In 2014, which is only a few years ago, it was stated in an article in Canadian Business Magazine, that only 41.1% of small businesses in Canada had a website. It is only a little over 50% in 2020. What is worse than this, most businesses that have invested in a website are not sure what business results in the way of leads and sales they are receiving from their website.
Importance of a Website for Businesses
With 87% of Canadians having access to the Internet, it is amazing how so many businesses have not gotten on the digital bandwagon when it comes to investing in a website and digital marketing for their business. This is one investment that even a struggling business cannot afford not to have. The Internet is here to stay, and customers are getting younger, so it is no longer an option to have a website. For those businesses that do not have a website, they are going to be left behind and will start to see their business suffer over time.
Making a Decision To Have a Website
Choosing to make an investment in a website is only the first step in this journey. Next is having the right website for your business developed. Before you think, I know a cousin that knows HTML, STOP. This is your business and a website is not a placeholder on the Internet. A website is your storefront on the Internet whether you sell online or not. The impression that visitors have when they visit your website will be the one they have about your business. If the impression was poor, your business might be discounted without any consideration to the strength of your business and products.
What Is Important To Have In a Website Today?
Branding – Your website should incorporate your brand and look like your other corporate marketing.
Works on all Devices - Your website needs to be responsive which means it will render on all devices. More and more visitors are searching with tablets and smartphones.
Meaningful Content – The content on your website needs to be useful to your target audience(s). It requires updating on a regular basis and must engage your visitors.
Optimized Content and Website – SEO today is not SEO of five years ago, so it is important that you optimize your website for search engines, by making sure and that your meta tags, descriptions, titles, and content are optimized for SEO.
Navigational Ease– The content on your website needs to be easy to find and navigate. Otherwise, the content will not be read. Responsive sites tend to scroll to conform to mobile devices, so make sure your visitors do not have to navigate too far to find content.
Accessibility – Websites need to be accessible and if your business is over 50 employees in Ontario, you must conform to the current accessibility standards. This is true of most of the other provinces and even most countries today. In many cases, if good design and development standards are followed, your website most likely is using most of the standards needed. This is important to know, as your business can be fined for non-conformance by the government.
Hire a Professional – This is an investment in your business, so do not hire someone that is not a professional to build your website, else it could end up costing you more in the end. Check references of the companies you hire and look at their work. There are many reputable web development companies out there; it is up to you as a business owner to do your due diligence. You need to check client references and ask to view their work.
CMS versus HTML site – Make sure the web development company that is creating your website is using a CMS (content management system). This will allow you to make changes once it is fully developed versus paying them for every minor change to content. A reputable firm would have already recommended this option. You do not want a static HTML website today. A CMS developed website might cost more up-front, but will be a cost savings over time.
Blog on Website – If you are going to have a blog for your business make sure it is incorporated into your website wherever possible. Blogs drive traffic to your website.
Be Serious About Investing – If a professional is going to develop your website in a CMS that is responsive and is optimized, you are not going to pay $500.00. This is an investment in your business and the price will depend on the functionality and number of pages you require. If you are a business and need a site that is more than 5 pages – expect to spend around $2000.00 for a professionally developed site for your business. Ecommerce will cost you much more, but this is your business at this point.
Now I Have a Website, Now What?
A website is constantly changing and as a business owner, someone in your company needs to take ownership of this task to keep the website up to date. This should be part of your ongoing marketing efforts and should be budgeted as part of marketing. It is also up to you as the business owner when purchasing a website to make sure your staff has access to the metrics, especially if you are paying your web company for maintenance and SEO. Do not just believe someone telling you that you are moving up on Google, you need to verify this. No one can promise you Page one. This times time and must be done correctly otherwise your website could be banned by Google. Those making these promises are using black hat tactics and no longer know what they are doing. It is about waiting and developing the right content today. You cannot beat the system once you optimize your site and develop content.
Google Analytics is FREE and your website will have been set-up on Google Analytics as part of your website project. If this is not included, then this is not a reputable web company to use. You or your staff should also be given access to Google Analytics along with having some basic training.
In addition, someone needs to track the leads you receive from your website. This is as simple as keeping track of all the leads that come through forms or asking clients when they call how they found your business. Online leads must be followed up on within 24 hours of being entered into your site. If you wait to answer, you have probably lost that potential lead.
Basic Metrics To Watch and Track
The metrics below are included in Google Analytics. This is not an inclusive list of everything that is tracked but is meant only as an overview of the base metrics that are available.
Audience – Who are your visitors?
Overview – will provide you with the number of users and sessions within a defined period of time, the page views, the average number of pages viewed by session, the average session duration, bounce rate, and percentage of new sessions. If your bounce rate is over 50-60%, visitors are not staying on your site and finding relevant content. If your new session % is low, then you are not attracting new visitors.
Demographics – will tell you the age and sex of those visiting your site. This can be significant if you have all 20-year-old males and your target market is 45-year-old males.
Geo – will tell you the geography of those visiting your website down to a city level. If your target market is only Canada but most of your traffic is outside Canada, this could uncover a potential problem with your optimization.
Behaviour – will tell you the percentage or new versus returning visitors. Frequency and recency, along with the length of their engagement and the page depth while they were there. You want the number of new visitors to exceed those of returning. On the other hand, if you have no returning visitors, this outlines a problem as well.
Mobile – will tell you the percentage of desktop, mobile and tablet users.
Acquisition- How are visitors getting to your site?
Channels – will tell you where the visitors are coming directly, through organic search, referral, social media, or through paid search.
Search Engine Optimization – will tell you the terms visitors are typing in search engines to get to your website, what pages they landed, and what geographies they came.
Social – will tell you more about the traffic coming from social media.
Behaviour – What are visitors doing on your site once they are there?
Behaviour Flow – will provide the flow of entry to exit by visitors to the website.
Site Content – will tell you the performance of individual pages.
In-Page Analytics – will provide you with what your visitors do within each of one of your web pages.
If you are serious about growing your business, having a professional website for your business is a must. Whether your target prospects are B2C or B2B, all are searching for information online before calling or visiting your business in most cases. This is an important investment in your business and is one that needs to be as much of a priority as hiring a salesperson. If you have an inadequate website or cannot be found by your prospects, it a guarantee you are losing out on potential business. Once you have a site, it is then important to keep it up to date and measure performance to make sure you are getting expected results. We work with many reputable web companies, and refer our clients only to firms that create professional business websites that conform to the standards outlined in this article. Choosing the wrong company without due diligence can cost your business greatly down the road.