By: Jürgen Strauss
If you are looking for a Web design, you will succeed most if your Web site has a real Web presence.
A website is, by definition, a singular online entity. It has a unique address, internal links and menus, some level of Web design elements surrounding the site content and is, for all intents and purposes, a standalone resource. The general design approach since the 90’s until now was to design a website as a digitized, online version of a company brochure. In fact, many companies simply copied their brochure content over from print to their new site. Of course, the Web changes quickly and as a result, search engines and marketing methods must also change. Add to these factors that more advanced dynamic functionalities are reduced in price or even are free, the the website from a few years ago can easily get lost or outdated.
What are some signs of an outdated Web site?
- Dated Web Design – most web designers now build for a 1024 wide screen resolution, however the past standard was 800 wide, so simply designing to the narrower width can make a website look dated. Dated designs will have dated functionality and scripting as they were built using less advanced coding standards. The best scenario is a web presence that is refreshed visually with a newer web design, has updated coding and functionality and has current content with past content moved to an archives section.
- Dated Content – an obvious factor is web content that is “old news”or last updated a year or two ago. This goes for broken external links to other sites that no longer exist…or have been updated.
- Dated copyright Notice – Need I say more? If you or your Web designer update the site at least once a year, get them to update the copyright notice to include the current year.
- Simplistic Communication Levels – most older and simpler sites rely on basic email and maybe a contact form, which works well, these are standard levels of communication on the Web. These days, however, web sites can offer live support chat, active forums and interactive flash media to their site’s interactivity.
- Poor or no Search Engine Marketing – chances are if the site is not updated regularly or built to newer standards the owners aren’t going to be out promoting it. This will include organic search engine optimization and external paid ad campaigns such as Google Adwords.
So, if you have a website that sounds like this, you will want to read on to see how to turn your Web site into a Web presence. The difference in a Web presence is the difference between the wall flower at a party and the chain of people doing the conga around the entire room to the beat of the music. A Web presence is considered a living document as it expands and gains attention and gets people involved. To take your current Website or if you are planning a new web site from the start, you must consider the following key features to make your Web site a bonefide Web presence:
The Web presence:
- Have a custom web design that is uncrowded, professional and attractive, but does not impede navigation through the web pages, nor access to any of the content in the site.
- The design should not limit expansion, but rather encourages it– your site can easily have new web pages and the latest functionalities added. Think about a blog or forum – these tools are built to expand and manage new content easily.
- Intuitive Menus and Supporting Navigation are needed to define which sections are passive, which are active, which functionalities are dynamic or static and which areas are most likely to expand. Ideal navigation will provide for the user to access all pages from each page, with the least amount of click throughs. This is only possible with proper initial planning to provide clear, hierarchical levels of sections and pages.
- Written content on the site is unique and crafted for the Web, not just lifted from a Print document or technical paper. You can make these documents into White Papers or single PDFs for downloading, leaving the Web content to be search engine optimized and edited to flow from one page to the next.
- Keep Functionality Realistic – you don’t need an “Live Online Support” function if you don’t plan to use it. Determine early on who will do the Web site updates and maintenance and then decide on a back up person to ensure the updates are done no matter what, either the Webmaster or a trained editor who can manage the site using a CMS. If you have a portfolio, use a dynamic gallery to show it off. If you enjoy writing, then get a blog, make sure you understand how to use it properly. If you want to start e-commerce, be prepared to learn how to manage the catalog and admin areas.
- Search Engine Optimization – starts with the organic results generated by how the site is built, how accessible it and its content is, and how it relates to other websites. Then get your site manually listed in the top search engines and directories and start building reciprocal or back links to your site to help increase exposure and build popularity.
Once the site is live, you will need to:
- Continually review and develop effective Search Engine Optimization
- Expand into e-commerce, so your site can make money for you.
- Start to develop targeted ads using CPC paid listing campaigns like Adwords, Adbrite, etc.
- Collect Information about your visitors using Opt-in newsletters and special offers.
- Survey your existing customers to gain user experiences and update your Calgary Web site accordingly.
- Make your website as interactive and personal as possible.
- Investigate different media such as graphic design/print, vehicle signage, mobile, radio, personal business relationship building to raise your Web presence to a higher ranking.
- Update your content regularly and find related niche sites and post on any blogs and groups for your key search terms and links back to your site.
A Web presence is more powerful and successful than a website because it has an active audience on the front and an active administrator in the back.
A website is good as a channel for your regular business model, but a Web presence is innately active and is a successful means of communication and separate revenue stream.