I guess it’s not totally fair to say I don’t care about my website. I mean, I do – I put some time into picking out a theme from a package of themes purchased a while back, just not a whole lot. I probably spent an hour or two customizing the theme, but that’s about all. Most of the time I spent on the site has been in developing content – not design. For me, the website design is definitely secondary – and it really should be for you too.
Here’s the bottom line – you can spend all the money that you want on your website’s design and if it doesn’t help you to generate leads, it’s worth about as much as the painting that’s on the wall behind your desk. It looks pretty, but isn’t an asset that you’re utilizing for your business. Let’s be honest, an investment that isn’t generating any return on the dollar is a pretty lousy investment.
Maybe you can look at it this way: would you like a really nice car that sits in your driveway because it doesn’t run, or a cheap-to-average car that gets great gas mileage and never breaks down?
You Need a Lead Generation Machine
A website needs to be viewed as a lead generation machine. Yes, it needs to be a reflection of your business. If you’re a high end attorney but have a cheap looking website, that will be a reflection of your business. People will look at you as a cheap attorney, like it or not, and treat you as such. There needs to be some time put into a thoughtful design, but that is where many plans end. There is no thought into marketing the website, having it optimized for search, or even updating the content. There is a mentality that “if you build it, they will come,” which in the online world simply isn’t true. There are a lot of dumpy looking sites that get high amounts of traffic and coding masterpieces that get next to nothing. You need to put more time into marketing a website that you do in building it, or else your investment is going to waste.
As a freelancer for SEO and web marketing, I put up a quick blog and focused my energy on putting together some useful content when I’ve been able. I also need to put time into actual billable work and my full time job at Points Group, so I focused on getting a fairly quick blog up with a good theme. Nothing flashy, nothing fancy. In fact, I don’t spend a lot of time marketing the blog. Most of the time is just spent writing content that people may find interesting, and utilizing some plugins to help with some marketing that can be almost automated. Honestly, I haven’t even put a lot of time into SEO for the site outside of content creation (which often has SEO in mind as it’s being done).
And what has the result been? I’ve been contacted on multiple occasions for freelance work, both by agencies and individual business looking for help. They weren’t impressed by a fancy design (and couldn’t be here!). They weren’t looking for it. They were looking for a professional that knows their stuff and gets stuff done.
What You Need More than Design
When you build a website, there are two major elements that I believe you need to include at a higher priority than design:
- Online Marketing Strategy: This includes SEO, Social Media, Word of Mouth, Link Building, and anything else you can think of that shows people your website. Nobody is going to do this for you (unless you pay them, which is a very legitimate part of an online marketing strategy). You need to figure out how people are going to come to your website, no excuses.
- Show You are an Expert: You can do this through the normal pages on your website, but I strongly recommend blogging. Regular blogging not only shows that you have expertise, but that you have current knowledge of industry trends and best practices. I’ve also noticed a definitive increase in web traffic during the times I am blogging as opposed to when I am not. More importantly though, when someone arrives at your site, you need to make sure that they know you are the one they should be coming to. Prove that you are an authority on a subject matter and are worth engaging with.
If you have a limited budget, take marketing into account when you’re planning your website. Don’t spend all of your money at the front end and have nothing left to finish. This may require hiring a freelancer, or maybe a small startup agency. If that’s what the budget dictates, it may be a better bet. Just don’t get caught with a really nice digital paperweight.