No one has clicked on a banner ad since 2001, quipped Flynn Zaiger, the 26-year-old founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Online Optimism.
Addressing delegates at the 2016 Sage Summit in Chicago, Zaiger insisted that businesses of all shapes and sizes should make an investment into a quality custom website in order to reach potential customers.
The Sage Summit has been termed the world’s largest gathering of entrepreneurs and business builders by Sage. There are more than 15 000 entrepreneurs and small- to mid-size business owners attending the event, according to the company.
Quoting research from Accenture, which surveyed 500 procurement officers in the US with annual purchasing budgets in excess of $100 000, Zaiger highlighted that nearly 84% of respondents said they visited a supplier’s website when making a procurement decision.
If you can’t pay someone to do it for you, website builders SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix are good alternative options.
Your website needs to load quickly and be responsive, Zaiger added.
“Each additional second of page loading loses visitors. Page speed affects your Google rank too,” he said.
Website speeds can be tested using Pingdom or Google’s page speed insights.
The easiest way to improve your site speed is to decrease image file sizes.
“There’s no reason to be uploading pictures wider than 2880 pixels (30 inches),” Zaiger said.
Using a better host or upgrading your content delivery network will also solve speed problems where smaller images don’t.
Speaking to responsiveness, Zaiger noted that a number of websites had poor mobile experiences, despite the fact that Google’s mobile search surpassed desktop search in 2015.
“Your website should look good on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones,” he said, advising a thorough test of the site’s navigation across all platforms.
While WordPress sites are often sufficiently customisable, Zaiger said “You may need to pay for a new website. It’s worth it. It’s not like smartphones are going away; if anything, laptops will.”
Creating a pleasant user experience also requires clear customer goals.
“There needs to be a clear path to the most common calls to action, whether that is purchasing an item, finding information or following leads,” he said.
Zaiger suggested showing your website to someone who has never seen it before as a way to evaluate its usability.
“Outside perspectives are invaluable.”
To deal with the lack of trust that often afflicts the internet – understandably, considering how easy it is to set up a bogus online business – Zaiger recommends appearing “non-digital”.
“Place contact information at the top of the site and regularly update your news or blog pages – anything to indicate that you’re an active business. Even national businesses need homes. Localising your site helps to build trust,” he said.
Avoid stock photos where possible and use pictures of yourself and your team instead.
He cautioned against “marketing gone too far” – ie, immediate pop-ups on a landing page or requiring forms to see content without at least a teaser.
Adding your site on to Google’s Search Console – to ensure your customers can actually find you – is equally vital and can be done free of charge.
“Steal ideas from the best,” Zaiger concluded, suggesting analysing the websites of businesses in the same sectors to yours.
The journalist is a guest of Sage at the Sage Summit
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