative work? Or reach a new target market? Once you’ve established what you want there is a variety of ways to build the actual site. You can invest in professional designers and have a custom-built site, which is a good option for complex sites such as online retailers. To create a basic website you can purchase a domain name and hosting from a company like godaddy.com or namecheap.com and use free templates to format it. An even easier option is to use a platform like WordPress to create a page instantly. One tip: avoid Flash. This used to be a popular design tool because of its stylish graphics, but Google doesn’t index Flash sites, and they don’t work on iPhones or iPads.

2. Content
Regardless of what you’re marketing your website needs to include a description of your product or service; basic information such as address, phone number, location and directions; opening hours; and a feedback form. When considering what else to add remember that content is what engages customers and drives Google rankings. Think about what people browsing the web for your type of business might be interested in. If you run a clothing shop post updates about fashion trends, new stock, or which celebrities wear your brand. Restaurant owners can attract attention by sharing recipes, food-and-wine pairing suggestions, or seasonal menus. Multimedia content such as audio, video, and photo galleries can also increase the amount of time people spend on your site.

3. User experience
No matter what the size or format the most important thing is that your site is professional-looking and user friendly. People are impatient. The average dwell time on a webpage is under a minute, with many users leaving after a few seconds, and nothing will chase them away faster than slow-loading pages, error messages or poor presentation. If you want customers to stick around long enough to see what you’re offering make your site interesting and simple to navigate. This means checking that pages load correctly in different browsers, that all the links work, and that key information like contact, location and opening hours is easy to spot. From a design point of view, ensure that your page has clear fonts and menus, and appealing images. For businesses in Ibiza, translating your site is an excellent way to broaden its reach.

4. SEO & Google rankings
SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’ which means making your site more visible to search engines like Google. Numerous companies sell SEO services that promise to increase your site’s ranking through various quasi-mystical means. Google, however, is wise to this and regularly updates its search algorithms, so if you try to ‘cheat’ your site will likely end up at the bottom of the pile. The real secret to Google ranking is content. Adding content related to your core business helps convince search algorithms that your site is genuine and authoritative, which is what lifts your rank. Say, for example, you have a dive centre. If you update your site with articles about marine life, equipment reviews, weather information, news stories, and informative articles it increases the likelihood that when people search for information about diving they’ll come across your site. This is why it’s important to add fresh, relevant content on a regular basis.

5. Promotion & Social media
The ultimate goal of marketing and publicity is to grow your business. To achieve this, your website and other advertising need to work in harmony and reinforce each other. Once you set up your website promote it on your business cards, flyers, billboards and in-store. You want people to know the web address so they can look you up, share with friends, or shop online. Word of mouth recommendations are more powerful than ordinary advertising, so once people are on your site make it easy for them to share content or recommend you online. Social media tools like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. are excellent ways to build your presence on the web, and don’t cost anything. If you use any of these tools post the buttons prominently on your site to encourage people to connect, share, and ‘like’ your business. •