Web Designer Hints and Tips
I find that I think of or come across little nuggets of useful website related information from time to time that in themselves do not require a full article but I want to pass on - so that is the aim of this section. Legal issues related to websites are covered separately.
- Build trust - Make it easy for people to contact you
- Testimonials are powerful tools in building trust
- Marketing opportunities - Email signatures
- SEO - Use Anchor Text effectively
- Keywords and the Keywords meta tag
- New Domain Names and Keywords
- Does my site need a Google Sitemap?
- Social Media - Blogs, Forums, Facebook, Twitter etc
- Google Adwords
- Signposting and Calls to Action
So many sites only post limited contact information - what does this imply to you as you browse their website considering your next step?
- They don't want to actually converse with you?
- If you do have a query or issue can you get it resolved?
- Are they a genuine business?
- Do they care about customer service or do they just want your money?
There are a number of reasons to make it easy for people to contact you. Most obviously, they might actually want to contact you but more subtly - making it clear that they can telephone you, email you, write to you at a bricks and mortar address or perhaps fill out a simple form helps reassure them. This helps build the trust that they may need to take that next step. So
- Make key contact information prominent - Display at least a telephone number and e-mail address on every page.
- Provide a full address - this will help reassure site visitors that they're dealing with a credible company with a physical presence.
- Provide additional helpful information - if your phone is only going to be answered between 9.00-17.00 weekdays then say so, if you have various telephone numbers for different services, make this clear. If there is any information that callers will need to provide, such as an order tracking number, let them know in advance so they can have it at hand.
- If you provide contact forms - keep them simple and easy to fill in. Avoid asking for lots of obligatory personal contact information to reassure people that their personal data will be used to answer their query, not for marketing purposes.
- For emails and contact forms give an indication of how quickly you'll be able to answer enquiries, so that people with urgent enquiries can choose to telephone you instead.
You can say what you like yourself about you and your company but that does not have the power that comments, reviews or testimonials from your clients and customers have. But please don't make them up yourself - you will probably make it obvious this is what you have done. Ask your clients if they would be good enough to provide a testimonial - many will be happy to help you.
The world doesn't come knocking on your door because you have a website - most businesses need as much marketing as they can possibly get. So everytime you send out an email perhaps that is an opportunity to do some subtle marketing within your email signature. Perhaps a line such as
- To receive our free monthly newsletter on top tips for .... , please visit our site.
- To see our latest offer on .... , please see our website.
Make it stand out, make it simple - don't bury it in 20 lines of smallprint disclaimer!
Note there are legal requirements regarding information provided in business emails but if you are not including all your contact details anyway - why not?
When determining which keywords your site should be shown for and how high you should be ranked, one of the variables the search engines analyse are the keywords used in the anchor text (the visible words within a link).
Ideally this anchor text (taken out of context ie separately from the surrounding text) should give visitors and search engines pointers to what they will find at the other end of the link. Anchor text like "click here for more" are not effective for SEO purposes (or Disability Accessibility). So make anchor text informative. This will also improves your site's general usability as people often scan looking for visual cues as to the page's topic and what they need to do next, rather than read all the text. Linked text stands out and draws the eyes, but non-descriptive links tell the user nothing and they will continue scanning elsewhere.
Much is made of the importance of "Keywords" quite rightly as focussing your site content on the right keywords is vital to get good rankings in the search engines. But there is often confusion with the largely obsolete "keywords meta tag" in the "head" html code of your web page. Search engines do not use (and google never did) the keywords meta tag so stuffing your keywords in here hoping to get an SEO benefit is a waste of time and effort.
Instead ensure your content includes your target "keywords" in important places such as the "title tag", "h1", other headings, link anchor text, first paragraph etc as well as naturally throughout your text.
If you are buying a new domain name you may do yourself some good in the search engines if that domain name contains a keyword (or keywords) that people are likely to use in their search phrase. So for example www.epsilis.co.uk is likely to be less successful than www.epsiliswebdesigners.co.uk from a search perspective (other things being equal).
Other considerations include: domain name should be short, easy to say, trips off the tongue, easy to spell .... etc. (I know a few people have difficulty with my company name and domain but epsilis has been around for a long time now and is well established. One thing you don't do is throw away an established domain as it is very hard for a new domain to become established and overtake an old established domain.)
Google XML sitemaps often crop-up when thinking of SEO. So will your website benefit from adding a Google XML sitemap?
Well firstly what is a Google sitemap - it is basically a list of links to pages on your website, coded in a special format (XML), intended to make it easy for a search engine to find all the pages on your site. It is not a web page in the normal sense and it is not for use by a human visitor to a website.
So it is not to be confused with a standard web page also called a sitemap - which will also probably be a list of links to all pages on your site - intended to help human site visitors find what they need.
If you have a Google XML sitemap it needs to be kept up to date.
Much is spoken of Social Media and its importance in Search Engine Marketing. So we are talking about Blogs, Forums, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Fundamentally most of these fall into the social arena rather more than into the business arena but they provide
- more exposure
- additional links
for your business web site so they can be helpful in improving your search rankings (as currently Google isn't savvy enough to tell the difference between social and business content). So many marketing people are pushing the use of these tools to market web sites. You should think carefully about the appropriateness of the sort of exposure you are getting for your business from using some of these tools and the maintenance requirements.
Blogs are Diary or date based web publishing tools. (Or looked at another way - a website Content Management System (CMS) designed to publish your daily musings.) If that is what you want they are great tools. If however what you really want is to add new content to your website regularly in a logical fashion then you might want a more appropriate CMS attached to your website.
Forums are intended for online discussions. They are often used to provide online support for software etc and can grow into great resources but they require a lot of on-going time and effort to support. You can't expect to set one up and expect a community to just appear and make it work for you. However if you are regularly answering technical questions related to your business area then perhaps providing a Help Forum might be a great asset to your customers and to you - it may reduce the questions and build into a fantastic resource adding significant weight to your site in the search engines.
Google Adwords are nothing to do with search engine optimisation but are often spoken of as if they are. They are small adverts you pay google for by paying each time someone clicks on your advert. The cost is usually in the range of a few pence to a few pounds per click - its a bit like an auction in that the greater the competition the greater the cost to stay near the top. The adverts - referred to as sponsored links - appear at the top and to the right of the normal search results listings.
Google Adwords is a good way of getting fast results (in terms of getting your site seen) and getting exposure you could not otherwise get as the competition for normal SEO is just too strong to expect to get good rankings. But it is like all adverts in that you get the exposure as long as you keep paying so it can be a money pit if not managed properly - so make sure you spend the time understanding your campaign and monitoring progress.
Google has other tools like Google Maps, Google Base that you might be useful when considering search optimisation.
Help you visitors decide what to do next - have good 'signposting' to more relevant information (perhaps a recent newsletter, an event coming up next week, a special offer) to guide and engage the visitor, throughout the website.
Encourage your visitors to go that next step with 'calls to action' - a request for the user to do something such as click on a link, give you a call, fill out a form, join a newsletter, or add a product to the shopping basket. Be positive and use action based language - don't leave it hanging there, instruct your visitors what to do - "Give Michael a call now to see how to get more out of your website - Call 01462 674840."
Companies should not be looking to win design awards - they should be looking to use their web site to boost their business. Some businesses are making sure their website is working for them as an excellent lead generation tool. I hope my tips help you increase the effectiveness of your web site.
Epsilis - Web Designers and Website Optimisation Specialists
47 Farthing Drive
Letchworth Garden City