07 - Website 101 - Melanie Neal - Zella Ruby Media

If you're on the fence about putting a website up for your business, step away from that fence.  Step far, far away, and don't give it another thought.  The answer is YES, you definitely need a website.  So I talked to marketing expert Melanie Neal with Zella Ruby Media to break down website basics, understand the things you should and should not include on your website, and how you can go about setting one up.

So why should you have a website? Yes, Your business can grow exponentially by having a good online presence.  Here are three big why's:

  1. The first question you should ask does your competitors have a website.  If the answer is, that they do, and you don’t, then they already have a large competitive edge over you.
  2. It allows you to legitimize your business.  If people are searching for various businesses, if you don’t have a website, and the other businesses that they’re considering do, then you’re that quickly taken out of that consideration.
  3. In a local business, if you don’t have a website, then especially to the younger generation, you really don’t exist. The more robust website you have, the more likely they are to chose you because you’ve given them a visual of what an experience would be like to work with you.

What should be included on your website?   What main areas should be addressed?  First, avoid novels.  People don't want to know every single possible detail about your business.  You obviously want to have enough information, but you only have a few seconds to get their attention.  So be clear.  They should know exactly what your business is, and what you do as soon as they get to your page.  If that's not clear, you'll lose those people in just a few seconds. 

It's important to understand the balance between too much content and not enough.  Know that there are people likely to either email, call, or drive straight to businesses.  Make sure you’re covering all of those bases.  Also, make sure your site is mobile friendly, so they can quickly get your information on their mobile phone.  Provide a clear and prominent is a phone number to contact you.  Some customers may not want to search through your site, and they just may call you immediately.

It’s important to hire a professional photographer or get someone with a good camera to capture the essence of your business.  It will give customers a great idea of what they can expect when doing business with you.  It also adds a layer of trust.

You can use stock photos, but if you’re not showing a true picture of what your place looks like or your staff, etc, it opens the door that people can say that they would like to do business with you.

This will depend on how complicated your business is, but a lot of times you can use something like FAQ’s.  Have your customers been asking you a lot of specific questions over and over again?  If so, have an FAQ page, where customers can get those answered immediately without having to ask you.

If you have a specific product, then definitely include product information. 

Also, have a contact form.  Don’t have just a contact us form where people aren’t sure where the information is going, and if they’ll hear back.  Include an actual email or phone number where they can contact you directly.   

Sometimes websites make the mistakes of putting a website just to put it up, but they don’t put a friendly or personal feel to it.

Also, ask your customers for testimonials.  You can also put those testimonials your website, along with Yelp, and Google Plus.

Use your website to show the personality of your business.  Yes, you may hire someone to build your website.  However, make sure they’re not making you look cookie cutter, and showing the world what it would really be like to do business with you and why they should do business with you.

What about the About Me/About Us Page, how personal should you get with this page?  Again, the answer to this one is going to depend on the type of business.  If you have a business where someone is going to be entering someone’s home, then it’s a great idea, to have pictures of employees, etc, so people can feel more comfortable hiring you.

If it’s a consulting business and a one-person show.  Then it’s a great idea to put your information out there for people to get to know you.  People buy from businesses they like.  It gives them more insight of the personality.

If you’re just starting out, and you want your business to look a little bigger than you are, then it might be good to use a ‘we’, instead of an I.    Even if you’re subcontracting, there still will be a team. 

What are some absolute do not do’s?  Don’t do the red flags of religious and political affiliations.  Business owners tend to put up too much personal information.  Don’t put a lot of bad quality photos.  Also, have someone proof your website as there's nothing worse than misspelled words or content that just doesn't make sense.   The most important thing is to present yourself well. 

 What about do-it-yourself platforms, are they any you recommend?  If you do have some resources available, like copywriting, definitely use those.  If you need to get something up quickly, then use a do-it-yourself platform.  

Here are some recommended resources:

  1. Wix.com
  2. Squarespace.com – Has a great platform for e-commerce
  3. BigCommerce.com – Another one if you’re planning on selling anything
  4. Wordpress.org  – You can use plug-ins for pretty much anything you would need your website to do what you need to it.
  5. Go Daddy.com – You can buy your domain, your hosting, and launch your website all at the same place.
    The great thing about any of these is that you can make changes yourself, instead of having to constantly going back to a webmaster to make changes.

When it comes to images vs text on your website, is there a general rule to follow for text vs. pictures?  It’s really doing to depend on your business.  If your business is more visual or artistic, the more pictures and videos you can put up, the better.   If you can use the pictures to really give a good visual of what your office or business is like, then definitely use pictures or videos.

Most people will respond to images more than text.  Just really think about what do you want your audience to do when they get to your site.  And use the pictures or text to help them determine that you’re the business that they need.

Should everyone include a blog?  There really isn’t a scenario where a blog wouldn’t work for everyone else.  It can work great for SEO and Google.  It can also allow you to become an expert in your area.  You can provide relevant information to your customers, and they can have another viewpoint of why they would want to do business with you.  There are blog sites that you can set something up for free.  It’s not a big investment, but it will take some time to keep it up.  You really do want the writing to seem intelligent, and you also don’t want to put it out there, and then never update.

How frequently should you be posting?  It will depend on your business and your resources.   At a minimum try to do something once a month.

More About Melanie:  Founder and Mar­ket­ing Strate­gist at Zella Ruby Media, Melanie helps busi­nesses grow. By pro­vid­ing strate­gic con­sult­ing, a mul­ti­tude of mar­ket­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices, she helps clients acquire and retain cus­tomers. Prior to start­ing her own busi­ness, she spent over ten years man­ag­ing suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing pro­grams for B2Bs, B2Cs & Non-profits. She has worked with numer­ous brands to develop engag­ing inter­ac­tive mar­ket­ing cam­paigns includ­ing: Moun­tain Dew, ePrize, Machin­ima, Xbox, AVP, NBA, Sony, Ubisoft, Activi­sion, Global Gam­ing League, Nin­tendo, NFL, Elec­tronic Arts, Def Jam, 2K Sports, Rock­star Games, Lucas Arts, NBA Europe & Major League Gam­ing. Melanie has an MBA in Mar­ket­ing from The Uni­ver­sity of Dal­las. 


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