I have lead dozens of seminars on electronic marketing. I’ve also talked with even more prospects and clients who have been burned by web developers who have no real marketing expertise. One thing’s certain: The more informed you are about using your website as a marketing tool, the better you’ll be able to blow the lid off the “black box” in which many developers hide. Here are a few of the points that have popped up during my recent talks.

The more informed you are about using your website as a marketing tool, the better you’ll be able to blow the lid off the “black box” in which many developers hide.
Use a “content management system.”
Gone should be the days when you need to rely on a developer to add and remove pages, edit content, upload images and more. Insist on an open source content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla that give you complete control over the content of your own site. Stay away from a “proprietary content management system”–which is another way of saying you–and your wallet–are at the mercy of the developer. For example, we did a pro-bono website for a local nonprofit. Thanks to a very easy-to-use CMS, a 72-year-old volunteer is able to update the site with news, events and photos on a daily basis—boosting search engine rankings and saving thousands of dollars a year in licensing and programming fees to an outside developer.

Make sure your website accurately reflects your brand.
A surefire way to turn away a prospect is to confuse them with conflicting messages when they visit your website. Your “brand” can be defined as the visual, verbal and emotional attributes that define your company and set it apart from the competition. For example, a technology-oriented company came to us last month for help with PR. This company sells sophisticated web-based data-processing systems–yet its website looked as if it had been developed in 1999. Imagine if we had hit the holy grail of PR for these folks and landed them an article in Information Management magazine? Prospects who hit their website would be left scratching their heads at the disconnect.

Use well-written, keyword-rich content.
You may have the most attractive website in the world, backed by rock-solid coding–but if the content fails to resonate with your target audiences, it is like sticking a Yugo engine in a Porsche. Prospects will be woefully unimpressed and won’t buy. Start by developing your elevator speech. Sharpen it. Make it sing. Get help from a good copywriter if necessary. Then do keyword research to see what words prospects are using to find you and your competition. Make sure those words are carefully woven into your content. Good example–A client in the insurance software space had the term “property and casualty” peppered throughout their site because that was their core product. Bases covered, right? Turns out the vast majority of prospects are searching the term “P&C”–not “property and casualty.” So do your homework.

Assign a dedicated person to “mind the store.”
Launching a website is like having a baby. (I know, easy for a man to say.) You have fun creating it, and while launching it can be painful, it’s over fairly quickly. But what next? You need to feed it, cloth it and change it–weekly if not daily. Someone internally needs to be trained and tasked to make updates (news items, blog posts, keyword refinement) on a regular basis–necessary efforts to help your search engine optimization (known as SEO). Let your site go stale and Google will not pay too much attention to you. And neither will your prospects.

Install Google Analytics and pay attention to them.
Get a website analytics package installed. There are dozens of them. We prefer Google Analytics because it’s free and powerful. But don’t just install it–pay attention to what it’s telling you. A client in the time-management space asked for help redeveloping their website. A review of Google Analytics showed that a full 95% of prospect who started their nine-step “customize your product” process abandoned the funnel after just the second step! Analytics showed that 222,000 prospects started the process each year but less than 2,000 actually completed it. CRM data shows an average lifetime value of $290 per customer. If revamping the user experience for this funnel could reduce atrophy by just 10%, the company would net millions and pay for the revamp 50 times over.