I am going to argue that the traditional business website is as vital a part of your marketing as it has ever been. First contact with a client will often be online. This contact will usually begin with a search engine. Search engine results are like a crowded marketplace, with vendors yelling to be heard. Potential clients may well click on a paid advert for Vouchedfor or Unbiased. But it doesn’t end there, because today your audience is tech savvy. For them, searching is easy and natural. They might find you first on a directory, or social channel. But they will likely follow that up with further research. They’ll Google you.
And so yes, one of the functions of your business website remains credibility. A poor website experience can erode trust. A non-existent website, or one that’s hard to find can do the same.
A well crafted brand on a well-made website has been shown to enhance trust. It’s useful to allow potential clients several points-of-contact with you and your company. But social media and directory platforms care little or nothing about your brand. They would prefer to promote their own brand, and why not? Your website is your chance to promote your brand. That’s an opportunity denied to you by other platforms, but you’re free to do as you wish on your website.
So, what should you do on your own website?
You should focus on three things. What Google wants. What your visitors want. And provide useful interactivity to engage your audience. We’ll start with Google. There are other search engines, of course. Bing’s UK market share is around 10%. And there is evidence that it’s demographic is older and more affluent than Google’s. I’ll continue to use Google as a catch-all for search engines, and as a verb. This is because other search engine technology likely works in the same way. And because Google remains King.
So what does Google want? Forget, for now, about keywords. What Google wants is well written content on websites that have regular updates. Google’s algorithm is sophisticated. It can ascertain user intent from their search phrase. So simple keyword matches are useful, but not where your focus should be. By well-written, I mean correct grammar, long-form, and unique. The ideal place for this content is a blog, or news section where you share your knowledge. What you call it doesn’t matter. That it’s regularly updated, does.
Purchasing content should be ok if you don’t have the resources to produce it in-house. I recommend proofing bought content. Be thorough and edit before publishing. Some companies use content ‘spinners’ to produce an article that seems to be new. In reality it’s a reworded duplicate. They can introduce grammatical errors. Google’s algorithm can spot ‘spun’ articles, as will your readers.
Find out what your visitors want. And give it to them.
The best quality content answers a question, or overcomes an objection. You already know the typical questions and objections that potential clients pose. You may find it useful to ask clients questions. What is it they wish they had known when they were first looking for a financial adviser? Answering questions is an excellent way to provide good quality, useful content. I don’t mean this literally, rather you should write an article that fills the gap left by the question. Google will like it even more if these are regular. It shows the algorithm that the website is well managed. It shows that the lights are on.
In my experience the most visited pages on any website is the ‘team’ page. An opportunity to meet the team is a high-value trust signal. This in turn can lead to more conversions. The reasoning is simple: people like to see who they are dealing with. Get some good quality and consistent photographs of you and your team. I recommend hiring a professional photographer. Place that alongside engaging and relevant team profiles. It should be an integral part of your website.
Create a content strategy.
Once we accept that regular posting of content is what Google wants, then we need a strategy to deliver it. Consider these three steps: research, creation, implementation. Developing a good content strategy would be an article in itself. I shall refrain from a long explanation here. In short, the research phase may involve client questionnaires and competitor analysis. You’re trying to identify a need – something clients want, that isn’t being provided. Once you’ve identified a set of subjects the content must be created. Write for the lay-person, keep your sentences short and employ clear, concise language. Do this because research suggests that reading habits are different when online. Decide on the frequency of new content and channels for promoting your content. This is an excellent use for your social media.
Speaking of social media, consider adding “social share” buttons on your articles. It can be an excellent way to get some traction through free promotion.
Show, don’t sell.
There is an important distinction between sales copy, and news or blog article copy. Sales copy has its place on the site, but I would always recommend keeping it out of your articles. Focus your articles on supplying good quality and useful content. You can have a call to action at the bottom of the article, but give your visitors something for free first. It absolutely should not read as an advert for your services.
It’s fair to say that engaging writing does one of the following things. Or both. It provokes an emotional response, whether conscious or not. It imparts information in a clear manner. Everything else is waffle. A good story will engage the emotions of your audience. Human interest newspaper articles are a good example. It contains facts (I hope!) but it’s told as a story, using the old reporter “trick” of: who, what, where, when, why.
Answer the call.
The end purpose of your content is to move people to action. If someone takes the time to read – and, one hopes – enjoy your copy, then they may be ready to interact. A relevant call-to-action can capture them in the moment. Use this moment to build your mailing list.
Add anyone who signs up to a mailing list. You can get embed code from services such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor. Those services also handle unsubscribes, keeping the list clean and compliant.
Track calls-to-action using analytics. Measure the success of your content, and how it drives users to action. You’ll be able to see which content is most effective. This information is helpful when reviewing your content strategy.
What is useful interactivity?
It’s a phrase of mine, so we can define it how we wish. What I mean by it is that interactivity can be good. But we need to think hard about whether it adds value. If your visitors want a live chat function then by all means provide one. But if it never gets used then it only serves to clutter your website. At worst it’s an annoying pop up. Free versions of many interactive services are available. So test and measure user uptake before making a commitment. Another tool that may provide useful interactivity is a calendar. A service like Calendly can allow visitors to book a meeting with you online. It’s unobtrusive but could prove itself to be an excellent tool for your clients.
The most simple interactive element on any website is the humble link. But there’s power in this simplicity. Each page should be a journey for the visitor. Give them good content and they will read it. Finish with a relevant call-to-action and they will click it. Take them to your calendar or contact page. Make it easy to get in touch.
I hope the phrase ‘useful interactivity’ is helpful. Before including any new function to your website apply the adjective: is it useful?
Go forth, and multiply your content.
So that’s quite a lot of information to take in. The sophistication of the Google algorithm is good news. It wants the same thing your visitors want. Good quality, useful and relevant content from authoritative sources. Like many things in life, the idea is simple – it’s the execution that’s difficult. If you’re up for the challenge then the rewards can be great.
Research what your potential clients need. Write content that fulfills that need. Give your clients easy methods to get in touch. Analyse the performance of your content. Feed those results into a continuous improvement loop. And remember, you can outsource. If you don’t have the resources or expertise in-house then you can find expertise online.
How do you spot an expert? They’ll have an excellent website. They’ll have great content. And they’ll be easy to find.