Since you’re probably tired of hearing me go on and on (say it ain’t so) I thought I’d highlight one of the resident super-geniuses of Turn The Page.
Mike Burgess is Technical Director, which means he knows what his clients need when it comes to web development, site design and usability. He answered a few questions about website design and what to look for as a small business owner. If you have any questions for Mike please leave them in the comments section and I’ll stalk him until he answers.
So Mike, you’re a big time website guy and know just how small businesses can benefit from a good online presence.
How important is design for a small business website?
Truth is you can have a website and it can be indexed, searched and found by the search engines and the design doesn’t play a part in that. But you have to think of your clientele. People are coming to the internet “looking” for something. If what they see doesn’t appeal to them, then they aren’t going to look any further. The design and graphic appeal of your website is what can keep someone or turn them away in the first 5 to 10 seconds.
How about those website templates? Are they worth it?
Template websites always seem to lack in at least one of two areas: 1) They aren’t search engine friendly. You can get one, get it set up and tell your friends about it. But the average person searching for your skill will not be able to find your site because it is sitting at the bottom of the list of websites, not able to be found. 2) Template sites look nice and are cheap, but they lack in custom capability. It can be difficult just to change a color. Or, if you can change colors you are going to spend hours of time teaching yourself CSS and HTML and other such coding languages, just so you can customize it. Most (small) business owners I know would rather not spend their time on such stuff.
…That being said, be wary of individuals/companies who offer to set you up websites for cheap. (If you don’t know what cheap is, shop around, it become very apparent.) People who set up cheap sites are just using templates. And they usually have to sell a lot to make a living. They will set up hundreds of template sites and then move on to get more clients. Then when you want something changed, visually or in the content, it can take forever to get them to get around to making the changes, or they will charge some absurd amount to justify their. Over the last couple of years we have acquired a handful of such clients because they are upset with the previous “developer” either because of price, or they can’t get their site updated.
If you have a limited budget what three or four things would you spend your money on?
1) Making sure your website is going to be found by people other than friends and family. Set up with good content, titles, keywords, etc. Get someone who knows what they are doing.
2) Making sure you are getting a website that is branded toward your company. That is, one that sells your product/service.
3) Have access to make changes. Whether that is with you personally or saving some budget to pay your developer to make changes. A website should not be thought of as a static piece of art. The Internet and search engines are constantly evolving, as is your company. Your website should be one of your top marketing priorities in today’s world and you should have the ability to keep marketing your product or service.
How about copy? What’s the general rule on how many words per page?
Your copy is a huge part of what the search engines read to index your pages. The search engines match your content with what people search for. Each page should be about 300-500 words. (Mike agrees with everything I’ve ever said about content. Or at least he didn’t disagree. He could have gone for coffee, I’m not sure.)
How important are images? Video?
Images are probably more important than video. Images help advertise you and only take a second to see. Videos are good if they are selling you in a way that appeals to your potential clientele and aren’t a “waste of time.” The internet is suppose to be a place to find something quickly, so not everyone is going to take time to watch a video. But pictures and images can be a good way to show you and your product/service, introducing people to you before you actually meet.
Do you recommend any e-commerce services for my small/medium business website?
I recommend e-commerce if you have the budget for it. If you believe that selling your product online will increase your business, then YES, sell online. There will always be a lot of people who won’t buy certain things online because they want to see/hold/touch/inspect the product in person before they purchase it. I will always recommend getting a basic website and using it to drive business to you first, establishing yourself, then move into the e-commerce market when the timing is right.
Any other advice?
Websites aren’t the only way to market yourself and your company, but they seem to be the most vital to the upcoming generations. Buy a domain. Buy a website. Use your website. Update it. Stay on top of it. At least give people the chance to find you.
Thanks Mike! If you’d like Mike or any of Turn The Page Online Marketing’s rock stars to help you with web design and development, content management, social media or any other online small business effort just give us a call, email, Tweet, comment or message by carrier pigeon. We can show you some business solutions that will wow you, get you noticed, and increase your bottom line.