Do you ever stop to think about the reasons you choose Pepsi over Coke? Nike over Adidas? The iPhone over Droid?
Is it price? Service? Features? Convenience? Do you like Nike’s powerful, creative commercials? What exactly is it that makes consumers pick one brand over another, especially when their products have only slight variances.
The truth is, purchasing decisions are made for any number of reasons, most of which are a combo of what I mentioned above. People make decisions to buy way before they even consciously think about it- it’s when we pinpoint the reasons WHY they buy that we get a crash-course in marketing and lead generation.
There has never been more competition in the business world than there is today. No matter the product, you have competitors out there. The internet has made distance and country-of-origin almost irrelevant- so much so that brick-and-mortar stores are closing left and right to make way for the dominance of the e-commerce industry.
You weave baskets from old cardboard specifically for people that are ill? That’s about as niched as it gets, and EVEN YOU have competition thanks to the internet.
All of this competition has also made it more important than ever to STAND OUT. People are served over 5,000 ads DAILY in 2017. You think you’re the only one crafting Facebook and Google ads? You are not. Your competitors are doing the same thing.
Another reason it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself from your competitors is the ‘targeting’ aspect of marketing. Back in the day, businesses would advertise on T.V., radio and in magazines or newspapers. They couldn’t control who saw their ad- they could only make an educated guess based on the time the commercial plays on T.V., or the day they choose to utilize the newspaper, to maximize viewership by their target audience.
With online ads, businesses can target people based on damn-near anything: interests, location, demographics, behaviors, etc. We even have ads that follow you around the internet if you’ve shown interest in the product in the past. It’s amazing stuff, actually, but it really puts competition at the forefront of the battle for business.
If you didn’t know it was important to stand out from your competitors, YOU DO NOW.
So, what do you do when you offer similar products, similar prices, and similar services to your competitors? How can you establish yourself as your own successful brand and not be seen by your market as “just like those other guys”. You tell your story. The easiest way to tell your story? Your website.
Here are 5 essential ingredients that make for an amazing website, helping you tell your unique story.
1. Maintain a Blog.
A blog is the best way to tell your brand’s story, yet many people don’t take advantage of this. The benefits of a consistent, strong blog are plentiful:
- A blog brands your business as an expert in your industry.
- A blog helps search engines rank you according to your industry (SEO), increasing free website traffic.
- A blog is easily shareable content that can be distributed on social media.
- A blog can build trust with prospects who see that you clearly know your industry.
The only “disadvantage” presented by a blog is that it’s time-consuming to produce. That’s hardly a disadvantage- it’s called “work”.
So how do you start a blog? Depending on the platform you used to build your website, it should be as simple as adding another page. Our websites are all built using WordPress because it’s simple to use and update. As an added bonus, Google likes WordPress sites and uses that as a factor to rank sites.
If you use a website-builder such as Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly, then it’s even simpler. Add a “Blog” page and get writing!
Once you have your blog setup, you need to create a content calendar. A content calendar is a schedule of blog post topics that you mark on a calendar so you know when you need to publish. This helps you keep your posts organized and ensures that you are consistent with your efforts. The number one reason for the failure of blogs is that the author stops writing! This is a long-term game, so be sure to treat it as such.
When you start writing, be sure to use blogging best practices to maximize your efforts. At first, you’ll get very few (if any) eyes on your content, but remember: this is a LONG-TERM game. Stick with it, write great blogs that are useful and/or entertaining, and you’ll succeed.
2. Get Hip to Analytics.
How can you know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been? The ability to read and use website data is the main difference between dominant marketers and everyone else.
The first thing you should do when you setup your website is to install Google Analytics. Google Analytics is the holy grail of website data and analytics. It tells you where your website visitors came from, what they clicked on, what their interests are, what country they’re from, and SO much more.
To setup Google Analytics, you’ll need to sign-up for an account. Once you do so, you can visit this page about setting up Google Analytics for your website, and it’ll walk you through, step-by-step.
So, how can you make use of your new analytics data? For starters, you can track where your website visitors are coming from. If you see that most of your traffic is coming from social media, it would behoove you to focus on doubling-down on your Facebook content and sprinkle in some ads.
What about your bounce rate? Your bounce rate is the number of people who visited your site and only viewed one page (didn’t take any action or click anything) before leaving divided by the number of total visitors to your site. A high bounce rate indicates that your audience either didn’t find what they were looking for, or didn’t find enough good content to entice them to look around further. With analytics, you’ll see your bounce rate and can test different things in an effort to lower it.
Another thing that’s awesome about analytics is that you can track conversions. Conversions occur when your visitor takes an action that you wanted them to. Examples of conversions might be adding a product to their cart, subscribing to your newsletter, or clicking on a specific blog post. You get to define your conversions with Google Analytics and it will track visitors who take the desired action.
I could go on and on about Google Analytics, but I’ll just refer you to this post that details things you can do with Google Analytics to help your business.
3. Focus on Ease-of-Navigation.
The whole point of a website is for visitors to learn about a business or brand. If you went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to find basketball shoes, would you want to be in-and-out in 20 minutes, or two hours? Making it easy for their customers to find basketball shoes would help Dick’s increase customer satisfaction. The navigation of your website is at its best when it makes it easy for your audience to find what they’re looking for.
Good navigation strategy allows for a better user experience (UX) for your visitors while also telling search engines what topics you cover on your site. Here are some things to consider when working on your site’s navigation:
- Menu placement: People expect to see the menu at the top of the page horizontally or the left of the page vertically. Don’t make them search for the menu.
- Use descriptive labels. A majority of the sites you visit will have “About”, “Contact”, “Services”, etc. Make your site standout by being descriptive and letting your audience know exactly what they can expect from each menu item.
- Limit the number of menu items to 7 (or less).It’s great to be able to find what you’re looking for, but it’s just as great to not be confused when trying to find what you’re looking for. Don’t include a million items on the menu- 7 is plenty.
- Style menus correctly.People like to style things- the one thing you shouldn’t style too much is your menu. The point is to point your user in the direction they’d like to go. Over-styling your menu can distract them from that goal.
These are just some of the things to keep in mind when building your website’s menu and working on the navigation. If you keep in mind that the navigation needs to be as intuitive and easy-to-use as possible, you’ll put yourself in a great position to lower your bounce rate and increase web traffic.
4. Increase Speed and Utilize Attractive Design.
This is the no-brainer of the bunch. Have you ever visited a website and left immediately because the site didn’t load in less than four seconds? Well, you’re not alone. Over half of all website users expect a website to load within 2 seconds, while 79% of users leave if a website doesn’t load within 3 seconds. Talk about a tough crowd!
Decreasing your website speed can reap major rewards for your business. You know what else helps? Attractive designs?
Have you ever visited a website and immediately thought, “man, this website is UGLY”? Did you end up purchasing from that site? My guess is, you left quicker than you came.
The look, feel, and functionality of your site are a primary determinant of the site’s success. If it doesn’t look good, it won’t entice visitors to stay. If it looks good but isn’t fast enough, those same visitors might not stay around long enough in the first place. Make sure you put a premium focus on speed and layout, because if your competitors’ aren’t, their visitors might just come to you.
5. Tell Your Story (“About” Page).
Lastly, the “About” section/page can be a great promoter of both your brand and your business. If you don’t have an “About” section, create one, because the “About” page is one of the most visited pages on website’s worldwide.
The “About” page of your website should give your website visitors a glimpse behind the scenes of your business. How did it start? When did it start? Who created it? What problem were they trying to solve? What’s the company’s mission? What are the brand’s long-term goals? These are all questions you can answer in your “About” section.
The “About” page is neglected by most because it’s not a direct revenue-generating page. Also, businesses write the page once and never update it or optimize it again. It sits there collecting dust. Well that’s a big mistake, because some of your visitors may not care who your business is, but a majority of them will. Adding a thorough “About” section that tells a story will humanize your brand and make your visitors feel as though they can relate to you.
This is your chance to brag (humbly) about your accomplishments- accolades, experience, company history. You can also make a human connection by tying your background to a specific city/state (if you’re a brick-and-mortar store) or telling a story that you used to struggle with the same things your audience does. There is no limit to creativity here, but the key is to use the “About” page as a way to tell your brand’s story and make your business memorable.
At the end of the day, your website is always working, either for you or against you. Having a great website takes a lot of time, continuous updating and monitoring, and constant data measuring. If you put for the effort, the results will come.
Remember, if you want to stay in business and reach high levels of success, you must find a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Your target audience is seeing more ads from more of your competitors today than ever before. You need to hone in on what makes you unique, and promote that. The best way to promote your unique value is through your website, so invest the time, effort, and funds required to ensure that it tells the right story.
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