Website Mistake 4: Your Site Doesn’t Create Trust and Credibility

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

It’s a sad fact of life that the web is a very low-trust environment.

In terms of commerce, it doesn’t have the physical solidity and/or familiarity that other sales channels do.

Often there is no clear delineation between editorial content and advertising. And because the barriers to entry are low, people are often dubious about the validity of information on the web.

To create a profitable website you must overcome people’s scepticism. You must convince them that they can believe what you tell them and it’s safe to do business with you. Trust on the web is measured by a visitor’s willingness to risk time, money and personal data on a website.

Trust is not conferred in an instant. It is built up with a series of positive customer experiences over time. There are several website design and content factors that can start the trust-building process online. Dismiss them at your peril.

Trustworthy design

People expect a reputable company to have a professionally designed and attractive website. Clear navigation shows respect for visitors and suggests they can expect high levels of customer service.

No surprises

Give visitors all the information they need to make a purchase decision. Be up-front with your returns policy, shipping charges and times, and what to do if there’s a problem.

All your contact details

Visitors feel more confident about you if they know you have a bricks and mortar office and you can be contacted by phone if necessary. So include all contact details for your business including phone numbers and physical address.

Correct and up-to-date content

Most business websites don’t need to be updated regularly. But you must ensure all your information is correct and current. Don’t have a news section unless you have the resources to update it regularly. The best idea is to fill your website with evergreen content.

It’s also a good idea to have your content proof read before you put it on your site. Typos and bad grammar communicate contempt for readers and tarnish your image.

Sensitive use of email

People are very reluctant to give out their email addresses online because they fear a barrage of spam. So any time you ask for an email address you should also include a link to your privacy policy, which should outline exactly what you intend to do with a customer’s email address.

You should clearly explain what email you will be sending them. Is it an order confirmation, regular e-newsletter or periodic special offers? Visitors should also be able to control how much email they get from you with easily accessible unsubscribe functions.

Website visitors are also reluctant to give away anything more than their most basic email details i.e. name and email address. Once you’ve established a relationship, and if you offer something of value in return (e.g. a free report or white paper), visitors are often more willing to give you more information.

But they’ll still want to know exactly what you intend to do with their contact details. If you intend to have a sales representative call them, be up-front about it. Better still, ask them whether they want to be contacted offline.

Things to do

  • Make sure you give all your contact details including street address and phone number.
  • Write a privacy policy and link to it whenever you ask for a visitor’s email address.
  • Give customers all the information they need to make a purchase.

This post is part 5 of the series Your Website Sucks!

Generate Corporate Website Waffle Automatically!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Do you have trouble incubating leading-edge solutions for your corporate website?

Or perhaps you’re wondering how to innovate compelling cross-media content?

Here’s a next generation solution for your mission-critical website redesign…

The Web Economy Bullshit Generator.

Simply press the button for best-of-breed corporate gobbledegook!

You can now harness end-to-end e-mumbo jumbo 24/7. You’ll never be stuck for words again!

But seriously…

Don’t use weasel words like these on your website.

You might think you sound edgy. But you’re just confusing people and losing business, like this:

The Profitable Website Cheat Sheet: 14 Proven Tactics To Boost The Pulling Power Of Your Website

Based on 12 years’ research, The Profitable Website Cheat Sheet unlocks the mystery to getting more customer enquiries and sales leads from your website. Written in plain English, it reveals:

  • The 3 things you must put on your home page to stop visitors hitting the back button.
  • The under-utilised tactic to capture your website visitors’ names and addresses that also positions you as an expert in your field.
  • Why persuasive content is much more important to your website’s success than its design and graphics.
  • Tips for improving every aspect of your website, without a hint of technical mumbo jumbo.

Just one of these tactics could significantly improve your website’s results.

How to Build a Website for Only $108

Are you keen to leverage the web to promote your business, but only have a minuscule budget for website development? This four-step process shows you how to build an effective small business website on the cheap. Real cheap.

I’m a tightwad when it comes to marketing. I’m always trying to minimise costs and maximise results. Are you the same?

If so, you’ll appreciate my latest research project. I set out to discover how cheaply I could create a small business website. My only condition was that the site had to include all the ingredients of a website that sells i.e. persuasive content, professional design and targeted traffic. Here’s what I came up with:

Step 1: Create your content

This is the hardest and most important part of the process. Good content is the critical ingredient of a website that sells. And it’s where most people blow it.

The simple fact is most business owners don’t know how to write website content that’s customer-focussed, informative and persuasive. If you can’t afford to hire a copywriter to do it for you, you’ll have to learn how to do it yourself.

Fortunately there are some fantastic online resources to help you. If, like me, you sell professional services (e.g. designers, coaches, consultants, accountants, lawyers, financial planners, etc.) you’re in luck.

Robert Middleton’s Web Site Toolkit ($95) provides a complete blueprint for creating client-attracting website content. You also get heaps of useful real life examples for inspiration.

Otherwise, I recommend you read Copyblogger’s 10-Step Copywriting Tutorial, get a copy ofMake Your Content PREsell! (free e-book) and diligently apply everything you learn.

Step 2: Register your domain name

Fierce competition amongst domain name sellers has caused prices to tumble. Go Daddyoffers “.com” domain names for $13. You also get a free personalised email account.

Optional extra: If you want a “.com.au” domain name you’ll pay a bit more, and the next step will be a little more complicated.

Step 3: Design and build your website

There are now several high-quality free website creation services available. Weebly is one of the best and is used by two million people. It’s been described by Time magazine as a “clever WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website building tool for non-techies.” Hosting is thrown in free.

All you have to do is sign up, select one of the 65+ professionally designed templates, and add your content using the simple drag and drop website editor. You even have the option to set up an online store. Finally, follow the instructions to update the site settings to publish your website at your own domain name.

This video shows you how:

Optional extra: You might want to get a graphic designer to create a customised page header image with your logo and tag line.

Step 4: Get some traffic

The quickest and easiest way to drive qualified traffic to your new website is with Google AdWords. Google regularly promotes AdWords with free credit vouchers. Keep an eye out for them in business magazines and at business events.

Setting up an AdWords campaign isn’t difficult. But there are a few tricks to maximising your results. Fortunately AdWords guru Perry Marshall offers a free five-day e-course that will put you ahead of the learning curve.

Disclaimer: Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

When it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO) Weebly’s options are somewhat limited. Also, if Weebly’s owners can’t convert the free service into a profitable business model, the whole thing might disappear in the future. (So make sure you archive your site to a zip file when you’ve finished it.)

But hey, for a professional-quality website for between $13 and $108, these are minor quibbles.

What’s the ROI on Funky?

Pink sunglasses isolated on white.
Pink sunglasses isolated on white.

Recently I found this quote on an online marketing agency’s blog: “Macromedia Flash is the key to making your websites look funky.”

It really got me wondering. Why do you want to make your website look funky? And more importantly, what’s the ROI on funky?

I’m no great fan of Flash. It has its place and I believe it can improve the ROI of a website. But only if it offers something that’s both useful and efficient.

Most of the Flash I see is gratuitous “show business” and does a website more harm than good. I fully endorse Gerry McGovern’s acerbic observation: “What is a Flash intro except a fourth rate TV ad by someone who knows that they will never get the chance to do a real TV ad?”

I think the main reason Flash remains so popular is that many website owners are still under the misguided impression that their website will be better if it looks “funky”. And their web developers/agencies don’t know enough about what makes a successful website to advise them otherwise.

The Right Way to Write a Call to Action

Website content is written to bring about a change e.g. a change in beliefs, attitudes, brand preferences or purchase decisions.

To make this change happen you must be specific about the action you want the reader to take. (This is the call to action.) If you don’t specify what this action is in your content, few people will take it.

In a post on his Pro Copy Tips blog, master copywriter Dean Rieck explains how to write more effective calls to action using “command language”.

Command language isn’t wishy washy or subtle. But it isn’t rude either. It’s just simple and direct. It’s like the way your doctor talks to you when explaining how to take your medications.

Here are some examples of calls to action using command language:

  • To order the Widget 4000, call 1-800-555-1234.
  • Call today for your Free Trial!
  • CLICK HERE to subscribe free.

The message is don’t pussy foot around. Be up-front and clear about what you want people to do. Because using command language in your calls to action improves the odds of getting the response you want.

You can read the entire post here:
Use command language to get the response you want!

Need help creating website content?

If you need help creating website content with strong calls to action, an experienced website copywriter can help.

Web Design Advice From a Copywriter

WebDesignWhen I looked at my client’s new website my heart sank…

The content I had spent weeks researching, writing and polishing was virtually unreadable.

The body text was tiny – far too small for my 46 year old eyes. To make matters worse the text was reversed out – white text on a black background. And the headings and lead paragraph were all in capitals.

The designer had made just about every readability error in the book.

I suppose they thought they were being creative. But, as advertising genius David Ogilvy once said: “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” And a website can’t sell if nobody can read the text.

What is good web design?

Design is very important on the web. An aesthetically pleasing site confers credibility and creates a positive impression. But too many sites put creative design before usability. A website needs to do more than look good. It must also be easy to use.

Consider some of the most popular sites on the web: Google, Amazon and eBay. These sites are successful because they are useful and easy to use. But I doubt they’ll ever win any awards for creative design.

You get no extra points for using a boldly original site design. In fact, it pays to do the same as everybody else. Why? Because people are already familiar with standard layouts and understand how to use standard navigation. They don’t have to waste time figuring out how your site works.

Some conventions worth following

The more your site follows popular conventions in layout and design, the easier it will be for your customers to find the information they’re looking for. Here are some guidelines for good web design:

First and foremost, the design should complement the content. The content shouldn’t have to compete with the design for your visitors’ attention. Remember, the words make the sale, not the design.

Use well-established web navigation conventions. Use commonly understood terms to label navigation categories.

Make sure the text is easily readable. Use a legible font – 10 point is good, 14 point is better. Use reversed out text sparingly, and only for emphasis.

Make sure there is sufficient contrast between the text and the background. Use dark text on light-coloured background.

Use standard links. Make it obvious what’s clickable (underline text links) and differentiate between visited and unvisited links.

Make images earn their keep. Images should be used to enhance and reinforce the information on the page, not just to look cool.

Less is more. Minimise visual clutter by reducing content to the absolute essential.

Jakob says…

To finish off, here’s some advice from usability curmudgeon Jakob Nielsen: “Simple, unobtrusive designs that support users are successful because they abide by the web’s nature – and they make people feel good.”

Over to you

Do you agree with my design advice? What are your web design bug bears? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

How to Write a Better “Contact Us” Page

“One of the hardest-working but most underrated pages of any website is the ‘Contact Us’ page,” writes Monte Enbysk in an article on the Microsoft Office Live Small Business website.

I couldn’t agree more. Your contact page should be more than a just a recitation of your contact details. It should explain how people can contact your business as well as why they should want to contact you.

The article covers 11 tips on how to make your contact page more effective, including:

List a snail mail address

Especially if you want to appear as a more “legitimate” business or want to attract customers from the local area.

If relevant, link to your blog or social-networking site page

These days people also want to contact you through social networking channels too.

Guide people on why they should contact you

Where appropriate, include links to your products or services pages, customer service or technical support, your newsletter sign-up page, and/or your FAQ page.

You can read the entire article here:
Tips for an effective ‘Contact Us’ page

Need help with your website content?

Creating website content that gets read and acted upon by your target market is a lot easier when you work with an experienced website copywriter.

Your Website’s Usability – Satisfaction or Frustration?

One website mistake small businesses frequently make is putting creativity before ease of use.

There’s no point having a cool looking site if visitors can’t find the information they’re seeking.

My pet peeves include text that’s too hard to read, because it’s too small or doesn’t have enough contrast with the background, non-standard navigation, incomplete or hard to find information, and pages that take ages to download.

Why usability matters

Your website visitors often experience the usability of your site before they do business with you. If they have a good experience, they’re more likely to get a good impression of your business and become customers.

But if they have a frustrating experience they won’t stay for long and may well move on to a competitor’s site.

Usability equates with efficient task completion. People come to your site because they’re trying to complete a task e.g. find information on a product or service they want to buy, compare features and prices, and so on.

A usable site allows them to complete their tasks efficiently, and thus creates customer satisfaction.

The value of usability

The success of the average website could be improved dramatically by adopting a few proven web usability principles that dish up key content and support visitors’ most important tasks. And the benefits of a usable site are well worth the effort:

  • Improving usability can increase revenue and customer satisfaction while lowering costs.
  • A site that is redesigned to incorporate best practice usability can expect its conversion rate to increase 100% and traffic to increase 150%.
  • Usability has a direct impact on branding. If visitors face obstacles finding the information they need it will negatively affect how they view your brand.

Making improvements

The good news is it isn’t difficult to create a competitive edge by providing superior usability on your website. That’s because most websites are so bad it doesn’t take much to stand out. Here are a few simple things you can do:

Work with your web designer to avoid the top 10 mistakes in web design.

Get a couple of people who aren’t familiar with your site to test it. Ask them to complete a common task and look over their shoulders while they attempt it.

Get a user testing report on your site from usertesting.com for only $39.

Over to you

What do you think? What website usability issues get you ticked off? And are you conscious of improving usability when you do site redesigns? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Website Mistake 1: Your Website Lacks Clearly Defined Goals

There’s an old saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”.

In my experience, many business websites don’t know where they’re going.

They’ve been built without any clearly defined goals. So they end up just sitting there doing nothing, adding no value to the business. Or worse, slowly eroding hard-earned brand equity.

Business websites are often created on the reasoning, “We’ve gotta have a website because everyone else has one.” Or worse, many business owners regard a website as a kind of marketing silver bullet. They think that by simply putting a site on the web they’ll be deluged with sales enquiries. Unfortunately it ain’t so.

The first and most important step for every website is to establish what you want to achieve i.e. set your goals. Realistic and achievable goals for a website fall into the following categories:

Generate customer enquiries and sales leads – This is the holy grail for most small-to-medium businesses. They hope to get prospective customers to call or email them, or sign up for a newsletter, ebook, etc.

E-commerce – Making sales directly from your website.

Customer service – You can often serve your customers better by providing customer service online. This can range from FAQs on common customer queries to a 24/7 online help desk.

Building brand equity – People now expect every reputable business to have a website. And they expect the same respect, responsiveness and customer service on the web as they receive from other touch points. A website can have a powerful effect on customers’ brand perception.

Process automation – You can cut costs by automating processes online e.g. online billing, data gathering, delivering information and human resources procedures.

One, or a combination, of these goals should be the primary focus of your website. Once you’ve selected your goals you can develop strategies to achieve them.

Things to do

  • Commit to setting a measurable goal for your website.
  • Map out your entire sales and after-sales process. Consider how your website may be able to add value at each step.

This post is part 2 of the series Your Website Sucks!