A website is a vital business tool: it’s as essential for a business as having a phone number, or email address, or business card. But what is the purpose of a website, exactly?
How can a website help a business?
In my view, the purpose of a website is 2-fold:
Firstly, the website should attract traffic (i.e. visitors).
Secondly, the website should convert as many of those visitors as possible into a prospects who contact you in some way.
Let’s take a look at these two purposes in more detail…
Purpose of a website #1: Attracting traffic
There’s no point having a website if no one can find it or no one knows about it.
Your website needs to get visits from as many relevant prospects as possible.
There are a number of different ways in which you can get traffic to your website. Each of these tactics is approached in a different way, and has benefits and drawbacks:
- Free search engine traffic: Attracting search traffic rarely happens by itself: you need to take proactive steps to make your website attractive for search engines (and for human readers). This is called search engine optimisation (SEO). It takes a bit of work to set it up, but if it’s done well it can potentially generate traffic to your website for years and years to come. For most businesses, the return on investment is very good.
- Paid search engine traffic (e.g. Google AdWords): This can be effective, but you only get the traffic if you keep paying for it. This can work out to be expensive after a number of months, unless your business has a very high average dollar sale and high profit margin.
- Online display ads and banners: with “pay per click” or “pay per view” advertising, you only get the traffic if you pay for it. This too can be very expensive – especially for businesses with modest average dollar sales and profit margins.
- Links from other websites: This is a good strategy to pursue, but in practice many businesses find it hard to get meaningful links. It is important that the links come from high quality websites: if they come from poor quality, spammy websites your website’s online reputation could suffer as a consequence. So think quality rather than quantity.
- Links from directories: The success varies, as any directory these days is secondary to Google. Think carefully about paying for listings: crunch the numbers upfront; and monitor the results.
- Links from social media: You have to be committed to social media for this marketing channel to work. That involves having a clear social media strategy and making the updates consistently. Social media might be free to use, but it takes a good amount of skill and commitment to get it to work or to get any traction. Social media sites to consider include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. There are many others, too, but those are the main ones. Use the ones that your customers use: e.g. there’s no point tweeting like crazy, if your target market isn’t on Twitter!
- Include your website address on your business cards and other printed stationery: Yes, you need to do this, but your reach will be limited, so don’t rely on this alone.
- Include your website address on any sign writing, e.g. premises, vehicles, etc.: This can be very effective, but again, your reach is limited.
Tip: Before you commit to spending money on any website traffic attraction strategies, carry out a break even analysis to see if what you’re considering is likely to be pay dividends – or be an expensive waste of money. It’s far better to discover that upfront before you spend a cent!
I’ve seen businesses work wonders with some of these attraction methods. Some businesses do really well with Google AdWords. One person I know gets a substantial amount of his business from LinkedIn. A small business with multiple vehicles on the road gets crazy good results from their vehicle sign writing.
But there’s one website attraction technique that works consistently well for most business types. And that is, search engine traffic – which usually comes from Google, seeing as they have 89.69% global market share (as at September 2013).
How do you get more Google traffic?
Getting traffic from Google comes down to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are different SEO techniques; I’d argue that the most effective technique I’ve seen is to write website content that targets the keywords users put into Google when conducting their searches. This is known as “SEO website copywriting” – in other words, writing content that uses keywords.
I earn my bread and butter from writing SEO website copy for my clients. Here are some of the results I’ve achieved for my clients:
- A client with a multi-million dollar business is getting 42% of his business from his website. (He measures this data carefully, so that’s an exact number.)
- A one-man band in a service industry reckons he gets 95% of his work from his website.
- Another customer is steadily getting $50k worth of business from her website year after year… she may have spent say $5,000 dollars on the website and content, so that’s a 900% Return on Investment! And the website keeps delivering more customers year after year!
So if you’re wondering why your website isn’t attracting more traffic, maybe it’s because your website hasn’t been set up with this in mind. (This is very common: many website developers aren’t aware of SEO techniques.)
I’d suggest you look into this to find out if optimising your website content for search engines would bring you more traffic.
Remember, if this is done well, the search engines are likely to keep delivering traffic for you, year after year. So if you want to turn your website into a cash machine (or at least a prospect generation machine), then check out SEO website copywriting.
Aren’t you biased because you do SEO website copywriting for a living?
Yes, I write SEO website content for a living… but the reason I started specialising in that area is because of the staggering results it achieves.
I firmly believe that small business owners need marketing techniques that are sustainable over a period of time, and will generate returns for them. I haven’t come across any website attraction techniques that deliver such good returns in the long term as SEO website copywriting.
Of course, results vary: some industries are more competitive than others. Or if you’re in a fledgling or niche industry, the search volumes may not be that high.
But with the bullet point list above, of the different ways to get website traffic, you can start evaluating different tactics to see what might work for you.
Attracting website traffic is the first purpose of a website – now let’s look at the second:
Purpose of a website #2: Converting readers into prospects
The second purpose of a website is to convert readers into prospects. What this means exactly will depend on your business model.
Conversion could mean any combination of the following:
- Getting people to call you, email you, or fill in a contact form.
- Getting people to download your Free Report or white paper.
- Obtaining email subscribers.
- Making an online purchase.
These are the best kinds of conversion goals, because they are measurable.
However, getting those conversions is no mean feat, as it generally means getting complete strangers to trust your business right away.
Your website need to build trust quickly
You have something like 5 to 9 seconds to grab readers’ attention, and compel them to read on.
A big part of the reader’s decision making is based on trust, so your site has to instil trust and confidence with complete strangers – and very quickly.
Here’s my quick, 10-step guide to building trust online.
Have a clear and obvious call-to-action
One important thing to mention about converting readers into prospects is having clear and obvious calls-to-action. In other words, what is the next step a prospect should take to buy from you? This may be obvious to you, as the business owner, but on many websites this is very unclear and ambiguous.
- Should people phone you? Or email you?
- Is there a consultation? If so, is it free or paid for?
- Do you provide written quotes or estimates? Are they free or not?
- Do you have a shop, showroom or office? Can people just pop in, or do they need to make an appointment? What are the opening hours?
Your call-to-action should be clear and obvious on every page of the website. And if your buying process is more complex (e.g. architects, builders, business consultants, etc.) then include a page called ‘The Process’ or ‘How it Works’ or something like that. Once people know the steps involved in the buying process, they can start to picture themselves going on that journey. Conversely, if people have no idea what’s involved, they are far less likely to contact you to take the next step. It’s up to you to explain your process clearly and concisely – and encourage prospects to take the next step.
Hint: If you’re thinking of re-writing your website’s content to attract more traffic, also look at the content in terms of conversion. Are there things you could do to the content that’ll help transform more readers into prospects?
After all, if you’re going to re-work the website content, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s converting well as well as attracting traffic. This way you can kill two birds with one stone.
Summary: Why a website is much like a car…
If you’d like an easy analogy to describe the purpose of a website, a website is a bit like a car.
You buy a website development like you buy a car: that part of the investment is like the technological nuts and bolts.
But to get your car anywhere, it needs fuel. And that’s where the content comes in: words, pictures, videos… and for a website to really travel the distance, it’s a good idea to keep topping it up with fuel (content).
A car also needs regular servicing to keep it running smoothly. If you don’t do that, the car might break down. Similarly, a website needs tweaking and reviewing regularly, too. The most successful websites are continually tweaked and revised, and the results tested and measured – just like a racecar is continually fine-tuned for optimum performance.
I’m known for telling my customers that “a website is never finished” – this is much like car maintenance and re-fuelling being an on-going task. It is definitely a worthwhile task: there are few marketing channels as effective as websites.
Where the analogy ends is traffic: in a car, we don’t like traffic – but for our website we want lots of it! 😉
So go on, fuel up your website and get your business moving in a whole new direction, and with more momentum. Vrooooom!