Free Tools for Entrepreneurs – Website Optimization
Topic: Entrepreneur Evangelist | Comments (2)
So far this week, we’ve covered free tools for entrepreneurs ranging from building a website in WordPress, to collaborating with your team, to taking advantage of some of Google’s lesser known products. I’ll close up this short week by circling back to your website.
Once upon a time, people assumed that once you built a website that you were done. In the world of the social web, however, even if you did build the perfect site right out of the gate (which, in more than a decade of working in this business, I have never once actually seen happen), the fact is that on-going work on your site is critical for both your users and search engines to consider your site to be an active web property, instead of just one of the millions of abandoned HTML shells sitting out in cyberspace collecting virtual cobwebs.
Another important rule of the social web is that, unlike in days gone by, it is important for businesses to remember that your web presence cannot be limited to just your own website. You need to be where your customers are, and that includes social networks. So that’s where we’ll start.
Since this topic has been the media darling of 2009, I won’t belabor the point, but the bottom line is that if you have a business, that business needs to have at least some degree of presence within social networks. Even if it’s just within LinkedIn (you can create a company profile page), it is increasingly important to ensure that you are findable. You may struggle with your own search engine optimization (SEO), but sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, SlideShare, Yelp, YouTube and Flickr don’t. Having a business presence there can help you reach customers who would never feel compelled enough to come looking for you on your company’s domain.
Note, of course, that when it comes to social networks, one size does not fit all, and that as soon as you make your business available in one of those venues, it is going to require some care and feeding on your part. So pick carefully, experiment and don’t be afraid to pull the plug if you find that it isn’t a fit. But if you do that, tell people who are engaging you there and then delete your profile. Don’t just leave an abandoned page.
At the risk of sounding like a Google junkie this week, I will come back to two of the most valuable tools for website owners: Google Analytics and Google AdWords. Google Analytics should be pretty self-explanitory, though the more you get to know the system, the more sophisticated ways you can use it over time. (Particularly when it comes to things like campaign codes, novice website owners will often start discovering a whole new world of possibilities very quickly.)
Google AdWords, however, is a tool that website owners who do not do advertising often tend to overlook. I constantly hear, “Oh, I don’t advertise online, so I don’t need it.” For starters, I wouldn’t summarily dismiss the benefit of advertising online, but even if you are not yet ready to do that, AdWords Tools has a lot of great functionality that you can use for your site, even if you are not actually flighting ads in the system yet.
Another great tool for small businesses is Compete. Compete not only lends a third party perspective to your website’s traffic numbers (always a good thing to have when possible), but even more valuable is the fact that Compete will let you compare your numbers to other sites’ as well. Plug in your own domain, and then plug in your competitor’s. It’s a great way to help you set some goals for your site traffic that are meaningful and measurable.
This is my favorite website tool of all, and it’s made by the really smart, creative marketing entrepreneurs out of MIT who built HubSpot (which has a lot of other great packages for entrepreneurs). Website Grader will not only analyze your website and give you a grade for its SEO effectiveness (down to specific elements and recommendations on fixes to make), but it also allows you to compare your site to someone else’s.
So with that, I will wrap up this week’s series on free online tools for entrepreneurs. As I mentioned earlier this week, there are a few great sites out there that cover this topic regularly and can help you stay on top of new solutions hitting the market.
I hope that you have a safe and happy New Year, and we at WorkingPoint look forward to an exciting 2010.
Alora Chistiakoff is an entrepreneur, content strategist and project manager who has been developing online business and technology for startups for more than a decade. She co-owns The Indigo Heron Group, Inc., a content strategy firm in Austin, Texas