Define your business, offer and key markets
Your website is a shop window to millions of potential customers. So take a long, hard look at your business and your offer. Write down the key goods and services you provide. Think about your markets and the target groups you want to reach. What makes your business unique?
Analyse your customersWho are they, what do they want from your website? They may be buying products direct, or simply want to compare prices or glean information. Profile your user groups and identify their different needs. Some might need their own individual section or page or perhaps their own website? This step helps drive the content and navigation of your website and keeps it relevant and easy to use.
Research your rivals!Google your competition and take a look at their websites. Study how they are approaching the online market and what's working and what's not. Type in keywords associated with your business and research the businesses on the pages one and two of the results.
What do you want your website to do?If you are selling products online, you will need a fully-transactional e-commerce site. Maybe you want to take bookings online or tie into a customer database, or simply offer information and ideas. Will it need extra accessibility options, perhaps for visually-impaired users, or different language options? Do you want to update it yourself?
Making an initial "to do" list like this ensures your site contains all the vital elements and is built to do what you want it to do.
KeywordsKeywords are the words and phrases your customers type into Google or Yahoo search boxes. These 3-5 word phrases really are key to getting your business found on the Web.
One way to approach this is to write down your target audiences and the kind of information each group is searching for.
Next, look at competitors’ sites to find out which keywords they are using in their page titles and in the page text.
Now find out how popular these phrases are and how many other websites are using them. Google’s keyword tool will give you information on the number of searches for each, globally and locally in the UK as well as lots alternative ideas.
Google’s new predictive search tool, Google Instant, comes up with suggestions as users type their search terms into the search box. Try it yourself and add any relevant suggestions to your list.
Keyword research takes time and effort but is vital to the success of your website. Brainstorm with colleagues too to come up with a well-targeted list.
Study your website statisticsWith excellent free tools such as Google Analytics, there’s no excuse for not keeping up to date with who’s using your site and how.
You can quickly and easily discover how visitors find your site, how long they spend online, which pages are the most popular, and, by tracking bounce rates and exit pages, where users are leaving your site perhaps as a result of problems in the ordering/purchasing process.
Which search engines provide the best quality visitors? Which keywords convert to sales or bookings?
All this vital information will help you refine and improve the content and approach of your website plus any associated advertising, e-marketing promotions or newsletters.
Market your website. Keep it fresh and up to dateFrom the outset, think about how you are going to promote and market your website. Because if customers can’t find you, your business won’t thrive and grow.
No matter how cleverly-designed or well-written, you website won’t get traffic unless you promote it and get it listed by the top search engines.
Once your site goes live, spend time and energy keeping it up to date. This adds credibility and shows your site is professional, well-managed and evolving.
Review the information, products or advice you offer and how this is presented as it encourages users to return to see what’s new. Make sure any content is current by archiving old articles, press releases or reviews.