Some of the most important aspects of website design, development and usability get left undone until it is realized that something is preventing user from purchasing the products or services represented. Every industry has a different niche audience (those seeking your services specifically) as well as a much larger one (those who are not seeking, but can use, your services). While you donít have to provide a perfect user experience for every individual who stumbles across your site (an impossible task anyway,) you always want to be sure to incorporate the elements that your audience wants and needs.
Display Contact Information
This was mentioned earlier but important enough to repeat. Be sure your contact information is easy to find, donít make your visitors hunt for it. Every page of your site should have a ďcontact usĒ link taking them to the page that provides all the information necessary to allow them to contact you with their preferred method of doing so.
Having a prominently displayed phone number on every page can increase phone traffic and resulting sales significantly. If you target a national or international audience, be sure to display a toll free number.
Create Fast Loading Pages
Even though broadband access is increasing, there is still a significant portion of those still connecting to the Internet via dial up. Keep this in consideration when you design your site. Be sure that every page downloads relatively quickly, with minimal lag time. Donít make your audience wait for you because they wonít.
Using CSS and external scripts can significantly decrease download time of your pages. Use them! Limit your images and, whenever possible, compress them into smaller byte sizes.
Focus on a Single Theme
Donít try to do too much with a single website. Unless you have a nationally recognizable brand name, such as Wal-Mart, that sells both Barbie dolls and car batteries from the same store, you need to keep your websites focused on a single theme. Focusing your site(s) accordingly will help drive customers to the closing sale with minimal distractions, as well as enhancing keyword targeting for search engine placement. The less your website is about, the better youíll be able to focus the engines and the visitors to what you have.
Developing Multiple Sites
If you wish to sell products from different industries youíre better off creating multiple sites to do the job. Few people will trust a clothing website to sell auto insurance! When going after different markets, it makes good business sense to create a new site for each industry you are targeting. When using this strategy, be sure to follow a couple of simple guidelines:
Target a Unique Audience: You want to be sure that each site is targeting a substantially unique audience or customer base. If you own a site selling house plans, donít go build five new sites with each one selling a different version of the same thing: garageplans.com, houseplans.com, customhomeplans.com, colonialhomeplans.com, etc.
This tactic is often used by those trying to dominate the top results of the search engines, edging out all their competitors. It is also considered a severe form of spam by the search engines. Each site that you set up must have a unique purpose with virtually no crossover with your other sites. Some examples of uniquely targeted sites are: houseplans.com, landscapingplans.com, homeofficeplans.com.
Somebody looking to convert a room into a home office is not necessarily going to be crossing over with someone looking to build an entire house. On the other hand, someone building a house might also be looking for landscaping plans, but that is essentially an entirely different area of design altogether. Each of these potential websites can be built to be substantially unique and target seekers of different needs.
Use Unique Content: Each site that you build needs to contain substantially different content. In our examples of acceptable unique sites above you want to make sure that you donít use similar content from one site to the next. You also should avoid using the same design template as well as the same business name and contact information on each site.
When I first started a blog for my business I had incorporated it into my main business website. About a year later I decided to roll it off into another completely new site hoping to garner some broader exposure. I could have easily kept the Pole Position brand for the blog but instead decided to create an entirely new name, look and feel for this new site.
On the other hand, I also created a small web directory where I kept the Pole Position branding, but chose a different name: PolePositionDirectory.com.
In each case, each of these sites serves an entirely different purpose with unique content. Even though someone can easily determine that all three sites are related to some degree, they are each unique entities going after different audiences looking for different things.
Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment
If you sell products or utilize a shopping cart system in any way, you can easily increase conversion rates simply by improving your shopping cart system. The fewer clicks visitors have to go through to finish the buying process, the less likely they are to abandon their cart midstream and move on. Make the process simple, have them fill in only what is necessary to process the order and get them out the door.
Think of your shopping cart checkout process like the checkout line at any store. If the line is long many people, especially those making only small purchases, are more likely to set their products down and leave. Maybe theyíll come back another day, or maybe theyíll find the same item at another store with a smaller line. I donít know about you, but Iíve done that more than once. Shorten your checkout line and capture every sale possible, no matter how small.
Eliminate Those Annoying Ads
If you operate a commercial website donít clutter your pages with advertisements. Ads may be a great way to generate additional income but they also might be taking away more than they are generating. Everything on your site should be designed to draw the visitor toward the sale. Ads are designed to draw attention as well and therefore they often do no more than to draw the visitor away from one sale (yours) and off to another (a possible competitor!).
If you operate a non-commercial or information-only site, ads can be great, but use them sparingly and be sure stay away from useless banner exchange programs. If youíre going to sell ad space, then determine what that space is worth and sell it accordingly.
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Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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