What results can I expect from a business website?

One of the important things to consider when thinking about creating a website for your business is the outcome that you’re looking for. Creating a website does cost money, so like every business expenditure, you’ll be thinking about making sure that you’re getting both value for money and the results that you were hoping for.

So, what are your objectives?

Let’s be clear about why you want a website for your business in the first place. The most common objectives include:

  1. To have an online ‘shopfront’ for your business – a way of showcasing what you do and how to get in contact with you, so that that people who already know about your business can get the information they need.
  2. To attract new customers, who may not already know your business, by allowing them to find your business when they use relevant search words in Google etc

Often, business owners will have a combination of these objectives in mind.

How your objectives influence the way your site should be built

1. The ‘online shopfront’

If your primary objective is to have a presence on the internet, even if that’s only to ensure that you’re not the only local business of your type without one, then things are reasonably straight forward. Your main considerations will be to do with the style and design of your site, to ensure that it portrays the right image and information when visitors come and check you out.

You’ll either work with a website designer or, if you’ve got the skills and inclination, you might build a website yourself. When your website is online and active, and assuming that the performance and reliability is acceptable, you’ve met your primary objective. Great stuff. You will want to make sure that you keep your site looking fresh and up-to-date, so you’ll want to make sure that it is reviewed regularly, and changes made where necessary.

Typically, people who visit your site will do so because they already know your website address (e.g. from traditional advertising, business cards, word-of-mouth etc), or find your website address by specifically searching for your business name.

2. Attracting new customers via search engines

OK, so this is where things get slightly more complicated, because we introduce the whole idea of how to get your website to compete for potential customers against all the other similar businesses out there.

Everybody wants their business to show up at the top of the list in the Google search results for a particular search term – think about it: when you’re searching for something online, how often do you continue beyond page 2 or 3 of the search results? Almost never – which is why everyone is vying for the top spot – or at least the first page. But there can only ever be one Number 1 at any given time!

Setting realistic expectations here is paramount.

If you offer very unusual products or services, a real specific ‘niche’, then you’re in the box seat. It’s likely that there won’t be a huge amount of direct competition, and you can concentrate on how to design your site in such a way as to capture those people who are searching for your specific type of business. But at the same time, it’s likely that (by the very nature of your business) there won’t be huge numbers of people searching for you. In a way, you’re looking to be the ‘big fish in a small pond’.

On the other hand, if you work in a very competitive marketplace (let’s say for example you sell mobile phones and other similar technology), then not only are you up against a massive amount of competition, you’re also up against some very large, well established competition too, who are only too prepared to pay for their prominence on the front page of the search results. You could well end up being the ‘small fish in the ocean’ here.

So, it’s all about expectations. If you are a new business, trying to break into an ultra-competitive market, it’s unrealistic to think that simply by creating a website you will be mixing it with the big boys overnight – you just won’t.

Working your way up the search rankings is all to do with convincing the big search engines (let’s use Google as our example) that your website can be trusted. Is it legitimate (i.e. not a scam)? Is it authoritative? Do people find it useful?

This takes time, and it takes effort. And in general terms, it is this process that we refer to as Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO.

If you want to attract new customers through search, then SEO needs to be borne in mind from the very start of designing your website.

It will influence your choice of domain name (website address), it will influence the words and other content that you use on your site, and it will influence the other activities that need to be done in the background. If not, your site will probably languish down on page 5000 of the search results and no-one will ever see it. Which would be a shame.

In summary

So, what to take out of all of this.

If you want new customers to discover your website via search engines, then you need to consider your competition, take SEO seriously, and make sure that you don’t have unrealistic expectations. You can, as always, buy your way out of this problem to an extent, by paying Google to feature you in their sponsored, advertising search results, but many (smaller) businesses just don’t have the budget to make this worthwhile.

If, on the other hand, your business model doesn’t rely primarily on this new customer stream, then life is made significantly less complicated.

Blackbox Web Design provides website design, hosting and support services, with essential Search Engine Optimisation included.

For more information and background on SEO, you might find our Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimisation useful.

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