Is Your Website Working for You or Against You?

We all know how important a website is to a business’s online strategy. Your website is the most important asset for marketing your company. It’s your storefront; the first place people go online to find out more about you and your business. That is, if they can find it.

The question is… Is your website working for you or against you?

Having a website alone isn’t going to guarantee you results. You need a website that’s going to work hard for you. So what does that mean? Your website needs to do more than just exist, it needs to perform. It needs to attract visitors, educate them and convince them to buy your products or services.

Today, the web is social and interactive. Hence, a website can no longer stand alone. To be successful it must now embrace search, social media, content, blogging, and more rich content than ever before. Gone are the days where all it took was a URL, fancy Flash graphics, and an expensive advertising campaign to temporarily boost traffic.

There has been a shift in human behavior. Today’s potential customer wishes to consume information when they want and how they want and often times, without the involvement of a sales person. They want to be educated, not sold to.

It’s a very competitive world out there on the internet these days and you can bet if you’re not taking advantage of all these tactics- your competition is.

Your website must look great

This sounds obvious, yet there are still so many ugly websites out there.

Your website represents who you are and what you offer. Within a matter of seconds of landing on your website, a potential customer asks themselves:

Is this site credible?
Is it trustworthy?
Is this company stable?
Do I feel comfortable? Does this site make me feel welcome?
Is this a professional company?
Am I in the right place?
You need to ask yourself all of these questions about your website!

You know that old motto KISS (keep it simple stupid). Visual design is the first test of a site’s credibility. If it fails on this criterion, web users are likely to abandon the site and seek other sources of information and services. While consumers say they judge on substance, studies have demonstrated that consumers judge on aesthetics, and get distracted by bells and whistles.

Make sure that anyone visiting your website can view it no matter what browser or application they are using. Your website needs to be compatible with multiple browsers and devices in order to gain significant traffic.

A great website design must:

Include proper use of colors: Use the right colors for your audience and to draw attention to select elements.
Avoid any unnecessary animations, gadgets and media. The days of using Flash animations because they look cool doesn’t get you where you want to be. Only use media and animations to help support content and information.
Offer a clear navigation structure
Showcase Clean Typography: Use fonts, font sizes and font colors that are easy to read.
Image is everything… pick the right one

Images can be a powerful element to any website but you need to use them wisely. Marketing Experiments performed a test comparing the use of stock photography verses real imagery on a website and each of their effects on lead generation. What they found was that photos of real people out-performed the stock photos by 95%. Why? Because, stock images tend to be irrelevant. Every image is transmitting a subconscious message to your audience and sometimes the result is different than you might expect.

Online Presence / SEO

If your website can’t be found online, then it doesn’t matter how pretty it is. Period.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an absolute must-have to any website strategy, but it takes hard work and consistency when aiming for the top spot. To score a top position you need to implement a number of strategies:

Keyword Research – You’ve got to use the words your customers are searching for
On-Page SEO – Your site needs to include the proper keywords, image tags, title tags, description tags, etc.
Off-Page SEO – This includes link-building opportunities and online directories
Relative Content – If people like your content, they will want to link to your website
Avoid Keyword Stuffing – While it’s important to include your keyword as many times as necessary within a page, you don’t want to go overboard with it either
Site Map – Adding an XML sitemap is a component that is commonly overlooked, while it may not be the deciding factor in improving your Search Engine Optimization, it will certainly help
Solid Navigation Structure

Much like how two people will take two different routes to get to the same location when they are driving; two people may navigate through your website in different directions. Providing multiple links to highly valued pages will able website visitors to find it easier.

Having a good, solid navigation system that supports all search preferences will keep visitors on your website longer. If people can’t find what they are looking for on your website, chances are they will move on to your competitor’s site.

Don’t require visitors to have to think about where they need to go and how to get there. Make it easy for them. Key factors for a solid website navigation system include:

Offering primary navigation simple and at the top of the web page
Include a search box
Include navigation in the footer of your site
Include links within your page copy and make it clear where those links go to
Use of breadcrumbs on every page so people are aware of their navigation trail
Avoid use of complicated JavaScript and especially Flash for your navigation
Creating Content

While design is important, don’t forget that offering great content is what your visitors are ultimately after. That’s why they have come to your website. Content is what search engines and people are looking for. It’s what drives visitors to your site and turns prospects into leads.

Why is engaging content important? Even though the purpose of a corporate website is to provide information about your products and services, not everyone is ready to buy when they first hit your site.

Examples of educational content include:

eBooks
Whitepapers
How-to articles
Videos
Providing educational content on your website will nurture prospects through your marketing and sales funnel until they are ready to buy. In addition, they will feel as if they are receiving valuable information along the way, not just a sales pitch.

Key things to remember when developing content for your website:

Write for humans, not search engines- people don’t read like robots
Provide educational content that helps others
Offer unique content
Know you’re audience- providing content that is specific to your potential buyers makes it more relevant for them
Proof-read- spelling and grammar mistakes are a no-no
Blogging

Blogging is one of the most important assets to any website. Blogging creates fresh content and adds more pages to your website, which is great for SEO. It helps establish you as an industry authority and when designed correctly, directs traffic back to your main website.

Make Content Shareable and Social

Social media websites have seen and exponential growth in the past decade and continue to grow larger every day. Oftentimes people will “Like” a post, product, or blog entry, causing all of their friends and followers to see what they like and even provide them with a link to find it themselves.

Make it just as easy for people to share and socialize about your content and resources. It’s almost blindingly obvious why you should take advantage of this opportunity. Providing people with excellent content that can be shared with their peers will surely increase your flow of traffic.

Add a sharing widget or plugin to every page on your site. This will enable visitors to share your pages via all the major social networks. Tools like AddThis or ShareThis are easy to install and provide you with analytic tracking as well.

There are plugins available that enable people to share your articles and blog posts to social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Customer Validation

Testimonials are very important because they help your potential customer build trust in you. Prospective customers love to see confirmation that you’ve made other customers happy.

They can help to establish credibility, especially if you are a new company. They can also have a positive effect on the potential customers purchasing decision by improving conversions. People will feel less skeptical about purchasing your products/services when they see feedback from previous buyers.

Testimonials, customer reviews and case studies are powerful sources of content for moving prospects even closer to the final buying stages.

Clear Call-to-Action

A clear Call-to-Action (CTA) is imperative to fuel your sales funnel, transforming website visitors into leads. Then, converting them from leads to customers/clients. The effect of a successful Call-to-Action is to drive a visitor to take a desired action. CTAs are typically displayed above the fold or in clear sight on a page, so visitors know where to take the next step.

You don’t want them leaving without providing some information or else you will lose the opportunity to nurture them until they are ready to buy. Here are some must-haves for increasing your website conversions. You can create CTAs that add value, like guides, articles, whitepapers, and case studies.

It’s ideal to place CTAs both above and below the fold (top half of the webpage). Placing CTAs above the fold is important because that area of a page gets the most views. However, there are still other areas of a page to promote your CTAs.

Studies suggest placing CTAs to the right of the page work better, but it’s important to run tests and see what works best on your particular website.