Monday, March 5, 2012

Marketing Your Website - 1997 to 2012

I was sorting through some files today, not electronic files mind you, but dead-tree files, and I came across a folder that held the remains of a presentation I gave for small business owners in 1997 titled, "Marketing Your Website." Tucked in the back was an overhead transparency with the bullet points of my lecture. I remember I would often have to resort to this low-tech tool because there usually wasn't a projector in the room that would connect to a PC.

It was after all the early years of the commercialized World Wide Web.

Although social media, a huge part of web marketing today, is absent from my list, the points from 1997 are ironically still very applicable today.
  • Clarify
    Define your objectives. What purpose will your web site serve? In 1997 as well as today, many small business websites are simply glorified Yellow Page listings. (And who even looks at a phone book anymore?)

    Although that type of site is better than no web presence at all, people go to websites to learn more about a business than what they could find through other channels. Pictures of the product or service, a map, and customer testimonials are just a few suggestions for a basic site that worked as well in 1997 as they do today. Trivia: The web service of Mapquest was born in 1996, and Google maps didn't launch until 2004!

  • Commitment
    Maintain and promote your website as a part of the organization. The URL should be on business cards, letter head, print ads, etc. A website address is just as important as a phone number.

  • Contact
    Make sure your customers/clients find your contact information--mailing address, phone number, and an email address that is checked regularly! This adds legitimacy to your web presence.

  • Content
    Adding fresh content to your site keeps people coming back. If you own a nursery, offer up seasonal planting tips. A personal trainer can suggest healthful recipes. For clues as to the web content that makes sense for your business, think about what you might find yourself telling your customer/client in person. This advice is as relevant today as it was 15 years ago, but today the whole element of social media would be added.

  • Connect
    Fifteen years ago, this meant ensuring that your site was listed on search engine sites. For my presentation, I had listed Infoseek, Excite, AltaVista (which used to be my personal favorite in that era), Lycos, Yahoo!, and Web Crawler. Eerily absent is Google. I'd be willing to bet that most people who are reading this either don't know or don't remember any of these search engines save Yahoo! Today, there's a whole science behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and connecting is even more relevant today.

  • Concise
    Edit, edit, and then edit again. People have short attention spans when reading on the web. All pages should be easy to navigate. Omit unnecessary words. Content should be concise.

  • Copy
    Proofread or better yet, have someone else proofread everything. The web can be a bit loose with spelling and grammar, but that free-wheeling attitude has no place in a business site. Many people will discount your credibility immediately if they see an error. If you don't pay attention to such public details, what does that say about how you manage a business?
All of this was good advice in 1997, and it's still good advice today. And now that I've committed it to a blog, I don't think I need that transparency anymore!
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.