It’s hard to deny it’s an online world these days, and agriculture is no exception! How often do you find yourself talking with a friend who recently heard about a new product or a great operation, and you immediately Google it on your phone or at least write it down to look up later? Odds are it happens almost every day, and your potential customers are no exception to this recurring experience. This alone is reason enough to believe you, too, need an effective website. Websites have often been referenced as the handshake of the digital world – a way for people to instantly access and connect with you and your business – so you want to ensure it’s a great first impression!
But what makes an effective website?
Design and Functionality
Possibly one of the most important aspects of your website is its design. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” doesn’t come into play when customers first see your site. First visual impressions are everything, and the visual quality of your site will translate into their opinion regarding the quality of your products. This includes using consistent branding throughout (think fonts and colors) as well as high-quality images that serve a purpose by complementing or enhancing your content and representing your product.
The site should also have an easy-to-navigate, user-friendly design so visitors can quickly find what they’re looking for. This includes optimizing your site for mobile use. According to Statista, 50% of website traffic worldwide is from mobile devices. You’ll want your website to be just as impressive and informational, regardless of where customers are viewing it. Also, while many cool website features exist in the design world, be sure you’re not compromising overall speed for a flashy look. With many of your customers likely living in rural areas, internet speeds aren’t exactly lightning fast. A customer is most likely to explore your website if it’s easy to navigate and they’re not having to wait for slow pages to load.
Once the initial visual impression has been made on your site, content is what actually tells your business’s story. While providing informational and educational content – such as a blog – is a really great way to improve your website, starting with the basics such as “About” and “Contact” pages are must haves.
You’ll also want to include pages that showcase your product. This can be anything from a sale-specific page – where you provide details about your upcoming sale, including the offering, schedule of events, a link to the online catalog and videos – to an online storefront for the local meat you sell. An effective website allows the majority of your customers to find exactly the information they’re looking for, while providing those with more specific questions the ability to easily contact you for more information. When developing content for your site, you’ll want to include keywords that your customers are likely to search for in order to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and improve your search engine ranking.
With an effective website in place, it’s easy to forget or put off the need to update it … but it’s equally as important to stay up to date!
New websites are popping up every day, so you want to make sure you’re staying relevant in search engines by updating your site. Search engines perform regular updates, making it a priority to list more relevant, new pages first. You don’t want your site to fall down the rankings and become hard to find for potential customers. Even if you’re not maintaining a blog, updating keywords on your main pages or creating/updating event pages on a regular basis can help keep your site fresh. Don’t forget to update your contact/team page as well and include any newly hired employees.
Maintain Your Credibility
You’ve worked hard to build your reputation, both online and off, so ensuring your website is up to date continues to show you care. Keeping customers informed keeps them coming back for more. Items to update include your site content, including dates for upcoming events, any changes to your business or policies and overall design, as needed, to maintain site speed and ease of use. Other items that need updating, but can be easily overlooked, are third-party resources such as plug-ins used on the site. For example, if you’re using a contact form on your site that allows customers to send you an email though your contact page, you’ll want to be sure it’s updated and functioning properly so you’re always easy to get in touch with!
Leverage Your Marketing Platform
Last but not least, a website is a great, low-cost marketing platform. It can be relatively inexpensive to build and maintain an effective website, yet it’s a great way to market your business. Unlike a single advertisement, you can include anything you like on your website, just like we discussed in Why Sale Catalogs Work.
This means you can tell your story in as much detail as you’d like and be proud of your success! Include updated, relevant testimonials that show potential customers how great an experience they can expect from your products and customer service. You can advertise upcoming product launches or events on your home page and even use your updated site as content on social media. Fresh content draws attention and keeps people coming back for more!
Websites take time to build and maintain, but an effective website can make or break a first impression with new customers. You can’t personally be in front of every customer 24/7, but your website can. Make sure it’s representing you well with great design, effective functionality and up-to-date content.
Emily grew up in rural Connecticut with a passion for agriculture. She attended Texas A&M University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition. Emily has joined the BluePrint team as a designer and feature writer after previously working in feed sales and as the marketing manager for a large ranching operation in central Texas. Emily and her husband look forward to raising their family in the agricultural community they both love.