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Measure Twice, Cut Once Works on Websites Too!

I want to cover some things you and your staff (if you have any) should do before launching an advertising campaign online. The biggest thing you need to consider right now, today, before you spend one dime promoting your contracting business online is – your existing website.

If your current website is merely a place holder or “online brochure”, then it’s time to get real. If you’re lucky, people are coming to your site everyday and leaving without contacting you. Yeah, you read that right, I said lucky. You are lucky because prospects are finding you in spite of the fact that you have a shitty website. Trust me when I tell you, not having traffic and still having a shitty site is much, much worse!

Why is a terrible site with traffic a good thing?

Because fixing the site means people will stay around longer and God forbid, maybe join your mailing list or even become a client or customer! Now, I am a marketing guy from way back, so I never really adopted the “sticky” philosophy many web types talk about. You should want prospects to stop by your site to educate themselves on your business, become clients or customers, and continue to buy your products or services while referring you to friends and family. If your goal is anything other than what I just laid out for you, then you are reading the wrong blog!

So, let’s talk about fixing your site

Now, I am a firm believer in the old saying “You don’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been”, so let’s get an idea of where your site is. First, let’s find what Google knows about your site:

Step 1: Go to the Google search page at www.google.com and type the following without quotes “site:YourDomainName.com” in the search bar. It should go without saying, but in case you haven’t had enough coffee yet, replace YourDomainName.com with your actual website address. Google will list all of your pages they have in their index. The higher the number of pages listed the better. You can also try this tactic for your competition. That way, you can get a nice list of sites and review their material all at once.  Then test some of your links by clicking on them to make sure they go to the pages they are supposed to. If they don’t, get them fixed ASAP.

Step 2: Now, go back to the Google search bar and type “links:YourDomain.com”. This is the total number of sites that link TO YOUR SITE. Again, the higher the number the better. To Google, more links means you are an authority on your topic. You always want to be increasing your links and you should have a solid linking strategy and stick to it.

Step 3: If you haven’t already, go to Google Webmaster Tools and sign up for an account. Once you sign up, you will be given a piece of code to insert on your site. This code is what Google uses to give you vital information about the status of your site. You can read more about Google Webmaster Tools here.

Step 4: Again, if you haven’t already, go and sign up for a Google Analytics account. It’s a free service from Google and it tells you everything you need to know about the visitors to your site. Once you install the analytics code, you will know how many visitors come to your site, how they got there, how long they stay, how many pages they view and much more. You can find out more about Google Analytics here.

Once you have this information, you can then begin to track your progress. If up until now you have just relied on the reports you get from your webmaster then you are doing yourself a huge disservice. You need to be involved in every aspect of your website just as you are in your business.

Design Consideration for Contractor Websites

Color: Just like your home or office, a fresh coat of paint does wonders to freshen up a stale looking website.  How long has it been since you changed the look and feel of your site? Does your color scheme scream 1990’s web 1.0?

Spelling & Punctuation Errors: Do you know if your site has any spelling or grammatical errors? I bet your customers do! You need to check your site and make sure everything passes your 3rd grade English teacher’s smell test. If your site is too big to check, offer a small reward to your visitors by pointing out any errors they find.

Layout & Usability: This is the ultimate website functionality killer! More people leave a site because of navigation issues than any other reason. To combat this, follow some simple yet effective tips to make sure your visitors are getting the experience on your site they deserve. Things like broken links, pages that end without giving any direction on what to do next, PDF files that take forever to load. These are just some of the layout issues that send people screaming into the night and off of your pages. Now, I understand you have a business to run, and maybe all this website stuff is beyond your ability. Then you need to read just one book; “Don’t Make Me Think ” to realize how site design and layout determines the way your visitors interact with your site and by extension, your company.

Selling Factor: This isn’t a typical metric or deliverable you are going to find from most site designers, but it needs to be a key factor to you. You basically need to know how well your site does at converting a prospect into a lead, and then into a client or customer. If you haven’t gotten much business from your website, then there is plenty of work to do. The good part is, just fixing the selling factor alone could be enough to start the sales engine your website needs. You can determine the “Selling Factor” using Google Analytics or with the help of your webmaster.

Scalability: How open is your current website to scale? What that means is any online advertising is going to put extra strain on your site and system resources. Ever hear of the Digg effect? It’s when a site or blog gets on the front page of Digg and all of a sudden thousands of visitors show up on your virtual doorstep. If your site isn’t hosted on a robust enough server it is going to crash at absolutely the worst possible time. In other words, now is a good time to evaluate your current hosting company BEFORE the heavy traffic comes. And to make it easy on you, if you are paying $4.95 for a basic shared plan, then I have two words for you…your screwed. So, if you are in the market for a new hosting company, check out BlogOnCloud9, they can handle all the traffic you can throw at them.

So, that’s a pretty good start to getting your website ready for what hopefully will be a flood of new clients and customers. If you want to get a copy of my “website preparedness” worksheet, drop me an email or let me know in the comments below and I will get one out to you.