I've been spending more time in LinkedIn groups lately and finding many of the discussions fascinating, particularly around some of the key areas of how to make business websites work and the questions people are asking.
For a business a content rich website is vital. You own your website so it is the centre of your universe, the centre of your hub where all your other channels of communication and traffic come back to you.
You don't own your Facebook page - Facebook owns its website. They make the decisions about whether they keep your profile published and going. You make the decisions about your website.
So to help make the most of your business website we have answered some core questions for you.
How important is content for a website?
Content is one of the most important features of a business website, now more than ever. But what matters most is the quality of the content - it must be well written and beneficial to your audience.
Poorly written or quite brief content is considered by the powers that be (Google for instance) to be spammy content - even if you're not sending out spam like emails pushing your content, bad quality content is defined as spam content. It's easier to think of it as junk quality - of no value to anyone.
Happily the solution of sharing only good quality articles and information is one that benefits everyone - the treasured reader, the business investing time and money into the development of the content and Google with it's desire to only return useful and valuable content to it's users.
As with anything, a practical difference between junk and quality is the time invested in producing it. Good quality content naturally takes more time to research, craft and develop than short stories that add very little value to anything. But it is much easier to leverage.
Yet Google's 2014 Hummingbird changes means that us business owners need to focus more on the quality side of things to get Google's positive attention.
Are you comfortable writing?
The challenge comes for many business owners when they are either not comfortable writing or lack the time to develop the good quality content.
The simple solution can be having help with it by bringing in someone who is a natural writer, understands your business needs and audience so they can research and write the content you need.
Whether you are developing the content yourself or have a consulting writer or copy sriter on board you'll need to think through:
Copy these questions in to a Word document and write out the answers to help with your own clarity on the topic and with any one you're sharing this project with.
How can I share my quality content through social media platforms?
Sharing your stories and articles via the social media sites is easier than you might think and can bring great results - the key here is consistency. Being seen to be active on the sites makes a big difference.
The social media sites can all be seen as communication channels for your business, broadcasting your top quality content while demonstrating your expertise and bringing you valuable traffic back to your website.
Each social media platform has a different focus and needs a different approach and tone of language. Facebook is chatty and relaxed, Twitter is brief and great for sharing links to stories while LinkedIn is ideal for the business environment - it's professional, straight to the point and all about building relationships. While Google+ is important for being seen by Google.
For the businesses built around highly visual products social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook with their focus on photos are ideal.
Videos continue to be valuable content for sharing via all the social media platforms.
How to build your professional and business profiles with LinkedIn and Twitter
For service based businesses LinkedIn and Twitter are great.
LinkedIn has a strong focus on building relationships and connections so sharing content that helps others increases your profile and demonstrates your expertise.
When you join LinkedIn groups that are full of people ideally suited to your business goals and get involved in discussions you are talking directly with your target audience. It is all about relationship building and it is NOT about sales pitches.
Twitter is great for building an audience with similar interests and sharing your content that links back to your website. Just like LinkedIn, Twitter is great for building your profile as an influencer in your field.
Twitter lets you easily tag other businesses and individuals, share their content and build relationships.
With both Twitter and LinkedIn it is easy to schedule regular posts so you can mix them in with your live posts.
To make all of these social media platforms work for your business you need good quality content that represents you and your business in the best possible ways. So it's important to invest in your content and develop a content marketing plan.
How important is website usability for business?
It's really important to craft a business website that is easy to use because it is all about your visitors and their experience. Your website is the centre of your universe. It's the hub for all your other channels - blog, newsletter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook - everything that brings you traffic.
If the site is difficult to use then people will leave in droves.
Thankfully the days of useless home pages and frames have gone and many sites are now Flash free given the rise in iPads and their inability to access Flash. But the core elements of design are still as relevant today as they were 15 years ago:
For many businesses most visitors will come to the site via topic pages - called child pages as the home page is called the parent page. So it's important to include in your site architecture plan landing pages for different categories, promotions and activities. These are then optimised for search engine results so they are easily found.
Quick checklist for your website
Make sure it is really easy for your visitors to access from anywhere in the site:
Your website's ease of use - it's usability - is all about how easy it is for visitors to find your information so be sure to be in their shoes when you're planning the site.
Connecting with Other Businesses
I believe it's vitally important for a business website to be a core tool in your strategic partnerships and business relationship plans. By connecting with the influencers and businesses you share an audience with you can grow your own database and profile.
All websites seek valuable back links - those links from other sites to their site. Being involved in stories, interviews, listings, reviews and online content with other quality, relevant sites will help in bringing targeted traffic to your site and building your audience.
All growth focused business owners appreciate the value of sharing what they are doing with businesses who share the same audience. So logically a yoga studio will have a shared audience with a wellness retreat, a business coach will have a shared audience with a sales coach - you get the picture. The businesses compliment each other and their customers are most likely interested in what both businesses have to offer.
Again the key will be in how the quality content is shared. This is where your social media profiles come into their own. You are more valuable to connect with if you have a sizable social media following, particularly if it's an engaged following, eg. your Twitter followers RT your posts.
Types of stories you can use to connect with other businesses
These types of content can be ideal for connecting with influencers and other smart businesses:
Everything is Interconnected
All of this ties together, your content marketing plan and investment in good quality online content is shared through your social media profiles that lets you connect with like minded, growth focused business owners and their audiences. Your website is the universe of your world and needs to be easy to use.
Your business website is a valuable marketing and positioning tool that's open 24/7. As customers do much more researching about a business online now before they spend their money it is imperative to make it work for you.
The good news is you can easily do your own research about it and make the decision about whether you invest your own time in doing it or you bring in a consultant to make it happen for you. The key to making it the most efficient and affordable solution is deciding on what you want to achieve and I hope this story and the connected ones have helped clarify some issues for you.
If you have any questions or would like more help do please let me know.
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