By Meg Dziatkiewicz
Getting a new website can be a fun, exciting and rewarding process. Your website allows you to reach more potential customers, convince them to do business with you and convert them into loyal buyers of your translation and interpreting services. In spite of the benefits, some people find the process of establishing a website stressful. It shouldn’t be. So what makes a new (or old) website effective and successful?
It is important to take a strategic approach. Nowadays, you can actively influence who visits your website, who sees your content and how you present yourself online. Building a coherent, trustworthy image that will enhance and strengthen your profile as a skilled professional is essential.
Many of your competitors will have digital marketing strategies. To stay ahead, you need to educate yourself on the marketing tools that best suit you and your business. Shifting your mindset to an informed and collaborative approach will help everyone involved in creating your website and brand. Since setting up Websites for Translators nine years ago, I have found that the most effective websites are the ones with the most complete briefs and the most dedicated owners. Here are a few key elements that you should understand before starting the website design process.
Know your purpose
Understanding your target audience is basic to any marketing strategy, and I strongly recommend defining it before you embark on website design. Knowing the area of specialisation you want to target, and the people in the industry you would like to attract, helps steer the focus of your marketing actions. Specialising in a few key areas and targetting a specific audience will not automatically discourage people from approaching you for other types of translation. So craft your website towards your ideal audience but add appropriate sections for the general tasks that you are also able to do.
Outlining your goals and preparing to achieve them will help you get there faster. If your aim is to create a small boutique agency but you are starting as a freelancer, begin shaping your texts and approach so they give the desired impression to potential clients and can be adjusted as your business grows.
Understanding your unique selling point is also vital. The USP has been a topic of many heated debates in the freelance translation and interpreting world in recent years, but a USP doesn’t have to be revolutionary. Draw inspiration from your skills, experience and anything else that helps you show clients that you are the right person for the job.
It is important to get the right balance between content and design. A well-designed website with very basic content that hasn’t been proofread, or a well-crafted text with an ugly design, will probably not be effective. It is important to adapt your content to the needs and wants of visitors. Use short sections, lists, headings and key phrases, and avoid using large chunks of text (who has time to read them?). Emphasise the important information by making it highly visible – key facts, such as your contact details and language pairs, should be easy to spot.
The finished product should be aesthetic, easy on the eye, appealing to your target audience and functional. Basic design tips include consistency of quality and design across all pages, attractive photography, a lot of white space, giving space to important content and sticking to your brand colours.
Attention to detail
Key details can be forgotten while ensuring good content and design. Make sure the website is responsive – it needs to look good and perform well on many devices and screen sizes. Do what you can to speed it up. This will depend on many contributing factors, such as a visitor’s internet connection and your host server, but make sure you’ve done all you can with the tools available.
Adapt to industry practice insights. Currently, this means getting ready for voice search, which is starting to overtake traditional searches. Think about keywords and phrases that people would use when talking to their phones. You could use those to adapt your SEO (search engine optimisation) meta titles and descriptions, or to write relevant blog posts that answer potential client searches.
Working on your SEO is essential. The more you optimise the content and structure of your website for SEO while it’s new, the more effective it will be for your business. To get started, research keywords that people use when searching for your type of services and include them in your headings and content. Relevant content gets ranked higher, so make sure you are writing for actual people who will be interested. Writing blog/news posts can help. If you are using a content management system (CMS), such as Joomla, WordPress or Wix, you can use smart plugins (or extensions) that will guide you through basic SEO set-up and help with text optimisation by providing useful suggestions and guidelines.
Be sure to write relevant meta titles and descriptions for each page. Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console for faster indexing, and consider paying for search advertising, such as Google Ads. Work on getting high-quality back-links to your website, which might mean writing guest posts on other websites and having guest posts on yours, or writing industry articles to be published elsewhere.
Put your website to work
Once you’ve launched your new website, don’t just leave it there; have a strategy for post-launch marketing. A new website is an occasion for introducing your business to new clients and reintroducing it to old ones, and a good excuse to become more active in your target market’s industry. A website is made to be updated, expanded and moulded into a tool that works for its owner, so don’t be afraid to use it.
What to remember after the launch:
• Update your website regularly – keep an eye on the latest updates to keep it healthy and secure.
• Don’t forget to renew your services on time. Foolproof your hosting and domain subscriptions by setting up email reminders when they are due to expire. Keep regular backups so you can restore the website if you do miss a deadline.
• Keep improving as your business evolves – add testimonials, portfolio entries and photos from assignments (taking care to maintain confidentiality). Make sure everything is current and up to date in order to instil trust and encourage potential clients to contact you.
• Try different campaigns to find the ones that work best for you – a personalised email campaign targeted at potential contacts might be useful to your market, or a Google Ads promotion for certain keywords might be more be effective.
Your website should serve as the core of your integrated marketing communications. Once you have it, treat it as your front office and an integral part of your business. The person who knows the business best is you, and even if you hire professionals to guide you, only you can make the final decisions. Being aware of how things work, what the market – and your competitors – are doing, and what you want to achieve with your business and online presence, are key to the success of this versatile marketing tool.