In a tough economic climate small businesses need to continuously work effectively to maintain or even gain an edge over their competitors.
As online lead, sales generation has become particularly important, many small businesses have focused on building websites that attract and sell to visitors.
Yet, according to recent studies, less than 50% of small businesses have a website.
According to Rebecca Swift, Head of Creative Planning, iStockphoto many small businesses shy away from creating a website -- they see it as time-consuming and expensive project.
Whether a small business already has a website or is planning to build one, it is important to make them effective sales generators.
Swift says small businesses need to look to communicate their brand values and unique selling propositions successfully and in this online-driven society, so an easy-to-use website with strong visuals is one key element in this process.
As Swift points out, “the visual language used on a website must represent the company’s values and connect with its customers. The imagery used by a plumbing company, for example, will be different to that used by a law firm. Each industry will have a different way of using visual language to speak to their audience.”
Looking to source an image from a selection of millions can obviously be a daunting matter, but Swift says they should consider five important aspects before making the choice.
- Purpose – what is the image for, what do you want it to say?
- Tone – it is not what you say, it is how you say it.
- Audience relevance – will your audience relate to and understand the image? Timeliness – how new is the image?
- Uniqueness – are your competitors using the same image or is it one of a kind?
According to Swift, once the most suitable images have been chosen it is crucial to make sure the website is easy to use and not cluttered.
She recommends images need to be kept simple yet clear enough to highlight what the business wants to say.
“Images are there to illustrate the company’s message rather than obscure it – they need to be there for at-a-glance comprehension,” she says.
As Swift and others have said, “in this fast-moving online world, content is essential, and creating quality content on a regular basis is the most effective way to attract and retain website traffic.”
Furthermore, search ranking will increase by having an active website and will encourage customers to spend more time reading the text.
Swift points out that with choosing images comes the cloudy matter of image copyright.
Studies have shown that more than 70% of small business respondents are unaware of the copyright laws pertaining to content and image use on the Internet.
Swift points out there is a common misconception that once an image has been published online, it becomes part of the public domain.
This, however, is not true and images remain bound by copyright. Anyone wanting to use the image further needs to have consent from either the author of the image or, when the licence agreement of the social network allows it, the administrator of the website.
While sometimes confusing, copyright still is an important area for small businesses to understand and adhere to, otherwise they risk being over-charged, or worse, breaking the law.
So when many small businesses turn to local sources or to family members to build or upgrade their websites they are dependent on the providers to insure copyright compliance.
With the proliferation of ‘do it yourself’ website builders who are unaware or neglectful of being copyright compliant many business leaders may not be complying with copyright laws.
In their desire to create a site which stands out, is effective in securing new business and is produced within budget, website creators often ignore or are unsure about how to be copyright compliant.
While many of these providers are aware of the need to utilize legally obtained photos to enhance the websites, many other providers are either in ignorance or ignore copyright compliance requirements.
Swift points out they don’t have to be. By using a trusted source for content, addressing the company’s visual branding and ensuring the site can convey core-company values, an easy-to-use website can help a business stay ahead of its competitors and cut through the clutter.
Swift adds more information on this can be found at www.stockphotorights.com.
Image users may also find the PicScout ImageExchange application very useful - a free, downloadable tool which helps content users find out where they may properly licence images they find on the Internet.
However, by buying royalty free images from sites such as iStockphoto.com, small businesses can be sure that they are not breaching copyright.
Small businesses are faced with many regulatory hurdles in doing business.
One more hint from Swift: “changing some of the featured images and graphics regularly to keep the site feeling fresh will help generate traffic and sales.”
They need not add another when building a website.
A word to the wise can help.