Is Your Website a Beautiful “Hotel Nowhere?”

Lately it seems I’ve been explaining to more and more people about Internet Marketing. You see, for some reason, folks think that IM (Internet Marketing) is really all about putting up a great looking website. It’s not – it’s so much more than that.

In fact, although a website is a crucial piece in the online marketing puzzle, you can still beat the best-looking website with great online marketing. And what still surprises me is after all the education, all the articles, all the proof, people still think, “If you build it (better) they will come!”

Sorry to disappoint folks – but that’s a dangerous assumption.

— Just Do It Over

For instance, I was just speaking with a prospective client; they were explaining to me their newly developed site was not working for them as they had hoped. During their explanation, they told me they had a ‘solution’ for their problem – they were going to replace all or part of the site with Flash elements.

I politely explained to them Flash wasn’t necessarily going to solve their problem and what they had on their hands was a beautiful ‘Hotel Nowhere’ website, lost in the Internet Wilderness. A ‘do over’ wasn’t going to solve their problems. Permit me to explain my analogy – I think you’ll like it.

— Hotel Nowhere 101

A Hotel Nowhere website is beautifully designed one, it may have some Flash animation, perhaps some cool rollover images, maybe even active menu buttons that pop up and disappear as you move across them. It’s likely to have shading and other graphical elements that are visually appealing. And it’s probably got some words written on it too…but they’re secondary to the ‘look.’

The #1 problem with these types of websites (and some are not as bad as the image I painted above) is that they all suffer the same affliction…

They’ve been built in the middle of the Internet Wilderness!

Now let’s think about this for a moment. What good does it do to knock down your nice shiny new ‘Hotel Nowhere’ website and build another one in the same spot if no one knew about the last one?

If your Hotel Nowhere website is ‘out there’, how do you expect people to find you? A real hotel needs roads leading up to the hotel, it has tour guides, maps, TV shows promoting vacations at the resort, radio adverts telling people about the next special, advertising in the nearby towns, agents and reps out there talking it up and generally promoting it and creating buzz.

In other words, your ‘Hotel Nowhere’ (your website) needs to be promoted and connected to the rest of the world AFTER it’s been built. Simply knocking it down and building another is a waste of time!

— Going from Room to Room

If we continue the Hotel analogy, you need to know your lobby is your main page (usually index.html or default.html) and it’s where guests arrive once they’ve been brought to your hotel. By the way, the bus or coach analogy is a good one for search engines – think traffic and you’ll start to see the imagery.

So you have people in your lobby. If you expect them to stay you’d better give them a darn good reason to ‘stick’ around. And if you want them to explore your hotel you need to give them a map. Oh yes, and more importantly, you will need to ensure that they can get from room (page) to room.

It sounds goofy, but many sites are built with no ‘doors’. A door is a link between pages. I know, you think that I’m wrong – sure You can click on the button and be taken to a page. But did I tell you that search engines are visually impaired?

They don’t see the picture buttons or the image maps like you do; they look for text so they can ‘read’ it. If your doors are not described via text links too, you can expect a lobby full of visitors for about 2 seconds before they get back on the bus and leave.

— Going from Hotel Nowhere to Hotel Somewhere

Building the site should be the second phase of the project – the first phase should have been creating the architectural Internet Marketing plan. However, this is often not the case and the I.M Architect (consultant) is usually ONLY called once the client realizes they have a ‘Hotel Nowhere’ website on their hands!

The good news is that even if you have done things ‘backwards,’ it can be remedied quite easily, and a good I.M Architect (consultant) can work with your designer and other web resources directing them accordingly for proper changes.

In addition, a good I.M Architect will also help you develop other strategies and tactics for connecting your website to the rest of the world and into your overall Internet Marketing plan. Then, and only then, will you start to significant differences. Your once Nowhere website will have become a found Somewhere site.

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