How to Build a Great Website (Even If You Don't Think You Need One)
Using a few free tools can help lure customers to your website -- and keep them coming back.
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A: I hear variations of this question quite often and my answer is always the same: Any small business that is not maximizing its Web presence is wasting an incredible opportunity and, moreover, likely losing valuable business in the process.
Usually, small-business owners avoid adopting new technology because they don't see the value, think it will be too expensive or worry that it will cost too much. In the case of your website, all three are incorrect assumptions. Let me dismiss the last two first, and then explain why you simply must put up a crackerjack site -- no ifs, ands, or buts.
Today, there is no shortage of inexpensive ways to create powerful, elegant, Web 2.0 websites. Whether it is Microsoft's OfficeLive. Google Websites, Intuit Websites, or pre-made templates like those offered by WordPress, there are plenty of tools for creating a great looking website today, and most are free, or practically so.
So that is no excuse.
As for whether it is necessary, whether it is valuable, just think about how your own habits have changed in the past decade or so. Is it not true that when you learn about a new business, you often look the business up online first and make a judgment based on its site?
Well, don't you think your customers and potential customers are doing the same thing?
People today spend as much time online as they do watching TV. That is a remarkable shift in habits. But even more significantly, when people go online, what they expect, what impresses them, is to be able to do more than read some boring content when they hit a website. They expect to watch a video, comment on a blog, vote in a poll, take a quiz or participate in a webinar.
That is called Web 2.0. Web 2.0 means that websites today are far more interactive than they were before.
By using some of these Web 2.0 tools on your site, you give potential customers more of a reason to stick around (hence the term "sticky site") and forge more of a connection with your business. Indeed, having some nice Web 2.0 tools on your site gives you
- Enhanced credibility. Today, people judge you by your site. Make a good first impression.
- Marketing opportunities. Posting a video on your site for instance is a far more powerful marketing tool than simply having two paragraphs about your business.
- Additional profit centers. Learning how to sell some of your stuff online is not hard and affords you the chance to have your business open 24/7/365. Why would you not do that?
OK, so if this makes sense to you (and it should), then what sort of Web 2.0 tools should you add to your site? Here are some easy ones with which to start:
- Blogs. Blogs are great because they give your business a more personal feeling. Don't worry if you are not a writer - just share what you know (but it must be grammatically correct, of course). Offer some insights. Tell people about a new product you just got in. Share a good story.
- Comments. Similarly, offering readers the chance to comment on your blog and/or article is another good way to make your site more interactive. Try offering polls or even a forum. Google those terms and you will find tons of resources to add these things to your cool new site.
- Video. Video is all the rage online, and the good news is that yours need not be super professional -- YouTube is proof of that. Make a video introducing your staff, or have your daughters interview you. Make it personal and post it on your site. Do you see what a great opportunity that is to make a more personal connection with your customers?
- E-newsletters. E-newsletters allow you to stay in Constant Contact with your audience. How great is that?
Adding just a few of these tools to your site will make it friendlier, more sticky, and more appealing. The time is now.
Want to be part of this column? Ask Steve a question at AOL@MrAllBiz.com.