AN INFORMATIVE company Web site delivers basic and in-depth information about your firm to existing and potential customers. To help build clicks to your home page, spread the word widely that your site exists. Include your Web site URL (uniform resource locator, or Web page address) in all hard-copy business communications including monthly bills, receipts and letterhead, and in all advertising, including direct mail, radio ads and display ads in local Yellow Pages.
The more key words you can fit into your URL, without going over a reasonable length of about 65 characters, the more likely your Web site address will pop up on a keyword search.
For a unified look throughout your site, put your company logo on every page. Put all links on the top or side of the page, where they are easy for visitors to find, rather than on the bottom.
To save viewer download time, do not require an extra click or a password to “enter site.” You want visitors to get to the good stuff as quickly as possible. Most people would rather skip diverting animation and get right down to business.
To that same end, keep any graphics small (or offer thumbnail images that viewers can click on to enlarge) and offer icons for contact information, branch locations, company history and other selections. Avoid long pages that require scrolling.
Contractor-specific Web site topics can range from straightforward information about company services and blurbs on current noteworthy projects to a glossary of common plumbing and HVAC terms.
To keep interest percolating in your site, update it frequently with seasonal suggestions (including specials that you are currently offering), occasional give-aways (perhaps T-shirts or caps embellished with your company name and URL) and other attention-grabbers. So visitors realize information has been modified, include a revision date on each page.
To generate daily drop-by site visits, you might also want to include features that are not directly related to the contracting field. If you offer enough new information frequently enough ¯ perhaps even daily ¯ you may cull some steady visitors who use your site as their opening page every time they log onto the Web.
Include e-mail addresses or direct e-mail click-throughs to key company employees.
Follow “netiquette” and respond to any site-generated e-mail within 24 hours, if at all possible. (Consider anyone who asks a question to be a qualified prospect.)
Many search engines will find your site in the normal course of “crawling” the Web for new URLs. To speed the onrush of traffic, you can, for a modest fee, outsource the task of listing with a host of general and topic-specific directories to a third-party Web site submittal service such as bCentral Submit It! (www.submit-it.com).
Content Finder.com at www.econtentfinder.com is a digital marketplace for online content by a wide range of creators and publishers. The link delineates offerings and provides links to content you can purchase for use on your site. Content is indexed by topic (broken down into more than 100 categories), demographics and content type. Some choices include sports, quote of the day, celebrity birthdays, daily horoscope, environmental news, health news, this day in history, weekly cartoon or humor columns and a plethora of specialized news.
Written for a target audience of Web designers and developers including senior management of companies that want to build or revise a company Web site, “Back to the User: Creating User-Focused Web Sites,” by Tammy Sachs and Gary McClain, (paper, New Riders Publishing, $34.99), is a practical guide to creating successful, intuitive business Web sites.
Writing in non-technical language, the authors, both of whom are qualitative research consultants, offer straightforward advice aimed at helping companies use their Web sites to enhance relationships with existing and prospective customers.
Illustrated with Web pages from what they consider among the best and worst sites on the Web today, the text provides how-to, hands-on suggestions to create and tweak Web sites that work.
Some quick fixes include: Lose the clutter on your pages (“white space works”); offer information in the same language and tone as you do on the phone; and use graphics to support content and functionality and to increase usability.
“Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed,” by Jakob Nielson and Marie Tahir (paper, New Riders Publishing, $25.50) offers advice and guidance on creating or refining a site’s home page with the goal of activating user interest in your site, providing easy access to the content and services you are offering, all without overwhelming new visitors.
Suitable for novice designers, the text delineates 113 usability guidelines to features and functions recommended for a home page, and then as a way of teaching by example, deconstructs 50 popular company sites (based on HTML pages), in great detail.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a range of topics. They can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 914/238-6272.