Get the most from your website
That said there are ways to maximise your website's potential, and we'll take a look at them below.
Running a website for profit
Like any other kind of business, running a website for profit, be it an e-commerce website or otherwise, is hard work. If you are expecting to simply create a website, place it on the Internet and have customers beat a path to your door, you are in for a rude awakening.
This is no different from running a small shop, sure you may get a passing trade, but to really get your business doing well you have to get the brand out there and well known, normally through advertisements.
The Internet is no different, if you have a website and are looking at making a profit from it, the search engines hold the key.
Visitors to your website can usually be broken down into two categories, those who found your website from information in the real world, such as adverts in the local press or word of mouth, and those that found your website via the search engines.
If your business is wholly web based and you do not have any other way of advertising then the search engines are even more important to your business.
The most common way for visitor to find your website is by searching for your product and services in the search engines, known as natural or organic search results.
The success of your website in the organic search results depends on a number of factors; if your website was built by professionals using modern and search engine friendly techniques, such as XHTML and CSS then it has a good start. A good mix of keywords is also needed on the pages, again this relies on a professional website designer as keywords spamming or writing page content without thought to things such keywords could leave your site very difficult to find.
A simple example is if you want people searching for Acme XL Widgets to find your website, then you must have that phrase somewhere on the website, and not in picture or flash format.
Importance and Relevance
It's not enough just to have the right keywords on the page though, to ensure that your website comes in the top rankings and not on page 506 you have to make sure that the search engines see your website as important (or authoritative) and relevant.
The more links from quality websites that you have, the more important your site will be considered by the search engines. Of course getting quality websites to link to your own site is not easy, but the first step is to have interesting, useful and informative content on the pages that people will want to link to.
To show the search engines and visitors that your site is both important and relevant, you must update it regularly. Google and the other search engines see websites that do not change their content as less relevant and out of date. If Google checks your website every few months and find the same content, neither it nor any visitors are going to be in any rush to return.
A simple way of have useful and regularly updated content is to have a blog.
Search engines love blogs and we advise every business to have some kind of blog on their website. Blogs offer a simple way of having regular content and information on your website, even if it is just product reviews or the latest information about your services.
Discussing issues relevant to your industry, giving help and advice or giving something away for free is a great way of getting lots of hits on your website and also some good quality links to it.
The quickest and easiest way of getting people to your website is through Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising, such as Google's Adwords program. Those searching for keywords that you have chosen will view your advert, and hopefully click it to visit your page.
Although getting the visitors (or hits) is fairly easy, getting a return on your advertisement investment is not. Unlike other ways of having search engines refer visitors to your website, it isn't free. Moreover as you pay for every visitor, so getting as many visitors as possible isn't the idea, rather getting the right visitors to your website.
People clicking your advert by mistake or visiting your website looking for something that you don't sell all cost money. The trick with PPC advertising is to get only those that are interested in purchasing your product/service to click on your advert. This was covered in more detail in an earlier article, How to get the best from Google Adwords.
If you are already using Google Adwords but have found that you are getting a low return on your investment, lots of impressions but a low Click Through Rate (CTR) and a high cost per click, you should consider our Google Adwords Consultation.
Google Product Search (formerly Froogle), offers those with a smaller budget a way of advertising their products for free. Signing up for a Google Base account allows website owners to submit a list of their products so that they appear in Google Product Search.
The ability to localise products and services means that even small, local business can target the right customers.
To get the best overall benefit from the search engines, Google's Product Search and Adwords, you need a fully e-commerce website.
Once, such websites were prohibitively expensive to all but big businesses. Today however, you can purchase a fully automated, custom designed e-commerce website for one off payment of just £249.
Such a website allows you to add your own products quickly and easily, describing in as much detail as needed your product/service. This of course allows you to cover the keywords aspect of your website as well as the relevant and constantly changing content that the search engines like.
Such websites also allow you to better tailor Google Adwords and Products Search to link directly to a specific product or product category and get a better return on your time and investment.
Our package includes Google Adwords setup, a free blog, optimised website code and text and an excellent hosting package.
There are cheaper e-commerce website packages around, some are also open source and free, but to make sure that all the boxes are ticked; including the vital and often overlooked ones, such as security and usability, you should purchase a professional package from a reliable company.
Remember, you pay for the website not only in the short term, but you will also bear the long term costs of having a website on the Internet, so your best bet is a site that will give you a return on your investment and an advantage in making money online.