Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Conceptualizing an Effective Website

by Patrick Schwerdtfeger

Most people make the mistake of building an initial web presence before they've really thought it through. That mistake then tends to linger because the established website can't easily be changed to accommodate the changes deemed necessary after the fact. In fact, most people end up making the problem worse by building out an ineffective website rather than starting from scratch.

An effective website needs to be well thought out before construction begins. You really have to take some time with a pad of paper and start brainstorming the various elements and you need on the website and how they contribute to your business. Obviously, these elements will be different for every business but there are a few things everybody should do before they begin building out their website.

The underlying moniker for today's internet is to "go an inch wide and a mile deep". That means you should focus your website on a narrow topic and then build a huge presence around that one narrow topic. Not only will this help your ranking with search engines but it will help your website visitors as well.

When someone visits your website, they need to understand what your website offers and they need to understand it quickly. You've only got a few seconds to make that impression and a narrow focused website has a much better chance of establishing an identity in the minds of visitors and leaving them with a clear understanding of what you do.

Your website should have a 15 to 25-word positioning statement right across the homepage that concisely describes what you do in plain English. This positioning statement should be keyword-rich and should be included in your meta tags as well. In fact, that positioning statement along with a list of keywords should be close at hand whenever you add anything to your site.

Your list of keywords might be the most important resource when building your website but few people ever make such a list. Before you even begin, you should compile this list and narrow it down to a few primary keywords. You can quickly get your list together by stealing the meta tags from competitor sites and entering them into the Overture keyword selector tool, the Google keyword tool or Between those three, you'll quickly get a list of effective and targeted keywords for your site.

Another critical prerequisite for building your site is to map out your menu of products or services ahead of time. Before you even begin, you need to know what you're selling and all the different packages visitors can choose from. And don't make the mistake of making all your products or services inexpensive. It's always good to have a wide variety of price points on your website because it allows visitors to see an impressive breadth of products right away, establishing your credibility within the field.

A client is building a website around wine jelly. Yes, you read it right. He sells wine jelly and apparently, it's excellent. And the narrow focus is ideal for today's internet. But his menu of products was going to top out around $25. That was going to be the most expensive product. I disagree. He needs to have a much wider price range on his website and I suggested he include a once-annual 3-day retreat in Napa County including a tour of a particular winery, workshops on making wine jelly, gourmet meals including the jelly and a gift basket to take home.

The package could cost $2995 and would add a whole new dimension to his business. In reality, the package may never be purchased but its existence would show your visitors that a parallel world exists and this wine jelly is at the center of it. It adds dimension to the business. It adds credibility. Think about your menu of products before you build your website and then design the site consistent with the most expensive item.

There are millions of websites out there. Making yours stand out can be difficult but a more effective website has far greater odds of finding an audience than one less focused or poorly designed. Take some time on the front end and ensure you have it well planned out before you spend time or money on actual construction.

About the Author

Tactical Execution with Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a strategic company focused on growth marketing and program implementation across business markets.