A primer on Web site marketing
Summary: This page contains an overview of the information you'll need to begin creating or redesigning a successful Web site.
Many attempts at Web marketing fail because Web site owners skip over the research and planning stage. A little initial planing can save a lot of time and money.
Each of the summaries below is followed by a link to a more complete article.
Why only a few Web sites succeed while most fail
It's true: most Web sites do not pay for themselves. I'll explain the seven reasons that Web sites fail.
There is great opportunity in the Web marketing—if you know how to approach it.
But don't count on your Web developer having the knowledge needed to avoid those seven mistakes.
How to choose a Web developer
A good Web developer needs to be knowledgeable about a broad range of topics, including: Web marketing, graphic design, coding, Web application programming, usability, accessibility, writing for the Web, search engine optimization, and Web standards.
Web technology and Web marketing are continuing to evolve rapidly, but many Web developers haven't maintained their skills and knowledge. How can you know if yours is up-to-date?
Planning your Internet marketing strategy
The core of your Internet marketing strategy is knowing your product or service, your target audience, and your competition. Then you'll need to decide on pricing, how to deliver your product or service, how you'll communicate with your audience, and how to measure your strategy's performance.
By carefully answering a few key questions, you greatly increase your prospects for success. Avoiding the crucial planning step is like driving with a blindfold.
Search engine marketing
Internet search engine marketing (SEM) is using search engines such as Google to draw visitors to your Web site.
To take advantage of search engine marketing, you have to be in the top 20 search results—ahead of the other millions of Web pages. You can achieve these results with "search engine optimization" (SEO).
What determines whether your Web page appears near the top of the search engine results? The most important factors are the content on your Web page and incoming links to your site.
Writing for the Internet
A well-written Web site will stand out above the millions of mediocre sites.
Overly aggressive selling is not effective on the Web. Instead, focus on helping your visitors become customers. That's why you'll need to know their needs.
Good Web writing touches visitors personally and emotionally. To do this, address their underlying needs and write with a consistent personality or voice.
Graphic design for the Internet
Graphic design for Web sites is more limited than for print media.
Good graphic design supports your marketing message and promotes good usability and accessibility.
The best way to evaluate your Web site's design is to find out how a design affects your paying customers by observing them directly. Testing should begin early in development and be done at each stage of site development.
Limited control of Web page appearance
The fact is that your Web designer has only limited control over what your site's visitors will see on their screens.
User adjusted settings and the hardware and software being used all affect the display of Web pages. And the designer has no control over these aspects.
The best Web developers take these limitations into account by designing sites that display well no matter what software, hardware or settings are used.
Following Web standards pays off
Web standards are a set of guidelines which should be used to create your Web site.
Web sites that follow Web standards can save time and money on site design and revision. In addition, there are significant advantages, in search engine ranking, download times, usability, and accessability.
Free programs are available to test Web pages for compatibility with Web standards. Your Web developer should use these tools to confirm that your site meets Web standards.
Automating business processes
The average Web sites is just a brochure. Your Web site can be much more by using programs to store, display, and edit information.
The most common Web programs allow visitors to order a product or send a message. Other programs can allow you—the site owner—to change temporary announcements. Or they can help your employees and customers sign up for events and apply for jobs.
Almost any task can be handled by a program. But automation is best used when it will return significant savings or profit.
By now you should be able to choose and work with a Web developer who has the necessary skills and will take the time necessary to do the job correctly. You'll know how to judge the quality of the Web developer's work. You'll also know the questions your Web developer should be asking.