Business bests: Creating winning websites

Photo: PixabayPhoto: Pixabay

An expert gives the dos and don’ts of creating a website that will deliver results and clients.

Andy Crestodina

Word of mouth is the time-tested way to acquire new clients for your business, but don’t underestimate the importance of your website. We asked Andy Crestodina, strategic director at Orbit Media Studios in Chicago, to discuss the essentials of what makes a great website for landscapers.

Crestodina’s experience includes over 11 years of working on a diverse range of business models and interactive projects where he aligns client’s goals with the most effective web-marketing techniques. He says he continually consults with clients on what is possible, how to do it and if it’s a good idea. In other words, he approaches web marketing with a sense of what’s realistic and effective.

Crestodina likes this website because it communicates essentials immediately.

What’s the one thing you have to say to landscapers who don’t have a website?

Pretend you’re a potential client looking for landscape services. Check Google and see what your next customer is seeing.

People are looking for services online (don’t you?), so you are at a huge competitive disadvantage if you don’t have a website. Over the long run, it’s the least expensive, most compelling type of marketing you will ever have.

What’s the most important function of a website for a landscaping company & how do you know if it’s working?

Two things: to show great pictures and provide a simple contact form. Even if the website design isn’t amazing, you need to have large, beautiful photos of your work to convince people of your capabilities. Gather up your best photos.

Next, you need an easy way for potential customers to reach you. I recommend a contact form that is short and sweet: name, phone number, email address, message. Don’t ask for too much in the form.

These two factors combine to create your “conversion rate,” which is the percentage of visitors who become leads. It’s easy to measure in Google Analytics. A 1-percent conversion rate is low. A 3-percent conversion rate is high.

Where do most website projects go wrong?

Delays! A lot of companies get stuck on the process of building the site. They attach so much emotion to tiny details that they miss the big picture.

A lot of companies delay getting the design process started, and once they begin, they delay launching the site because they want to make it perfect. But no website is ever finished. They’ll change, adapt and get updated forever after. There is more value in going live with something good than spending additional weeks or months trying to make it great. The best day to launch a new site is the first day it’s better than the old site.

Can you cite an example of a great landscaping website?

I like the Dig Right In website.

The theme and grassy background make it immediately obvious that you’re at a landscaping site (it’s critical to communicate quickly).

There are beautiful photos on the home page (again, pictures sell). It lists the areas this company works in, along with the types of projects they do.

The contact form is simple (maximizing the conversion rate.)

What is SEO & how do I get it?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it’s the art and science of ranking high in search engines. It’s about picking the right target phrases and confirming people are indeed searching for them and there isn’t too much competition. Next, you need to have a page for each phrase, and use that phrase in certain ways on those pages: titles, headers and the body text. Lastly, it’s important to link between pages on your site and use the target key phrases in the links themselves. In other words, when you link to your landscape architecture page from other pages on your site, that link should say “landscape architecture” and not “click here.” Even more important is to get links back to you from other sites, starting with directories. SEO is a big topic, but that’s a quick summary of the main points.

Are social media sites like Facebook and Twitter worth cultivating & tying into my site?

Twitter is useful for a huge number of businesses. It’s a great tool for having conversation and making connections, just like a telephone. I don’t recommend putting an intern in charge of your Twitter account, unless he or she is managed by an expert. But as the business owner, I recommend experimenting with this channel. It can be a lot of fun. Facebook is especially relevant for businesses targeting consumers (B2C). It’s not as useful for businesses targeting other businesses (B2B). For B2B companies, I recommend LinkedIn.

Social media is like gardening. Plant seeds, and grow it slowly. Give your network some rain and sunshine, and someday, you’ll reap the rewards.

What do I look for when hiring a web developer to create a site for my business?

A good web designer understands the differences between graphic design and web design. In other words, they think about search engine friendliness, user friendliness and ease of updates.

Print designers really don’t think about these things. If a site is missing any of these, the results are never as good.

Search friendliness affects traffic. User friendliness affects conversions, and ease of updates determines the ongoing costs for making changes to the site.

A great web designer is passionately focused on all three.

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