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By Ken Schaefer

What’s in a Web site?

It’s a simple enough question, but one that, when it applies to your business, requires more than a simple answer. So much information! What to leave in? What to leave out? Creativity is important. Content is key. If you want your business’ Web site to stand above the rest, you need to do your homework and pass what I call, “The Five Yes Test.”

Question One: First off, is a Web site right for your business or are you just getting one because “everyone else has one?” This is an important distinction, which may save you a lot of time and money. Certain small businesses – such as those that thrive on referrals and word-of-mouth, with a decidedly lo-tech clientele and a lack of demand for e-commerce – may have very little to gain from a Web site.

If you conclude then that a Web site – with the added expense of design, development and ongoing maintenance – is the right course of action for you and your business, where do you go next? Simply put, there are two kinds of sites: those that tell and those that sell. While a “telling” Web site is perfect for getting information to your prospective customers, most startups are in the business of “selling” and therefore need a site that’s created to attract and convert visitors into not just one-time buyers, but life-long customers.

Question Two: Have you developed a clear, concise marketing message that’s relevant to your target audience? Every business, big or small, should have a clearly defined marketing strategy with key messages that communicate perfectly what the business does, and why people need it. Every marketing initiative, including a Web site, should fit into the overall marketing strategy.

Since you should know your business and customers better than anyone else – and if you don’t, stop and do not pass go until you learn that – it’s up to you to develop a clear, concise marketing message for your Web site that will resonate with your customers. (After all, what good is a Web site if you aren’t clear on what you should be saying?) Think of it this way, if you could have 100 of your key prospects in a room and tell them one thing about your company/product/service – what would it be? Ask yourself then – if I could tell them that one thing, would it make them buy my product/service? If the answer is yes, then you’ve found your key message. If it’s no, however, you better go back to the drawing board.

Question Three: Are you clear on your expectations for your Web site? Some people go into a project like this not really knowing what they want, or why they need it. Big mistake. (Besides, you wouldn’t think of starting to build a house without a blueprint – nor should you develop a Web site without one.) If you undertake a project of this magnitude, it’s critical to have at least a basic blueprint of the Web site in your mind. From copy to imagery, layout to programming, many things go into a Web site to create what you see on your screen.

Beyond appearance, functionality is also a critically important element to your Web content. If users can’t navigate your Web site easily, access content or find the information they need, chances are they won’t be coming back for an encore. Every moment users spend on your Web site is valuable, so make it count.

In most cases, it’s not the quantity of your Web content, but the quality. Serve up content and navigation features that are easy-to-use, informative and relevant to your business and customers, and they will be coming back for more.

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Ken Schaefer is the Principal of Blanchard Schaefer Advertising & Public Relations.
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