Many of our clients see the appeal of a hands-off website.
You’ve got a lot of other activities to get through in the running of your business, and you don’t want your website to be another task on the pile. There are many different maintenance requirements that go into a website, and you don’t want to do any of them yourself.
This makes a lot of sense – a fully-managed website allows you to get on with the business of doing business. However, there are some important things you’ll need to manage to make sure your website is a success.
Having a fancy website won’t automatically mean that people turn up. You have to be savvy about marketing and messaging, which are things that your website hosting company do not usually do for you.
Here are some things to consider for your website:
Did you know it takes about 50 milliseconds for visitors to your website to form an opinion of it? Within that flash of time, they want to be able to grasp what your site is about and whether your business might be of interest to them.
Messaging is something that you need to come up with for your business unless you’re also planning on hiring a separate marketing firm to take care of it (even then, they need to know what you’re trying to achieve in order to formulate the right messages!).
A common mistake that businesses make on their websites is trying to have a catchy slogan or interesting design, but not sending a clear message. Website visitors need to know what you do and who you do it for very quickly; otherwise, they may give up and leave.
Great homepage messaging considers the target audience and includes a value proposition for them. This means that you communicate with visitors how what you do or what you sell can make a positive impact on their lives.
You will need to work with your web host to ensure that your website displays the clear messaging that you want to communicate. It’s a good idea to define who your target audience is first, then come up with a few ways to communicate with them. Take a look at websites that do this successfully – for example, in the screenshot below, Evernote does a great job of stating exactly what they do succinctly and immediately.
Besides the messaging for your website, you need to look deeper at the rest of the content you will provide. Most web hosts will manage the website and put up content for you, but they won’t create the content themselves. You will need to either produce it yourself or hire a content strategist to do it for you.
Why does content matter so much? For starters, it can help to show your company in a good light. Your content can demonstrate your expertise and (should) deliver value for your target audience. When people gain something of value, they also start to trust your business and consider using your services.
Secondly, website content helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your website. Basically, the better-optimized your website is, the better it does in terms of search engine ranking. This means that when people type in a search term that is related to your business in Google, your website features somewhere in the results. It takes time to rank highly in results, but having good quality, relevant content helps.
What is “quality content?”
What exactly does “good quality” and “relevant” mean? Your content should answer to the needs of your target audience and be relevant to your business. For example, there would be no point in producing content on an irrelevant topic just because that topic is popular. If your website is for an accountancy service and you’re trying to game the system by putting up “funny cat pictures” it can come back to bite you in the form of being penalized by Google.
Google and the other search engines aim to deliver a quality experience to their users. This means that they want to display the most relevant results first. If you are an accountancy service, something like “how to prepare your small business for tax season” would be much more relevant, and needed by your clients. It’s much better for your business to attract qualified traffic too!
Of course, you can also look at the overall quality of the written content. The best content is technically well-written and delivers an actionable or thought-provoking message, without resorting to writing fluff. Consistency is also important, in terms of tone, quality and frequency, especially if you are producing a blog.
Many business owners look at this and say, “but I don’t have time, I want a hands-off website without having to commit to the content.” If this is you, then it is possible to outsource your content, but you’ll still want to ensure that your messaging and business goals are at the heart of it. You can then get your content person to work directly with your fully-managed web host.
“Build it and they will come” is not a theory that usually works with websites! You still need to work on the marketing side to make sure you get traffic and make your website a success.
A managed website does not include the marketing of that website. This is something that you will need to manage to make your website worthwhile. If you are a bricks-and-mortar operation, then that probably involves online and offline advertising methods.
Here are some examples:
- Build an email list and regularly send out a newsletter or updates.
- Setup pages on social media – be active with posting and engaging.
- Consider paid advertising online. For example, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon or Google advertising.
- Claim your business listing on local directory sites (such as Yelp and Yellow Pages).
- Use content marketing – create blog posts, guest post on other websites or syndicate content.
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce to be featured in their local directory.
- Include your website on business cards and brochures.
- Sponsor local events.
- Take out paid advertising in newspapers or magazines.
- Send out direct mail campaigns.
Testing your website
How do you know which messaging or website layout gets the best results? How do you know overall whether your website is a success?
You can clearly define your target audience, make website layout and feature decisions, and ensure that your messaging and marketing activities seem to be a good fit, but you won’t really know unless you test out different elements of your website.
A/B testing is the most basic form of testing a website. It involves pitting one version (A) against another version (B) and checking if one does significantly better than the other. For example, you might test out headlines, calls to action, web copy, sign-up forms, your checkout flow, layout… there are a huge number of things you can test, so it’s a matter of focusing on what you think might get you the best uplift.
This doesn’t sound very “hands-off” does it? Fortunately, A/B testing is another thing you can outsource. Why would you bother with it? Because optimizing your website can make a huge difference to the results you get. For example, you might find that people weren’t checking out as often due to a long or difficult checkout flow. Testing a different flow may bring better results.
If you do decide to outsource A/B testing, one thing you will need to contribute is your goals for the site. This helps to focus the testing on the areas most likely to impact those goals. You can then work with your web hosting company to make any changes.
A hands-off website is the ideal situation for many businesses, but it’s important that you still partake in some activities that help your website to be more successful.
When you’re having your site fully managed, you can expect a website that operates well, is designed attractively and has requested changes made by your host. You will still need to get the tasks done that help to draw traffic to your website.
Some of these may be outsourced too, but it’s worth thinking about so that you make the most of your website investment. How will you achieve your desired website goals?