productivity ideas

If you are an online business, your company website is important. It enables you to work from anywhere. Many people say running their company from a laptop is the best decision they have ever made.

And even if you still have a traditional store,  a solid business website makes inherently good sense. Most stores that also build e-commerce sites report a huge spike in sales.

However, as Internet use increases online tastes are getting more sophisticated. Having a state of the art website is more and more important. Being online is simply not enough.

These days, companies really have to work hard to differentiate their website from competitors’ sites. Here are four great tips to improve your company website, and give an edge over competitors.

Focus on Design

Your company’s website should be easy to understand and navigate. Make sure the text is clear and easy to read, and use images to break the site into different sections.

If viewers want to find something – perhaps a specific item they are interested in purchasing, — it should not take long for the search to be complete. Avoid overly busy, complicated websites that distract consumers from the task at hand. Also, ensure that you don’t turn off consumers with page designs that look like they came straight out of the 1990s.

Likewise, with more and more people relying on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, your website needs to work effectively across all platforms; after all, more than 60 percent of all Internet searches start from a mobile device. Failing to design your website to work with smartphones will guarantee lost sales revenue for sure.

Provide Original Content

Give people a compelling reason to visit your website, and they may become customers in the process. Consider adding original content, preferably related to the products or lifestyle that is associated with your particular brand.

Original content helps solidify your brand, and sets you apart from competitors; it can also lead you to new customers, or keep you connected to existing ones.

Online payment company, Due, for example, has this blog, which features original content that is extremely relevant to the company’s marketing niche.

Content doesn’t just create interest among users however; it also helps people searching the Internet find your website in the first page. Good content is increasingly a critical component of search engine optimization; the better your content is, the greater chance a potential customer will discover it during an Internet search.

Providing original, relevant content that drives page visits can be challenging for businesses whose focus is on, well, their business.

Establishing a content marketing strategy can help ensure your company accomplishes the mission of providing solid content. Hiring dedicated writers who understand your business and marketing niche is critical, too. However, for businesses that lack the resources for a full time writing staff, leveraging more economical freelance writers may be an option as well.

Enable User Participation

More than ever before, people want to be part of the online experience; in fact they expect it. One way to ensure you are giving potential customers what they want is by providing them a means to participate on your website.

Enable online reviews and ratings of your products, the discussions alone can drive page visits. Some (admittedly humorous) reviews by Amazon shoppers have even inspired New York Times articles, no doubt creating even more buzz for the website and its products.

Beyond product reviews, user-generated content can help your customers become your best salesforce. Enabling customers to post testimonials, photos and videos on your website, and thereby letting them show the world how they use your products to enhance their lifestyles, can be some of the best marketing you could ever ask for. And it’s free.

Some companies, in fact, rely heavily on user-generated content to sell their products. The extreme camera company GoPro, for example, has built a platform of its best users, and showcases them on the GoPro website using their products to make outstanding video content.

Coffee behemoth Starbucks recently ran a campaign asking customers to post pictures of drawings they had made on the company’s iconic white cup, which drove excitement and page views for their website as well.  So if you want your company’s website to generate buzz, figure out a way to let your customers generate it for you.

Keep it Fresh

One of the easiest ways to kill your website’s buzz is to let it become outdated. Users want to have a unique experience each time that they visit. Ensure that you provide original, fresh content on a routine basis, preferably daily.

If you own an e-commerce site, ensure your page is set up to showcase new items over time, or even with each page load. If you are wisely enabling user generated content, which is a great way to keep your site fresh, the website should cycle through new videos, pictures, or other postings on a routine basis as well.

Similarly, your “about us” page should be updated routinely as well; make sure it reflects any changes in you or your business. Finally, consider adjusting your page layouts or even your logos from time to time, especially when sales or interest in you brand have been flat for a considerable amount of time.

Companies like Google, Apple and Facebook have made major style changes over the years, usually to great fanfare. Follow their lead, and make sure that your website is not static for too long.

Final Thoughts

Whether your company is purely e-commerce, or has a brick and mortar presence as well, your website is a critical component of your business. So don’t take anything for granted when it comes to making that website better.

Choose a good design, and always work to improve upon it. Provide original content, and invite your users (and customers) to generate their own. And make sure that you keep the website updated, so people don’t get bored with it.

Doing all of these things can ensure that you have a leg up on the competition, and are poised to add to your bottom line.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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