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Common Misconceptions about Developing a Web Site
As a web designer who practically spends their entire day online, I realize there is a lot of misinformation about the Internet and many false expectations of what it can accomplish. I thought I'd share some of the comments I've received from people and try to clear up some of the myths about the internet.
I don't want or need a web site because I don't want to be overwhelmed with sales/orders/requests.
That's not going to happen. There is a common misconception that if you build it, they will come. Not so. Just like getting a bunch of business cards printed, they look nifty sitting on your desk, but if you don't hand them out, they aren't helping you.
The same applies to a web site, just because you have a presence online doesn't mean people will see it. It doesn't just magically propagate itself to all the people that may possibly be interested in your specific product or service. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to promote one's business online. It's like those old Mail Pouch Tobacco ads painted on the sides of barns. They're really neat, but unless the road goes by the barn, nobody will see the billboard.
One of our long term clients is an excellent example of how it takes time and effort to promote online. He sells kettle corn, popcorn, nuts, jams and jellies. It's taken 5 years for him to approach being 'overwhelmed' with orders, and that only happens around Christmas time. This has, in part, been due to a continuous effort of trading links with other similar businesses, keeping the site up to date and adding products on a regular basis. This way, each time the search engines come around and 'index' his site, they can see the site is busy, changing, growing. This helps keep his ranks high in the search engines for keywords that are relevant to his business. While there is no guarantee of being at the top in search results (regardless of what some claim), a constant effort will help make sure you get hits from relevant keywords. Think of keywords as your target audience. You bring the right keyword hits, you get the sales.
I have all the business I can handle so why do I need a web site?
I don't need or want to sell my product or service online.
You may have all the business you can handle today, but markets and economies can and do change. A web site can be useful in helping you spread the word about your business as well as working as an educational tool to teach your potential clients. It can go into more detail about what you provide than even a brochure can do.
It can come in handy when you are pressed for time and someone asks you about a specific service you provide. It's also more reliable than you! It won't forget and leave out a crucial detail that may be important to a potential client. Perhaps you're a massage therapist. While you may not be interested in actually 'selling' your services online, a web site could be used to list any certification or training you've had. It could go into detail about each type of massage you provide. It could even show photos of your facility to show people what a professional operation you run. This can free you up to do what you do, give quality massages.
A web site is also handy because it's never written in stone. You had 1,000 brochures printed up and now your address or prices have changed? Now you've got 1,000 brochures that need to be recycled. A web site is a quick fix if anything about your business changes.
I've got a web site, how come I'm not getting rich?
As web designers we repeatedly run into clients who just can't be sold on long term marketing maintenance for their site. They have a hard time justifying such a monthly expense. While the technology surrounding search engines changes at the speed of light, one thing remains constant: Content is King. Yes, it's a clich? phrase, but true. Just as those old barn billboards are fading into obscurity because the highway now takes all the traffic away from those rustic back roads, you need to keep up to compete.
In order to successfully promote online, you must continually be adding to your site, whether it's adding updated articles, trading links with similar businesses, or archiving your monthly newsletter online, it takes an ongoing effort. Sure, you might be able to do these things yourself. However, sometimes you need to decide when to concentrate on what you do best, which is run your business and let a web designer or internet marketer do what they do best, which is promote your site.
It's also essential that you promote your web site off-line as well. It takes everything from putting your web address on your business card to sharing the address in conversation, to including it on any and all advertising you do.
Remember the popcorn vendor I mentioned earlier? This gentleman also spends a great deal of time and effort promoting his site off-line. He literally stands on the street corner to do it! If you ever frequent the eastern panhandle of West Virginia you may have seen him. He sets booths up on busy roads full of people headed weekend fun on the Potomac river and has a storefront in Frederick, MD. So, he's obviously busy promoting his business off-line! His web site address is www.catoctinkettlekorn.com. You should check it out. His popcorn is delicious and I'm told the kettlekorn is pretty healthy, too! See, I just promoted him! It takes all kinds of promotion, from paid advertising to word of mouth, to make a business a success.
I don't need a professional web site designer, my uncle's friend knows some html.
While that ultimate decision is up to you, it's important to keep in mind that your web site is an extension of your business. It should appear just as professional as your business. It should also be targeted towards your specific audience just as any printed marketing collateral should be.
While little animated kitties are cute, do they help sell your product or service? Maybe they do if your business is related to animals, but otherwise, probably not. Using professional graphics is very important. There's a trick to saving graphics for the web to allow for a nice looking image, while still providing something that is quick to download. Will the graphics match any off-line imagery used? Can someone who knows a little HTML create them, as well? Maybe, but not always.
In this day and age, in order to compete, every marketing tool at your disposal should be used to its fullest potential. It takes more than HTML to create a successful web site. A successful web site takes not only a coder who knows HTML, XHTML, PHP, CSS and a bunch of other acronyms, but a graphic designer and a marketing expert to pull it all together. The most successful sites will blend seamlessly with your off-line materials.
My market is local, I don't need or want to sell to the world.
Just because your market is small or local doesn't mean a web site can't work for you. It's all in how the search engine promotion is handled. You can certainly gear your site towards a region as well as a specific target audience. Again, the fear that you'll be overwhelmed with inappropriate orders is groundless.
I can't afford a web site.
Yes, a professionally designed web site isn't necessarily cheap. However, it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg either. It most definitely should be planned into your marketing budget as any other marketing tool would be. Today, a web site is as necessary as a business card, brochure or a yellow pages ad. In fact, it may be becoming more so. You can certainly share much more information about your products and services on a web site than a yellow pages ad can. In some locations, a web site can even be cheaper than a phone book ad!
By being able to quickly share information like testimonials from satisfied clients, your history or philosophy, experience, a showcase of your work, contact information, your prices, or your personnel, half the job of selling can be done for you, online.
It then just becomes a matter of how can you afford NOT to have a web site?
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