Website Design & Marketing on the Internet
Step 1: Decide the Purpose of Your Website :
Step 2: Creating Your Website :
Step 3: Promoting Your Website :
Step 4: Maintaining Your Website :
Many people are lured to advertising on the Internet by the incredible growth in the usage of the Net. It is exciting to think that your page or advertisement can reach a potential audience of many millions of people world wide.
Even more spectacular has been the growth of "web pages" (or "websites") on the Internet. from a base of only a few thousand websites in 1994, there are now estimated to be 85 million with expectations of around 1 billion websites early in the 2000's.
However, even though your site can potentially be read by many millions of people, bear in mind that each of these people may have a choice between thousands of similar sites to choose from.
The first message to be understood about marketing on the Internet is that "putting up a website" is no guaranteed path to success and riches. As in almost any market, you will sell your product if it is what the buyer wants in terms of its rarity, form and most importantly its quality. If you have a good product, it will sell on the Internet. If you don't, it won't.
Developing your website requires careful planning. You need to be clear about who your target markets are and plan the layout of the pages to cater for the interests of those targets. You have to decide whether you intend to receive orders directly from the Net or whether orders should be serviced in the traditional ways. At present, Internet commerce is booming in specialised types of products, such as computer software, hardware, music, books and some other consumer items. However, it may be difficult to sell expensive and individual items such as art work as there is too much of a leap of faith involved in parting with $600 for example, for an art work that you have not seen.
Step 1: Decide the Purpose of your Website
There is another major purpose for a website that is often overlooked. This is the use of a website as a reference source used to describe (in some detail) your establishment, product or service. In this way, it acts as a large brochure to which you can refer people in lieu of sending them a printed brochure. For example, a large ad in the Sydney Morning Herald publicising your motel is incredibly expensive and still too small to do justice to your motel. A smaller ad which briefly describes key features of the motel AND with a reference to the URL of your site may well be more successful by attracting those who are interested, to a much more comprehensive information source.
- Do you intend to sell a product or service directly on the Internet? (eg selling surfboards in Australia)
- Would you like your Internet site to result in clients contacting you for further details of your service or product? (eg an accountants or solicitors services)
- Is your objective to inform the potential user that your service or product is available ? (eg a motel or restaurant)
This is one of the most common purposes of a website. With the phenomenal growth in Internet usage and the small cost in having a website, businesses should start to think of a website, properly placed, in the same way as a Yellow Pages entry in the Telephone Directory. It should be there for the random user looking for services in a particular place or in a particular category. (More about this later.)
- Is your aim to publicise a "message"? (such as a community or social organisation)
- Is the website for educational or instructional purposes ? (such as the Course Structures and timetables of a TAFE College)
Step 2: Creating Your Website
This is a key step in developing your web presence, but you should not think of this as the be-all and end-all of the process. The most important step is Step 3 (below) "Promoting Your Website" as no return will be achieved from the website unless that is done properly.
Despite this, you should pay careful attention to the layout and structure of your website, as, after attracting readers to the site, you do not want to lose them through poor design or inappropriate delivery of your message.
Remember : This website is how you are presenting your business to the Internet world. It should reflect the qualities, standards and "image" that YOU have defined and developed for your business.
You should have your website developed by a professional Internet publishing company with "runs on the board" (inspect their portfolio). While HTML (the language used to write web pages) is not difficult to learn (especially for computer people), the qualities of graphic design, page layout and presentation are not so common and are possessed by very few computer specialists. This deficiency was starkly portrayed during the "desktop publishing" boom in the 1980's where Apple revolutionised the market with its new graphics software. Overnight, desktop publishers multiplied, most of whom were computer specialists who were first to master the new software. Despite their software skills, their output was universally condemned because of their almost total lack of publishing, layout and commercial presentation experience. The same is now happening with website design.
It is not a good idea to get your local computer shop or ISP to develop your website (nor your 17 year old nephew at High School who has just finished an HTML course). This is a serious business and you should maintain the same level of input and standards as you would with printed material that you publish to promote your business.
In summary :
Have your website developed by web publishing professionals with a portfolio of successful and attractive websites to their credit;
Ensure that the website is focussed on the objectives defined in Step 1;
Avoid unnecessary frills and gimmicks (such as animations and large gratuitous graphics);
Don't compromise on quality.
Step 3: Promoting Your Website
Having published your website, you now wish to tell the world about it and attract readers to your message. This is the area of website development that is most likely to be ignored by the unprofessional page creator and the main reason why even attractive websites provide no returns to their owners. So, how do you bring people to your site?
Here are some of the ways:
Submit your URL (the Internet address of your website) to the main "search engines" on the Net. These are Internet computers (or "servers") which are dedicated to the classification of other websites. In the same way as you need a catalogue to find resources in a library, the search engines act as a catalogue of the websites on the Internet and are a vital source of potential traffic to your site.
Having said that however, you should not go overboard on the "search engines" concept. There are about 20 search engines which handle the vast bulk of Internet enquiries and your presence on these is important. Some services however, offer (for a substantial fee) to have your site listed on hundreds of so-called search engines and the value of these additional locations for your URL should be questioned;
Your website should contain the keywords and references necessary for it to be properly indexed by the "robots" used by some of the search engines on the Net. These programs constantly trawl the Net and classify websites according to certain parameters and keywords. Even without ANY promotion these programs should ensure that your website gets some profile on the Net;
Promote locally. The problem with the major search engines is the very numbers of sites to be indexed (now millions of them). Even a simple search done on Alta Vista for example, will often return thousands of sites for your selection. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be "noticed" on the Net and it does seem futile for the small, average but high quality establishment or services commonly found on the South Coast. These businesses are often better served by identifying with their communities to obtain visitors through the promotion of the community itself. For example, a motel in Mollymook is going to get better results if it can be found in association with a tourism or community website that focuses on the region. The reader is drawn to Milton-Ulladulla as a place to visit and, having made that decision, is then likely to wish to find suitable accommodation nearby.
This is the principle behind the Morningside Tourism and Community websites. The reader is invited to visit those websites to see how any local business, whatever its size, has a place to market its services on the Internet.
Seek links to your site from related sites, with a view to obtaining derivative visitors from that site. Discretion is urged in this endeavour as well, as many sites will charge you for a link, while others demand a reciprocal link from your site to theirs. The key issues are the volume of traffic that the related site obtains - and what sort of profile and links are provided to ensure that your listing generates traffic to your home site.
A newer concept involves joining a webring of associated sites to assist in their mutual promotion. These rings can be useful in some cases but often are of dubious value as they link to your competitors who are hoping to draw on the traffic to your site.
Some sites can benefit from email advertising to recipients on a selected list. You can also use the facilities of newsgroups and Internet Relay Chat to announce your product, but again caution is urged as many people using such facilities have a strong, negative reaction towards people using their newsgroup or IRC for commercial promotion.
One of the most important avenues of promotion involves using your website as a "reference" for your non Internet promotions. By developing a comprehensive website for your business, you should display its URL address in all your printed advertising and promotional publications. A small ad in the print media could contain a reference to the website, where your potential clients can read in much more detail about your product, business or service.
Special Tip - South Coast Tourism Website Promotion|
Morningside has many tourism websites with clients on the South Coast. Each is promoted extensively to the main search engines as well as enjoying extensive links from our TravelSouth South Coast Visitors Guide. Most of our clients have a "SiteMeter" installed which counts the visitors to the site as well as showing where the reader came from in reaching the site. Analysis of our clients Sitemeters show that they achieve between 30-95% of all their traffic from their TravelSouth links. Visits achieved directly from search engines are generally less than 10% of their traffic.
What does this mean? It means that if your South Coast tourism website is not linked to TravelSouth, you are probably losing at least half of your potential traffic. If your "webmaster" does not recommend such links then she is failing in her most fundamental responsibility to her clients.
Some self-acclaimed web publishing 'professionals' make a big production out of their ability to place their clients at the top of a search engine request (usually based on very narrow search criteria). In the south coast tourism market, this is of relatively minor significance. If they don't or can't acquire links from TravelSouth to your site, then they are failing their clients. Ask them why they do not seek such links for you.
What our Sitemeters tell us (Take this link to see how the Sitemeters show the truth about marketing South Coast tourism websites ).
Step 4: Maintaining Your Website :
You should regularly revisit your website and assess its continuing relevance to your present and dynamic business activities. Ensure that the site is focussing on your current issues and is not becoming irrelevant to your objectives.
Ensure that any dynamic information (such as dates on "Coming Events") is up-to-date. Having outdated information on your website conveys a very negative impression to the reader.
Some "web publishers" claim that a site has to be updated and changed regularly in order to bring readers back to your site. This is very true for those sites whose potential market is relatively fixed and to whom you want to generate repeat business (eg a local movie cinema site). Many other sites however, obtain their hits from new readers all the time (such as a local motel). Such sites can be relatively static, needing only periodic refreshing as readers rarely return to the site as a second time buyer.