New to the bridal business?
Here’s ten tips for your website.
Starting a new business is very much like an exciting yet hair-raising fairground ride. You’ve incubated an idea that has started to grow and take on a life of its own, but you’re also investing money in the hope that it will provide you with a profitable business (and a decent livelihood, and nice holidays in foreign lands) in return. There’s the tricky part. With all this expenditure, what the heck do you invest in? What’s a luxury, and what’s a necessity? What needs to be purchased now, and what can wait until things are up and running?
And here’s the thing. A decent website should be very close to the top of your list of necessities. Now before you sniff and say ‘well you would say that, you’re a web designer!’, let me back myself up here. The average age of a first time bride is 29, and she won’t remember a time when the internet didn’t exist. If your company doesn’t have a presence on the web, you’re missing out. Quite dramatically. After all, brides carry the internet in their pocket and whip it out to answer any and all questions at the touch of a screen.
So here’s a few pointers and tips on creating a web presence that I hope will help drive your business to the Land of Profit.
1. Design, design, design
You may agree that a website is a good idea, but think that how it looks doesn’t matter too much as long as it gets the message across. Actually, on the web (like everywhere else) good design sells. Researchers have found that people make decisions about a company in just a 20th of a second of viewing a webpage. A 20th of a second! You literally have milliseconds to convince visitors to stay put on your website rather than click off and find some other, more aesthetically appealing bridal shop.
Make that first contact a lovely experience. Your website should conjure up a similar feeling to the one a bride gets when she walks into your new, sparkling showroom. You want to do your best to make a bride feel the digital equivalent of sinking into luxurious carpet while breathing in the scent of sea crystal candles.
2. Call to Action
What’s the point of the website? Is it generating email leads? Getting brides to phone? Selling accessories online? Deciding what your website goals are and what you hope to achieve are ground floor, fundamental aspects to a successful site. Then make sure your website provides an easy path to achieving those goals.
Email leads require a contact form that is easily accessible. Getting phone calls requires putting a telephone number in an obvious spot. Selling accessories requires advertising those accessories throughout the rest of your site. You get the picture.
3. Be mobile ready
New websites need to cater to mobiles since a vast amount of internet use is now done on smartphones. You require something magical called responsive web design.
The idea is that the website resizes up or down appropriately to whatever device the bride is using. So it will look subtly different on desktop, tablet and mobile, but will work well on all three. It’s like a pair of jeans that fits anybody. See? Magic.
4. Good content
The best content is written in an everyday conversational style. Imagine you’re sitting down opposite somebody who knows nothing about your business and filling them in with a bit of a chat. Do that. Write like that. Keep it informal, friendly and chatty.
As a general rule, use short sentences and short paragraphs. Paragraphs are best kept to about 2-4 sentences. Keep sentences around 25 words or less. This makes online writing much easier to read.
Make your content personal. Brides like to know who they’re dealing with before they roll up to a shop. So make sure your About us page really is about you and your company. Tell them why you’re in bridal. There is nothing nicer than a company that is actually passionate about what they do.
5. Lovely images
Images play a crucial role in whether your website looks nice or like something hit with an ugly stick. If you want to portray your showroom in the best light possible, invest in a photographer. Fuzzy smartphone images are unappealing.
The bridal industry is lucky enough to be showered with beautiful images from designers on a six-monthly to yearly basis, so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
If your image requirements are a little more generic, there are also some spectacular free images available online from reputable websites like unsplash.com, www.pexels.com, and pixabay.com. There’s also lots of regular stock image sites where you pay a small fee to use an image, such as www.shutterstock.com.
6. Social Media
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that maintaining a presence on social media is important with today’s brides. Facebook and Instagram are vital, and Twitter is useful too. But it’s also important to make sure your website is linking off to social media as well as your social media linking back to your website.
You can promote Instagram by a simple link, or by embedding your Instagram photos into your website. If you have nice pictures on Instagram, this can look pretty amazing, but again – shaky smartphone images will look sub-par.
Search Engine Optimisation is a whole topic of its own, but there a few boxes to tick that will help your site rank properly on search engines.
Set up a Google Local Listing. This will mean that if anybody searches for “bridal shop, your area”, you will appear in the search results on a map with other bridal shops.
Mention your area and the keywords you want to rank for in your website content. So if you’re a bridal shop based in Dudley, be sure to mention Dudley, West Midlands, Bridal Shop and Wedding Dresses in your copy, as naturally as possible. Don’t go crazy and mention it 20 times as you’ll be penalised for something called ‘keyword stuffing’.
You also need to make sure your keywords appear in your title tags. That’s slightly technical but very doable – there is lots of information available online about how to do this.
If at all possible, invest time in blogging. You’ll organically grow your website, and make it more of an authority on Google. The larger your website, the more power you’ll wield with search engines.
Invest in a security certificate. Not only does Google now consider SSL as part of its ranking algorithm, browsers are starting to flag up websites to users that are ‘insecure’. An SSL certificate is also a good idea for GDPR.
Have caching enabled on your website. Technical nitty gritties aside, caching will make your website fast, and fast websites get big ticks from search engines.
Image compression will also help with speeding up your website, but try to restrict your use of huge images to begin with.
GDPR, that nightmarish acronym causing sleepless nights across the country. As you’ll be aware, GDPR has been set up to protect personal data, and as a company you need to be seen to be doing your bit. So how do you cover yourself with your website?
9. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a wonderful tool available for free. It requires embedding into your website and uses something called cookies. It’s also fiendishly complicated. But if you can muddle your way through, you’ll be able to glean information about who visited your website, what device they were using, their location, how long they stayed, the pages they visited, and even whether they used your contact form.
This type of information is powerful as you’ll be able to find out whether your website and search engine optimisation is working well or otherwise.
10. Your website is an ongoing project
Keep in mind that your newly launched website is just the start. It’s a dynamic beast that will change and grow with your business. When you review your business goals, make sure your website is still meeting them. Keep it up to date with news and your latest collections – it’s worth investing the time and effort.
Remember that web design is like wedding fashion – styles change, and you’ll need to invest in a redesign a few years down track to avoid looking out-dated.