How to build a website that generates leads
Web design has come a long way since its inception. It has never been cheaper or simpler for anyone to create a great looking website in a matter of days, sometimes even hours.
The challenge is that it takes a bit more experience to build a website that truly persuades your visitors to take meaningful action for your business.
From custom to CMS
In the early days of web design, you would determine your needs and then have someone design the entire site from scratch. The proliferation of content management systems (or CMSs), including WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, to name a few, has dramatically changed this model.
I am a fan of WordPress. With a little research and a lot of persistence, someone you can discover how to set up and operate a CMS.
There are thousands of themes or layouts available on the web. This means that all you have to do is choose the right design, and then customize the color scheme to match your company’s branding.
For example, you can get premium themes from StudioPress, iThemes, or WooThemes, among hundreds of other sources. To find themes for specific content management systems, simply perform a Google search (ie “WordPress” + “themes”, “joomla” + “templates”).
If you find a theme that meets your needs as-is, all you’ll have to pay for is hosting (assuming you build the site yourself). If you want a custom design but are not tech-savvy, you can hire a graphic designer.
Once you have chosen and configured your CMS and theme, the next step is to design your site. There are four components of a website: 1) technical programming, 2) graphic design, 3) writing, and 4) architecture. Technical programming is done with your CMS, and you can find designers who work specifically with the CMS of your choice. This leaves text and architecture. This is where the knowledge of people plays a fundamental role. The four general characters are the humanistic, competitive, methodical, and spontaneous types. Humanists make decisions slowly and emotionally. Competitive make decisions quickly and logically. The methodical types make decisions slowly and logically, and the spontaneous types decide quickly and emotionally.
You need pages and text to answer each other’s questions. Specifically, you must have at least the following:
- An “About Us” page that outlines credentials and competitive advantages for competitors.
- A “Get Started” page, or something similar, for spontaneous types. Free downloads also attract this person.
- Pages detailing your products, services, processes, methodologies, and applicable research for Methodicals.
- A “Testimonials” or “Case Studies” page for humanists. Also include biographies of owners, managers, and employees relevant to this person.
Write your text to answer the questions of the characters. Use hyperlinks on relevant words and phrases to direct people to your pages. Make navigation simple and intuitive.
Try it out with a few of your friends to find out where they are experiencing difficulties or if their questions are not being answered.
Create your database
Capturing your website visitor data is one of your highest priorities and one of the main keys to small business online marketing.
People may not buy on an initial visit, but if you can earn their trust enough to at least get their name and email address, you can continue to serve them and make your case over time.
The trick here is to have a free download, like an ebook, an audio file, or a free trial of something. Your download should be relevant to visitors and valuable enough to gain attention.
You’ll need database management software, such as AWeber, iContact, or Infusionsoft, to create web forms and create and manage your database.
With your website built, the next step is to generate traffic. Website traffic comes mainly from organic searches, direct referrals, links, social media, and bookmarks.
To optimize your search engine ranking, there are a number of technical programming elements that you need to take care of.
This is one of the reasons I love WordPress so much – it automatically takes care of all those details for you.
It is also imperative that you have a blog and post articles frequently. The more you post, the more relevant content search engines will find. Plus, it increases the chance that people on the web will link to your site, which search engines love.
Currently, the three most popular social networking sites are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Set up profiles on each one, make friends, and then wisely refer people to your website. Social bookmarking sites include Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and others. These allow people to share content.
The better the content on your blog, the better your chances of people linking to you from these sites.
Optimize over time
Your website will never be finished. Accept that fact. The key is to always be testing to optimize your site over time.
To perform the test, you must set up the analysis. Google offers a free version, which works great for most websites. Set up an account, then enter your website address. You will then be given a code to embed at the back of your website, either in the footer or header. This will track everything from page views to time spent on your site and hundreds of other variables.
Fine-tune your site and watch what happens to your stats, then fine-tune further accordingly.