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!

Free Marketing Resources

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The Profitable Website Cheat Sheet

Discover the 14 most effective website tactics to help you attract more customers and boost sales. Free download

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Tactics, insights and inspiration on how to get more customer enquiries and make more sales.

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.

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!

Website Mistake 7: Your Site Isn’t Visible On Google

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

Your website is like a billboard in the desert. It doesn’t matter how good it is, if no one sees it, it’s absolutely worthless.

The most common way people find websites in Australia is via Google search engine. Therefore you can expect a large proportion of your website traffic to come from Google.

So you need a search engine marketing strategy to ensure your prospects and customers see a listing for your website when they’re using Google to find information about the types of products or services you sell. There are two ways to do this:

1. Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Wikipedia defines SEO as “the process of improving the visibility of a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid search results.” When people search on Google they generally enter two- or three-word key phrases, such as “buy laptop computer”. Google delivers search results based on what it considers are “relevant” web pages.

There are three important elements of SEO:

i). “On-page” factors are directly related to the content and structure of the website. Placing relevant key phrases in strategic positions on the web page – such as the title tag, meta description, headlines, and sprinkled throughout the text – helps the search engines know what your web page is about.

ii). Having a search engine-friendly site. Search engines catalogue the web using programs called spiders (or bots) which automatically index content. You must ensure the coding of your site allows the Google bot access to all your content.

iii). Inbound links. Google used the number of inbound links to a web page as an indication of its authority. The more inbound links a page has, the greater authority it has. All things being equal, Web pages with greater authority rank higher in the search listings. Google also gives more weight to links from better quality sites.

Inbound links is the most important factor. And it’s also the hardest work.

2. Google AdWords

AdWords is the alternative to SEO for getting your site listed on the first page of Google.

Google show small text ads on the top and right hand side (and sometimes the bottom) of their search results. The ads shown are determined by the key phrase the searcher enters.

For example, if a person searched for “pool cleaners in Sydney”, ads for pool cleaners servicing Sydney would appear alongside the free listings. When a searcher clicks on an ad they are taken to the advertiser’s web page. Advertisers pay only for “click-throughs” i.e. when a searcher clicks on their ad to visit their website. Hence the name “pay-per-click”.

Geographical targeting technology means your ad only appears in the regions you select. So it’s easy to target customers within, say, 20 kilometres of your business.

The fee for each click-through is determined by a bidding system. Generally speaking, to get your ad higher up the listings you must bid more. Obviously, the more people bidding on a particular key phrase, the higher the bids will be. Advertisers control their costs by setting a maximum budget.

The importance of search engine visibility

These days the web is a key information resource for most consumers and business buyers. As Ken Cassar, chief analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings observed, “Web users are conducting more searches not because they can’t find what they’re looking for, but because search as a utility has become deeply ingrained into people’s everyday lives.”

So not having a strategy for making your website visible on Google is one of the biggest mistakes you can make online. If your site doesn’t appear in the first two pages of search results (and preferably the first page) when customers are researching products and services to buy, it opens the door for your competition to steal your business.

Google bring qualified traffic to your site. That’s because people who find your site via Google are actively looking for information on your products and services. SEO and AdWords enable you to build brand awareness throughout the buying cycle – from initial research to purchase. And high search engine rankings create a good impression of your brand.

Things to do

  • Create a search engine marketing strategy for your website.
  • Use the free Google Keyword Tool to research the key phrases customers use to search for your products and services.
  • Develop strategies to get more inbound links for your site.

This post is part 8 of the series Your Website Sucks!

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!

10 Years of Websites That Suck. Why?

The other day I re-discovered Vincent Flanders’s Web Pages That Suck. Its mission is to help visitors “learn usability and good web design by looking at bad web design”.

It’s totally irreverent and a hilarious and enlightening read. Flanders mercilessly parodies real life examples of clueless web design. He explains why to avoid mystery meat navigation andwhy you shouldn’t confuse web design with sex along with dozens of other useful design and usability principles.

I was shocked to see the site is celebrating its 10th anniversary. That’s 10 years that Flanders has been giving free advice, in plain English, on how to make a good website. And yet the web is still crammed with sites that suck – sites that don’t even follow the most rudimentary principles of good design, usability and online marketing.

Flanders isn’t the only long-standing evangelist for good websites. Gerry McGovern has been publishing his free e-newsletter on best practice web content management since 1996. Jakob Nielsen’s excellent Alertbox e-newsletter on web usability has been going since 1995! It’s also free.

It’s obvious the message about what makes a good website isn’t getting through. I’m really curious about what website managers know about what creating a successful website. Who do they turn to for advice? And what do those people tell them? Any insights would be most appreciated.

10 Usability Fixes to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Website

I learn something new about website copywriting every day.

Over at Smashing Magazine they’ve put together a list of 10 Useful Usability Findings and Guidelines.

The first tip is to put form labels above the field. It makes sense because we fill out forms from top to bottom.

Looks like I’ll have to email my website designer and get him to tweak my forms!

Other pearls of wisdom include:

  • Your website design is a credibility indicator. That’s right, people really do judge a book by its cover. Ditto the quality of your website content.
  • These days people DO scroll website pages. But you should still leave your most important information (i.e. your value proposition) above the fold on your home page.
  • Blue is the best colour for links. Looks like my designer will be getting  some more work!
  • White space on a web page improves comprehension by almost 20% and influences user satisfaction and experience. But remember, white space on a website is like silence on the radio: a little bit goes a long way!

Website Mistake 5: Your Website Doesn’t Capture Qualified Sales Leads

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

There is a Zen Buddhist riddle that goes: If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

The question you should be pondering is: If a prospective customer visits my website, but doesn’t leave their contact details, how can I convert them into a customer?

Gathering sales leads

If you want to generate qualified sales leads from your website (and you definitely should if you’re selling business-to-business), you don’t want visitors to leave your site without registering their contact details.

Why? Because if you don’t have their contact details there’s no way to follow up with them. And consistent follow-up is the way to convert prospects into customers.

Make them an offer!

So your site should include compelling offers to entice visitors to register their contact details. Offering a free report, guide or white paper is a tried and tested method of obtaining prospects’ email addresses.

Once you have a prospect’s contact details you can deliver stay-in-touch marketing – online and/or offline. Over time you will convert prospects into customers.

If your site doesn’t offer enticing incentives to get visitors to register their contact details you’re not maximising the marketing potential of your website.

Things to do

  • Write a special report on your area of expertise.
  • Make the report available for download on your website.
  • Capture prospects’ contact details using your special report as bait.

This post is part 6 of the series Your Website Sucks!

Essential Principles for Effective Web Design

As beautiful as your website might seem to you, you may very well be making some crucial design mistakes. Unfortunately, no matter how great a site looks, if it’s hard to use, you’ll lose people immediately.

Pamela Wilson of Big Brand Systems offers some fantastic principles for web design in her recent post on Copyblogger. For example:

  • Embrace white space
  • Go with the scanning flow
  • Use obvious navigation terms