Web design should be part of your evolutional marketing strategy. In today's local markets, the guys who are beating the local competition are looking at their web analytics weekly if not daily. Businesses approach us quite frequently to redesign their websites. When I look at their existing website it says copyright 200x and the site hasn't been touched in years.
That business doesn't just need to change it's website, they need to change their entire mindset relative to how to use a website. They need to reconsider their relationship with their web designers.
We have clients that come to us with websites that are really embarrassing. The only saving grace is that those sites aren't showing up in Google BUT they are publishing their website and sending all of their existing contacts to their less than useful, probably non-responsive websites. So, we build a nice new site and these same clients are afraid to pull the trigger on the launch? Why? Their mindset is stuck in the print world. "Launch" is the point where they part ways with the website designer and never see him again!
Pick up that old copy of the Yellow Pages that's propping your door open and scan through the ads relative to your business. Is there much there that distinguishes each of the businesses in a given category from their competition? Probably not. Businesses got noticed in the Yellow pages by two methods... how much they spent (the size and placement of their business ads) and where they showed up alphabetically - right A-Able? And when "launched", the business owner crossed his fingers and hoped for the best. There was no changing it after that big fat yellow book was out.
Transitioning from the Yellow Pages to the web, many small businesses have not changed their marketing approach - their mindset is stuck in the Yellow Pages era of doing things. Take a look at the websites of your competitors. You're likely to find this: Home, About, Products, Service, Contact or some small variation of that. Pepper in a few testimonials, add a BBB A+ rating and links to social media accounts BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT EVERYBODY IS DOING and you've described 98% of your competition. Maybe add a blog or news page that never gets updated. As a mental experiment, strip away the colors, logo and business branding and ask yourself if there is any discernible difference between this business and yours? Google can't see beautiful web design. The crappy site that's beating you in search has nothing to do with aesthetics
TODAY, the standard web site might just be enough. Add some fundamental search engine optimization to make your website show up in the organic listings and add some good local search optimization so your website shows up in Google MAPS and you could be outranking your competition in a standard Google search for your products and services. The benchmark is the need to show up on the first page organically (in the natural listings) and in the top three on Google MAPS (the Google local pack that shows up when people are searching for local products and searches). If this is your strategy for the foreseeable future, you could tank your business in 3-5 years - probably sooner! What is working today is not going to be recognizable in the near future.
So what is changing? Simple: Google! (and the other major search providers - including social media are all embracing behavioral marketing strategies). You've heard it all over the news - everybody is data mining. What are they (the data miners) really looking for? Simple, they looking for your behavior and your buying habits! Currently a website ranks based in part on how well your site is optimized compared to your competitors but it won't be long before BEHAVIORAL factors supersede this. Search is becoming unique to the individual! Google will base search results on the individuals search patterns, shopping habits, location, driving habits and of course their spending habits, their friends and relatives spending habits and on and on. Two people searching for the exact same thing will get completely different results! If you want to see how this is possible, see what Google knows about you
. And if not Google, that information is being catalogued on Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and on and on. If you have a cell phone, a G-mail account, a Facebook account, Hotmail, AOL, an X-box, Alexa, A Kindle, Windows 10, Apple IOS. Get the idea? They are ALL tracking your activity!
Let's consider a real world example. Let's say a person gets on Google looking for a plumber. We already know that if the searcher is in Dayton, Ohio, he is not likely to see results for plumbers in Chicago. The location of the search visitor impacts the search listings. What else about the visitor's behaviors could impact the search? How about the search visitors spending habits? Does he typically buy low cost or does he have a different sense of value. Does he choose based on a lot of reviews. Does he buy in the mid-range or top end? If the visitor has to travel to the plumber's office (buying parts perhaps), will the search results reflect answers that are in the visitors typical driving range? And what about the plumber. Every Google Business page lets a business define his service area via zip codes or radius from business location. But nothing prevents a business from lying - maybe in an effort to extend his reach into the local market. I get this request all the time when editing my clients Google Business page. I get it... but does it really work. The plumber in Vandalia wants to reach customers in Springboro so he makes sure his Google Business page has it covered... and he may think that's all it takes. After all, it wasn't long ago that all you had to do was say it and Google would believe it. But consider this. If Google is tracking the behavior of the consumer, can't they also track the behavior of the business? Why wouldn't they? What if that plumber has zero reviews from people in Springboro? What if the driving habits of that plumber and his employees never seem to make it quite that far south in the Dayton geography during the business hours indicated on the Google MAPS page. How likely is Google to show that plumber in a search result if the search visitor is in Springboro? In cases like this, don't expect miracles from your web designer or SEO specialist. Just saying or printing the words doesn't make it so.
How should businesses deal with this? Well, in short - EMBRACE IT! Businesses that feed the flame will be first out of the gate and early adopters of behavioral marketing technology will start to bury the standard small business competitive websites. The new website standard is really an old stand-by with some technology tossed in. The new website standard is... drum-roll please.... ----->>>> CONTENT! In my 15 years of web marketing, the mantra "Content is King" takes a back seat to NOTHING. Useful content and information is the necessary driving force for all small local businesses who need to differentiate themselves from their competition. The technology that complements this is tracking and response technology, good lead generation tactics and TRADING
good information for contact details. Google isn't the only one that gets to respond to visitor behavior. Every business can to some extent do the same thing relative to his products and services. It's best to remember too that Google is not a growth strategy. It's an identification strategy. You can't grow your business by saying that you do something you don't or that you service an area that you don't. Instead, win the business in your local market and grow your business organically.
So now, we come full-circle back to the web designer. We are not just web designers. We are a website management company. Every time you want to make a change on your website, your web designer needs to be there. And your web designer needs to have a few tricks beyond simple HTML programming. An integral knowledge of website marketing methods must be integrated with new web design strategies. A website is an ever-changing platform to provide information and to use as a marketing resource. Your website is never "finished". Your web designer should be an available resource long after the website is launched.