Are Websites Worth The Effort?

This is the first in a series of articles for people who have a new website or are in the process of getting one created and are wondering how they should use the website and what they need to do to actually get some business.

The content here is from my years of personal experience with clients and hundreds of hours of research I have conducted.

WE ARE ALL ONLINE

Most people are online in some shape or form these days. The internet has never been more accessible and accessed.

This is due to the fact that we all walk around clutching our mobile phones and that tablets and laptops are at an all-time low price.

So is everyone online?. Not quite but everyone has access to online “stuff”. You can assume with confidence that most people access some form of online source whether it be from a website, app, social media or email at least sometime during the week and more often multiple times during the day.

Of course your Aunty Mary is an outlier and has never had a mobile phone and hand writes postcards using a fountain pen but basically, online access is available to most people even if they may not be tweeting Facebook ninjas.

Whether this amount of access is a good thing is an ongoing debate and the term digital detox is used more and more for when we try and get away from it and stop looking online constantly.

But outside the detox, we use online for information, fun, and research all the time. That isn’t going to change.

How we behave online has changed a lot too as the years have gone by. With the variety of the above sources from the web to Facebook to Snapchat and the ease of access we are more impatient and spend way less time examining or even searching for what we need than before.

It is estimated that the time we spend inspecting information that is displayed to us is now in single seconds. The fact that you have read this far is in itself amazing.

So more and more businesses see an online presence as the place where they can grow their business, presence and actually do business.

But let’s hop in the time capsule for a second to dispel some common misconceptions.

BACK TO THE FUTURE – BROCHURE SITES

In the early days of the Internet, many web-savvy businesses established an online presence creating or getting companies like us to create what is still called a brochure website.

This harks back to brochures that we still get in our mailboxes (and perhaps pop quickly in the recycle bin) that have 4-5 pages online about the company and what they do and provide.

The brochure website is still hugely popular. The concept is the same and it is easy to create one that allows you proclaim proudly “this is my website”.

There are of course many many other variations of online websites but the recommendations and comments on the brochure site below and throughout this series applies to all sites really.

Sadly creating a 4-5 page website is often a waste of time.

This may sound sacrilegious from someone who pays his bills from customers paying me to create such sites (and more advanced ones too).

But it requires some explanation.

WEBSITE FROM THE COUCH

I do this a lot. I am on my couch or in the office during the day and I think up of a website idea or name that I think might work. www.kieranstrendycandles.com for instance (no that isn’t a website (yet!)).

I register the domain, create a quick brochure website on it and then quickly forget it. I probably own personally about 30+ domains spawned from such unfinished ideas.

So what you say?

For most of these hobby sites (a term I use loosely as a hobby implies I spend time on them), I install Google Analytics which allows me to look at how many visitors these sites get.

Usually, they have decent names and the content usually isn’t complete dross. In the initial burst of energy, I would have put some decent content on them usually only 3-4 pages before I stop doing much with them.

In nearly all the cases in the 12 months that have passed, they have had no visitors at all.

None – not even from me as I had forgotten about them.

If you visit them they look well, are credible, have decent well-written text and in the few hours I spent creating them I made them easy to access and navigate.

None of them would win web awards but you would think that they were credible businesses.

So nobody visited them, nobody sent any emails to them (bar spam ironically) so they sat there in a lonely space.

So what you say? (again!)

Thousands of companies do this every day for their new websites. Battle with the look (or branding as some call it which it isn’t again more on this some other time), create a few pages and then leave them with the optimistic hope that they will trigger a stream of new business by virtue of their presence.

It doesn’t

So how do websites actually get visitors and traffic?

It isn’t a one-line answer anymore.

YOUR WEBSITE AS A BUSINESS

In the past 20 years, hundreds of thousands of websites have been created for businesses many in the realm of brochure style (e.g. 5-10 pages of information looking nice!)

Unless these sites are on page one for search I usually bet safely that 90% of the existing brochure websites that are out there are getting minimal traffic.

The exception to this rule is that if the business is already well known by its name. If Kieran’s Candles are already known due to having a shop on Candle Street then the website complements this presence nicely already.

If Kieran never made a candle in his life, hasn’t a shop and now wants to sell his amazing candles online then creating the website online is really just the smallest of smallest steps.

WHAT DO I DO WITH MY NEW WEBSITE SO?

What in the name of goodness should you do to get said traffic and become the king or queen of online candles in your area or market?

Good question and there are answers and ways that have been tried and tested. But before we even point out the best ones it is worth emphasising a few points.

BRANDING, COLOURS, LOGOS, DESIGNS

I love branding, adore the right colour choices, and think a well designed logo is a thing of beauty. I have often spent 1-2 hours looking through Behance at some of the absolutely rock star designs from designers out there.

If you are starting out online then I advise you strongly to not worry about this one single bit.

You may exclaim that you need a logo, that you want the right photos, that you saw an amazing template that would work perfectly on your website.

Here is where I scream STOP.

In my teachers voice I ask you to read back above.

The VAST majority of brochure sits get NO traffic of value.

Yes you may share the new website with some fans, friends and even as a signature link (all well advised approaches) but other than that I will bet you €100 that if you do not follow my advice (and it isn’t mine it is what all marketing businesses advise in some shape or form) your website will get minimal visitors..

Before we delve into what works best for marketing we need to comment on keywords and put that puppy to bed.

KEYWORDS BEFORE AND NOW

Like you when I need some information I tap the keywords into Google search and look at the results and click the links that I think have the best results.

We all do it.

As a result there is a perception that for Kierans Candles I sprinkle candle and candle related words throughout my website and Google will quickly put me ahead of my competition.

In the early days of the Internet (mid to late 1990s) this approach worked well. And you don’t have to be a genius to realise that it was taken advantage of and for a period if you loaded up your website with keywords then you DID come up top for search.

Google in the intervening years now has added many other factors that influence why your website shows up above another. Keywords are still a factor and a strong factor but it isn’t the only one.

Unfortunatel,y it is the easiest one. We can all type and it is alluring to think that if I write 500 words on candles that is all I have to do to dominate the space.

Yes writing good, useful content that has keywords in it in a carefully crafted manner is important but doing this alone will have little impact on your visitor numbers unless it is the best one ever written (more on that in my content page coming soon).

These days getting to the top of those search results is a combination of the above Google factors. The experts surmise that there are approximately 100 factors now. Don’t despair at this number as for Kierans Candles implementing 7-10 of the most important ones may often be enough.

But there is another challenge lurking out there.

PAID SEARCH

If I was to give one piece of advice to someone who wants to do business online about marketing it would be to think seriously about paid search.

Google makes its money from a range of services with its apps like paid Gmail and more and more they now do cloud services and I am sure that in the GooglePlex they are thinking up more and more ideas of how they can supply some paid services.

But paid search or Adwords or Pay Per Click (the terms are used interchangeably) are how they make the most of their money. You see ads in YouTube videos now, on the top of your search results for all services (not as much for non revenue generating results) and in the sidebars and background of all sorts of sites.

Now many of my clients pooh, pooh at paid search saying “its not for us/me”.

But paid search works. For web search the fact that a search result is actually a paid result is now presented so unobtrusively that many people don’t even know it is a paid result. And for many that do they assume that is a credible result to click on.

Paid search works and pays Google’s bills. If it didn’t work people wouldn’t use it.

I know that with the right paid search plan that I could make Kieran’s Candles quite successful online with well positioned ads and generate decent focused traffic at the expense of the other candle website that doesn’t do ads and might have better candles.

The instinctive response to this is why doesn’t everyone do it. It’s because it costs money. A click on ad costs you money each time. Depending on the keywords the price of that click can vary considerably. As I write this the price of a click for website design and variants is about €3-€5 per click. You can pay as little as a few cent for some keywords and in the hundreds for others (Asbestos Lawyers anyone?).

So for a 100 click,s I get charged 300-500 euro. Hurrah you say. 100 customers. Ka-ching.

Well it doesn’t work like that. It is rare for any website to get 100% conversions (perhaps unheard of). Think of a shop does everyone who walks in buy. No.

For websites it it is more like 1-3% conversion and perhaps higher for other sites. For example when I visit Amazon I probelay make a purchase 4-5 imes out of every 10 visits as I am only visiting to purchase something so that is 40-50% in my case.

But again research, statistics show conclusively that 1 out of a hundred is reasonable (1%) and 3-5 out of a hundred is decent to great.

So in the 500 euro case it will have cost me 500 euro to get 1-3 leads. Converting them to customers is another days discussion. For me I am happy to spend 3-500 euro to get 3 leads and with careful budgeting I spend less than this to keep my lead list healthy 2-3 times per month.

I will write more about paid search and other search factors in more posts..

Summary – Websites are a job

A website is not a start, middle, end type of thing anymore. I often get aske,d “Is the website ready now?”.

No it isn’t.

Amazon isn’t complete. I bet they have a hundred people looking at the next feature that will get more sales. They know they are never finished.

Neither should you.

And I know you aren’t Amazon but we live in a very very active online space. As mentioned above with the right focus, work, and budget it is possible for Kierans Candles to crush an established candle supplier online. Maybe not on the high street but for sure online.

You need to think like actively and creatively about your online presence (and I include social and other platforms under this umbrella). You may not think you are creative but I bet you are as you know your business back to front and all you need are the tools or the advice.

The pillars of successful online are simple really in my book and are

  • Great content to base all your marketing on and having a plan for it.
  • Keeping a constant tempo with your organic or paid marketing (if you choose)
  • Exploring areas and platforms that may help even if you don’t like them.
  • Not giving up when success does not come instantly.

Why Bother – Sounds Like a Lot of Work

Understandable – it is a lot of work. But as mentioned at the start of this article, people are spending an enormous amount of time online. We see traditional businesses closing all the time like ToysRUs, Bookshops, sports shops and so on. Why because people buy online more and more every day.

In additio,n they find all their information about services, facilities and news online. Maybe not your social circle but the 15-35 year old market are online monsters and if you aren’t there and not in their eyeballs you are losing customers.

You may not care. That is fine. I 100% understand that. There is still word of mouth that says ignore what you read Kieran’s Candles are the best you can get full stop. And that works greatly. In the “Rock, Paper Scissors” of marketing word of mouth wins nearly every time.

But if you want to expose your business to more eyes then that nice website isn’t enough. It is a good start but just a beginning.