Refresh your online presence

August 30, 2019 By    

Our website recently turned 5.

We celebrated with a cake and a review of our website’s journey. We were surprised by both how much it has changed and aged in five years.

It's time to take your fillings digital. Photo: iStock.com/andsim

It’s time to update your company’s online presence. Photo: iStock.com/andsim

Here’s what we discovered:

  • Mobile – A few years ago, we thought we made our website mobile-friendly. It mattered because about 14 percent of our website visitors came from mobile phones. Today, that number is over 85 percent, so we took a fresh look at our website on a smartphone. It wasn’t pretty. Or easy to navigate.
  • Content – We have no shortage of content, but we have a huge shortage of content that’s easy to read and of interest to our customers. Based on our website traffic since inception, customers cared about the price 22 percent of the time, our price history 16 percent of the time, service and billing about 15 percent of the time and then everything else. What they cared about was hard to read and almost never had graphs, pictures and bullet points.
  • Commerce – A large percentage of our visitors became customers, ordered gas, signed up for price protection plans and paid their bills. The year our website was born, 8.7 percent of retail sales were online. It was 14.3 percent in 2018. It’s expected to double again by 2021, driven in large part by growth in the “internet of things,” like propane deliveries. If you avoid offering e-commerce, you do so at your peril.

Our 5-year-old website needs a lot of work. Chances are yours might, too. This is where many of you groan. You just put your own website out there a few years ago and even may have hired experts to create and maintain your website for you. It probably cost thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, website content creation, hosting and management have become much easier. If you are thinking of trying to do more of the work on your own, here’s what you need to do:

 

  • Website scope – Do you want to provide information about your business and what you do, or do you want to offer e-commerce services? At a minimum, you’ll want to explain why the customer ought to spend money with you and give them a way to contact you. Customers use phone books about as often as they wash rental cars, so your website message is important.
  • Domain name – If you are happy with what you have chosen, great. If not, we recommend something short and simple. You can purchase domain names from domain registrars such as GoDaddy, Squarespace or Wix. Consider protecting extensions such as “.biz” or “.co” in addition to “.com.”
  • Web host – You can try to do this on your own with your own server, but we wouldn’t recommend it, even if you want dedicated hosting. What’s dedicated hosting? It’s where you get your own private server instead of sharing space on the server with other companies. If you already have a host, maybe it’s time to evaluate its performance. How? We did it the same way our customers evaluate us. We looked at third-party evaluations using internet search.
  • Create the content – This is the hard part. It’s the arts and crafts of the process and requires a lot of creativity. Fortunately, it does not require as much technical knowledge as it used to. All you need is a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Typo3, Serendipity, Dotclear or ImpressPages. Again, we chose our content management system using third-party evaluations.
  • Test and publish – This is tedious and time-consuming, but important. Make sure your website looks good on all of the major browsers, but especially take the time to make sure it looks good and is easy to navigate on smartphones.
  • Market and maintain – We use social and digital media to market our business because we think that’s where customers spend most of their time when they are making purchasing decisions. It’s important to be included in the propane retailers under consideration, and that’s driven in large part on where you appear in search and what you say on your website.

 

We hope to complete our website’s face-lift by the time you read this article. Of course, we’ll be flattered if you take a look, but your time might be better spent taking a fresh, hard look at your own.


Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. in Hudson, Michigan.

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