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Agile Computing: Blog Post

Small Business Essentials: Why You Should Never Finish Your Website

Build Your Website With Your Small Business Essentials

If you're running a small business, it can sometimes seem that creating a website and handling online marketing consume an awful lot of your time.

You may also be getting bombarded with emails warning that your SEO is inadequate, your security isn't up to scratch, or you'd be doing much better business on the Internet if you used the help of someone from the other side of the globe.

When you're dealing with pressure from customers on the one hand, and suppliers and bankers on the other, it can seem like the best course is to get your website finished and forget about it -- thankful that at least one job's out of the way.

Not done, but dead

The first problem with that solution is how your site will appear to search engines. Google recently released another update that could change the way your site ranks. It's the kind of thing they do every few months or so and, unless you employ full-time SEO personnel, you may not have heard about it.

An underlying message in all updates over the last few years is that Google's looking for fresh, relevant, high-quality content: a site that's growing and regularly providing pertinent new information to visitors. The impact on companies that think their website is "finished" is clear. Those sites aren't done; they're dead!

The second problem is the explosive growth of "mobile." A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that more than half of all US adults have a smartphone. More than 35% own a tablet computer.

Mobile search follows a different set of rules and can generate different results. While you might not be penalized directly, sites that deliver a better mobile-user experience will rank higher than you.

It gets worse. If it was designed for desktop browsers, then even if mobile users do find your site, they probably won't be able to view or use it properly.

A fresh approach, using current skills

In a recent article aimed at B2B marketers (but worth a read whatever kind of business you're in), Josh James, CEO of Domo said, "it's never too late to turn your website into a high-performing sales and marketing asset."

Which is certainly good news if yours is languishing in the lower reaches of Google's, Yahoo's, or Bing's search results. But does that mean you've got to write off your investment so far and start over? Or is there a more cost-effective solution?

It's not something you can do overnight. Building an effective web presence that can handle virtually constant change takes time. Despite what some self-appointed Internet gurus would like you to believe, there's no magic bullet.

Short-term tricks that fool search engines are invariably unmasked eventually. If your site is using them, you'll simply get banned -- permanently.

The good news is, you almost certainly understand everything you need to do already. You know the importance of the customer, about interacting, about engendering loyalty. Nobody stays in business very long without these skills. You just need to take your offline activities online; and it needn't be as difficult or expensive as it might seem.

Responsive and collaborative

Using responsive design for your website will allow you to present the same message to people whatever device they use ... and you'll appeal to the search engines at the same time. If it's too costly or impractical to change your site in one hit, consider running a blog alongside it first, then migrating.

Programs like WordPress and its competitors can run as a standalone blog -- a responsive medium that encourages user involvement -- and grow into full-blown sites over time.

What's more, these content management systems (CMS) have a relatively simple underlying structure. Adding more material can be as easy as using a word processor. You may want to employ a web professional to do the initial installation, but once established it can become a collaborative effort.

You can handle updates yourself, get task management to do it, or outsource additional content creation in bite-sized pieces that have negligible impact on your budget.

What you end up with is a site that your customers regard as fully functional, no matter how they accessed it. What the search engines see is a dynamic, content-driven website that's constantly adding value. What you see is that high-performing sales and marketing asset we mentioned earlier.

More Stories By Drew Hendricks

Drew Hendricks is a writer, as well as a tech, social media and environmental enthusiast, living in San Francisco. He is a contributing writer at Forbes, Technorati and The Huffington Post.

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