“Secret” Website Ingredient #2: Customer-Focused Content

It’s hard to go wrong when your website offers, well-organised, well-written, customer-focused content.

But from my experience few businesses heed this crucial advice for creating a successful website:

The graphics and the technology are a minor part of web success. The content is the hard part, and it is also what will make your website a success or failure.
Gerry McGovern, author of Killer Website Content

They focus all their effort on creating an eye-catching design. The content is usually an afterthought – a badly organised mish-mash of brochure copy, old press releases and stale marketing clichés.

Websites like this are rarely profitable. They fail to deliver enquiries, leads and sales. In fact, a website without high-quality content can easily drive potential customers away and erode hard-earned brand equity.

If your website isn’t getting the results you would like, don’t spend any more money on a prettier look and feel. Rather, make the content on your site a priority. Here are five reasons why:

1. People read on the web… but differently

Think about it for a moment. What’s the number one activity that everyone on the Web does? They read! The World Wide Web is made of words.

Now consider this: if you took all the images off your website, would it still work? Most likely. If you took all the words off your website, would it still work? I doubt it.

It’s the words that do the selling on your site. The words build relationships, drive actions and keep your customers happy. So if you want to be a success on the web you need to make words the hero of your site.

But keep in mind people read websites differently than printed pages. They scan, skim and scroll, looking for relevant information. Therefore your website content must be written for scanners.

Write meaningful and descriptive headlines and sub-headings. Online text should have roughly 50% of the words you would use for print. Include lots of bullets, lists and meaningful sub-headings. Use links to break longer information up into parts.

Don’t think you can just plonk your brochure text onto your website and people will read it. Because they won’t be bothered! But if you write you content for scanners, you empower visitors to find information quickly, improve their memory recall and add credibility to your site.

2. Content persuades visitors to take action

The web is not a passive medium like TV. When people go online, they’re active. That’s the nature of “interactivity”. High quality content persuades website visitors to take action in your favour.

Good website content is a lot like good direct response marketing (such as direct mail or infomercials) because it motivates the reader to take action. Sign up for our newsletter, view our product range, download this report, ring us for a quote, click here, and so on.

If you’re marketing on the web you’re relying on the responsiveness of your website. If nobody clicks your links you get no customer enquiries, no sales and no business. So your website content must guide your visitors to the actions you want them to take. People want and need clear instructions, so make sure you give them.

3. Content builds trust and credibility

People don’t go online looking for advertising. What they are seeking is information. Rather than the hard sell, your website content should provide the information visitors need to make an informed purchase decision.

Your website is an opportunity to communicate your expertise in solving your customers’ problems. By sharing this knowledge you show you’re credible and begin building relationships with prospective customers. Their desire to do business with you will increase as you keep supply them with more useful information.

After you’ve demonstrated expertise in your market and knowledge about solving your customers’ problems, then you can introduce your products and services.

It’s a simple fact: customers’ do business with people they like. And they’ll like you a lot better if your website content is filled with relevant facts and helpful information.

4. Content increases your visibility in the search engine rankings

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a process of developing a website so that it gets high rankings in search engine results pages. High search engine rankings are essential to helping people find your site.

Search engines are all about relevance. When you type in a search query the search engine aims to deliver a list of web pages which contain content that’s relevant to your query.

Search engines use a combination of many factors to determine relevance. But two of the most important factors are key words and incoming links. Both of these factors rely on good content.

Key words – These are the phrases people enter into a search engine e.g. “laptop computer”. Effective use of key words tells the search engines what your content is about, thus helping to attract targeted traffic to your site.

First you have to know the key words customers use most frequently when they search for the type of products or services you sell e.g. do they enter “laptop computer” or “notebook computer”? Then you have to sprinkle these keywords in strategic places in your website content.

But it’s not just a matter of stuffing your web pages full of key words. You have to create key word rich content that also informs, motivates and delights your target audience.

Incoming links – Search engines count incoming links as votes of confidence for your website. So, generally speaking, the more links you have, the better your rankings. And if you get links from high quality sites, that’s better still.

Obviously, having great content helps you attract links. Because if people find your content valuable they’ll want to share it with others by way of a link. No one wants to link to a site filled with empty sales hype.

5. Content gives you a competitive edge

Quality writing is the best way to make your site stand out from the millions of others on the web. Why? Because the average website is poorly written. Most sites are full of clichés, hyperbole and generic marketing blather, and the information is poorly organised. Great writing gives you the edge.

High-quality content is an asset

In summary, well-written web content that anticipates and satisfies customers’ needs is a valuable asset to a business. High-quality content:

  • Entices prospects to give you their contact details
  • Drives sales and helps qualify prospects
  • Increases sales conversions by keeping prospects on the site and giving them all the purchase information they need
  • Provides customer service (often reducing costs in the process)
  • Differentiates your business from your competitors, and
  • Is essential for getting high ranking in search engines and attracting qualified traffic.

This post is part 3 of the series: The 4 “Secret” Ingredients of a Profitable Website

The Profitable Website Manual: Quick Start Guide

Is Your Website Getting The Results You Want?

Think about this for a minute: if you turned off your website tomorrow would it be detrimental to your business? Would it shut off a rich source of customer enquiries? Would it jeopardise the pipeline full of prospective customers you’ve built up? Would your profits suffer?

If you’re like most business website owners in Australia, shutting down your website would have no detrimental effect whatsoever. That’s because most business websites simply don’t work.

They don’t generate any customer enquiries. They don’t help convert prospects into buyers. They don’t add to the bottom line in any way.

Here are the brutal facts about the failure of business websites: According to a report by Sensis on small to medium business websites:

  • Only 10.4% of sites delivered additional sales, orders, bookings and customers, and
  • Only 8.5% produced an increase in enquiries.

What this means is only one in 10 websites delivers a profit-generating benefit to the business. In other words, 90% of websites just sit there and do nothing! That’s right: no enquiries… no new customers… absolutely nothing.

If this sounds like your website you’ve got two choices:

1.       Ignore the situation and struggle on, or

2.       Take some inspired action to fix your “do-nothing” website and enjoy the increased customer enquiries, improved sales and additional profits that a good business website brings.

If you’re up for option number two here are my top 10 tactics for rapidly and cost-effectively improving your website results.

If you want to create a stream of targeted customer enquiries, turn browsers into prospects and prospects into customers, and boost sales and your bottom line, then make the following 10 improvements your first priority when you update your website:

1. Build Your Website Around Your Most Wanted Response

The single most important element of your website is the “most wanted response”.

The term “most wanted response” or MWR was coined by e-commerce guru Ken Evoy. It refers to the one action you most want website visitors to do. Examples of MWRs include order a product, subscribe to an e-newsletter, call you to arrange a consultation, fill out a form, or send you an email.

Determining your MWR should be the very first task when you plan your website. Just ask yourself, “What is the ONE thing I want my website visitors to do?” You need to be very clear on this. Once you’ve set your MWR you should design your entire site around encouraging visitors to take that one action.

For some companies making a direct sale from their website is their MWR. Especially if they’re selling products that are commonly bought online such as computer hardware and software, travel and accommodation, clothing and accessories, or information products.

However, most businesses don’t want to make sales online. The goal of most business websites is to generate customer enquiries and/or qualified leads that the sales team can follow up.

Ideally you’d love people to pick up the phone and be ready to buy after they’re viewed your website. And this can happen for some businesses (plumbers and pool cleaners for example).

But many buyers use the web to research purchases they plan to make in the future. Usually these buyers aren’t ready to pick up the phone straight away. But they’re often willing to exchange their email address for some useful information.

In this case you should encourage visitors to register their contact details in exchange for a valuable freebie such as a report, newsletter or trial. Once you have prospective customers’ email addresses, you can follow them up to maximise sales conversions.

No matter whether it’s sales, enquiries or sign-ups, a well thought out MWR is the NUMBER ONE tactic for creating a profitable website.

Getting Feedback from Past Customers

As business owners we put a lot of thought into getting new customers. That means we spend a lot of energy on our current and potential customers, giving little thought to those who are no longer doing business with us.

Market research professional Sarah Dobson points out that that approach may be short sighted. As she says, “Obtaining feedback from past customers can help you to enhance your offer, retain current customers, entice new ones and win the old ones back.”

Flash Back? (It Never Went Away… Unfortunately.)

flashI dug up some old research from my filing cabinet the other day. According to a 2003 study 80% of Consumers Hate Flash Intros. At around the same time this research came out I also discovered a hilarious parody of the odious Flash intro. But despite this public bollocking the Flash intro persists to this day.

At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me I have noticed some of the worst offenders are web designers and developers, interactive agencies and graphic designers. By all means showcase your Flash design prowess on your website. But why not let me actively choose to view it if I’m interested, rather than forcing me to click “skip intro” to get to the content I want to see?

“Skip intro” is an acknowledgement that many people find your Flash intro a waste of time. So what’s it doing on your site? There’s no need for an intro at all. Just tell me what I need to know on a normal, fast, efficient, well-designed website. If I decide I’d like to spend my time looking at Flash animations, then I will.

Flash is very effective when used properly. It’s great for Internet-based applications. But I really think it’s time Flash intros went the way of the Betamax video.

PS: Sorry about the pulsing orange button. I know it’s annoying, but I think you get the message!

Discussion on Foreign Language SEO

Much of the SEO industry deals with the English-speaking market; however, there’s quite a huge demand in the foreign language market as well.

As SEO morphs and develops, the foreign language market is only going to expand.

Zeph Snapp, President of Not Just SEO, offered a great Q&A recently at SEOmoz, and you can get the full “Mozinar” here: So, You Want to Know about Foreign Language SEO?