6 Ways to Guarantee Your Website Will Fail (and how to fix them)
1. Your website is an electronic brochure
You've invested money and time into making your website what it is today, but you're just not seeing the results. If any of the above applies to you then you need to fix it, and fast.
The six issues above require some explanation:
1. When someone comes to your website, they can only do one of four things. They can act on something, buy something, click on something or view something. By only having an online brochure you are really only addressing 25% of the capability of your website.
2. Being found in Google is now the yard stick by which people judge the success of your site, in fact if you can appear in the top ten then your audience see this as an implicit recommendation by Google that you site is one of the best.
3. "Last Updated: 24 May 2001" does not attract visitors and actually shows disrespect towards people visiting your site. Are you telling me that absolutely nothing about your business/people/products has changed in over four years!
4. At first glance this issue might sound reversed, however building a site how YOU want it organised is flawed. The issue you are dealing with is 'organisational familiarity'. You know how your business is organised, your customers do not, and they can't be expected to know either. You might have a sales department, a marketing department, a production department, and a research department. The worst thing you could do is build a website with the main navigation consisting of Home, Sales, Marketing, Production, and Research. Your audience shouldn't have to know about your business structure just to buy something from you.
5. Over the years you have no doubt built a list (albeit in your head) of issues that your customers face, questions about your product/service, things you do better than your competition, or common objections to buying your product. This is invaluable information that is typically completely missing from most sites, and it really is what your audience is looking for, especially if they are buying from you without ever having spoken to you in person.
6. FrontPage is a great tool; to be honest I use it sometimes too. But I do not use it to make a decision on the look and feel for the sites that I build. A FrontPage theme does not make a great website. You need professional design, consistency in style, and a site conducive to getting your message across.
You can fix it by following these simple steps. Research, Restructure and Refine.
This is one of the most overlooked steps in building a website and is incredibly important. You can cover this off very quickly however by looking at what your competition is doing, thinking about what your customers are asking for, and finding out what the most common issues people are having with your product after purchasing from you. During this process you should generate a list of the types of people that visit your website. The automatic answer is of course "customers" but this is not correct. You might home business owners, soccer moms, students, or an accountant who works for an SME just to name a few. If you can create a list of about the top 5 then this is a great start.
Restructure. Restructuring sounds like a big job, however with a good content management system you should be fine. Without a content management system then you are up for considerable effort, so be prepared.
Here's the key to getting this right! This is the BIG SECRET to building a great site that will actually help you achieve results.
Draw up a table with six columns, and put the following headings at the top of each column; Who, What, How, Why, When, Wake.
Who - this is generated from the list you developed in step 1. Each row in your table should be started with one of audience types you identified above.
What - For each audience type you need to identify what they are actually looking for on your site.
How - How are they going to find your site? Is this type of person someone who relies on referrals from friends, search engines, advertising or a notice at the local mall?
Why - This is an evaluation process that these type of people will go through. What about your product/service will be important to them? Price, geographic location, your reputation, or that you have a payment plan?
When - This is not a date or time, this has more to do with 'under what circumstances will they buy'. You need to establish what will actually move them to make the purchase.
Wake - After the sale (in the wake of the sale) how will you keep this type of person in touch with you?
Here's an example:
Who: Home business owner.
Having completed this exercise you will now have a roadmap to follow when building the content for your site and how it should be structured by looking for commonality in your table. If you find that you have a common 'how' or 'why' then you should probably target parts of your navigation to address this.
Remember the six key elements that I stated at the beginning of this article? Here they are again:
1. Your website is an electronic brochure
Refining is all about identifying how you measure the change in your website's performance. Having made many changes you want to make sure that it has not all been in vein, or more importantly you may still have issues to be addressed if you are not seeing the performance you might expect.
Your site should now be anything but an electronic brochure. It should have rich captivating information that people actually want to read, and be targeted towards particular audiences that you know will visit your site.
You should be able to visit googlerankings.com to see whether you appear in Google. Remember that one of the key elements Google uses to identify a good website is the depth and breadth of the content. If you have valuable information in the right quantities then getting into Google should happen automatically. If you still can't be found using the keywords you want then I would suggest you visit the American Marketing Association's website (marketingpower.com) and invest some time in their pre-recorded webcasts, they're free!
You need to keep your site up to date; a week should not go by without some sort of modification to the content or structure. This is another measure search engines use to evaluate the ranking your site gets in search results.
Finally I would suggest you need to make sure your site looks professional, and one of the best ways you can do this is by asking your customers for their honest opinion. There are thousands of designers just waiting for the opportunity to give you a great looking site, however you can also get some exceptional designs from template sites (like templatemonster.com) for a reasonable fee.
Remember that there is no mystery to making a great website. All you need is quality information that people are looking for and that is easy to find.
Jay McCormack has had years of experience in the web and software industry. Most recently he launched http://www.cheaperit.com where he reviews and recommends the best software found on the web.
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