...cast your net as wide as you can

As I mentioned last month, a truly effective web site needs to perform several functions at once if it is to produce business or sales online. Here is a list of considerations if you want your site to become a lead generating part of your business.

1. Being Found - The most important, and hardest to economically achieve, your site has to be visible online amongst thousands of direct competitor sites. First page Search Engine results are essential if anyone is going to be able to find your site and become a paying client.

This leads to a financial dilemma. If your site cannot be found, you will have to pay someone either for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or for Pay-per-Click advertising (PPC) to get it seen. Both of these can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a month, with vastly different success.

2. Being Seen - However a person reaches your site, it has to be visible to them with whatever technology they are using.

Last month I outlined how newer mobile devices, whether phones or tablets (like the iPad) will display sites differently. The iPad cannot see Adobe Flash at all, so site elements such as navigation and video may not be seen, rendering the site less efficient, or totally invisible. Screen sizes also vary dramatically on mobile devices; your site needs to detect this, and display accordingly. Loading times are considerably longer for such devices, so the site must load quickly to avoid losing impatient visitors.

3. Being Friendly - Your site must also appeal to the visitor on several levels, with an attractive design and easy layout. When people are in a rush, as many are online, they tend not to want to leaf through 20 paragraphs of information to get to what they are looking for. Instead, if you can, sum up that page subject, and create links to more information.

Also, try to avoid pages that are too busy, with several different types of content scattered all over the page.

4. Being Simple - Just as with content, your site navigation has to be kept as simple as possible. Avoid multiple link locations. Wherever possible, keep links within obvious menu locations, such as either at the top of the page, or down the left side.

Also, do not send people down blind alleys, where once they click a link, the entire menu changes, and they have to keep hitting the back button to get to where they were.

5. Being Current - Your site should be updated as regularly as possible to keep content relevant for your visitors. This includes little things like checking copyright dates, news items, and current staff listings/bios and photos.

It is also always advisable for you to periodically check out your competitors' web sites to see if they are ranking higher than you in searches. Look to see if their site has recently been redesigned, or if they are doing anything that you think could benefit your site, such as adding video presentations, running any special sales, or using new technologies, like Quick Response barcodes, which I will discuss next month.

If you are ready to grow your business in 2011, now is the perfect time to consider our WebUpdate systems, which employ advanced marketing, promotion and security features designed to give businesses the best competitive edge online.

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