It’s not what you think. It isn’t search engine optimization…although good SEO is important for most businesses since advertising is so expensive. And it isn’t graphic design; unless the design is so awful that all communication is lost in the mess. It isn’t the markup or coding, either, except when the code breaks, then it’s a big problem. For most businesses, what is really the most important thing is control.

Be the master of your online domain

Why is control so important, and what do I mean by control? Controlling your message is the key. You need control over your business’s messaging so that you can respond to opportunities and challenges. Control of your communications also means that you can test messages, run campaigns and adopt the best tactics and messages. Controlling content gives you the ability to build your SEO using proven strategies. Okay, so SEO really is important, but if you don’t control it you’ll get no benefit from it. Every piece of content on your website can be optimized for Google, but you need to have control to gain the benefit. In other words, the more control you have, the better off you’ll be.

Go beyond website content management

The level of control I’m talking about here is extensive. I’ve seen websites that gave clients zero control to change anything and those that deliver control in very controlled bits, such as a copy block here and a news story there. That’s not control. Control is being able to toss up a banner that says you’ve just cornered the tuna market and you’re making crazy deals this weekend only! Control is being able to change the hours of business displayed on your site as easily as sending out an email. Control goes beyond text to presentation, as well. If you want to test a new marketing campaign or rebrand your home page to help convey key messages of your new service, do you want to have to rebuild your website? Of course not. You want control.

The age of control is upon us

Technology has been moving along so fast that a lot of people haven’t kept up. The ability to control virtually every aspect of your website is here. I don’t mean the free or inexpensive template websites with their thousands of design options which give you the illusion of control. Good luck expanding your business’s online presence with one of those sites. I mean control that you can work with and with which you can grow. We build that level of control into every business website we make. The reason I’m such an advocate of using WordPress for business website design is because of the control it gives me.

Becoming a control freak

When I first started blogging, it wasn’t long before I wanted to tweak my theme, then I wanted to bend it to my will, then I broke it flat out and had to learn how the whole thing worked. What I learned is that you can have control of your website, and with control comes the power to communicate ideas and engage audiences. My background as the publisher of Nintendo Power magazine was all about communicating key messages about Pokémon or Wii and engaging customers. In that role, I had a talented staff of designers, writers and editors that gave me control of the print medium. Online, I found that I wanted the same control, and the amazing thing is that I discovered that you can achieve that level of control with just one person if you have the right tools and knowledge.

The bottom line is saving time and making money

You may not need control of every syllable all the time, but when you do need it, you’ll be glad you have it. Having control not only allows you to communicate, test and evaluate, it can save you money. I’ve had clients who were desperate to take control of even simple aspects of their websites because their webmasters were slow, unresponsive or possibly even dead. True story, one client had no idea what happened to her web developer. The guy was just gone. What are you going to do if you don’t have control? Start over?

So my parting advice to every business owner is to take control of your online affairs. It’s like that saying in Latin, “Carpe diem!” which means something like, “seize the fish!” I suppose that means it’s better to grab the trout in your net than pine over the salmon swimming free beneath the boat. Anyway, this is the big takeaway, so don’t lose it.