A friend recently posted on Facebook that her new ‘business website’ has launched. She proudly asked for all of her friends to come and visit and share what they thought. The well-meaning friends who complimented her on the site fueled her enthusiastic response that she created the site herself using a free service. She then offered to ‘create’ websites for her friends who may need a website as well.
While well-intentioned and visible as a website, most small and micro businesses do not realize that there is a mountain of difference between having a website and having an effective website. Even in discussions with clients, I find that many otherwise savvy business people just don’t seem to understand the difference of what constitutes an effective website versus having a brochure online.
If you simply want a place that you can point a prospect to in order to learn about what you do, and you do this by giving them the web address or URL, then by all means, save money and use a free service. For the most part, getting a website as a DIY project will save you money, and possibly time if you are working with an inexperienced or slow web designer. For businesses who have gone the budget website route (like my friend) they have wound up with a site that was poorly thought through, has non indexible content and pages, and cannot be easily updated.
If you are hopeful to develop an effective website, and have prospects find your website online when searching for services you offer, this is not likely to happen with a DIY website.
The difference between a DIY website and one that is professionally produced are manifold. For example, a web designer will help you determine the navigation for your website. This is one of the most critical phases and will determine the “user interface” – in other words, the way that a visitor to your website will navigate to find what they need. A good web design can help the visitor find what they are looking for in the least amount of clicks. Web dev’s understand that too many clicks will result in a lost opportunity, particularly if the individual cannot find the information they are seeking.
Another problem with DIY websites is that they are not created with an eye to optimizing load time and images. Certainly pretty images look great, but if the image file is too large, it will increase load time, and if you’ve ever had to wait for a website to load, you understand that most people won’t! Check your “bounce” rate using Google Analytics and you will see that there are some pages that have high bounce rates. One reason could be that the page takes too long to load… Another reason is that the keywords that brought the reader to that page may be inconsistent with the content the prospect is seeking.
One of the most frequent issues I notice with DIY websites as well as with professionally created websites is the content. I recently visited with a business that supplies software as a service for the mortgage loan industry, and their website suffered from this affliction. Most businesses tend to think of their business in terms of the ptoducts or services they offer. This is in stark contrast with their prospective customer’s motivation; Most customers think of the product or service in terms of how it meets their needs. This is evident in the navigation, the content and will pervasively limite the appeal and results of “SEO” for the website. The problem is manifest in website navigation that is organized in terms that the business thinks makes sense, but is difficult or complex for customers to navigate to find what they want.
A good example that comes to mind is a sign company that I worked with. The owner of ths sign company was frustrated after working with many SEO companies, and spending a lot of money. His website was still buried and not coming up, plus his sales were not coming from the website. We took a look at the site, and the HOME page was so broad and general that it really did not do a good job of presenting anything. We discussed the types of businesses who are most profitable for him, and then reworked the navigation to appeal to the customer’s perspective. Upon re-launch of the site, he saw a huge improvement in inbound leads and business, and was so excited about the transformation of his online business that he became an “inbound marketing consultant” to help others learn what he felt was a winning strategy.
Another example is a small company that manufactures compartmentalized handbags. The bags are geared towards two different markets – they are oversized and help to organize a lot of items, so they are great as a designer diaperbag, and they are also terrific for the working woman executive to carry a notebook or tablet and other office essentials in fashion. The navigation did nothing to help these two audiences find the section that appealed to their needs because the navigation was organized by the colors of the product. Since the product could be used differently regardless of the color, women executives may have been turned off by the diaperbag images, and the mommy buyers could not relate to the business photos. The solution was to create a navigation that would divide the site by customer use and present the appropriate and compelling images and content for those audiences.
If you’ve ever searched for Homemade Dog Food recipes you may have found this next example client. When I first started talking with them, they had a website that was so technical I wasn’t sure what they were trying to sell. It turns out it was a supplement and recipes for a feeding system if you wanted to make homemade dog food. The product makes sense, but if you didn’t know what it was, it would have been difficult to acertain from the picture of a beautiful clean kitchen. The HOME page now features rotating graphics about the benefits of a great home-made diet from healthy glossy coats to renewed activity and vigor and directs prospects to free recipes that all explain the benefits of adding the nutrients in correct proportions…
If you are creating your own website, you may save a few bucks at the outset, but in the long run, if you are serious about your business, you will find that the value of having an inbound marketing professional’s insights can make the difference between having a website and having an effective website.