Whether you are starting a new business or revamping your old website, you’ve come to the conclusion that an online presence is an important step. This is good! While the decisions on the routes to go for that website are nearly endless, to host or do free hosting, to WordPress, Joomla, Weebly or Wix? To hire or do it yourself… the steps to prepare are all the same.
Step 1 – Shop the competition
Why reinvent the wheel? Unless you have a 100% unique product or industry that no one on the planet has done, (or come close to) you have competition. So find your competition online. See what they’ve said. Look at the pictures they’ve used. Make not of their color choices (color is very important in branding and sales) and read their content – text. Take ideas from many competitors and then rework them to become your own.
Note that I said rework it – Do Not Copy! That is plagiarism.
Most people when asked about their product can easily go into a long shpeal about it but no one wants to hear the 13 chapter back story. They want the breakdown, the recap, the bullet points. Your competitors have probably figured this out so you can gain yourself a step ahead as well as a starting point.
Step 2 – Write content
This is very important because a picture might be worth a thousand words, and most people don’t like to read anything besides the bullet points – but search engine spiders DO like to read and they require it. SEO rules change regularly but as of right now, your content (the text in each page) should be at 300 words or more. This may sound easy but it’s not sometimes, especially not on every page. Plus, your content needs to contain your keywords and keyword phrases (step 4).
Most of my clients will admit, they’d prefer I write the content and they will then edit it. I can do that as an author, especially if I can research what your competitors have said. But most webmasters won’t or can’t so the more preparation you do for your project the faster and easier it will be. If a website designer can do a simple copy and paste of your text into the pages, you will save time and money.
The main thing to remember is YOU know your product better than anyone. You know the back story, the selling points and what customers tend to ask. This information, even if it is just a quick unedited list of facts and details is always necessary.
Step 3 – Take pictures
That does not mean go to your competitors site and right click and chose Save Picture As – that is wrong and many times illegal. You also don’t want to do a Google or Bing image search and save those (unless they are licensed free to use commercially (and even then I’d hesitate). Yes you can use stock images, if you purchase them and hold the rights or licenses, but ideally, it’s your product – snap your own pictures. Every cell phone these days has a fairly good camera on it. Place your product in a nice setting and snap a picture (horizontally preferred).
The good news is; I’m a graphic designer. If your picture is too dark, I can lighten it. If it needs to be cropped, sharpened, cleaned or manipulated I can do that. If you took a picture of your storefront and there are grey skies, I can add blue. Power lines, can be moved. Kids toys in the lawn can be magically erased and dead spots in the grass can be rectified without the need of a lawn guy.
Don’t be afraid that your pictures aren’t good and weren’t taken by a professional, be afraid that your website doesn’t showcase your product so no one will know what you are selling and won’t buy when you launch.
Step 4 – List your keywords
This may not be easy but it is ultra necessary! What are your potential clients going to be searching for? You? Probably not if you aren’t advertising on super bowl commercials. They are searching for categories, women’s shoes. That is pretty broad, so let’s narrow it down a bit. Women’s dress shoes. If there is a specific brand, you’ll want to use that.
You’ll want a list of about 10-15 keywords or keyword phrases, and you want to change them up for each page. THEN, you will want to add those not only under your keywords and metatags and description areas, you will also want to write some extra readable sentences containing those keywords to be added into the content (text) of those pages. You must have those in your text or search engines will ignore them.
Providing a list that you’ve worked on directly to your webmaster will save a ton of time and thought.
Step 5 – Go social
New business? You’ve got to get the word out there about you. How? Well if your pockets are deep, TV commercials, radio ads, newspaper and magazines, print media mailed out to your target demographics… but if you are not Bill Gates, you need to think a bit smaller and that leads you to social media? Do you want to utilize twitter, FaceBook, or LinkedIn? I can connect these to your website. I can also mimic the look of these accounts to reflect your website and brand.
The problem with this step is the need to keep it going and updated. If I set it up and you don’t have me, an assistant or even yourself keep them updated, they will go stagnant and you won’t be found. But if your intention is to get the word out about your product this is a great way to start. Figure out where your customers hang out and focus your time there.
So there you have it – the 5 steps to prepare for your next website project. Gather all of that content, place it on a thumb drive to give to your webmaster or upload it to dropbox (or for me, email it all to me). Either way, the more a website developer has to work with the better your website will be.
And yes, of course this also means if you are the one building the website, having a game plan and direction planned will definitely help when creating your site yourself. Learning a new program (especially one that will change frequently – and have a different look each time you log in) is hard enough. With a visual idea of what you want ready to go, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals much faster.
Good luck – and if you decide you DO need help, contact me: Kathleen’s Graphics. I can do it all, from creating a brand new website, fixing one you started or transferring to a new platform. Graphic design work, image modifications, social media and search engine inclusion and even training.