Category : Website Design

Conversion Optimization Website Design

The Ultimate Website Conversion Guide to Increase Your Conversion Rate and Boost Your Revenue

One of the most effective ways to boost your business revenue is to optimize your website to maximize the conversion rate. A few changes to the words and layout could lead to a significant boost in the conversion rate.

So before you go off and spend a ton of money on ad campaigns, I suggest you to invest your time and resources to optimize your website so that it becomes a mean, money making machine. Website traffic by itself doesn’t mean much if the visitors are not taking the desired actions when they are on your website.

What is Website Conversion Optimization?

Website conversion rate optimization is about enhancing the design and optimizing the layout, copy, and the different elements on your website to successfully persuade your visitors to take the desired actions.

Conversion optimization is a complicated science, involving skills and knowledge in many disciplines including design, copy writing, analytics, neuroscience, behavioral economics, and psychology.

The good news is that you don’t need to get a PhD in any of the above mentioned subjects in order to improve your website conversion. Drawing upon my years of testing experience, I am going to provide you with a framework you can apply to dramatically increase your website conversion rate and boost your revenue.

Let’s get started!

1) Identify Your Ideal Customer & Understand as Much as Possible about Your Target Audience

To be able to sell to your target audience, you must first identify the type of customer that you can build a profitable and mutually beneficial relationship with.  Not everyone can be a good fit for your business. Either they may not get the desired values or that they may not be able to afford what you offer.  Thus, it’s more efficient and effective  for you to focus your resources on attracting the ideal customer.

Next, you must fully understand the pains, problems, frustrations, or desires of your target audience. Most people are either looking to get rid of a pain point (i.e. treat back pain, get rid of acne scars) or fulfilling a desire (i.e. improve business productivity, increase revenue, look younger, etc.).

The best way to know and understand your target audience is to survey existing customers and prospective customers. You can interview them, ask them to fill out a survey, or send them a link to fill out a survey on SurveyMonkey.com.

Pay attention to the exact words and language they use in describing their problems or desires. Besides the typical demographic related questions, these are the critical questions you should ask them:

  • For the non-customers, ask them to describe the problems they are facing with or the desires they are seeking to fulfill. If they are already using a competitor’s product or service, ask them what they like and don’t like about it. Next, ask them what are the benefits and improvements they seek in their search for the next product or service.
  • For existing customers, ask them what they like or don’t like about your product or service, how has your product or solution solved their problems or improved their lives, and why did they choose your product or service over other alternatives.
In addition to doing the survey, you should also talk to your sales and customer support teams. Since they interact with the customers often, they may have valuable information about the customers that could help you optimize your website.

2) Clearly and Concisely Describe What You Offer and for Whom

Within a few seconds, your visitors must know exactly what products or services you offer. In addition, your visitors should know whether your offering is right for them or not. Don’t use fluff or empty words such as “best in class”, “state of the art”, “innovative”. Be descriptive and use words that provide information that is meaningful and relevant to your target audience.

I have come across many websites in which I have no idea what the companies do or offer. Don’t make the same mistakes that they do. You may also want to experiment with using a short video (2 minutes or less) to explain how your product or service work. Video is great for engaging the audience and for explaining a complex product.

3) Convey Your Value Proposition Using Clear, Concise, and Benefit Laden Copy

Good copywriting can add a big boost to your conversion rate. The copy and message on your website need to clearly and concisely addresses how you solve your target audience’s pain points or how your product or service fulfill their desires. Keep in mind that people are not looking to buy a product or solution. They are looking for real results! The layout of your home page can follow the format below.

high converting home page

  • Be sure to incorporate the exact words and language commonly used and understood by your target audience gathered during the surveying exercise.
  • Use a strong headline and a few sentences to clearly convey the compelling values, benefits and results that your target audience will get if they buy your product or service. This is your value proposition and it’s the most important component of your copy. Your value proposition should make your offer highly desirable, credible, and distinguished from your competition. The more your visitors perceive your offer as having compelling values and benefits, the more likely they will take the desired actions on your website.
  • Use simple words and layman’s terms, simple sentence structures, and lots of bullet point statements. The bullet point statements make it easier for your website visitors to scan your site for key information.
  • Use lots of “You” words in your copy. The focus should be on your target audience, not on you. So talk about their problems or desires, what you can do for them, and how their lives will change with your help.
  • Break up your copy into several sections with descriptive subheadings. This allows for ease of scanning. Remember that people do not like to read on the web. So, make it easy for them to quickly scan your web page and quickly see the main components of your web page!

4) Convey Credibility and Trust

In general, people are wary of trying something new because of the fear of the unknowns and uncertainties.  This is especially true in high stakes B2B transactions. Most people would rather  stick with the status quo rather than risk trying a new vendor or supplier. To alleviate these fears, most people would follow along with what other people do, especially people that they know and trust. So, to help your prospects alleviate the fears of the unknowns and uncertainties, there are a few things you could do to increase your trust and credibility with them.

  • Show logos of customers that you have done business with, especially logos of recognizable clients (i.e. IBM, FedEx, Wells Fargo, Nike, etc).
  • Show testimonials of existing customers, especially testimonials that describe how they have benefited from your products or services. Testimonials are more powerful in videos or if accompanied with photos of the clients. If you have an e-commerce business, then include reviews for the products from customers.
  • Share case stories and describe how your solutions or products have helped your clients achieve the desired results or outcomes. Be sure to include quantifiable data if possible (i.e. helped client X increase sales by 50%).
  • Improve the look and feel of your site so that it looks attractive and professional (more on this in the section below). An ugly looking site can come across as spammy or not trustworthy.
  • Show off any press mentions your business received.
  • Include an iron clad no risk guarantee.
  • Show off any awards, certifications, and licenses your business have earned or acquired.
  • Include your company’s address and phone number in the footer and in the “contact us” page.
  • If you have an e-commerce business, you should display your site security certificates such as the ones from VeriSign and McAffee.

5) Enhance User Experience

Your website represents your brand and your image. As such, it is important that your website provide your visitors with a positive experience when they visit your website. You only have a few seconds to make a good impression. If your site design looks ugly or not user friendly, you will turn off your visitors and they will mostly likely hit the back button and start searching for a different site to visit. So, be willing to pay good money for a skilled designer because the investment is worth it!

Here are some tips to improve the user experience:

  • Don’t use too many colors. Use 2 main colors, a background color, and 1 accent color for call to action buttons or to highlight something important. The colors you pick should work well together. Check out colourlovers.com for color palettes and color ideas.
  • Use ample white spaces to separate each element (texts, image)  from each other so that your site doesn’t look cluttered and busy. What you should aim for is a “clean” design that visually guides the visitors to consume the content from top to bottom and left to right (F-shape).
  • Use professional looking graphics and images. Avoid using stock images as much as possible. Rather, use photos of actual people and actual products from your business.
  • The navigation should use words that are intuitive and should be in places that are common on most websites, which is usually on the top of the page and beneath the header or on the right side of the logo.
  • Avoid long sentences and long paragraphs of texts. Each section should have a subheading title and the paragraphs should be short. Use bullet points as much as possible. On the web, people scan rather than read.
  • Use a light color for the background color and a dark color for the texts. Dark gray texts on white background is quite common.
  • Bright colors should be used sparingly and should only be used to draw people’s attention to important elements on your site, such as the “Call to Action” button (i.e. “Add to Cart”, “Contact Us”, “Get Free Trial”, etc).
  • Do not present your visitors with too many choices or too many actions. Too many choices and options could paralyze theirs decision making process. As a result, they may end up not taking any actions at all. Each page should have a focused message and 1 primary call to action. You could have a secondary of alternative call to action, but it should be less subtle and should not compete with your primary call to action.
  • If you use a form to collect visitors’ information, don’t include more fields than necessary. The more work you ask your site visitors to do, the less likely they will follow through with the desired action.
  • Don’t make your visitors wait with a slow loading site. This means optimizing the image sizes as well as eliminating all the unnecessary Javascripts and codes that could slow down your site. Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights, a nifty tool that analyzes the content of your web page, gives a speed score (100 is the max), then provides you with suggestions to make your web page load faster.

6) Tell your Visitors What They Need to Do and Why They Should Do it Today

When visitors visit your site, you just don’t want them to leave without taking any actions. You want them to click on the “buy” or “add to cart” buttons, sign up for a free consultation, fill out a short form to download a white paper, or sign up for a free webinar. Whatever action that you want them to take, make it very clear what they need to do and make it very easy for them to take that desired action!

  • Each web page should have only 1 primary call to action and everything on your web page should work together cohesively to persuade your visitors to take that primary action. You may include alternative actions (i.e. see tour of the product, download a free white paper, etc) that your visitors can take they are not yet ready to commit to your primary call to action.
  • Use a prominent color (orange, blue, red, green) that stands out from the color scheme on your website for your primary “call to action” button. For the alternative call to action, you may use a less prominent color for the button or just use a text link.
  • Instead of the useless”Submit” for your “Call to Action” button, use action words that convey what your visitors will get (i.e. “Add to Cart”, “Sign Up for Webinar”, “Get Free Consultation”, “Download White Paper”, etc).
  • Convey the importance of taking action today and what your visitors stand to lose if they don’t take action immediately.

7) Continuously Test and Optimize

While the above guidelines should provide you with a good starting point, the key to maximizing conversions is to continuously test and optimize. Certain things that work for other businesses may not work well for your business. The only way to know for sure is to test and let the data speaks for itself.

The 2 methods of testing commonly used for conversion optimization is A/B testing and multivariate testing. In A/B test, you are testing 2 different versions of a web page or landing page to see which version result in more clicks, more purchases, more signups, or more subscriptions. If you are using an A/B testing software, the software would automatically send half of the website traffic to a control page and the other half to a treatment page. Some of the popular testing applications you could use include Google Content Experiments, Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimizer.

In Multivariate testing, you can test different variations of the key elements on your website. Multivariate requires a lot of data points and testing duration could be very long before you could achieve statistical significance. In most cases, I recommend to go with an A/B testing plan.

A/B testing has become quite common in e-commerce as well as B2B businesses. Even President Obama’s campaign team has successfully employed A/B testing to turn site visitors into more subscribers. Some of the things they tested include the images on the splash page as well as the word choices (“Learn More”, “Join Us Now”, “Sign Up Now”) on the call to action buttons.

Follow these steps to set up your test experiments:

  1. Analyze the data from your web analytics program, user survey, usability testing, and heat map data to get insights into how visitors behave (check the bounce rate) on your web page and why are they not taking the desired actions.
  2. Form your hypothesis – After analyzing the data gathered from step 1, you should now be able to form a hypothesis on the possible reasons why your visitors are not taking the desired actions and what can be done to improve the conversion rate. It could be that the offer is not attractive enough or the benefits are not compelling enough, or that layout and copy do not do a good job of conveying the value proposition.
  3. Decide on what you want to test – If you initial conversion rate is very low, you could opt for a radical test plan in which you change multiple elements on a page. If you just want to fine tune and make incremental improvements, then you should change 1-2 elements at a time. Here are the elements and variables you could test:
    • The offer
    • The layout
    • The headline
    • The copy and messaging
    • The length of the copy (long copy vs. short copy)
    • The “Call to Action” button message
    • The image
    • Video vs. image
  4. Run your test until you achieve “statistical significance” – If you’re doing A/B testing, you’re testing the treatment against the control. Achieving statistical significance means that you have enough data to have a high level of confidence (usually 95%) that the difference between the control and treatment is not due to random chance. So, you would want to have enough data to feel confident that the samples are representative of the population of your target audience’s behaviors. You should also account for any environmental or market conditions that could favor one treatment over the other. Visual Website Optimizer has an A/B test duration calculator that may be useful for you.
  5. Analyze the data to get learning – After running the test, you should analyze the data to get insights on how your target audience respond to the different test elements and most importantly why they respond in such manners. The goal of testing is not always to get a gain. Even if your treatment performs poorly compared to the control, you could gain some valuable insights that help you to understand the behavior of your target audience better and how they respond to certain elements or features on a web page.

Tools to Help You Perform Testing and Conversion Optimization

Here are some tools that can greatly help you with testing and analyzing visitors’ behaviors on your site:

  • A/B Testing Tools – Google Content Experiments, Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimizer are among the popular tools for A/B testing.                 
  • Heat Map tools – Heat map tools such as CrazyEgg and Clicktale show you where visitors click on your web page. This data is useful for identifying areas on your webpage that receive the most attention.
  • Visitor Survey/Feedback tools – Visitors’ feedback can provide valuable insights to identify what your visitors are struggling with on your site and whether they are able to find what they are looking for. Some of the popular tools include Qualaroo, 4Q, and Kampyle.
  • Usability testing – Usability testing allows you to observe actual people using your site and determine if there are problems or obstacles that prevent users from getting the desired information and taking the desired actions. If you have the budget, you can hire people (5-7 is a good sample size) to do the test at your facility under your supervision. If you don’t have the budget, you can try usertesting.com. Their service allows you to hire people remotely to do the specified test and deliver to you a video recording of their observations and critiques as they go through the test. They will also provide a written summary to details the problems they encountered.

Recommended Books

If you are interested to hone your conversion optimization skill, I recommend the following books. Most of these books were written by marketing experts that I admire. I have learned a great deal from them and I know that you will too!

Got any good website conversion optimization tips to share?

If you have experience and successes with website optimization and have some good tips to share, please comment below.

 

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Website Design

How to Design a High Impact Home Page that Gets More Leads and More Sales

The homepage is the most important page on your website. It also receives the most visits. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t put enough thoughts and efforts into designing and creating their homepages.

Here are the common mistakes I see on most homepages:

  • There are just too much stuffs thrown into the home page and it just ends up overwhelming the visitors.
  • The homepage doesn’t tell me what exactly the company do, which types of customers the business serves, and what pain points or problems the products or services solve.
  • No call to actions. The homepage doesn’t tell me what I should do next.
  • There are no trust and credibility elements.

Since the home page is the most important page, don’t leave the design of the home page up to the graphic or web designer. Designers are only interested in creating cool and flashy designs with little regards to meeting business objectives.

So if your designers insist on making the site look cool, unique, or flashy, you should hit your designer on the head with a hammer and remind your designer that the objective of your website is to generate sales or leads, not to win a design or art contest!

I strongly believe that the marketing person should be responsible for the look, feel, branding, and messaging of the home page. The marketing person should take the lead role and work with the designer, web developer, and copywriter to design and create a high impact home page.

Things to Think About before Creating a High Impact Home Page

Here are the things you should consider and think about before creating or recreating your home page:

  1. Find out as much as you can about your target audience. What are their demographics (age, sex, education, etc)? What are their pain points, problems, and desires? What do they like and what do they dislike?
  2. Determine your value proposition and unique selling proposition. Your value proposition and unique selling proposition should address the pain points, problems, and desires of your target audience and should clearly convey why they should choose you over the other alternatives.
  3. What are the goals and objectives of your home page? What actions do you want the visitors to take after spending some time on your home page?
  4. Collect testimonials from satisfied clients and endorsements from third parties. They are important for building your credibility.

After you have gone through the above important exercise, you are ready to start putting together your high impact home page.

Follow the steps below:

Do a wireframe of your design

 

home page wireframe

Wireframe of home page design

 

By doing a wireframe first, you have a blueprint of how the layout of your site should look like and where to position each feature and element. Your wireframe or mock up should include the following elements and features:

  • Logo and tagline – The logo and tagline should occupy the top-left position of your home page. A tagline is a short, catchy phrase that provides the visitors with further information on what exactly your business is about. It is positioned close to the logo, usually directly beneath the logo or on the right side.
  • Your value proposition and unique selling points as captured by your headline, subheadline, a short paragraph, and some bullets.
  • Credibility elements – Testimonials, press mentions, case studies
  • Trust elements – BBB seal, Industry association seal, Site security seal and certificate
  • Call to Actions

Now that you have your wire frame done, let’s put them together.

Use Design Best Practices to Create an Attractive and Professional Looking Site

The look and feel of your site must be attractive and professional looking. Visitors will make a split second judgment of your site and determine whether they should stick around or leave your site based on the look and feel of your homepage.

Follow these guidelines to create a professional and attractive looking design:

  • Make sure that the design of your logo is professional looking. The logo represents the brand and image of your business so you should hire a professional logo designer to design a logo that best represents your business. A good resource to use if you need a professional designer to design your logo at a reasonable cost is 99Designs.
  • Choose 2 colors to be the dominant colors for your design. Ideally, these 2 colors should be based on the colors of your logo and should appeal to target audience. Next, choose 2-3 additional colors for the background and call to action buttons. These colors should work well together to provide a pleasing experience. You can refer to colourlovers.com and colorschemedesigner.com to get ideas to select the appropriate color scheme for your homepage.
  • Use clean layout with adequate white spaces – A clean layout is elegant and pleasing to the eyes. A cluttered design can quickly give your visitors a big headache. So, use adequate white spaces and don’t try to cram everything into your home page. Only include the essential elements and features.
  • Avoid flash, distracting backgrounds, slide shows – These elements add little value and are distracting.
  • Use attractive typography – Typography can make a big difference on the design. Using appropriate and high quality fonts can instantly improve the attractiveness of your home page design. You can get high quality fonts from sites such as fontsquirrel.com and fonts.com

Convey Your Value Proposition using Compelling Headlines and Concise and Clear Messages

You only have a few seconds to let the visitors know that they are in the right place and that your site has something worth looking further. As such, your value proposition must be clear and compelling.

You can communicate your value proposition and unique selling points using a combination of the headline, the subheadline, a short paragraph, and a few bullet points. The headline and/or subheadline should contain the keywords related to your business and should convey a compelling value derived from the experience provided by your business.

In addition, you should have 1-2 paragraphs of texts and bullet points to answer questions like who your business serves, what problems do you solve, what makes you special or better than the competition, and what your target audience stand to lose by not using your products or services.

Your value proposition and USP should be at the forefront of your website and above the fold, where visitors are able to see it right away.

Establish Credibility And Trust

Since most of your visitors have never don’t business with you, they want to know if they can trust you or not. To convey trust and credibility you should include the following elements on your website:

  • Show logos of clients that you have worked with.
  • Show off any press mentions and awards that your business have garnered.
  • Include testimonials from some happy clients. Video testimonials add even more credibility. If you can’t get video testimonials, you should try to include photos of the clients that are giving the testimonials.
  • Include links to case studies. Case studies are recommended if you provide a product or service that is complicated and require heavy investment from your clients.
  • Display seals and certificates such as BBB (“Better Business Bureau”) and any other industry association seals.
  • If your site collects private information, you should display site security badges from Verisign, McAfee, or Trust-e.
  • Include your phone number on the right side of your header area.

Show Off Your Products with an Image or a Video

An image or a video on top of the fold is important to give the visitors a visual representation of your products. If you sell physical products, you should take professional photos of your products and show an image or two of the products. If you sell a SaaS product, you can show a screen shot image. If you have a very complicated product, you may want to use a video to provide a quick demo of how your product works. The length of the video should be 30 – 90 seconds.

Lead Your Visitors to the Next Steps with Appropriate “Call to Actions”

Alright, now that your visitors know what you do and why they should check you out, what do you want them to do next? You must provide them with clear “Call to Actions” to lead them to the next steps.

One thing you must avoid is having too many “Call to Actions” with equal weight.  If you give the visitors too many choices, it lead to a phenomenon known as “paradox of choice.” What this means is that when you give someone too many choices or options,  that usually leads to paralysis of the mind and results in no actions taken.

You can have one or two “Call to Actions”, but you must have only one primary “Call to Action.” You should use the most prominent colored button for your main CTA and a less prominent colored button for the secondary CTA. Your secondary CTA could also be just a text link.

Examples of “Call to Actions” include:

  • Sign up for free trial
  • Request free consultation
  • Learn more
  • Get a tour

Depending on your products and your audience, you must choose appropriate CTAs. Pushy CTAs such as “buy now” or “sign up now” usually are not as effective, because the visitors do not have enough information or data on your business to fall for such aggressive CTAs.

Other Features You May Want to Add

Depending on your business, you might want to add the following features:

  • List of upcoming events – If your company organizes or participates events that are useful to your customers and prospects, you might want to list these events on the homepage.
  • Free offers for your white papers, Ebooks, or Slides.

Leverage Analytic and User Testing Data to Continuously Improve Your Home Page

Your home page design should evolve and change over time as needed. Do user testing and leverage Google Analytics data to improve your home page. Look at the bounce rate data and find out what people click on and what people don’t click on.

If there are certain features or elements that never get clicked on, you might want to remove them.

Examples of Home Page Well Done

To give you some inspiration, here are examples of home pages incorporate the best practices as discussed above.

1. CampaignMonitor.com

Best home page design 1

2. RegOnline.com

best home page design

3. Textmagic.com

best home page design practices

4. Basecamp.com

great home page design

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Content Marketing Website Design

Secrets to Creating A Sticky Web Page that Captivates Your Visitors

sticky website frogHaving a website alone is no guarantee that you will get any business if your site is lousy. If you want visitors to stick around once they land on your website, your website better be sticky and engaging. Nowadays, people have so much distractions – The TV, Facebook, Youtube, Iphone, Ipod, not to mention other competing websites! You only have a few seconds to captivate your visitors’ attention when they land on your site.

If you fail to make a strong impression or fail to engage them instantly, they will quickly hit the back button and look for something else!

So how can you make your site more sticky and engaging? Follow these rules:

Create an Attractive and Professional Looking Design

You only have less than 5 seconds to make an impression on your visitors. As such, the look and feel of your site must instantly convey professionalism and trust when visitors first land on your site. Follow these tips to ensure your site has an attractive and professional look and feel:

  • Have a professionally designed logo – The logo represents your brand and your image. Therefore, make sure you invest some money to hire a professional graphic designer to design a logo for your business.  The logo should be positioned on the upper left corner of the header section.
  • Use maximum of 3-4 colors for your color scheme – Use 2 dominant colors for your site features and 2 colors for background and Call to Action buttons. Keeping the number of colors to a minimum of 3-4 make your site more pleasing to look at. Also, make sure the colors go well together. You can refer to the site colourlovers.com for suggested color schemes.
  • Use high quality, crisp, and professional looking photos or images that are relevant to the content. Images and graphics make your content more interesting and captivating. Just make sure the images or photos are relevant to the content.
  • Have enough white spaces around the important elements – White space provides breathing area for your site and makes your site looks cleaner.
  • Use a clean, simple layout – Find inspiration from Apple. Apple is the expert at using clean and simple, yet elegant designs. Simple isn’t necessarily easy. Creating something that is simple can be a challenge as we naturally want to throw the whole kitchen sink into a design. Resist that urge and only show what’s necessary. Also, stick to a 2 column layout. 3 column layout design can overwhelm the visitors.

Let Visitors Know They Are in the Right Place

When the visitors land on your site, they want to know right away whether you have what they are looking for. If your site is not clear on what you offer, they will bounce right away. Follow these tips to help visitors know they are in the right place:

  • Have a tagline – A tagline is a branding element that succintly summarizes what your site offers to your visitor. A tagline should be short and located beneath the logo.
  • Have a powerful headline near the top of the page that conveys what values you offer to your visitors.
  • Include a short paragraph to explain what your business do and who your target customers are on the top of the page. Also, include a few bullet points on the top to convey the features,  benefits, and value proposition of your products or services.

Establish Trust and Credibility

Visitors are always waried of spams and unscrupulous sites. They would only engage with you and follow you if you are trustworthy and credible. To establish trust and credibility, you must include the following trust elements on your site:

  • Show customer testimonials and/or case studies – Social proof is the best way to establish your credibility. If you’re good at what you do, then prove it by showing your clients’ testimonials or case studies. Video testimonials are the best. If not, try to get their photos. If you are a B2B business, then do show logos of your clients.
  • Show press mentions – Did you appear on the news or some popular magazines/blogs/news sites?
  • Show Industry Association seal – If you are member of your industry association, show off those seals.
  • Site security seals – If you collect personal information or credit card payment on your site, then it is absolutely necessary to show your site security seals (Verisign, Truste, McAffee, etc).

Create Awesome and Epic Content

Once you’ve made a strong impression on your visitors with a professional looking site and have established your credibility, you still need great, jaw dropping content to keep your visitors engaged. How do you create great content?

Content is a combination of texts, graphics, and videos that work well together to deliver the message that resonates with the visitors. To create great content, you first need to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is, what their pain points are, what problems they are trying to solve, and how can you make their life easier or better with your solutions.

Content is the foundation of your website and marketing efforts. To drive traffic and repeat visitors, you must continuously add content to your site. A great way to add content to your site is to add a blog. You can write blog articles about anything that might provide value to your visitors. Topics that are interesting to your visitors include news and trends in your industry, how to do certain things better, faster, or cheaper. You can also do interviews with other experts in your industry and post the interview in your blog article.

Be sure to follow good copywriting principles when writing your content. Also, make sure you format your content for best user experience, which means using lots of bullets, avoiding long sentences and long paragraphs, and use bolded sub headlines to introduce different topics.

Do Everything Possible to Capture Your Visitors’ Email!

When visitors come to your website, if they don’t call you or fill out the contact form, you don’t want them to just leave and forget about you. That would be a waste of your marketing money and efforts.

You have to be able to capture your visitors’ email.  But in order for your visitors to give up their emails, you need to offer them something compelling. Perhaps, you can offer them a free report, a free Ebook, a coupon, free demo, etc. Make the offer as attractive as possible.

Once you have your prospects’ email, you can continue the dialogue and build a relationship with your prospects by providing them with additional offers and content (articles, case studies, videos, webinars, etc). This process is essential for building trust. It may take a few weeks to a few months before prospects decide to do business with you.

You can use an “autoresponder” email marketing service to send email messages to your list of prospects automatically. A good starter autoresponder service for small businesses that you can use is Aweber, probably the most popular one out there. It costs only $20 a month.

Since Aweber is an established email service company and is recognized among Google, Yahoo, AOL, your email messages will have higher delivery rate and not end up in the SPAM box.

Another good email marketing program to use is Vertical Response.

Website Design Resources

For small business websites, I highly recommend building your website on the WordPress Content Management System. There are lots of advantages to using WordPress. First of all, it’s a free content management system, which makes it really easy for you to update or make changes to your site. No programming or geeky stuffs required. Additionally, there are lots of plugins available that add lots of cool and useful features and functionalities to you site.

And with the help of a professional wordpress theme, you could produce an attractive and professional looking site within hours. Here are 2 WordPress themes professional designers use:

  1. Thesis theme – If you enjoy customizing and producing your own unique designs, the Thesis wordpress theme would be perfect for you. Used by many professional designers and businesses, Thesis has awesome built in typography and powerful SEO features as well as design flexibility.
  2. Studiopress theme – Studiopress theme is also another popular wordpress theme that has amazing designs and powerful SEO features. If you just want an attractive and professional looking website without having to do much customization, then the Studiopress would be perfect!

Where to get High Quality Images & Graphics

Here are 2 places to get high quality images and graphics:

Email Autoresponder Service

 

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Website Design

What are the Necessary Features of a Great Small Business Website?

features of a great small business websiteTo properly brand your business, provide the necessary information to your prospects, and compel your prospects to do business with you, you must have the right combination of  features on your small business website.

What Features/Pages Your Website Should Have

A typical small business website should have the following pages:

  • Home Page – The home page of a website usually receives the most visits. As such, it is important that you do a good job of branding yourself and presenting your business in a professional manner.You only have a few seconds to captivate your prospects’s attention.  As such, you must clearly convey what products and/or services you offer, who your target audience is, what is your value proposition, and why they should do business with you. You can convey the above important messages by using a combination of a tagline or slogan, the texts on the page, and relevant images and videos. Be sure to place all the important information above the fold so the users don’t have to scroll down to see it. Lastly, you may want to include some attractive photos that represents your services or products or a video of you talking about your business on the homepage.
  • About Us Page – The “About Us” page is a perfect opportunity for you to connect with your visitors. This is a very important page of your website and it’s an area where I see most people don’t put enough efforts in. Here, you should talk about the mission of your business, what inspired you to start the business, the history of your business, how long you have been in business, and some information about yourself as well as your staff. Clearly and succinctly let people know what make you special, why they should do business with you and why they should trust you. You should also talk about your credentials and include testimonials, endorsements, awards, or mentions of your business or yourself in the news. Be sure to feature photos and/or videos of yourself, your storefront, as well as your staff. Make it as personable and likeable as possible!
  • Products/Services Page – Clearly describe your products or services in a way that explains how they benefit your target audience, how your products or services can change their lives, and/or how they can solve your target audience’s problems and pain points. Additionally, describe what makes your services or products unique or better than the competition. Remember, it’s not about you but it’s about what you can do for your prospects. So don’t talk too much about features.
  • Free Content – Giving away high quality free content in the forms of articles, video instructions, downloadable PDFs and tip sheets, etc is a fantastic way of establishing your expertise and your credibility. If you are giving away free Ebooks or white papers, be sure to capture your visitors’ email addresses before giving them the download link. That way you can follow up with your prospects and launch your nurturing campaigns.
  • Blog Adding a blog to your site is a great way to share news, updates, educational information, etc with your visitors. By regularly posting to your blog and adding remarkable content, you get 2 benefits. For one, you are helping your SEO efforts as Google likes websites that continuously add fresh content to the sites. Additionally, the more content you have, the more chances your website has to get found and discovered by people searching on the search engines. Secondly, a blog adds that element of interaction to your site. Your visitors can comment and you can respond back to their comments.The best way to add a blog is to host it as a subdomain on your website (i.e. www.yoursite.com/blog). If you host your website at Bluehost, you can easily add a wordpress to your site with a few clicks.
  • FAQs Page – An FAQ page answers the most common questions your customers have. Having an FAQ page saves you the hassles of having to reply to customers’ emails or phone calls.
  • Contact Us Page – The Contact Us page should include a map of the location of your business, directions to your business as well a form for customers to fill out if they need to contact you or ask you for more information. If you use Google Maps, Google provides you with a code that you can embed on your website so that the Google map of your business location can be published on your website.
  • Resource Page – The Resource page can include links to partner sites or sites that provide beneficial and useful information to your visitors. In addition, you could feature all your white papers, webinar replays, and slides on the resource page.
  • Success Stories/Testimonials Page – Testimonials are important for establishing your credibility and instilling confidence in your prospects’ mind. If you can get photos and videos of the people giving the testimonials, this would add more weight to your credibility. If your products are more on the complicated and pricey side, you might want to add some case studies or success stories too.
  • Gallery Page – The Gallery page is a great place to show off photos of your past projects. You can also show the “before and after” photos of your clients/projects.
  • Site Map Page – The site map page is an outline of your website and list all the pages on your site. This is useful for visitors as well as the search engines.
  • Privacy Policy Page – If you plan to collect visitors’ personal information such as emails, phone numbers, etc, it is essential that you include a privacy policy page. If you need help create a privacy policy page, you can use FreePrivacyPolicy.com to create a privacy policy page for your website.
  • An Opt-in form for your newsletter or to download a whitepaper – Having an opt-in form to collect visitors’ email is vital to your business success. Some visitors will not become your customers right away.Thus, you can use an opt-in form to collect their emails and then start to communicating with them and sending them free information.If you do a good job, you can eventually turn them into life long customers. Just make sure to clearly convey the incentives for them to opt-in. The incentives could be to download an information-rich white paper, news of new products availability or special promotions, etc.
  • Call To Action – This is perhaps the most important element of your website. Once you get your visitors to visit your website, you don’t want them to leave and forget all about you.Your job is to convince them to do business with you and to take some actions. Call to Actions could be calling you for more information or to make an appointment, filling out a “contact us” form, or signing up to your newsletter. To entice your prospects to take actions, you could provide them with a free download of your white paper, a report, or E-book. Just make sure that these giveaways provide some value.

The above website features are definitely must haves in order to have a professional and useful business website. In addition to making sure your website contain the above elements, your website should follow the guidelines below to ensure the visitors have the best experience and to ensure the search engines understand what your website is about.

  • Use relevant and meaningful names for each webpages – Don’t call it www.yourdomain.com/page1.html or www.yourdomain.com/page2.html. If you have a page about your dog grooming service in Seattle, then name your page something like www.yourdomain.com/seattle-dog-grooming-service.html.
  • Incorporate keywords related to your business, services, or products in the META title tag, description tag, H1, H2 tags, as well as in the copy of each webpage. You should optimize each web page with its own relevant keywords. Try to keep it 2 keyword phrases per page. If your business serves local customers in a specific geographic area, it is especially important for you to include the geographic keywords into the Title Tag, Description Tag and in the copy. (i.e. “Chiropractor in Houston”, “San Diego Dry Cleaning | Laundry Services”, etc.)
  • Avoid flash if possible – Flash takes awhile to load and it’s not search engine friendly. You don’t really need to use Flash to make a good website. Having a good layout and knowing how to combine colors, good spacing, and fonts can produce a simple, yet elegant and attractive looking website.
  • Do not use Javascripts or graphics for navigation or important content – The search engine spiders do not read Javascripts and graphics that well. Plain text is best for the spiders.
  • Make sure you have original and unique content on every page of your website – The search engines do not like duplicate content and may penalize you in terms of ranking.
  • Incorporate videos – Videos are great for enhancing your visitors’ experience. You can create a welcome video or instructional videos of how to use your products or perform a certain task.For example, if you are a fitness trainer, you can create videos of you teaching people the correct way to do squats or what are the best exercises to give you flat abs. Nowadays, it’s so easy to create a video. You can create a video with a Flip Cam or even your phone camera.

If you follow the above guidelines, you will be able to create a compelling and attractive website that is worthy of your visitor’s time. And if you are able to make a good impression on the visitors, you will have a good chance of converting them into loyal customers!

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Website Design

How to Design a Website that Net You More Customers For Your Small Business

website sampleThe first important step in marketing your business on the Internet and raising your visibility to your prospects is to have a website.

Yet, to my dismay, lots of small businesses out there don’t even have a website!

So if you are a small business owners and you don’t already have a website, go get one now! Your business survival depends on it! In case you don’t already know, the Yellow Pages and traditional ways of doing marketing are ineffective and becoming obsolete.

If you don’t have time to build your own website, you can hire a designer on Craigslist, Elance.com or you can use the SmallBiz WordPress Theme template.

The SmallBiz WordPress Theme template is a great option if you want to quickly and easily build a professional looking website that is optimized for the Search Engines. It leverages the WordPress content management system so that you can easily add content and make updates/changes to your site easily by yourself. And the great thing about it is that you don’t need to do any programming or geeky stuffs by yourself.

Now, if you want to learn how to make a great website, then read on…

Elements of a Bad Website

A lot of people are still fascinated with fancy looking websites with lots of graphics and animations. Let me warn you – A successful and great website has nothing to do with having lots of graphics or animations.

In fact, having lots of graphics and animations can hurt your website performance in many ways. For one, it slows down the loading time. Secondly, it adds lots of clutter and distract the visitors from digesting the main messages.

What is a great website for Small Businesses?

I define a  great website as being attractive, professional looking, simple and clean, and achieve its goals and objectives.
The last words are especially important. You must have goals and objectives for your website!

Your goals and objectives should include making a good impression on your visitors and providing them with necessary and adequate information about your business, products, or services. Additionally, your website must be able to build trust and establish your credibility.

Elements of a Great Small Business Website

As seen in the figure below, the main components of a website are the header, the navigation links, the sidebar, the content area, and the footer area.

Optimal Small Business Website Layout

Optimal Small Business Website Layout

The header area – The header area should contain the Logo, the business name, and business tag line that captures your business’ value proposition. Additionally, you can provide your business’ address and phone number on the far right.

  • Make sure you have a professional looking logo that best represents your business’ image. A professional looking logo represents your brand and it’s important for your business’ credibility! A logo doesn’t have to be fancy. But it should be simple and memorable, using a combination of colors, symbols, typography, and graphics that best portray your brand image. You could create a great logo using only texts. However, you should use a high quality font! Consider using the service of a professional logo designer (on Craigslist or Elance) to create a logo for you. If you want to go with a cheaper option, you could also try the “Do it Yourself” logo design services from LogoDesignPros or Logoworks.
  • Tagline – Having a tagline is optional. A tagline is a memorable, catchy short phrase that conveys the benefits or value proposition of your business.

The Navigation Bar– Links to the different pages of your website should be here. The elements in a navigation bar usually include links to “home”, “products”, “services”, “resources”, “about us”, and “contact us.”

The Right Side Bar – On the right side bar, you could include photos, videos, testimonials, endorsements from 3rd parties, seals/certificates, links to your Facebook, YouTube, and twitter accounts, and other secondary links.

Content Area – The content area is where you write the content for each specific page. Be sure to incorporate your keywords in the body of the content as well as in the <h1>, <h2> heading HTML tags.

Footer Area – On the footer areas, you can include information such as copyright, text links to other pages of your site, the cities that your business serve, and disclaimers, privacy policy, etc.

To make your site look professional, trust worthy, and attractive, make sure you follow these design guidelines:

  • Use professional looking photos and graphics – The photos and images of you, your store, or your products should be of high quality and crisp. Crop if necessary. Also, refrain from using cheesy looking stock images/photos. Instead, take your own photos and let your visitors see your real personality.
  • Use a clean layout with adequate white space – Don’t try to clutter the webpage by jamming everything into it. The look and feel of your site should be clean and focused. Eliminate anything that is not relevant or contribute to conveying your value proposition or business information.
  • Make your web copy  scannable – People don’t read online. They scan! So make your content digestible by having short paragraphs, lots of bullets to communicate benefits and features, and lots of subheadings that are bolded.
  • Use clear, conversational, simple, and lively words and languages – The purpose of your website is to clearly and succintly provide information about your business and services. Avoid fancy jargons, boring, corporate languages, and long, complicated sentences.
  • Use color scheme that is appropriate for your brand – Start with the colors of your logo and refer to the colourlovers.com site to get ideas on color palettes. In general, use no more than 4 colors!
  • Use easy to read fonts – Although there lots of fancy fonts to choose from, you should just stick with basic fonts such as Arial, Georgia, and Helvetica. These fonts make your texts easy to read, which is more important than anything else. Additionally, the font size of your text should be large enough so that people don’t hurt their eyes trying to read your content. Font size of 14px is recommended.
  • Maintain proper contrast between text color and background color – The colors you pick for your text and background color should show have some level of contrast. The contrast should be subtle and pleasing to the eyes rather than jarring to the eyes though. A white or light grey background with black text is usually a safe option.
  • Keep your website width at 960 pixels and centered – 960 pixel width is the standard web site width for a 2-3 columns layout design. If you have a simple website with just 1 column layout, you can opt for a website width of 800 pixels. Be sure your site is centered on the screen. I still see some sights that are left centered. Today, most of the users have a large screen monitor. If your site is left centered, the users would have to constantly turn their neck and their eyes to the left!

The above proven web design principles are the foundation for creating a professional website for your business. By following the above guidelines, you will create a site that earns visitors’ trust and praise. Again, if you don’t have time to build your own website, you can hire a designer on Craigslist or you can use the SmallBiz WordPress Theme template to quickly and easily build your site.

Please read the post, “Features of a Great Small Business Website” to learn about what information to put on your website to make your visitors like you, trust you, and want to do business with you.

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