Websites That Work

A website that works is a wonderful thing. It brings customers and things good to your door – from enhanced visibility, expert kudos, effortless enquiries and increased sales. When it doesn’t work it’s like “wearing a fur coat, but no knickers” as the saying goes i.e. it might look fabulous but it’s not really practical.

The majority of websites are set up with no marketing and little effective SEO (search engine optimisation), and that’s grand if all you need is a digital brochure to display things beautifully but doesn’t need to be found or sell anything. If that works for you then that’s fine, but it’s not what I offer.

What I do is specialise in creating websites that work – or rescuing websites that aren’t working and making sure that they do.

So how do you know if a website works? It can be found easily by people looking to buy what you are selling, they enjoy using it and look at lots of different pages, share your articles and blogs, sign up for your emails and newsletters, recommend you, and ultimately they buy from you.

Sounds simple? It is, but it’s not easy.

What Makes a Website Work?
First off it’s got to do what you want it to do – that is, achieve your goal. Don’t worry if you really don’t know where to start! I’m here to help, so you won’t be presented with a blank piece of A4 and told to post it to me when you’re done.

There are a few things we can agree are best practice for the best way to build a website that works, so in no particular order:

It’s got to look good and be recognisable as your brand – If the first thing customers see on your website looks unprofessional then that will be their takeaway opinion of the business. (If you haven’t got company branding, that’s something I can help with)

The technology and hosting environment must be reliable. Your site should be available 24/7 and 365 and not only on certain browsers when there’s a y in the month. It must also be robust enough to survive a sudden surge in traffic without falling over and fast enough to load before people get bored and click away. This is, of course, something you won’t have to worry about because I do.

It’s got to be easy for visitors to find things and navigate intuitively. For example, if you want your customers to ring you, then don’t hide your contact details under a three-level drop-down menu. If you want to give them free goodies, you need to make sure it is well signposted. If you want them to stay on the website make sure all the pages are interconnected with links and easy to follow click-throughs. Again, you won’t have to worry about how this happens, because I will do it for you.

It’s got to be responsive – it’s around 50:50 as to whether your visitor will be using a mobile device or a computer. Your website has to work nicely on both.

It’s got to be found on search engines for your keywords – SEO is something I take seriously and too big a topic for this post. Suffice to say that getting SEO wrong can be an expensive mistake, mostly because then people won’t find you and if they can’t find you, they won’t buy from you (like having a shop in the wrong part of town). So if you want to have a website that works properly so people looking for what you sell can find you, I can help.

It’s got to sell whatever it is you’re selling to the people who want to buy. The look and the message have to be right, there needs to be good marketing in place, numerous entry points with different ways of encouraging people to sign up to your emails or give you their contact details in exchange for taking something useful away that answers their needs (and if you don’t know what those are, I can help you with that as well).

I know all this and more about making websites that work because I’ve been doing it a long time (I have clients that have been with me over ten years), and I can guide you through every step of the way and make sure your website really does work for your brand and isn’t just a fur coat.

And when you’re ready for a fully visible, full-blown e-commerce website with social media integration together with on-going social, marketing and PR campaigns then I’m with you on the journey.

Website building: DIY or hire a professional

OK I admit it I’m somewhat biased but I’ll do my best to just provide some facts.

If you need to build a new website or update an existing one, one of the first choices is whether to do it yourself or hire a professional. Previously, there would have been no question of hiring a pro to get a good result, but thanks (yeah thanks!) to online tools like website builders, it has become much easier for the non-techies to build a decent site. Just because you can do it , though, doesn’t always mean you should. It’s a decision that’s worth weighing up carefully, since for some projects a professional cannot be replaced by a DIY option.

Website builders like Weebly and Wix are popular choices and offer some of the easiest and least expensive paths to create a web presence. In general, website builders are less powerful than the kind of tools a professional would use but are easier to use. Website builders generally have some kind of visual page editors that make it easy to edit elements of the site. On the other hand, they aren’t very flexible, so they are best for smaller sites.

If you just need a brochure site, basically a showcase of your business’ products or services and some contact information then you may be better off with a DIY option. Also consider how important the site will be to your business. If you’re an accountant, for example, whose business is primarily based on client relationships, you probably won’t be relying on a website to generate a large percentage of your business. If your website is generating less than 20 percent of your business, a simple brochure site should fill your needs.

If your site is going to generate a higher percentage of your business then it might be best to hand things over to a professional even if it’s ‘just’ a brochure site you need.

So what should a professional bring to the party?
This is the biased bit but I stand by the statements none the less.
Experience (we’ve made most of the mistakes that lie ahead of you and have learnt from them), technical skills (that should be a given), a wider set of options (you’re not tied into someone else’s idea of how your website should look and function), on-going support (I’ve had clients in France for over 10 years and am still working with them), integration of your social media (you don’t need to be re-inventing the wheel) and, if you sell online, integration with any other systems you need to use.

I’m also more than willing to grow your online presence as your business grows so a brochure site now and a fully functioning e-commerce solution for when you’re ready to take on Amazon.

Social Media for Business

Social: relating to society or to the way society is organized
Media: the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively

I found these definitions on page one of Google so they must be true, more of that in a later article, but generally I think they make sense.

Let’s be honest though if we’re talking business we’re talking Media full stop. Forget the social side of things all you really want is to get your message across to as many people as possible for as little cost as possible right? The ‘social’ side of things is for friends and family, not business.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. are all free to use platforms and if you have the time, energy and knowledge you can use these to your benefit with no cost other than your time. That sounds attractive but don’t forget to factor in your time – what’s your hourly charge for what you do? How long will maintaining all these platforms take? Finally how effective are your efforts?

After you do the sums you’ve three options, carry on because it’s worth it, stop because it’s not worth it or pay someone else to do it. ‘Simples’ as Aleksandr would say but you’ve got to have all these platforms working for you because someone told you it’s the only way forward. In my opinion, a good media plan is essential for any business but a poor one can be worse than none at all.

As an expat business in this region you need to advertise in etcetera, that’s a given 😉 , and you should probably have a website (bias alert!) but what about the rest? My advice is to monitor what you do and concentrate on what makes you money and that applies to ‘free’ quotes, ‘social’ media, and ‘free’ and paid for marketing.

Marketing is, arguably, a necessary evil but selling is a requirement for a successful business, You are good at what you do and my customers say I am too (and I don’t always advise you have a website) so between us, we should do well – let’s talk!

Scams

Scams aren’t new and one of the first is attributed to Hegestratos in ancient Greece when he attempted to sink his own cargo ship for the insurance, apparently he was caught in the act and drowned attempting his escape.

Three card monte or find the lady was common place in the middle 19th century and if I may fast forward to the 1990’s and the prolific Nigerian Prince scams I can get to the point dear reader.

If I use a knife to cut onions the likely outcomes are teary eyes, maybe a nick on my finger and sliced onions, if I use the same knife to undo a plug socket the outcome could be far more serious. The internet, social media and email are amoral tools, it is their usage that defines the outcome so let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater.

My aim is to provide some tips and hints about how to spot common scams. I’ll concentrate on emails, if someone knocks on your door and offers you a gold watch for 5€ I think you’ll handle that yourself. I don’t claim these tips are foolproof or comprehensive and if you wish to ‘put me right’ feel free to email me at [email protected]

Invest in some protection, no not that kind of protection, most anti-virus software offers some anti-spam element. There are good free programs out there but considering what falling for a single scam could cost you I’d recommend paying for one – ask your PC person or look at reviews online.

When you receive an email that you’re not sure about check the ‘from’ address, even if looks normal hover your mouse over it or right click on it – if the email claims to be from your bank it won’t be from [email protected]

Think about the content of the email for a minute, does it make sense? A lot of scam emails will have pore grammer and spilling.

If there are links in the email just hover over them, generally you’ll see the actual link target shows at the bottom of your screen along the lines of this image.

Unless you are 100% certain what any attachment to an email is DO NOT open it, again your anti-virus software should be helping here. If you do open it and you’re computer then asks for permission to continue say no unless you understand what’s happening.

Two final points, if you didn’t buy a ticket for the Mexican lottery you probably haven’t won it and mistaking a legitimate email for a scam is not going to be anywhere near as dangerous as mistaking a scam as legitimate.

Crowther