Not so many years ago, businesses didn’t need to worry about having a website at all. Then they realised it was essential to be found on the Internet, and reproduced their brochures as static web pages.

The first web developers were mostly techie, and created sites that worked but maybe didn’t look very pretty. Then creative web designers got involved, and built sites that looked great but maybe weren’t as effective as they could be. For example, splash pages coded in Flash that can’t be read by search engines or on mobiles, and that meant one extra click for human visitors before they can even enter the site, which of course is an opportunity to lose them.

Now, web marketers and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) experts influence site design to ensure the structure is simple and easy to navigate, the code compliant, the layout clean and clear, and the copy informative, keyword-rich and with strong calls-to-action.

With the explosion of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn since 2009, businesses need to include ‘added value’ content as well as ‘salesy’ content, in the hope that it will be shared throughout the social media community.

So now it’s important to have a blog as well as, or even instead of, a website. This keeps the content fresh and helps with SEO, as well as demonstrating your brand personality and proving your expertise to human visitors.

What’s more, clients are increasingly demanding the right to do their own updates without paying professionals every time something changes, so Content Management Systems (CMS) and blog sites built on platforms such as WordPress or Joomla are increasingly popular.

But even that is changing.

As a business, you want to get found on search, and Google is still the number 1 search engine, with YouTube (owned by Google) as number 2.

Google launched Google+ in June 2011, with business pages from November 2011 and ‘Search Plus Your World’ in January 2012. This new personal search option means that Google will return different search results when you’re logged in, based on the +1s of you and your network. That’s why Google wants to know you you’re connected with, so it’s wise to open a Google+ account and start putting your friends into ‘circles’. And it’s why you need to be clicking the +1 button on all the web pages you like from now on.

So what’s coming next?

Small businesses should take a lesson from the world’s biggest brands. Their websites don’t even try to sell to new customers these days. Instead, they offer interaction to increase the loyalty of their existing customer base. For example, Innocent Drinks has a whack-a-mole-style game where you smash fruit with a mallet to fill a juice carton.

You can use ideas like this to inspire your own website. Express your unique brand personality to filter out anyone who’s not your target market, add video to keep site visitors engaged, and include games and added-value content for sharing.

For help with your web and social media content, email me or phone 0845 899 0258.

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