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Monica Green 2016

Why a well-built website is your most powerful PR tool

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a hardline e-commerce company or a small family business; your website is your opportunity to create the perfect ‘shop window’ for what you do, and it’s the ideal place to lead people who have read your social media posts and online media coverage so they can learn more about you.

“But our website’s fine!” I hear you cry, outraged. “It looks great, and it contains all the important information about what my business does. What else do you want?”

This might sound blunt, but there’s a harsh truth to be learned about web development: you aren’t the one who decides whether your website is working well for you.

Your website might be built with a stunning design theme, or feature the best photography in the business. It might have a gorgeous branded colour scheme, or a fabulous page layout, or even an embedded microsite for one of your product lines or services. But let’s be completely honest – how much does any of that matter if it isn’t encouraging your customers to do what you want them to do? And, from a PR perspective, is it doing your brand any good to send customers to a company website which won’t serve them as well as it should?

Here at The Partners Group, when we suggest that a client overhauls their website it has little to do with our own aesthetic preferences; it’s because the available data tells us exactly how it could be performing better. We don’t just guess what your site visitors want; we segment your target audience and ascertain their wants and needs, then assess how they currently interact with your website to identify areas for improvement.

So, why might we recommend giving your website a refresh?

To create a more navigable structure
We all know how frustrating it is to go into a shop, whether just to browse or with a specific purchase in mind, only to realise that the layout makes it impossible to work out where to find the thing you’re after. Only too often it’s a similar story with commercial websites: a sitemap that makes perfect sense from a business perspective might be utterly bewildering for customers; or perhaps the way you’ve categorised your products isn’t particularly intuitive to navigate if the user doesn’t know exactly what they want yet.

Pay attention to your data. If there’s a trend towards your site visitors behaving in a certain way, chances are that this is at least partly a result of its architecture. For example, the User Flow tool in Google Analytics highlights regular browsing patterns: if users are repeatedly looping through the same set of pages, this can be a sign that they can’t find the information they’re after in the current structure. Similarly, if a particular page gets a lot of traffic but has a high bounce rate then spend some time considering why this might be: what’s encouraging people to visit it but then driving them away?

To define a stronger pitch
Creating compelling copy is about more than just saying some nice things about your business; a well-written website is your ultimate tool for converting leads.

We’ve seen many a business website filled with beautifully-crafted text which just isn’t doing its job because it doesn’t outline the business’s premise clearly enough, or gets wrapped up in impenetrable technical jargon. I once came across a homepage where the author was so concerned about making their business sound professional and competent that they’d forgotten to actually name the service it provided. Simple things like this can have a surprisingly great impact on users’ browsing behaviour.

As a bunch of ardent wordsmiths, we love sitting down with clients to help them define their brand messages and tone of voice, and this is something we particularly try to apply to their websites. Before we write anything, we identify the key message for each page, then ascertain who it’s targeting and what stage of the conversion process they’re at: will they just be sizing up their options at this point, or do they practically have their wallets out already?

We also place a great deal of emphasis on not leaving your audience hanging once they’ve read a page, but encouraging them to complete an action or compelling them to keep browsing rather than navigating away. Whether that’s sending them directly to a product or service page or encouraging them to sign up to your company newsletter, a call to action is a vital yet oft-forgotten element of a business’s web copy – and we try never to forget it.

To prepare your site for the future
You’re probably aware by now that it’s best practice for websites to be responsive (designed to adapt for mobile and tablet browsing), but did you know that search engines are now actively prioritising responsive websites’ rankings over more traditionally-designed pages? Though some trends in development seem like they’ll never catch on, it pays to stay abreast of current best practice – six or seven years ago mobile browsing was still a bit of a novelty; by the end of 2017 it’s estimated* that mobile users will make up more than 70% of e-commerce transactions.

Keeping a website up to date with best practice isn’t nearly as much of a chore as it used to be, and doesn’t have to involve overhauling it every year. Advances in web development mean that updating a website in 2017 is less about replacing what came before and more about ‘futureproofing’ what’s already there, working with versatile platforms that will be updated to accommodate changes in best practice as they occur.

We want to make sure that our clients are in the best position possible to reap the benefits of the fertile digital climate we live in. Whether that’s a quick copy rewrite or a full restructure of your sitemap, our aim is to help make your website your most powerful PR tool.

Interested in our web development, SEO and copywriting services visit www.partners-group.co.uk or call 01904 610077.

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