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“We need a website.”

It seems like such a simple statement. But, in fact, the correct response to the situation depends on a wide range of variables.

Think about how you want your website to fit into your marketing program as a whole:

• Is the purpose of your website to provide basic information about your business to potential customers? In that case, you may just need a simple website with basic information and contact info.

‚Ä¢ Are you trying to attract business leads?¬†If so, you’ll need ample content ‚Äì the more the better. You’ll want to keep the site updated frequently, as well.

• Do you want to make your site useful for visitors? In this case, you may want to consider interactive tools.

• Do you expect significant traffic from smart phones? Of course, having a mobile version of your site would be a necessity in this instance.

‚Ä¢ Is social media an important part of your marketing program?¬†Then you’ll likely want to integrate Facebook, Twitter and other social media features into your web design.

‚Ä¢ Do you want to sell merchandise from your store?¬†Then you’ll need a shopping cart application.

In most cases, what you get from your website is directly proportional to what you put into it. The time and resources devoted to designing, developing and maintaining an attractive, useful and frequently updated website do indeed pay-off.

Keep in mind, talent and experience count. After all, anybody who’s ever created a WordPress blog can call themselves a website developer. But it takes a lot of training to be able to handle features that go beyond the typical template approach to website building. And simple web development mistakes can easily undermine your web presence, especially when it comes to search engine optimization. (Don’t be too quick to dismiss the importance of good SEO for your website: When it comes to search engine traffic, 95% of non-branded website visits come from the first page of search results. If you’re not on page 1, you’re missing out on a whole lot of click-throughs.)

Our advice: If you’re looking for a company to build a website for you, do your due diligence. Check out several recent websites they’ve created. Ask for references from clients. Make sure you’ll have access to a content management system so that you can make basic updates to the website yourself. And be sure you’ll be getting access to analytics data, preferably Google Analytics reports. We’d recommend doing a few basic search engine tests to make sure their websites are showing up as they should, too.

And here’s an easy way to weed out the good web design firms from all the others: Look at their website. If¬†their¬†website looks dated and dull, what are the chances that the website the build for you will be any better? Slim to none.