Ten ways to make your website stand out from the rest...
Whatever business you're in, these days clients expect you to have a website. And if you're in the media industry, in particular - perhaps you are setting up a freelance writer - editors will often google to find out more about you. But how with so many sites do you make yours stand out ...?
Find your own style
With the competition on the internet it is more important than ever to create a website that is different. Yes, it might seem an impossible task - that everything has already been done. But if you are going to succeed on the crowded world of Google, you need to develop your own niche. So think up a strong logo, experiment with a different style of writing, colours and fonts which your rivals don't use and create a new way of presenting you.
Personalise your site
Most people automatically click on the 'about' button on a site - and I believe it the vast majority of people want to know who runs it, especially if they are considering commissioning work from you. Obviously if you've a big portfolio of past work, people can be directed to it. But when you write your bio, really think about what makes you different. It might be you write in a particular niche or specialise in a certain type of film or writing. If you are a lot older - or younger - than the average author, say that. If you left school at 16 - or went to Oxbridge - include that information. People coming to your site will appreciate being able to see the real person behind it.
Avoid the hard sell - and music
Even if you are a site with lots of traffic, sticking too many adverts all over your site can just make it look spammy. Similarly, too much obvious hard sales talk can look 'too good to be true' and have visitors to your site clicking off it just as fast. Reputation is all online and the last thing you want to look like is a website that will con you out of money. And another thing - putting your favourite music on your site is a generally also a no-no and best avoided.
Google can't 'read' pictures
Study Search Engine Optimisation. For example, minimal sites with photos and little text might look cool, but bear in mind Google can't read a picture. Google is a clever little Bot. However, it loves words - lots of them preferably, especially well written ones with key words explaining what you're about sprinkled throughout. And it also likes links from other sites - especially if they come from relevant ones to yours - as that tells Google others also give you their stamp of approval. And enough relevant links from non-spammy websites will push you higher up the search engine rankings.
Consider a blog
Many web specialists advise having a blog on your website that you can update regularly with news. Alternatively you can have a separate blog and link to your site. There are pros and cons with both. If you have a blog on your business site, it will be a constant source of fresh content which others can link to and therefore should increase visitors to your site. The negative is, as it is your business site, it could inhibit what you blog about - in this case a separate blog might be better for you. Tip: if you find it hard to regularly post on any blog, then get rid of it. Contrary to some opinions, although it's often said Google loves 'fresh content' you don't have to have a constantly updated blog on your site to rank well in Google. And nothing looks worse to a visitor than a blog where the last entry was dated six months ago...
Ensure spelling and grammar are perfect
Nothing looks more unprofessional than a poorly written site. There is no excuse for not using a spellcheck or asking a friend to read your copy if you know your writing isn't up to scratch - or, for that matter, verbally giving a website copywriter the info and letting a professional craft the copy for you. And keep things consistent throughout your site - for example, don't use one font on one page and an entirely different one on another.
Don't forget contact information
Every so often I still stumble on a website or blog where there is no obvious point of contact. Equally irritating are sites that give you letters or numbers to 'guess' to prove you are a person. Quite often I've had to ask other people in the office to give their guess too for some sites, which are akin to hieroglyphics. Other oddities are people who write their email contact as 'alisondotatfeatureworlddotcodotuk' Accept if you go on line you must at least provide a form (without a bizarre Captcha) and preferably a clickable email as well - and yes, you will get some spam. But at least you won't have lost an inquiry and all you have to do is delete it.
Provide what your visitor wants
When people visit a website, they are looking for information. Try to look at your website from a visitor's point of view. What would you want to know? Then be honest and try your best to answer the main questions and provide in a simple and honest way. Adding Google stats to your site will also help you gain valuable insight into which pages everyone clicks off and those successful pages visitors stay on.
A word about awards
Putting awards that you or your business have gained can add credibility to your site. But be careful. Ideally they are not an award that you have bought and they are relevant. Also too many scattered around can actually be confused with advertising and make your site look cluttered and even spammy.
Use it as a portfolio
If you are a freelance writer, show off your work in a portfolio page. If you are writing a book, you could also consider putting a sample chapter on one page for people to read. Or if you are in the middle of writing a book, why not give visitors updates about how you are getting on? Put something on your website that encourages visitors to visit you again.
Finally... a website is never finished
A website is a constant work in progress. Too many people commission a website and then sit back, believing that is all they have to do. But to rank well in the organic listings (obviously you can rank well for a price if you advertise on Google Pay Per Click) you will constantly have to pay attention to your website. Remember, it will need updating, you will need to find new links to your site and you do need to regularly review the information to ensure it is fresh and still relevant to visitors.
About Alison Smith-Squire
Alison is a media agent who runs sell my story website Featureworld giving free advice to ordinary people who want to sell a story to the press.
Alison also edits the online Magazine, sellyourstoryuk.com giving more tips and advice to bloggers, writers, novelists, small businesses - and anyone who wants to increase their profile...