Matching Small business Website Content to Intent

When trying to secure more leads from a local business website it is vital to deliver the exact information a prospect is searching for via the most appropriate media. After all the hard work involved in driving traffic to a small business website a lack of relevant information equals lost interest and no sale.

What is relevant depends primarily on the intent of the prospect. Marketing objectives and market segments are important but matching website content to intent is the key

At a basic level, it is important to decide if the prospect needs information or do they want a solution? They may be researching a subject in which case a long form blog post may be appropriate. If the prospect needs to know the best way to fix something a YouTube video outlining the key issues may be best.

If the intent is informational then a soft approach may be best. Perhaps a useful download could be used to obtain an email address to use to stay in touch. If the intent is transactional then a more aggressive call to action to stimulate the prospect to get in touch may be more appropriate.

Intent dictates where the prospect is the buying process. If looking for information they are almost certainly further away from the purchase than those looking for a solution.

Intent, therefore, should be a key input into an online marketing process. As discussed above it impacts on the choice of medium. It affects the choice of keywords, calls to action and much more.

If information intended to satisfy whatever the searchers intent may be is not on a website the prospect will look elsewhere. The potential to sell either now or some point in the future will be lost.

Adding content to a website can significantly increase traffic to a website. The challenge is Matching Website Content to Intent to increase the chances of conversion. That conversion may be in the form of a sale or a step on the way to a sale at some point in the future.

Website And Google My Business integration For Local Marketing Success

The challenge for many small businesses with a local customer base is how to secure more sales without relying completely on referrals and repeat work. In this post, we discuss one key element of any local business marketing plan – Website and Google my Business integration.

Research shows that 85% of consumers search for local businesses online (source). Worldwide over 80% of all organic website traffic is generated by Google. According to Advanced Web Rankings,  67% of clicks go to the first five listings on Page 1 Google.

So a relevant page1 presence on Google is of increasing importance to any business attempting to secure new customers in their local area. The key word here is relevant, There is no point at all ranking in a high position for search queries that have no relevance to the business

Google My Business And Website Integration

 The first page of search results for any location based business search such as Accountant location or Plumber location tends to be dominated by directories (such as Yell). Worse still, the top of the page is taken up by paid listings, the Google My Business listings and perhaps also a featured snippet.

To rank a small business website above the directories on page 1 can be difficult (and costly). However, a prominent position in the Google my Business listing pack delivers a position near the top of the page with an obvious link to the business website. For many small businesses with websites languishing down on page 2 or below this is a real bonus as the Google my Business listing effectively delivers a page 1 presence for the website. 

So if it is possible to achieve a position towards the top of Page 1 of the search results with an effective Google My Business listing why have a website at all? The two main reasons are credibility and nurture.

What is a prospect going to do when they first find a potential supplier online? If they have any initial interest they are going to check the business out. If there is no website is that going to raise suspicions? Is the business real? Are they a credible supplier?

The information available from a Google my Business listing is limited. It is not possible to deliver the depth of information required for a nurture campaign or to tempt customers to keep coming back for more.

Although testimonials and reviews available on a Google my Business listing are powerful they cannot deliver the same level of credibility as appropriate content published on a regular basis on a website.

Google My Business – An Overview

Any business can claim a free Google My Business listing and significantly increase their chances of appearing near the top of page 1 Google. In fact, a listing for a business may already exist as Google often creates a listing based simply on the information found on the web.

Google usually displays three local businesses (known as the 3 pack) in a panel, with a map, near the top of page 1 of the search results. Which local businesses are included and their relative positions are decided by a Google algorithm. The algorithm is based on many factors including how near the business is to the centre of the location used in the search query.

There is no guarantee a business will always appear in the three pack but it is possible to optimise a listing to ensure it has the best chance of display. The first step should be to claim a Google My Business listing if one already exists (the information pulled into the listing by Google can be incorrect) or to create a new listing.

The Business Website 

A proportion of prospects will find a business and make contact immediately but a much larger proportion are likely to make multiple visits over an extended period of time before making a decision. A Google my Business listing is effective in securing enquiries from those ready to make an immediate decision but it has limitations when it comes to building a longer term relationship.

A website is therefore required to build a profile and content that will engage with prospects and build a relationship over time. Content added to a website on a regular basis that either builds credibility (like case studies) or ads some value to the customer can potentially bring prospects back to the website when they are ready to buy.

The content may be in the form of text, video or graphics the key point is it must develop and change over time. Possible sources of information could be how to guides, before and after videos, industry news and comment and product photography (particularly if it shows product applications). 

There is little doubt every business with a local customer base should make online marketing one of its priorities. A Google local listing is a quick and relatively easy way to quickly obtain a page 1 listing on the search engines. When used in conjunction with a locally optimised website and best practice content and search engine marketing then more sales leads can be expected to follow.

Think Before Investing In A New Small Business Website

When trying to take your business to the next level don’t believe all you need is a new small business website and the customers will flood in. As a stand-alone item a new (or updated) website can be a complete waste of time and money.Small business website design is not enough

If you think it through the new business website pitch is fundamentally flawed. It assumes your potential customers will naturally find the website when they search for your products or services. It assumes all your prospects are using a traditional search engine. It ignores the power of word of mouth.

A website has a role but it is important to establish the small business marketing process before designing the website as any mismatch will simply waste time, resources and (worse still) your hard earned cash.

How many website visitors do you actually need to achieve your goals and from what geographic areas? For many websites <2% first time visitors actually convert to customers.

It is often worth taking a step back and really thinking through what it is you offer, what sets you apart, what type of customer you want to attract, how many of those customers you need and, finally, how you are going to attract them to your business. What is your marketing process?

If a website has a role in the marketing mix then a proportion of the funds available need to be kept back to work on activities that ensure it is found. Research from Chitika shows >90% of searchers on Google never go beyond page 1 of the search results.

It is important to research your customers, their information needs and where they look for that information. How are they likely to search and what search phrases are they likely to use. If target prospects are all within the local area a Google My Business may be all that is required instead of investing in a website.

Even then the battle is not over as there is so much misinformation peddled on how to ensure your website is found in search that it is too easy to waste even more cash on poor quality search engine marketing companies that fail to deliver results.

A well thought out new small business website that fits within a robust marketing process can without doubt pay for itself many times over. However, it is important to remember that on its own it is unlikely to deliver the required result for most small businesses.

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How Much Should A New Website Cost

As may be expected the answer to the question of how much should a new website cost is not straightforward and depends on a number of factors. That said, we will try to deliver best estimates based on the website platform and the level of website complexity.

Before we get into the detail perhaps we can save you some money? It may be you do not need a website at all? Before deciding on a new website, technology, design, layouts, costs and potential suppliers there are several important issues to consider.

Think About Your Strategy

It is important to re-visit your business plan to ensure that whatever you create fits with that plan and delivers on your business objectives. What are your key messages? Prospects are not generally interested in ‘welcome to our website’ statements or a company history. They want you to get to the point, in plain language, and to do it in as few words as possible.

What Do You Hope The Website Will Achieve

What would you like your website to achieve? Do you want a brochure site that builds authority and your brand or is your prime objective to obtain quality leads for your sales department to chase down? Try not to get caught somewhere between the two and make a firm decision on one or the other.

A Website May Not Be The Best Option

Really think about your business, what you want to achieve and the other options available before investing in a website. For example if you are a local plumber it may be far better to have a strong Google Local listing than try to compete for a spot on page 1 Google with the nationals, the major directories and those prepared to invest heavily in SEO.

Remember To Keep something back for SEO (or PPC)

On the subject of SEO remember a website is of little use if it cannot be found when a prospect types a relevant search phrase into a search engine. To compete for that all important page 1 position then something will have to be spent on SEO or PPC.

Do As Much As You Can In House

Both to keep costs down and to ensure there are no misunderstanding it is worthwhile spending some time thinking about the keywords that best describe your business. What is a prospect likely to type into a search engine when searching for your goods or services?

Write out key statements and think about the information that absolutely has to be on your website and how it all links together. Collect relevant photography you own or source stock photography (making sure you do not breach copy write) that you would like on your site.

Build A Solid Brief For Your Website Supplier

The above maximises the chances that misunderstandings will be avoided and that your website designer delivers a website that covers your key messages, it also minimises costs. Although design is important it is essential to make it clear up front that the design should not slow the site down or detract from the message and objectives.

It should be made clear that any website delivered must be SEO friendly and fully updateable via a robust (and simple) content management system (CMS). Check your website supplier carefully, it is best to avoid one man bands who may well go out of business or move on causing you a problem if there are any technical issues or major changes required.

What Should A Website Cost

As a rough guideline a simple website build on the WordPress platform is more than adequate for most small businesses and should cost anywhere between GBP(£) 400 and (£)700. For more complex requirements or simple e-commerce sites this may rise to between GBP(£)1,000 and (£)2,000.

The two other most common website build technologies are Drupal and Joomla. These tend to lend themselves to more complex websites, with more functionality than WordPress but tend to be more expensive as a result. For a simple website be prepared to pay in excess of £750 with more complex designs costing up to GBP(£) 5,000, sometimes more, for special functionality.

There are also many, so called, website builder packages available from Yell, 1&1 and many others. These may appear cheap options but nowhere is it more true that you get what you pay for. If you would like your business website to look almost exactly the same as many others and you don’t mind becoming frustrated with what you can, and cannot, achieve then go ahead.

Thinking through your objectives and preparing properly can save you an awful lot of time and money in your website design process. It can also lead you to the point you may have a reasoned conversation with your website design company on what the best build package and cost level may be best for you.

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The Key Elements Of A Effective Small Business Website

The key elements of an effective small business website should be considered carefully before engaging any website designer. At its basic level a website should quickly inform the prospect what you do and what sets you apart from all the rest. It should also make it obvious how you can be contacted.

Attention spans are short so don’t waste time on a company history lesson. Simply tell prospects what you can do for them and why they should choose you in as few words as possible.

Website design businesses can get caught up in technical and graphics issues and forget the basics. It is important to brief the designer on your minimum requirements. Don’t clutter the home (or landing page) with too many graphics and leave plenty of white space.

Be Clear On Your Objectives

Ask yourself one simple question. When telling your peers about your new website would you rather say:

  • My website is the most technologically advanced.
  • My website looks great – or—
  • My website generates a consistent stream of new sales leads.

It is not always possible to have everything so it is important to make the choice upfront before making the first step in the design process.

It may be your primary lead generating activity does not rely on your website. All you may need is something that builds your credibility. In that case, design and navigation are crucial.

If only enhancing the credibility (brand) of the business is important SEO and calls to action are less relevant. Clear, well written content is essential but the volume of content can be much less than a lead generating website.

If generating leads is the key activity then design issues may take more of a back seat. Three key items need to be in place:

  • The website must receive visitors (traffic)
  • A relationship must be established with those visitors
  • Visits must be converted to leads, or better still, sales.

Only a small proportion of those landing on most small business websites will immediately take action and call.

Some may return several times before making a purchase. Others may click away to check out alternatives before returning and making contact. It is important to stay in touch with the majority who do not convert within the first few minutes or hours.

Website Navigation

After all the hard work involved in generating website traffic, it is a waste if they are lost because they cannot find their way around the site. Website navigation should be as clear as possible.

Links between pages should be added to guide the prospect along a desired path. There should be specific calls to action (see below).

Design is great but if your prospects do not get what you offer and what makes you different within seconds then they are lost. If they have to spend more than a few seconds trying to figure out how to retrieve the information they need you have potentially lost them forever. The information on the website should match the intent that prompted the search.

Website Content

For a lead generating website valuable, engaging content is your most valuable website asset. It is important to build credibility and give prospects a reason to return. A website that is updated often will bring in more traffic.

Content can be blog posts, how to guides, photography, graphics, pdf’s or video depending on what works best for the business and, more importantly, its prospects. An advantage of a blog is it can keep prospects coming back for more as the site is continually evolving.

Anything downloadable can be used to capture prospect Email addresses. This enables ongoing communication and relationship building with prospects.

Reviews And Case Studies

It is important not to underestimate the power of ‘social proof’ (Dr R. Caildini). Testimonials, recommendations, case studies and quality signals such as approvals or qualifications help persuade a prospect to choose one business ahead of the other.

Proof you can support any claims you may make is critical. To build credibility the website should present:

  • Proof you can deliver.
  • A professional image.
  • Industry/market knowledge.

Genuine testimonials can be useful but case studies on what has been achieved for others are more valuable. Industry and market knowledge builds credibility further. Comment on what is happening in the market, perhaps on legislation or a market trend is one option.

Search Engine Optimisation

A website is of little use if it cannot be found when a prospect types a relevant phrase into the search engines. Unfortunately, best practice search engine marketing takes time, experience and effort.

Despite what some may wish to claim there are no quick fixes hence the activity can be relatively expensive. It is a mistake to blow the entire budget on the website design and development without keeping something back for the search engine optimisation activity.

Call To Action

A common small business website design mistake to avoid is the failure to add appropriate calls to action. Make it as obvious as possible what you would like the prospect to do next.

Many of the above elements are interlinked and all can be built into a website design given a little time and effort. A website design specialist will talk all day about the technicalities of website design. An SEO specialist can often become sidetracked by keywords or technical issues and forget the prospect experience. A graphic designer tends to be interested in graphics, not the all-important content. It is therefore important to continually refer back to the main purpose of the website.

An effective small business website should advise what you do. It should show you can deliver on your claims and it should guide a prospect to take the action you desire.

Best Website Builder Tools – A Comparison

self build website toolsThis post reviews the best website builder tools for small businesses. Many business owners recognise the value of a website as a promotional tool but cannot afford the cost to outsource the build of a professional website.

Increasingly, the do it yourself approach is a viable option and, with the rise in content management systems and standard themes,  requires little technical knowledge.

So why have we only considered website platforms with content management systems (CMS)? The answer is simple, a website that is not updated regularly is unlikely to be of use to potential customers over the medium to long term. A website that does not change over time will not rank well in the search engines.

Several years ago website designers made a useful living by charging to make website changes (they held the keys). Although, remarkably still a strategy used by some, current practice is to allow businesses to update their own content and to do this they need a CMS.

As at September 2012 it was estimated that over 30% of existing websites used a CMS. Of the three most popular open source website, blogging and CMS tools that are hosted on web hosting services WordPress is by far the most common at over 50% followed by Joomla and Drupal – both at less than 10%.

Drupal and Joomla tend to be the best choice if an E-Commerce platform, an extranet, community webportal or the ability to organise complex content  is required otherwise WordPress is the best choice. It has a number of advantages including

  • Easy to set up and maintain
  • Free (mostly) standard plugins for SEO and to upgrade functionality
  • Huge range of standard base themes
  • No technical or coding experience required.

This makes WordPress an excellent choice for small business owner’s intent on building their own website. The wide variety of base themes means that (unlike Yell and 1&1) the website will look and feel different to that of the competition. Websites are easy to build and once in place build upon and maintain. As WordPress was originally designed as a blogging platform it is simple to integrate a blog page into a website.

Some suppliers like to claim SEO is built in to their websites or ‘out of the box’ unfortunately this is misleading (at best). There are a few technical aspects of SEO that can be dealt with via an excellent WordPress plugin beyond that the main issue is to keep adding content to the website and making sure it changes often.

When choosing the best website builder tools WordPress is an excellent choice. The next step is to optimise the website for local search, link it to a Google my business page and use it to deliver useful and relevant content to prospects but more of that in future posts.