When you're going to open a store, you decide where to put the store, what to put in the store, and how do you get people to it. Opening a website, regardless of whether or not it's a retail establishment, requires similar strategies:
- What's going to be in your website?
- Where will your website be?
- How can people find it?
- How will you keep them?
What's going to be on your Website?
Believe it or not, there are two keys to stocking a store. Most people pay attention to the most important, what people buy. The second one isn't quite as obvious, though. It's what people talk about. An example? I frequent a local coffee shop. They have everything a coffee lover wants – a relaxed environment, great staff, great people and great food.
The coffee shop offers other items, though, that people talk about. They offer live music on Fridays and Saturdays. They have beautiful artwork on every wall that visitors can purchase. And they have plenty of room for groups to visit and meet – so they hold Chamber of Commerce meetings, Rainmakers, Church Groups, Poetry nights, etc.
The coffee shop does quite well! The coffee alone would keep the business they have – but without an advertising budget, it's the other items that help acquire new patrons. That's why the business continues to grow after a year.
Your website may have great content, just as the coffee shop makes excellent coffee. But that doesn't mean that anyone is coming! There are several strategies to help grow your business that you should employ:
- Finding other means of creating word of mouth marketing… commenting on other sites, viral campaigns, public speaking, blog business cards, participating in social networks, social bookmarking, linking to other sites (cross-promotion).
Where is your site? What does it look like? How do people find it?
When you're opening a store, the last thing you're going to do is build a few miles from a main road and open up a crappy building. You need to position the store where people expect it to be and where people can find it.
You also want to open a store that's comfortable and that people want to come back to. There's a computer shop down the street from me that I've walked by but never been in. The interior looks like a storage closet with equipment strewn all over the place. But when I go into Best Buy, I can't help but stroll down the wall of flat screen televisions every time. I like visiting Best Buy as much as I like shopping there because of its aesthetics.
Your first visit to my coffee shop and you know you're not in Starbucks. There are bright colors, tons of artwork, and the barista station faces the patrons as they walk in. The station is also located a distance from the front door, so folks have time to see who's in the shop and decide on their order. It's not a production line shop designed to rush you in and out.
There are a few strategies for your site location and layout that you should think about.
- Designing and implementing search engine strategies so people can find your site. This doesn't necessarily mean pay per click advertising – but it does mean registering your site with the Search Engines, deploying a robots.txt file to usher in the search bots, and employing sitemaps to provide a navigation scheme for the search engines to navigate your site with, notifying the search engines when you make changes, and writing search engine friendly content.
- Pick a great domain name. That's a domain that's easy for people to remember, a .com extension (still important today), and lacking any hyphenation. Folks will remember yourstore.com, but they aren't going to remember bots-r-us.info. Sometimes the best domains are the keywords that you're seeking. One example: my blog would do much better in the SEO rankings if the domain name had ‘marketing' or ‘technology' in it.
- Aesthetics of the site. The layout and theming of your site needs to reflect the professionalism and attitude that you wish to portray. I used to say not to worry about this – it was all about the content. I was wrong, though. Larger sites are seeing a gain in traffic with a new design. Want to open a Web 2.0 site? Make sure it looks like a Web 2.0 site!
How do keep people on your site and coming back?
You named it right, you've got the right merchandise, you've told people about it… they're starting to come but how do you keep them? If you don't have enough content and strategies to keep people coming back, you're going to spend all your time finding new visitors instead of keeping the ones you have.
- Great and compelling content that is of interest to your readers will keep them coming back.
- Does your site have an RSS feed? RSS isn't just some cool technology, it's a beautiful retention strategy. Even if someone hasn't been back at your site for a while, they may stumble across it in their feeds from time to time – perhaps when you're offering what they are looking for!
- Does your site have an Email subscribe option? Again, this is a great retention tool, notifying interested prospects or clients that have already shown an interest (by opting into your email).
There are exceptions of course. I honestly used Prada picks here because I found the article on the Prada store in the middle of nowhere… I suppose a terrible location could even be a good viral campaign nowadays!