This article is the second part of a series (part I here) to help create an effective website for your business or local partners.
Building a website for your business has never been more important. Customers expect all businesses to have some kind of web presence where they can check out a full list of products or services, look up location and hours information, or even just to validate that the business is legitimate.
In part 1 of this article I explained the first four steps that any business owner should proceed through when building a new website: 1. Identify Your Business Objective 2. Identify Your Audience, 3. Choose a Domain Name and 4. Select a CMS.
In part 2 I will cover how to determine the size of your website, and how to write content that will entice new customers from search engines. I will also discuss the importance of reviewing and testing the website before it is launched to the public, ensuring you put out a high quality website from the beginning.
- Determine the size and scope of your website
How many pages do you want to have on your website? What do you want to talk about? These are two very important questions that you need to ask yourself when building a new website.
Keep in mind that a webpage should not have too little or too much information. This is important for SEO, as search engines will index your web pages and categorize them according to what is on the page. They then present these results on the search engine result page (SERP) to provide users a relevant answer to their query. If your web page has something about soccerballs and something about boats, which have seemingly no relation to one another, then the search engine is not likely to present the page in results, even for queries about soccerballs or boats.
With this in mind you can start to get a good idea of how many pages you should have on your website. Just identify the different subjects, themes or categories you want to discuss, then add a few to this number for a sitemap, about us, and other administrative pages that you would not target for search.
List all the subjects you want to talk about and break those out into individual pages, or sections that branch out to individual pages. This list of pages will be the basis of your website taxonomy. A website taxonomy shows every planned webpage and its relationship to the other pages of the website. The next step will help determine how you describe details about your services and/or products on every page.
- Keyword Research
Use an excel spreadsheet or google spreadsheet to list all of the pages you want to create. Using the Google Search, Google Ad Planner, or one of the many keyword research tools available (some free) begin to determine what words you should be including on your web pages.
For example, lets say you are creating a website for your new bar/saloon/pub/brewery to attract more local patrons.On your spreadsheet list of webpages you have listed “page about bars” and now you are determining how to exactly describe “bars.” In looking through the search engines you realize that your area has a lot of bars taking up a lot of space in the search results (competition high). You don’t see any results for either metal bars, or energy bars (ambiguity low).
You also note that there are only a couple of places using the term “pub” and that phrase does not interfere with any other business priorities. With all of this information you decide that the page will be about “pubs” and not “bars” because your web page will be able to easily rank in the search results for that phrase.
Completing this task for all of your pages that you want people to find from the search engines can be arduous, but it is best done at the beginning, before you launch the website. Attracting traffic from the search engines is FREE, so the upfront investment of time will pay for itself many times over.
- Create Content and Images
Now that you have a list of pages with your selected keywords, you can now start writing content for your website. Try to write at least 250 words for each page.
Make sure you include the keywords you selected in step 2 are on the page, and also in the metadata. Metadata are used by search engines to determine what your webpage is about, and present that information to users. This small bit of content is something that you will write to quickly and concisely describe what is on your webpage, even though it is only seen by visitors in search engines and not on your website. This is your ad copy to entice users to select your result on a search results page. When you see a list of results on a search results page, you are most likely looking at metadata that someone created.
It is also helpful to either create illustrations or purchase the images that will go on the page as you write it. The creative elements should compliment the verbiage and vice versa, so it is helpful to complete both in tandem.
- Template Creation and Staging
Now that you have your website written and all of the images in one place, it is time to start developing a place to put them. Most CMS’s have default templates, and most people find them to be inadequate for their needs.
This means that you or a developer will need to create or find templates that you can use. You can cut down your development time by using the fewest number of templates possible for your website. Make sure that your templates are mobile responsive so that customers can easily view relevant information from their smartphones and tablets. More and more consumers are searching for products on their phones and this tend will undoubtedly increase as smart phone sales increase so make sure your website can cater to these vistors.
Once your templates are created, you can start dropping in the content. Make sure that you either publish pages to a staging environment that is blocked from the search engine robots, or use the “preview mode.” It is poor form to have half completed pages up online for anyone to stumble across. Staging environments can be set up on a subdomain for you to share within your organization. This is a great way for you to see exactly how the page renders before the general public.
- Check Your Work
Everyone makes mistakes, and with a project that is this large they are bound to happen. Make sure you are checking your work on a staging environment to get the full effect of your website. You could also publish the website, but make sure it is not indexed by the search engines until it has had a full review.
Make sure there are no typos, that the images are all in the right place, and that you have written metadata for all of the relevant pages. When you are done looking it over, get a fresh set of eyes to review it. Pass the link to those in your company that will give you honest and productive feedback. When you are done finishing all of the changes, your site is now ready to launch.
Building a website can be a very complex process, but remember that it is an investment in your business that can pay off for years. It will need to be maintained, updated to reflect new business priorities, and continually reviewed for mistakes so this process is always ongoing. Make sure your business is well represented now and into the future by allocating the right amount of time and resources into this necessity of doing business in the 21st Century.