I know it’s so cliché…Here we go with another “top 10″ list, but in dealing with clients on a day-to-day basis, I have found there are many common myths that continue to prevail in the minds of business owners about marketing on the web. These myths can not only hinder business but can actually prove fatal in this current economy.
So, here’s my “top 10″.
Myth #10 - My Business Does Not Need a Web Presence.
I know some of you are gasping. Believe it or not this statement is not at all uncommon among small business owners and even some medium-sized firms in certain more specialized sectors.
The year is 2009 and we are rapidly closing in on the beginning of 2010. According to http://www.internetworldstats.com/, there are currently some 252,908,000 internet users in the North America alone, up 134% from 108,096,800 in the year 2000.
The simple truth is your customers are online. You need to be there too.
Myth #9 - My Business is Too Small to Compete on the Web.
We all have to start somewhere. Even the big guys started there once. No business is too small to be online.
The simple truth is even if you can only afford to have a simple one page site as sort of “virtual business card” at least potential customers and even current customers can find you and find out how to get in contact with you.
Small business craftspeople, artisans, suppliers or retailers can set up a small virtual shop at online marketplaces like http://www.etsy.com/ , http://www.ebay.com/ or http://www.amazon.com/ . Small businesses can also utilize online blogs to display photos of products, to journal events, to provide reviews or to offer helpful advice to consumers. Blog sites similar to this one at WordPress ( http://www.wordpress.org/ ) can even be fully customized to create a complete site.
As your business grows, your site will grow too.
Myth #8 - Web Design is Easy.
Of course, I would call this a myth, after all designing webs is much of what I do and I need to justify my salary…
Well, be that as it may, misconceptions abound about design, skill, efficiency and impact and how all of these factors relate. Gone are the days when anyone’s brother (no offense to anyone’s brother) could throw together an arbitrary webpage with some hideous clip art and about 30 fonts and customers were dazzled. Times have changed dramatically and standards have evolved to include accessibility compliance for multiple devices and persons from all walks of life. Oh, and did I mention that we don’t use tables for layout anymore…
The simple truth is it takes talent to be an artistic individual, and while there are many artistic individuals in this world, it also takes a tremendous amount of time and skill to become a talented designer. And with industry standards ever-changing, top-notch designers are constantly learning, adapting and fine tuning their approach to effective design.
When you’re ready to hire a designer and take your business to the next level, just remember that time and skill cost money and the bottom line is you should anticipate that the quality of your designs will be directly commensurate with what you’re willing to spend.
Myth #7 – My Existing Website Is Good Enough.
While having a website is one thing, keeping it current is quite another.
Okay now, let’s be truthful…How do your current and potential clients feel about your website???
And even if your website is effectively converting and meeting current goals, still, as with everything in life, there is always room for improvement. Even a brand new website can be optimized and updated. Particularly, in the context of SEO, content should be kept relevant and fresh. Keeping content relevant and up to date is critical. With so many sources of information available to users on the web, outdated and obsolete content is sure to discourage if not aggravate potential customers who can easily go elsewhere to find what they need.
The simple truth is your website will never be good enough. It is a tool that should be continually evolving. It may be serving its current purpose overall. It may be visually stunning. It may not need a major overhaul or facelift, but the content should be kept current and you should always be thinking about SEO and new conversion goals.
Myth #6 - I Don’t Need to Budget For a Website.
Well, let’s put it this way, maybe you own a vacation house in the Hamptons and your own private jet to get you there and your monthly allowance is in the triple digits, and if so, perhaps, in that case, you don’t need a budget.
Most, however, do.
The simple truth is just like anything that you need to purchase as a business investment to help grow your business, a website has a price tag for which you need to budget. An effective website is, in fact, one of the more expensive investments that most business owners will undertake. A budget is therefore essential. And let’s not forget to budget for SEO (we’ll get to those myths later).
Myth #5 - My Website Has to “Wow” My Customers.
Most people feel confident about their talent in their own role. Successful business owners especially feel confident in their roles as well they should be. That confidence should definitely be conveyed in a site, but the “wow” factor is not always relevant. A simple site in no way indicates a business is lackluster, boring or less than capable of producing results.
Take for example http://www.google.com/ and contrast Google’s site to http://disney.go.com/index. While it’s obvious which site has the “wow” factor, it’s also obvious why. One site generates links to information and another produces media. Links don’t need a “wow” factor to be useful whereas media needs the “wow” to captivate the audience and stimulate viewership.
A website’s success is measured by conversion, whether that conversion is to get users to click a link, buy a product or watch a movie. Whatever it is, it ultimately brings revenue. According to BusinessWeek (http://www.businessweek.com/), the Walt Disney Company which was founded in 1923, reported earnings of $37.8 Billion in 2008 whereas Google, which in 1998 was founded right in our own backyard (for those of us living in the bay area), reported earnings of $21.8 Billion for the 2008 fiscal year. I say not bad at all considering there is no “wow” factor, well, aside from the random changing of the Google graphic, which I must admit, I think is cute.
The simple truth is that a website needs to deliver the message your consumers need to hear efficiently and effectively, however that may be. Every business is different which means that the demographic of consumers will vary from business to business. Your consumers will dictate whether or not your site needs more sophisticated graphic rich content, but still, simple is always key even in the most robust sites.
Myth #4 – My New Website Will Instantly Bring in New Business.
You know, I really wish this was the case. It would be nice.
The simple truth is a website is a tool that has to leveraged with many other tools and marketing strategies. You can have an incredible product or service and the most amazing site but if you don’t have a business plan with an aggressive marketing agenda, you’ll probably want to consider taking that second job. The web is dynamic and glutted with information. Customers need to find you and your site which means you have to get the word out through as many channels as possible to maximize your investment. Did I mention SEO?
Myth #3 – SEO is Something I Need to Do Once.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is an entity all on its own. Obviously, it relates to marketing and to the web, but it follows no conventions and makes its own rules.
The simple truth is SEO is ongoing and it’s not cheap because it involves a lot of time.
If you have the money to allocate in your business budget to spend weekly on SEO, get this: YOU SHOULD SPEND IT WEEKLY.
SEO changes that frequently and it’s almost like a game. And there are constantly new players, aka websites with competing information whether they are your true business competitors or not. Take for example the proliferation of blogs ::ahem:: and social media sites with their dynamic content which are proving to be a source of fierce competition for search engine placement.
If you can’t spend money (or time – which, of course, is money) every week on SEO, then you should spend it as often as your financial plan will allow. It’s that important and it will continue to be so.
Myth #2 – SEO Means Paying for Search Engine Placement.
Well, then we would call it SEP, but alas it’s SEO. While it’s true you can pay the search engines to have your business name in a little box on the front page of a user search, that does not mean that you will get any clicks. Search engines delight to sell ad space to small businesses, but they also want the advertisers with the deep pockets to buy space on their front page and the investors with the even deeper pockets to invest in their ventures, so to that end they are primarily concerned that the users can find the content that they are looking for when they perform a search.
Suppose you want to visit that new little coffee shop at the corner of 1st and Main and you want to know what time they open in the morning. Of course, you realize that there’s a Starbucks on 3rd and Main, but you want to go to that cute little coffee shop and support your local “mom and pop” business, so when you search, you don’t want to find Starbucks. You want to find that little coffee shop. The search engines know this (from your query) and they want you to find that little coffee shop too. Of course, if that little coffee shop has no web presence, well, then, this may be a bit of a challenge, but if any data exists the search engines want you to find it. Why? Because you will be delighted to enjoy a hot cup of joe at your newest neighborhood hot spot which means you will be happy with the search engine that you used to find out when that little coffee shop was open and the next time you need to search for something on the web you will most likely use the same search engine again and this means more advertising revenue from increased circulation, not unlike the newspaper industry. More users aka viewers equals more revenue potential.
The simple truth is that you don’t necessarily need to pay for placement. You do, however, need to spend the time, and a lot of it (unless you plan to pay someone else), to keep your content relevant, to adhere to the current yet ever changing standards and to keep your content to code ratio high so that your page will present itself as most relevant to search engine crawlers and bots.
Myth #1 – Accessibility Compliance and Usability Testing is Not Necessary.
In October 2007 a Federal Judge in California certified a class action lawsuit against Target Corporation on the basis that Target’s website was inaccessible to the blind. This underscores the reality that laws which prohibit any form of discrimination against any individual on any basis apply with equal force when it comes to the internet. Compliance with these standards is important from a legal perspective and, perhaps more important, from a moral perspective as well. Persons with disabilities are prospective customers the same as those without disabilities and should be treated as such.
Usability relates to the actual users perception of usefulness of a site. While there are no moral or legal implications when it comes to usability, there is this obvious truth: if users don’t think your site is useful, they won’t visit your site. Simple as that. How do you know whether or not potential users feel your site is usable? You test.
The simple truth is there is much more to designing and marketing a website than creating amazing graphics. Thought has to go into the structure, the layout, the sizes, colors, output devices, etc. Supplemental data in the form of alternate descriptions, tags and captions as well as quick access keys and tab order definitions need to be supplied which adds to the scope of the project. Testing should be implemented early and throughout the project to ensure the objective usability of the site. Again, adding to the scope of the project.
The amount of time and money involved may certainly seem prohibitive at first glance, but contrasted to the potential lack of revenue due to an “unusable” site or, worse, a lawsuit for lack of accessibility compliance, it certainly deserves serious consideration.