The Websites That Suck Bottom Line

Black line art illustration of a man with his thumbs down.
Black line art illustration of a man with his thumbs down.

So there you have it. Seven mistakes to avoid to ensure your website is among the 19% that get all the customer enquiries and sales, and not the 81% of websites that sit there and do absolutely nothing.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: Creating a profitable website takes quite a bit of time, energy and money.

But it’s well worth your effort. Because a profitable website offers many benefits, including some or all of the following:

  • Increases customer enquiries
  • Generates qualified sales leads
  • Increases sales revenue
  • Decreases marketing costs
  • Gets more business out of existing customers
  • Improves customer service
  • Increases shareholder value

These days your website is often the first impression customers get of your business. Because a website is self-service it must stand or fall on its own merit. If your website sucks, customers will hit the back button, probably never to return. But if your website creates a strong first impression, you can get a head start on your competition.

If you’re not utilising your website to its full potential now, how long can you continue until your competitors get a real edge over you because they’re using the web more effectively?

This post is the final part of the series Your Website Sucks!

Do You Know These 5 Reasons Why You Need a Website Copywriter?

No one builds a website to fail.

And yet many business websites fail to meet basic customer needs. Poor writing is often to blame. The information is vague, badly written, poorly organised or impossible to find.

A good website copywriter can help remedy these problems. Here are five reasons why you need a copywriter on your website team:

1. Your brochure needs to be translated for the web
Writing for the web is very different from writing for print. That’s because reading from the screen is hard on your eyes. So rather than reading word for word, web users scan the page looking for relevant information. Good web content is written to be scanned.

To make content easier to scan website copywriters use around 50% fewer words than in print. They highlight key words with bold type and create bulleted lists. They start every page with a summary (just like a newspaper story). And they write meaningful (not just clever) headings and sub-headings.

2. Your site needs to be found
Your website is worthless if it can’t be found. A large proportion of the average site’s traffic comes from search engines (such as Google). And most people don’t look beyond the first page of search engine results. So if your site’s not on the first page, chances are people won’t find you.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a process of developing a website’s content so that it gets high search engine rankings. People generally search on two- or three-word key phrases such as “laptop computer”. Search engines deliver results for queries based on what they consider are “relevant”.

Key phrase density (i.e. how often the key phrase appears on a web page) is one of the most important factors that define what is relevant. Once you have key phrase-rich content on every page of your website, your rankings are likely to improve. So copywriting is the mainstay of SEO.

But high rankings are only the beginning. You can’t just stuff each web page full of your key phrases. Good search engine optimised copy must also be reader-friendly. It flows and is easy to read, all the while driving your marketing goals.

3. You can’t afford not to
People on the web are very task-orientated. Generally they’re trying to find information, buy something, communicate or be entertained. Well written sites help them achieve their tasks efficiently. They guide them through a process to achieve their desired result quickly and with minimum effort. Good web content is a valuable asset.

Poorly written sites frustrate and annoy people. If they can’t find the information they want or the content is poorly written or nonsensical, people will leave your site and probably never return. If your website wastes people’s time and aggravates them you risk eroding your hard-earned brand equity, not to mention losing business.

4. You want to beat your competition online
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.

Don’t get me wrong – great design is essential too. But great design without great writing is like a car without wheels.

5. You don’t have the time, skill or inclination to do it yourself
Of course, you could write your own website content… that’s if you can fit it in your overloaded schedule. Good writing is hard. It takes time. A website copywriter can usually produce your content more quickly and more effectively than you can.

Using a professional
For these reasons you should consider hiring a website copywriter to help you produce the content for your site. Or, at the very least, get one to review and edit your content to ensure your website is a success.

“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

Website Mistake 6: Your Content Is Too Hard To Read

Black line art illustration of a man with his thumbs down.
Black line art illustration of a man with his thumbs down.

Writing for the web is not the same as writing for print. That’s because reading from the screen is hard on your eyes.

Rather than reading word for word, web users scan the page looking for relevant information (much like the way people read newspapers). Good web content is written to be scanned.

This is a fundamental principle that’s overlooked by many website owners.

You can’t just cut and paste your brochure copy and hope it will be read online. It won’t. You need to create original content that is specifically written to be read online. Here’s how.

Web writing guidelines

Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen has studied how people gather information from web pages and developed a web writing style. Its elements include:

  • Concise writing – get to the point quickly and cut any waffle
  • Simple and relevant page titles that clearly explain what a page is about and will make sense when read out of context in search engine listings
  • Inverted pyramid structure – start every page with a summary of its content (just like a newspaper story)
  • Facilitating scanning and skimming – group information into discrete sections with appropriate sub-headings, use short paragraphs and bulleted lists, and highlight key phrases, and
  • A simple writing style free of marketing fluff works best online.

Content that’s written for the web enables readers to find information quickly, improves memory recall and adds credibility to your site.

Good web writing drives action

The web is a highly action-orientated marketing channel. So good web writing motivates the reader to take action: sign up for our newsletter, view our product range, download our new report, ring us for a quote, click here, and so on.

People want and need clear instructions, so make sure you give them. Every single page on your site needs a call to action, even if it’s only to read another page.

Things to do

This post is part 7 of the series Your Website Sucks!

The Pomodoro Technique & Writing an Honest FAQ: The Web Content Roundup

WebContentRoundup21Here are this week’s top seven stories on web content and online marketing as voted by my Twitter followers:

1). Writing an honest FAQ

2). What gets in the way of great digital copy? Ignorance, apathy, budget…

3). A Crash Course on Storytelling by @demianfarnworth 6 TED Talk videos

4). 6 Simple Steps to Writing Seductive Web Copy

5). Design + Copy: The Sum Is Greater Than the Parts Hallelujah!

6). 5 Types of Content Marketing to Continuously Attract Prospects

7). How The Pomodoro Technique Can Help You Draft Your Book In Just 3 Weeks – While Still Having A Life

For more of the freshest tips and tactics on web copywriting, SEO, social media and online marketing be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Facebook Fails & Editing Tips: The Web Content Roundup

WebContentRoundupHere are this week’s top seven stories on web content and online marketing as voted by my Twitter followers:

1). How to Optimize Copy When You Can’t Use Keywords

2). Just because you are struggling does not mean you are failing Sage advice for entrepreneurs from Neil Patel

3). 5 Worst Things Companies Do on Facebook Today Interesting

4). The Secret to High-Impact Copywriting (Hint: Your Customers Already Use It) Harness the power of imagination

5). 30 Quick Editing Tips Every Content Creator Needs to Know

6). 1 Sneaky Trick To Maximise Your Success (Thank-You) Pages Important, but often overlooked!

7). 30 Quick Conversion Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know

How To Get More Of Your Website Content Read

Most people go to a lot of effort to make their home page a welcoming entrance for first-time visitors. But in reality many – if not most – visitors will bypass your home page and enter your website on an interior page via a link in a search engine listing.

When you consider every page on your website is an entrance, you start to view your pages differently. You start to think of every page as a “home” page which must entice the reader to stick around, read the page and, hopefully, click a link to explore your site further.

Here are six tips to stop first-time visitors hitting the back button when they arrive at your site:

1. Answer visitors’ questions upfront

A visitor to your website will decide whether to stay or hit the back button in less than 10 seconds. In that short time they have to decide:

  • Am I in the right place?
  • Does this page have the information I’m looking for?
  • Should I bother reading more?

As many as 50% of visitors will bail after a quick glance.

To prevent visitors bailing immediately you have to answer their questions ASAP. The content at the top of the page – such as the page header, headline and first paragraph – must work together to communicate quickly and clearly what the page is about and why a visitor should keep reading.

2. Create stand alone pages

When a visitor arrives via a link they have very little context for your website. So make sure every page is self-explanatory and can be understood without having to read any other pages on your site. It’s OK to repeat some information found on other pages if it helps the reader understand the page.

And be sure to put some links to related information at the end of the page. Because every page must be a starting point for further exploration, not an end point.

3. Have an informative page header

The page header is an important sign post that helps visitors orient themselves to your website. It should include:

  • Your company name and/or logo in the top left-hand corner
  • A link to the home page from your company name/logo
  • A brief and descriptive website tagline that explains what your site is about.

Avoid large header graphics as they reduce the usable space above the fold (see below).

4. Put important information above the fold

Above the fold” refers to the portion of a web page a reader can see without scrolling. Readers will only scroll down if you’ve successfully captured their attention and aroused enough curiosity to read on.

So don’t bury your lead. Don’t make visitors read a load of background information before they get to the point. A good tactic is to write a summary of the page in the first paragraph – just like a newspaper article. And don’t forget to include your most compelling benefits.

5. Ensure global navigation is clear and intuitive

Global navigation appears on every page of a site, usually under the page header and/or in the left hand column. For visitors who arrive through a link and decide to continue browsing your site, clear, concise and intuitive navigation labels are a must.

6. Link to related pages

When someone arrives at your page from a search engine you know they’re interested in the page’s topic. So it makes sense to link to relevant information on the same topic, such as articles and products. You can add a list of related links in a side bar or at the end of the page.

DIY Website Copywriting is False Economy

This week, just by chance, I happened to be emailed a client proposal for a website by a web developer. I was reading through it and came across this sentence: “By [you] supplying us with the text and content, we are able to keep your costs down.” It strikes me that asking a client to supply their own content to keep costs down is

It strikes me that asking a client to supply their own content to keep costs down is false economy. Clients rarely create high quality content. And why should they? They’re usually not writers. And even if they are, it’s unlikely they have any experience writing for the web.

Without high quality content not only is the site unlikely to achieve its goal (to sell a product), but it could easily tarnish the reputation of the company. By trying to save a few bucks they’re jeopardising their entire web investment.

Failing to educate clients about the necessity for high quality content on their websites is a losing strategy for web developers. Sure they might make some money in the short term. But when their websites fail to create value, their clients won’t be happy and won’t be coming back or singing the developer’s praises around town.

Resources for Great Content

Since link building now relies so heavily on building relationships and providing useful content, many folks are desperate to generate sufficient content. Anvil Media recently put together a fantastic list of resources which can be found on the YouMoz blog.

They touch on each type of content, including text, video, audio, and graphics. They then go on to offer some excellent content creation resources in each of these fields.

The list is an absolute must-have for any struggling content marketers. Get it here: A Goldmine of Content Resources