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Make your website work for your business

A good website should act as the shop window to your business – enticing customers in and convincing them to buy. If your business already has a website, you need to make sure that it is working hard for you by continually measuring and improving its effectiveness. Read on to discover the simple principles that could mean the difference between online success and failure.

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A good website should act as the shop window to your business – enticing customers in and convincing them to buy. If your business already has a website, you need to make sure that it is working hard for you by continually measuring and improving its effectiveness. Read on to discover the simple principles that could mean the difference between online success and failure. 1. Ensure your website reflects your business Think, how do you want people to perceive your business? Professional and efficient? Friendly and approachable? The design and content of your website must fit in with this image you want to portray. If it doesn't then it may be time for a redesign. Many businesses also fall into the trap of building a website and then never updating it. But your business is not static, it is changing all the time and your website needs to reflect this. New, interesting and relevant content will have visitors and search engines coming back to your site again and again. 2. Make a good first impression Research shows that people make up their mind whether to stay on a website within just three seconds! So it's important that you have a strong, eye-catching design and a navigation that makes it easy for your visitors to find what they want straight away. The more barriers there are to visitors getting to what they want, the more chance they have of moving on to your competitor's website. 3. Start selling online If you sell products or services face-to-face or over the phone, why not reach more customers by selling online? Developments in web technologies over the last few years mean that e-commerce need not be overly complex or expensive. There are many cost-effective off-the-shelf solutions that provide: An online product catalogue A shopping cart Secure payment methods such as PayPal or WorldPay. 4. Attract new leads with search engine marketing Your website will only begin to deliver real value to your business when you start getting visitors that you don't know and who don't know you. The best way to do this is through search engines. Search engines have become the primary method of navigating the internet, so it is important to get your pages indexed highly in search results for keywords relevant to your business, product or service. There is an art to optimising your web pages for search engines, but the basic principles can be found in our 'Beginner's guide to search engine optimisation'. 5. Measure, review and adapt Just because you have a website doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels. Knowing who visits your site, when, why and for how long is essential. Having the right information will allow you to target your site, discover how people are finding it, where they go once they are on your site and for how long. All of this information can be sourced for free by using Google Analytics. 6. Capture valuable data You won't make a sale from every visitor to your website, but you can try to collect data from visitors that you can then use as sales leads. This could be in the form of a call back form or a sign up form for an enewsletter or special report. 7. Improve your content Content is often seen as secondary to the look and feel of a website. But although it may be good design which draws a visitor in, it's relevant, engaging content that will keep them on your website. Make sure your content gets across what you want to say, but try to keep it brief. Web users tend to scan content for the important points and if they can't find it they'll move on. Use subheads and bullet points to break up information and draw attention to the benefits of your products and services. Finally, make sure that every page has a clear call-to-action, i.e. ‘Buy now'. Make it clear what you want your visitor to do. All of your well-crafted sales copy will be wasted if your visitor gets to the bottom of the page, ready to buy, and doesn't have anywhere to go.

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