Okay, a website cannot hate you. It’s not artificially intelligent or biological, it can’t THINK about hating you. So, hate may be too strong a word but, the feeling may still persist.
How do you make it better? The website, I mean. Here are some things that I see organizations doing wrong, time and time again. Most of these will only cost you some of your time, some will cost very little money. Some of these are able to raise the confidence and comfort level of your visitors. While others increase the visibility and popularity of your company’s website!
- Get a ‘real’ domain name. Businesses, of any size, should not use free web hosting with web addresses like;
http://yourcompany.freebie.com/, http://www.freebie.com/~yourcompany, http://freebie.com/users/~yourcompany, etc.
I get it, you’re trying to save money. Put the penny-pincher in you where the whole world can’t see it or where they would rather applaud you for being frugal. Freebie domain names are often viewed as an insincere attempt (re: cheap skate) to be part of the internet. Go ahead and invest $10 to $20 per year on a well chosen domain name for your website. It’s worth every penny!
- Get a ‘real’ email address. Just like the above, freebie email addresses do not present well for any small business. Find a web host that offers you multiple email addresses with your hosting (i.e. “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org”). These email accounts are often included, but not always so be sure to ask when purchasing. With an added bonus, the emails received can be routed to your normal inbox, so you won’t have to change your current system.
- Update your website regularly. Nothing grows doubt about the stability of your company as quickly as “cobwebs” on your website. If you haven’t published any updates in more than a year, there will be quite a few people that believe you have forgotten about them because you’ve forgotten about the website. If you’ve gone 3 months, the perceptions are all over the place about your organization. If it’s been 30 days without changes to the site, a few will not notice but, many will become curious. A good rule of thumb is to publish something every week or two. Although not necessary you may perhaps include a “What’s New” page (with a phrase or two about each important change) prominently placed on the home page.
- Offer opt-in notifications. If new offerings and events are something that your potential visitors may like to be notified about, then offer a place on your website for them to sign up for an Opt-In mailing list. Remember to not send more than they might tolerate. Find this out with a survey. Then tell them how often to expect something and stick to that schedule. Use your marketing skills to word it correctly and include some action provoking links to create repeat visits to your freshly updated website.
- Ensure that your website is being found by the search engines. And then make sure that your website appears near the top of the search results. If a web surfer used Google to find a product like “silverware” they would likely find a few hundred thousand matches. How many of those websites would a consumer take the time to visit? Few would visit more than the first ten. Is your website going to be one of those first ten? (This is OUR area of specialization and expertise!)
- Gather information about your on-line orders. If at all possible find ways to measure the number of times a visitor via search engine actually makes a purchase at your website. What keywords did they use? What search engine? What did they buy? What pages did they visit before they made the purchase?
- Follow up in 24 hours or less. Always quickly follow-up any inquiry by phone or email. One delay can mean the loss of one sale. Habitual delays will mean many, many lost sales.
- Use an auto-responder system. Even if you’re automatic email doesn’t confirm a sale. This is a good way to quickly follow-up with a potential customer and give them confidence that the message was delivered to the right place. Even after an automated response is sent, the “24 hour or less clock” is still running.
- Learn to read your site traffic reports. It is important that your web host provides up-to-date and clearly understandable statistics. Without this skill, how are you going to be able to monitor your websites performance? Ask us to help you with this, we’d love to teach you what to look for and how to better understand it!
- Stay away from web services that use or offer automatically created “doorway” pages. Doorway pages MAY increase traffic to your site for a while, but the visitor will likely land on a web page that is only meant to be “read” by a search engine spider or webbot. These pages can look pretty ugly to human visitors who will quickly leave such a page. (We have content writers that can inexpensively research and write articles that appeal, first to the human visitor and then to the webbot!)
- Also stay away from web services that guarantee top 10 rankings for every keyword. Whatever they are doing MAY increase traffic to your site for a short while, but the search engines (SE’s) are not likely to put up with it for long. It is possible and even likely the SE’s will ‘ban’ your websites from their indexes. (We do not guarantee that any specific keywords or phrases end up in the top ten of the results. But we can guarantee that well-chosen key-phrases will produce increased traffic for your websites!)
- Do whatever it takes to make every page load quickly. If it doesn’t load fast, especially because of graphic glut, you’re just frustrating your potential customers. And Google recently announced that it will penalize slow loading websites. Surfers just won’t wait for slow loading web pages. (Our site designs never suffer in this way!)
- Do not use frames in the construction of your websites. Keep in mind the authorship of a piece of content is important to almost everyone that uses a search engine. So it’s also important to the Search Engines. Using a frame obscures ownership/authorship. Search Engines may only index the frameset page and not the individual pages that hold your actual content. Search results for a page using frames will produce, at best, unpredictable results.
“Improving the usability of a website can increase sales, reduce customer service calls, and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. For internally used software and websites, like intranets and timesheets systems, improving usability can increase productivity by reducing the time to complete a task, reducing the error rate, and increasing satisfaction. Most of these improvements can be quantified by measuring saved time, gained revenues, and increased productivity.” — Foraker Labs of Boulder, Colorado.
- Make the web site part of your organization’s overall business strategy. Train staff to know what the web site has and how it is organized so they can direct inquiries to the web site for the latest and greatest. This will increase traffic, increase repeat traffic, deliver consistent answers and reduce the number and length of frequently asked question calls.
- Create a Resources Page. Seek out the web sites of other organizations that may hold related resources for your visitors. Think of suppliers, trade associations and other professional allies. Even competitors occasionally trade links with each other.
- Make use of industry affiliations. Perhaps you have lots of traffic and you’re ready to sell a little space to offset costs. Affiliate mining allows us to find affiliates that can really bring in revenue where you may have thought there was none before.
- If your web site is up to it you might consider submitting it to a web site design contest. If you receive an award be sure to prominently place the award logo and link to the awarding web site. But watch these carefully, some will remove their link to you soon after theirs has been added to your site!