In our industry we talk so often about application development that we sometimes forget that the vast majority of websites are not doing fancy things like ecommerce and forums, but are vehicles for marketing.
That does not mean, however, that those websites have to be simply a few pages of content. There are a great number of ways to market your organisation effectively on the web, and in this article I am only going to cover on-site marketing, so in other words avoiding how to run a twitter or email campaign and any offsite search engine optimisation.
Design is the one thing that makes you stand out form your competitors at first glance. So it follows, in this instant-gratification world, that in order to do more business with your website visitors, you need a unique design. Avoid wordpress templates and instant sites, make sure an experienced designer is providing something special. Paying for a good design is a little bit like to hiring team members above market rates. If you advertise for new employees quoting minimum wage, generally speaking you are not going to hire super-effective team members.
Addressing the main target audience with a recognisable scenario, question, or category
When someone lands on your website, they don't want your company history; they want to know if you can solve their problems. Your job is to know the main problems and put into words a way of addressing them. These words should link to a page which tells people more.
Use social media where appropriate
I said we'd discuss on-site marketing; a button to tell people that your facebook page is available for comments or 'here's how to share this article with your circle' is very much on-site, and if it meets a need, put it in!
This is now very much a must have, as it will increase your ranking in friends' searches - see our earlier blog posts for the why + how.
If you don't have a facebook page, is there a feedback mechanism (blog comments, for example)? How do customers compain or get support? If you don't encourage complaints, how are you going to learn about your potential market?
Do you have an instant chat facility? Quite often when I'm browsing a potential suppliers' site, I want quick answers, without having to pick up the phone (I might be doing several things at once). Do you have customers like me? You can bet on it. Instant chat caters for those people.
Search engine friendly mark-up
Don't be afraid of the term 'mark-up' - this simply means the HTML tags which surround the various elements on the website. You can't see them but Google spiders can, and they will be looking for various elements to be in place for your site to get their seal of approval. Talk to a web developer about making sure the spiders can see everything on the website, and organised in the right way.