Building an effective website for your business

I'm not a web designer, but I play one on television. For years I have maintained my own corporate website because I like having control over the content and not having to rely on others to make updates. You should want a professional online presence for your business. Why? Potential customers now expect it. If you can't be found on the internet, you might not be found at all.

From working on my own website, I've learned the following things about building a website that attracts customers and traffic:

  • Clean but interesting design – A professional web design is a must for any business that wants to be taken seriously. Don't waste your time or money on a high school kid or a friend who took a "web design class" eight years ago. Professional designers are needed to give your site the right image. But you don't have to spend tons of money anymore to get good design. There are plenty of companies that sell professional templates that are easily modified for your needs.

  • Ease of navigation – Make things easy to find on your site. There's no better way to send users running far away from your website than to offer a confusing layout that makes it impossible to find what they're looking for. Put navigation bars where they're easy to find and index your pages under intuitive headings. Offer a search feature for readers who want an easier way to find specific content.
  • Good content – What's good content? It's educational, informative, and interesting. It offers readers insight into your company and what you're selling. It lets people make an educated decision about purchasing from you. But it goes beyond a sales pitch, and offers immediate value to readers, whether or not they ultimately buy from you.
  • Fresh content – Not only do you need good content on your site, you also need to keep it fresh. Who wants to look at a website that was last updated in 2001? You mean to tell me that nothing has changed in your business for the last 7 years? New content keeps readers coming back and increases your chances of making a sale. Search engines also like fresh content and you can increase your keyword popularity by continuously adding new content.
  • Blog well, or don't blog at all – Blogging is one of the best ways to keep fresh content flowing. But if you're not good at it, or you don't want to update your blog several times a week, don't even bother. Business owners who get into blogging simply because they think it's the right thing to do aren't likely to have success with it. Find something interesting to say on a regular basis and engage in a conversation with your readers to keep them coming back.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread – Nothing says "unprofessional" like multiple grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. If you can't put a sentence together, have someone help you. Readers and potential customers are easily turned off by content that seems unprofessional and makes the writer look careless about details.
Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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