POST WRITTEN BY T. Maxwell Maxwell is the owner of eMaximize, a full-service digital marketing agency located in Manhattan Beach, California.
As I struggled to come up with a topic for this article, I thought about my last one, where I compared social media to attending a cocktail party.
There is so much talk about the importance of social media for businesses. It can be an incredible source of information, a valuable lead generation tool and also a complete waste of time, if it's not handled properly. That’s quite a polarization.
I've found that for most businesses, social media falls into the second category — lead generation. Most businesses post content on social media to retain and recruit customers. Restaurants post food images to entice new customers to come in for a meal. Hotels post images of their properties to entice customers to visit.
Architects and interior designers post images of their completed projects to show their acumen for design. There are countless articles online about how to manage social media channels for your business, like my previous article. What I don't see talked about as often is the website that people go to after they take your bait on social media. To me, that raises the question: What is the role of the website in today’s digital environment?
Most of what we do in digital marketing, be it SEO, social media, pay-per-click or email marketing, is to drive quality leads to a website and encourage them to complete a form, make a phone call or make a purchase. That’s the end game for most businesses. I always tell our clients that they need to think about their website as the mother ship — it’s the most important piece of your digital marketing assets. You work so hard and spend so much money to drive quality leads to your website; you can’t fumble when you get to the goal line. You've worked way too hard.
This reminds me of when restaurants tell a party of two that there aren't any tables available because they're saving their four-tops in case a larger party comes in. The customer is at your door, so give them a seat and pour them some wine. Don’t lose visitors upon arrival by giving them a negative first impression. They likely won’t come back. The same advice applies to your website: Once your guests arrive, greet them and gently escort them to where you want them to go.
Long gone are the days when a website was akin to a digital yellow pages listing — a place to put some information about your business and your contact information. The internet is so saturated with information now that it seems like search engines like Google can barely keep up, especially after they inject paid placements into your search results.
Consider these statistics:
• There are more than 1.7 billion websites on the internet, and according to one report, 52% of all web traffic comes from bots.
• One marketing analytics firm found that almost 50% of all Google searches are "zero-click searches," meaning that the user ends their search without clicking on any of the results pages.
My point is that generating quality leads on the internet is getting harder and more expensive. There's a lot of competition to get on the first page of Google, where 71% of all search traffic clicks occur.
That’s why it’s critical to have a website that operates like a well-oiled machine. Make sure it's easy to navigate on mobile phones, desktops and tablets. Make sure it welcomes visitors and has an easily recognized path to services, bios, testimonials and most importantly, your call-to-action points — online forms, phone numbers and reservation boxes.
Take website development seriously by conducting a functionality and design phase. To use another brick and mortar analogy, launching a website with a poor design is like running a business on Main Street with no sign, no lights and no door. Make sure you have on-page SEO elements, that your site is optimized for mobile, that you have security installed (SSL) and that you have clickable phone numbers. Also include qualifying data like testimonials, case studies or a client list, and list several different ways for visitors to contact you.
Don't simply hire the local hipster you met at the coffee shop to create your business website. You wouldn’t do that to fix your car, so why would you do that with something so important to your business? Make sure your website developer has SEO, marketing, lead generation and programming knowledge because your competitors likely will.
Your website is the mother ship; it's where all the important information is exchanged and where the most important digital actions take place. It’s not something to be taken lightly, and it’s not something to skimp on.
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