As little as ten years ago, websites were a luxury reserved for businesses with large marketing budgets and a staff that understood the intricacies of HTML.  Today, any business or organization can have a web presence with the click of a few buttons.  The question now becomes ‘why’ have a website?  Just having a website because your competitors do, or because you ‘think’ you need one, is not enough of a reason to spend the time or the money on developing a site.

Many times, your website is the face of your business, a customer’s first impression of you and what you do.  However, being a pretty face is only a small part of how your website can work for you to promote your business.

When talking to your web developer and marketing team, here are five things your website needs to work FOR your business.

1.)   Solid architecture and design.  To stand out from the millions of other websites on the web (not just in your industry), your site needs to be built with not only Google in mind, but also for the ease of the user.  If your home page is confusing, too busy or too vague, visitors will not spend the time digging deeper to find what they are looking for.   Ask yourself, “can a visitor to our site immediately understand who we are and what we do?” If not, this should be the very first step in any re-design or change.

2.)   Navigation Best Practices:  The website needs to be built with best practices for navigation including top navigation, strategic page nesting by category or subject matter, links between pages within the content and footer navigation. If this is not in place, Google (and the other search engines) will have a hard time determining quickly what you do and where to file your site.

3.)   SEO SEO SEO (Search Engine Optimization): This is not an optional piece of a website, it is the most important thing you can do to help with ‘organic’ search.  A person looking for a specific product, place or service that does not know the name of your business, will use keywords in the search engines to find what they are looking for.  If the keywords or keyword phrases they are using do not match what is on your site, Google will find another site and feed that up first.  It is imperative to have a unique meta title, meta description and keyword block for every page on your site that uses strategic keywords and local-based tags, if applicable.

4.)   Contact Us:  This seems SO simple, but you would not believe how many times contact info is buried 3 pages deep and visitors have to hunt for it.  Your phone number, an email, a contact form and/or physical address (if applicable), should be on every page on your site (e.g. in the header, in the footer, or in a sidebar). No matter which page a visitor enters, they can contact you immediately.  For those of you with physical locations, this is critical. If someone is looking for your store/office/restaurant on a mobile device and they can’t easily find it, they will go to the guy down the street.

5.)   Mobile-Friendly:  Speaking of mobile devices, it is predicted that desktop computers will be non-existent by 2015 – that is only 2 years away.  Up to 40% of search traffic is coming from mobile devices today.  If your website cannot be viewed on a mobile device or is difficult to navigate on a small screen, your visitors will not take the time to fight with it. It is imperative that you work with your web developer on a mobile solution and know that it is not a “quick fix”. Understand the difference between a mobile plugin ($), a mobile app ($$-$$$$), and a fully responsive website design ($$$$).

Your website should be an extension of you and your brand, so make sure you put as much effort and investment into this as you would any other aspect of your business. By investing today in a well-designed, optimized website, it will work for you as an advocate and business development tool for years to come.

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