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How to Turn Your Website Into a Marketing Powerhouse

Having an online presence isn’t enough anymore. These days, even mom-and-pop shops and home-based businesses have their own website. But a website alone doesn’t guarantee you’ll attract new customers or generate sales.

Fortunately, you don’t need a full-fledged web team to turn your website into a marketing powerhouse. There are simple steps you can take to ensure your site is sending out the right message to the right audience — even with limited resources.

First off, you want to make sure people can actually find your site. To boost your rankings in online searches, make sure your site meets Google’s design, content, technical and quality webmaster guidelines.

And ensure it’s optimized for mobile. According to Marketing Land, 60 per cent of our time online is spent on mobile devices. And three out of four people will search on their smartphone for a business they want to work with.

But, if your site isn’t loading fast enough, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is — you’ll lose potential customers before they ever see it. According to Kissmetrics, 47 per cent of visitors expect a website to load in less than two seconds, while 40 per cent of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than three seconds. Obviously, that’s not a lot of time.

As your site starts to generate more traffic, make sure you have enough bandwidth to handle it — especially if you expect a spike in traffic during a special promotion or peak shopping period. A temporary slowdown could be a permanent turn-off for potential customers.

Remember to focus on more than your homepage. Think about the last time you searched for something online; you probably didn’t search for a company name, but for a product or service. These days a homepage is not a website’s main entry point. People are finding you through articles, blogs and other content on your website, which is why it’s critical for that content to be compelling.

Content goes beyond the written word. It also includes photos, videos and SlideShare presentations, as well as social media links. In today’s instant-gratification world people have short attention spans, especially when they’re on their smartphones. So not only does your content have to provide value, it has to load quickly and be easy to navigate. If it’s too difficult to navigate they’ll bounce off.

Don’t dismiss video — it’s not just for the pros. It’s easier than ever to produce slick videos at a reasonable cost. And it’s becoming increasingly important. By 2016, Cisco predicts video will account for 75 per cent of all mobile data traffic. Use video for how-to demonstrations or customer testimonials to showcase your expertise and brand your business.

Many marketing gurus recommend a “soft” approach. Don’t turn your website into an online brochure or flyer, and don’t try to shove a sales pitch down people’s throats. If you run an independent clothing boutique, write a blog — with lots of photos — about how to incorporate this season’s faux fur vest into your wardrobe. If you’re a home reno company, produce a short video on how to prep your deck for the summer season.

But remember to keep that content fresh. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is letting their content get stale. A website is a living entity; you need to update it regularly to stay relevant. Otherwise, you’ll slip on search rankings and potential customers will wonder if you’re still in business.

Exposure is great, but if that’s not translating into new customers or sales then it’s all for naught.

Thankfully marketing is measurable. That means you can track the results of your efforts and make changes if something isn’t working. Use Google Analytics or invest in more sophisticated tools to make sure your marketing efforts are reaching your intended audience and achieving your intended goals. If not, dig into the data and tweak your strategy.

Turning your website into a marketing powerhouse doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it does take ongoing time and effort. The results, though, are worth it. You can turn a generic, static website into a tool that builds your brand, brings in new customers and ultimately increases your cash flow.

Have you created a new site for your business and want to show it off? Tell us in the comments below!

Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as CBCNews.ca, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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