How Can You Turn a Website into A Web Presence?
By Lucas Arnatt, Web Designer
A website is, by definition, a singular online entity. It has a unique address, localized navigation, some kind of Web design surrounding the site content and is, for all intents and purposes, a standalone resource. The general practice of website development from the 1990’s into the new millennium was to create a website as a digitalized, online version of a company brochure. In fact, a lot of companies simply copied their brochure content over from print to their new site. Of course, the Web evolves quickly and so do search engines and marketing techniques. Combine this with more advanced dynamic functionalities become more affordable or even free, the basic Web site can easily get lost or outdated.
What are some signs of an outdated Web site?
- Dated Design – most designers now build for a 1024 pixel screen resolution, and since older sites were built to an 800 pixel wide screen width, just seeing one built to this width can create the impression of an older design. Dated designs are also subject to much less functionality since they are based on a more limited technology.
- Dated or Stagnant Content – probably most obvious is content that is “old news” or last updated a year or two ago. This goes for broken external links to other sites that no longer exist…or have been updated.
- Dated copyright Notice – enough said.
- Little or No Communication Functionality – older sites rely on email and maybe forms, which is all good as they are keys of communication. However, newer sites can now offer “Live Support”, forums and interactive flash media to their gamut.
- Little or No Search Engine Marketing – chances are if the site is not updated regularly or built to newer standards the owners aren’t going to be out promoting it. This includes Search Engine Optimization and/or online ad campaigns.
So, if you have a website that sounds like this, you will want to read on to see how to turn your Web site into a Web presence.
The difference in a Web presence is the difference between the wall flower at a party and the chain of people doing the conga around the entire room to the beat of the music.
A Web presence is alive, it adapts, expands, gets attention and gets people looking. It goes to the beat of the lights and sounds of the party and obstacles that are in the way, just make the conga line more interesting! A Web presence is a living entity because it involves people; those who started it, those who join it and those who just enjoy watching it. As for the conga line there’s always the few in the line who call “C’mon!” encouraging others to join in. Those would be the affiliates! J
To take your current Website or if you are planning a new Website from scratch, you must consider the following key features to make your site a true online presence:
The site itself:
- Have a unique design that is clean, professional and eye-catching, but does not inhibit the navigation nor the accessibility or flow of content.
- The design should not limit expansion, but encourage it – it should easily be able to have new pages and functionalities added. Consider the nature of a blog or forum – these encourage new content and are made to expand with it.
- A Well Planned Navigation and site flow are needed to define which sections are passive, which are active, which functionalities are dynamic or static and which areas are most likely to expand. Ideal navigation will allow for the user to access any page from any page, with minimal clicks. Clear logical grouping of content into section/page/subpage is key.
- Have unique content that is written for the Web, not just transferred from a Print document or technical paper. You can make these documents into White Papers or single PDFs for downloading, but the general content on the site needs to be Web-ified and Search Engine Optimized.
- Add Reasonable Functionality – you don’t need an “Live Online Support” function if you don’t plan to use it. Determine who will do the site updates, either the Webmaster or someone who can be trained to use a CMS (Content Management System). If you have a portfolio, use a dynamic gallery to show it off. If you want a blog, make sure you understand how to use it properly. If you want to start e-commerce, be prepared to learn how to manage the catalog and admin areas.
- Search Engine Optimization – starts with the organic results generated by how the site is built, how accessible it and its content is, and how it relates to other websites. Then get your site manually listed in the top search engines and directories and start building reciprocal or back links to your site to help increase exposure and build popularity.
Once the site is live, you will need to:
- Continually review and develop effective Search Engine Optimization
- Expand into e-commerce, so your site can make money for you.
- Start to develop targeted ads using CPC paid listing campaigns like Adwords, Adbrite, etc.
- Collect Information about your visitors using Opt-in newsletters and special offers.
- Get feedback whenever possible from your visitors.
- Make your site as interactive and personal as possible.
- Explore how to use other channels (print, mobile, radio, networking) to elevate your Web presence even more.
- Update your content regularly and get involved in posting to othe sites, blogs and groups.
A Web presence is more powerful and successful than a website because it has people actively involved in these key areas.
A website is good as a channel for your regular business model, but a Web presence can take your success to a whole new level of communication and separate revenue stream.