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B2B Websites in 10 Steps--Part 2

By: Michael Bleau

Wednesday, September 01, 2010
 

Carefully planning and preparing a new website can pay off with increased business opportunites. Last month we covered steps 1 to 5; here are the next steps to take to ensure that your site attracts and retains the right kind of prospects for your business.

6) Prepare a Rough Site Layout—Focusing initially on content delivery, work with your site developer and marketing resources to sketch a site layout. This is where your web developer’s experience in “best practices” will come to bear in determining navigation and the logical construction of the site. Once navigation is established, you can focus on visual presentation. It’s important that your site include any formal or informal creative guidelines that makes your brand distinctive. If you’re incorporating an e-commerce aspect to your site, then you’ll need to back up and select a shopping-cart platform, such as www.volution.com, as these services greatly ease content management, but also come with some design restrictions. Make it easy for visitors to take the next step to contact your company by including a phone number, links for e-mail or live chat links on all pages.

7) Copywriting—Relying on the references prepared earlier and the layout defined in the last step, start preparing copy. This step includes any written component of the site from the name of links to headlines and body copy. In all cases, be concise; make your points without burying the visitor in content. People tend to scan web pages and only read when they find what they’re looking for, and when found, they want to get to the core content quickly. In most B2B settings, you’ll want to include enough information to convey your competence, while giving the prospect a reason to contact you if they would like specific details. Be mindful to avoid the use of internal company terms, acronyms and initialisms. Ensure the navigation labeling and other terms you use will be immediately understandable to visitors. And remember to embed those keywords within the copy where appropriate to further boost your relevance to any search-engine marketing (SEM) or search-engine optimization (SEO) activities.

8) Prepare Site Treatment and Assemble Visual Content—During copywriting you can start preparing a site treatment, which basically is a document that describes how the visual content is associated with the copy for each page. In effect, this is a blueprint that your web developer uses during site buildout. Skipping this step is common, and leaves you and your web developer spending time reviewing and changing iterations of the site and its content, which translates into more billable hours. Since each photo or piece of art needs to be specifically selected to accompany the copy for a given page, it doesn’t take much to prepare the site-treatment document to ensure that the art lands in the correct spot. Your web developer will appreciate the guidance.

9) Proofread, then Proofread Again—While proofreading is one aspect of testing, it’s important enough to stand alone as a separate step. When proofing a site, consider all of the visual elements as well as the copy. Having a skilled editor proofread your site will pay off in the end. Also, having someone unfamiliar with your company review critical content is as important as having an industry insider review the content, to ensure that your message is clear.

10) Test, Submit, SEM and be Social—Test your site for usability and functionality while using various browsers on different platforms, then submit your site to the top search engines and start a SEM effort. Consider leveraging social sites.

Usability refers to how easily people can make use of your site. Following best practices in site design for basic sites should negate the need to contract an outside usability study. However, if you are building a comprehensive site, then such a study is warranted to ensure that visitors are able to interact with the site in an efficient manner.

Hitwise.com figures from May 2010 ranks the top U.S. search engines as being Google (72 percent), Yahoo (15 percent), Bing (9 percent), Ask (2 percent) and AOL (1 percent), with others making up the remaining 1 percent. Submission is easy, and doesn’t require you to hire a submission service. For example, visit www.google.com/addurl to see how easy it is to submit to Google. While submission puts you on a search engine’s radar, you’ll have more success ranking up by linking pages to relevant sites, such as where you may have a press release posted on a news site.

SEM is not to be confused with SEO. SEM is a paid approach to ranking higher in search results through pay-per-click or other online advertising and PR efforts. SEO is a strategy of continuously adjusting a website’s content in a way to take advantage of how search engines classify information. You can source out such activities or internalize the process and start your own Google Adwords campaigns.

Social media, while still dominated by B2C, can be appropriately applied in B2B settings. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter provide opportunities to build an audience or following. Establishing a blog for your business is another means of pushing fresh content to prospects while building search-engine relevance.

Summing it all Up
While these are some key steps to get you started, finding a good web developer who can translate your vision into an engaging, easy to navigate site is where it all comes together. So take your time, check references and find a local provider for those important face-to-face steps during the development process. And remember, while it’s critical that your site looks clean and professional, content is king. Focus on having relevant, easy to navigate and easy to consume content to boost your site capability in bringing you more business opportunities. MF

 

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