Planning Your Website
Step 1: Don’t think “SEO”!
Think, “Attract potential customers to my website“.
The first step in planning your website is to understand who your ideal potential customer is.
There’s a huge difference between thinking “SEO” and thinking “What do my customers want?”, that many hard-core SEO “experts” often don’t “get”. If you fail to understand this difference, your search engine strategy will not be efficient and effective. And who can afford to waste effectiveness here?
Who Are My Customers?
Let’s start with the “potential customers” part. If you’re selling racing drones, it’s a good bet that you don’t need an ad in AARP! But you’d be surprised at how many small business owners try to “optimize their websites” for search engines, without really giving this much thought.
How much thought should it take? Well, there are books and even entire marketing courses covering this subject – that’s how important it is. Just Google “who are your customers” then browse through some of the linked articles, and you’ll start to see what I mean. Here’s one to get you started..
We’ll have other articles covering this topic “Who are your customers?” in depth. I know that as a small business person, your time is limited and valuable. You can’t spend a week on this or any other topic, but you’d better spend from half to a full day – that’s how important it is!
And, if you do it right, you’re almost guaranteed to come up with some surprises while you add depth to your understanding of your customers and their thinking.
Google Doesn’t Like ‘SEO’!
Think of a dating website where some people seem just a bit too eager, too desperate. It’s a turn-off, right? Well, that’s how search bots (applications from Google, Bing, etc., that seek out and collect web data to provide results to their search customers) think too!
If a search bot thinks you’re “trying too hard”, or trying to fool it, it will penalize you in the SERPS (search engine results pages). And yet, if you don’t do certain SEO-type things right, you won’t be found anyway. Future articles will cover how to hit that “sweet spot”, so your website will rank well for your potential customers, while avoiding penalties.
SEO is one of our first categories because that’s one of the first things our visitors seem to be looking for. But not so fast!
In my youthful days, I once owned a few computer stores. I remember having spent over a week readying my first store. When I had about half the shelves stocked, I’d planned a “pre-opening” sale, and showed a neighboring shop owner the ad I was about to take to the newspaper (yes, this was before the Internet!).
He must’ve taken pity on me and he gave this advice – “First impressions are forever. Don’t invite them until you’re 100% ready.”
I’m sharing this advise with you because I’ve seen too many small businesses ask for SEO help, when their websites were..well, “not ready”. Little to no thought had been given to marketing, calls to action, customer demographics or even aesthetics, in some cases.
Marketing and SEO aren’t one-time tasks. They’r’e never-ending, ongoing jobs that require constant watching and adjusting. You just can’t do those things properly without the right kind of reports.
You think your sales figures are enough “reporting”? Well, what if you’re only converting half the percentage of what others in your industry convert? Wouldn’t you want to know what adjustments to make to double your sales? That’s what reporting does.
How, What, Where?
Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal.. – there are dozens more options when it comes to how to build your website. Which one is best for you? Why does it matter?
You know exactly what you want in your website? Fine. Write it down, put it in a drawer and take another look six months later. It’ll be good for a laugh!
Unless your business model is very simple, you’re almost assuredly going to change your mind on some things. You’ll come up with new ideas. There’ll be new technology. And interactions with visitors and customers will point out new needs for your website. The only thing certain is “CHANGE”.
Therefore, you don’t want to choose a web format that will box you in and limit your choices down the road. If you only need an online “business card”, then it doesn’t much matter which method you use to build your website. The simpler the better, so long as the aesthetics are great. That means Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, etc. will work for you just fine.
Yes, I know they offer online stores, etc. And that might work for you if you only have a limited amount of products and you know that your needs will never change. Don’t think that you’ll start off with a “ready-to-go” website, then convert it a few months down the road. That’s more costly and time-consuming than starting off in the right format.
We’ll devote at least one full article to choosing how to build your website. Then others with specific how-tos, though you can find plenty of those on You-Tube, etc.
For now, if you’re unsure, unless you’re in a publishing-like industry, if you’re going to build your own website, you can’t go wrong with WordPress. Though there may be better choices for some, WordPress won’t likely be a bad choice for any.
This is your “bait”. This is what your visitors come for. You’d better be giving them what they want, or you’re going to have a very hard time converting them into customers.
We’ll (soon) have articles on how to write your content, what topics to cover and what style to cover them in.
Marketing (& Branding)
This is not a sequential topic. You can’t add marketing later. It has to be properly and consistently intertwined with your branding. You have to have an understanding of semantics and how the same words can have differing effects on different demographics (part of why you need to really know who your customers are).
There’s a lot more to marketing than, “Call now and we’ll throw in..!” After all, just a B.A. in marketing takes four years! If you haven’t at least read several good marketing or copywriting books, you should consider getting some help throughout your website building process.
We’ll be having frequent articles on this vitally important topic.
I’ve been building websites for small business owners ever since the world discovered the web. (It existed and I was playing on the internet before it was called that, and I was hacking BBS software – the precursor to the web – before that!)
Having a website is like having a garden. If you neglect it..well, it just doesn’t do well. So whether you’re building a new website, or nurturing an “old” one, I promise we’ll have valuable information for you, right here.
Check back each week. You’ll be glad you did!