Have you ever tested your web site to see if it actually works? We’ve seen some beautifully designed web sites that just don’t work. This goes back, in part to my last blog on having a Call to Action on each page. But it also goes beyond that. Once you have a call, you have to determine if people can actually accomplish it.
A couple of years ago, we decided that since we want people to call us, we should move our phone number from being buried in the footer of the page up to shouting it in the header. Within a week I had confirmation from a new customer that having the phone number up high and large helped us land the job. That’s mean by web site usability testing. Can people actually do what you want them to do?
We ran a Pay Per Click campaign for a customer for awhile. He wasn’t getting the desired results (more sales as it is an ecommerce site). We were getting him more clicks to the correct page but when we looked at the page, we saw that the “Buy Now” button was way down on the page, after a long list of products. People – CUSTOMERS – weren’t buying because they couldn’t figure out how to do so.
A great way to think about web site usability testing is Steve Krug’s favorite line: “Don’t Make Me Think!”. If visitors to your web site have to think, they’ll likely go away. If, on the other hand, the next step is obvious, they’ll likely take it.
So take a minute and go through your site, or better yet, get a real live customer to go through your site. Ask them if it makes sense to do whatever it is that you want them to do. If you want a real professional look at your web site, we can conduct a usability test but you can do a lot of testing on your own.
We build a lot of web sites. We also rebuild a lot of web sites. And I can tell you that a lot of web sites don’t have a clear focus. A well-designed web site needs to have a clearly defined call to action for each and every page.
There might be several different calls to action on a site. Perhaps on the main page the call to action is to simply click a given link to learn more about a specific service or product. For interior pages of a web site, one of the most common mistakes I hear from web site owners is “The goal of this page is to inform or educate the visitor”. That, in itself, isn’t a bad goal but there still must be a call to action after the educating has been done. A simple “to learn more, call us at 555 555-5555” then gives the visitor something concrete to do after they’ve been informed.
You’ve seen or heard good calls to action on TV and radio. Call now. Operators are standing by. Call in the next 20 minutes for a special discount. Visit us on the web at . . . All of these are calls to action. For ecommerce web sites, the calls are much clearer. Add to Cart, Buy Now, Checkout, Details, etc.
You can have a variety of different calls depending on the purpose and scope of the site and of the individual page. Some good calls to action include:
- Request to call
- Add to cart / Buy now
- Fill out this form
- Email us
- Complete a survey
- Create a registration
- Provide your info in order to be entered in a drawing
- Become a member and we’ll give you more information
As you can see, there are many choices and ways you can craft your call to action. Go back and take a look at your web site. Do you have a clear call to action on each page?
One of the most unusual aspects of a company having a web site is that the site can be a great marketing tool for the business but that site needs its own marketing plan (which should dovetail with a bigger company marketing campaign).
If you set your web site as the centerpiece of your marketing, there are a few simple steps you should take to make sure you get the most from it:
- Print it on EVERYTHING. Every piece of printed material that your company generates should have your web address (URL) on it. This includes:
- Business Cards
- Let people hear it. If a caller is sent to voicemail, make sure they know they can also contact you on the web at www.yourdomain.com. If your phone system lets you control what people hear while on hold, make sure your message comes out there and that it mentions your web site.
- Another easy to take step that is too often overlooked is your email signature. Every email program lets you have an automatic email signature. Make sure you include your web site address in the signature.
These are just three easy steps you can use to help you market your web site.
Today, as the twilight settled round me on a cloudy and cool eve, I turned to my new favorite hobby, I tweeted my friends on twitter. When you connect with friends and send a message, you’ve just tweeted. Sure glad they didn’t call it tooting.
Twitter is fun. Take the ability to send text messages to your friends and colleagues and mix it together with newsletter blasts and you begin to grasp the thrill of Twitter. Add to it the skill of writing haiku and you get even closer. Twitter is a hybrid web appication texting application found at www.twitter.com.
I use it to connect with friends and colleagues in ministry. I also use it for business to stay on top of what gurus in the field are all about. For example, I can track Rev. Joe Burnham at www.twiter.com/joeburnham. I can follow Search Engine Optimization guru Aaron Wall at www.twitter.com/aaronwall. Follow all the tips for riding a wave of publicity at www.twitter.com/publicityhound.
Want to learn more? Sign up and follow me at www.twitter.com/edubrian.
According to Hitwise, last month Google accounted for nearly 68% of all search in the US. Wow. And if you compare the April numbers to March or to April of last year, you see that they are expanding their dominance. That is the phenomenal part. Typically if a company creates a new niche and dominates it, other companies come in later to cash in on the good times and in the process they steal some of the market share. Google just keeps growing their share of the market.
Can you image what it would be like to “own” your industry or niche like that? Yahoo has less than 21% of the market (which is still pretty hefty) and MSN has fallen to less than 6.5% of the search market. Ask, while holding a smaller share, continues to grow their share. With Google and Ask expanding, MSN and the rest of the search engines are “taking it on the chin”.
Why do you think Google just keeps grabbing more of the market?
The 10th question in our 10 questions to ask when you’re ready to take your site to the next level is probably THE most important question around today. Word of Mouth marketing. I’m a pretty good customer. When I’m happy with a business, I will go out of my way to tell others about it. During any given month I might tell five to ten others about a business I like.
But we can translate Word Of Mouth Marketing onto the web in all kinds of powerful ways. Welcome to Web 2.0 and in particular the social nature of 2.0. There are lots
of ways you can interact with others on the Internet in a meaningful way. When I say meaningful, I mean actual interaction with others, not just logging on, spouting off your sales pitch and logging off.
Here are three sites you can log into, create a profile, and find others of similar interests:
Visit the sites above to connect with others. Make sure you spend FIVE minutes a day logging in and communicating.
Here are three sites that have a slightly different focus that those above but allow you to establish your expertise on a given subject:
Take some time on a daily or weekly basis and share your knowledge with the world. And be bold about putting your name or site address or product out there as you write.
Here are three social bookmarking sites you can use to generate additional buzz about your posts in the links above and about your own site:
At first some of this might seem a bit arcane but if you spend just a “wee bit” of time on this on a regular basis, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised to see how the traffic starts beating a path to your web site.
Brand. Brand. Brand. It really IS all about brand. We’ve worked with several small businesses who started out saying that they were too small to need a brand. As they saw it working though, they realized that even their small business benefited from having a brand.
There are lots of good resources for building your brand and understanding how to build your brand. Here’s the first video in a series of videos on branding your small business.
Are you saying “But I don’t have a brand”, let’s stop and think about it for a minute. Pull out your business cards. Take a look at your brochure. Point your browser to your web site. And ask yourself these questions:
- What images do you see?
- Are there similar or identical images?
- Do those images / pictures / clipart resonate with you?
- What colors are you using consistently? Do they represent who you are?
- Are there other images that more accurately reflect your business?
- Are there colors missing from our schemes?
If you need help with your brand we can help you and partner with some of our colleagues who specialize in this area. Give us a call if you’d like some help or a referral. Once your colors and brand are determined, make sure that you integrate it or have your web designer integrate it into your web site.
In this seventh question in the 10 questions to take your web site to the next level, we look at how to determine whether your site is ranked or not.
A simple search can show you if your site is ranked in the top 10 or not. But you have to know what people are searching for. For example, we recently redesigned the smithlaws.com web site. A part of that redesign was preparing it for the search engines. Through one of our research tools (Nichebot), we discovered a combination of key words that people are searching for none of the competition is optimizing their sites for. We’ll just come right out and tell you. The law firm of Kevin C. Smith is a personal injury law practice. One of the terms we were researching was denver workers compensation lawyer. The research showed that adding Pinnacol (the state of Colorado’s largest worker’s comp insurance company) to the phrase could get some highly targeted traffic, we knew we were on to something.
So when you ask yourself “Is my site ranked?”, you need to think carefully, “ranked for what?”
Doing keyword research is very important but you can also get get ideas about how your site ranks for key phrases by examining your web statistics. Google analytics or awstats are two methods that we use to track what happens on sites. By looking at the stats, you can see what people are actually searching for in the search engines when they click through to your site. This information can be used to figure out if and how your site is ranked. This in turn can help you determine how and what search engine marketing strategies you need to implement in your site.
Now the conversation turns very clearly to Search Engine Marketing (SEM). There are many facets to SEM. Two of the biggest are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC).
So first you must determine what key words your customers search for. Notice how I worded that. Not what you think they search for but what they actually do search for. Many business owners are so focused on what they are selling that they don’t take time to realize what their customers are buying. For example, a hair stylist might think she is selling “professionally styled hair” while her ideal customer might be searching for “good haircut” at a “good price”.
There are several good free tools that will help you determine other related keywords. We really like and recommend the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. When I visit this site and type in “good haircut” and then add one more word so that I don’t get jobs in Australia or Alaska: “Denver”. The tool returns 34 possible other words I should look at. Some are obvious like “beauty salon haircut” and “best haircut Denver” but there are a few very nice surprises there as well, like “prom haircut” and “wedding haircut” that would probably be very customers.
The beauty of this tool is that you can also see what the competition is for a certain keyword. If you find some that have lots of searches but little competition, you have just found a niche that you can capitalize on.
Work with your website designer to optimize your site and then you are ready to with SEO and PPC. We’ll deal with both of these with the next question.
This question has a simple answer. In a word “Good content”. OK, that’s two words. Taking the time to write or get good content on your site is the single best way to keep people coming back. A larger site with lots of visitors can create a forum where people can come to create community. If your site is smaller, this can be counter-productive though.
Having a stale site, with out any fresh content, certainly isn’t going to help people come back although it might not hurt your search engine rankings. But having a fresh site with new or regularly changing content will provide a hook that keeps people coming back for more.
Here are 5 ways you can provide people a reason to keep coming back:
- Offer seasonal / monthly / weekly specials for your products or services.
- Become an expert in your field. Publish an e-newsletter demonstrating your expertise.
- Write your very own web blog – (blog). It isn’t nearly as difficult as it may sound and it is another way of becoming an expert in your field while also demonstrating your mastery of cyberspace.
- Write articles for other web sites. There are article directories that would be happy to help you share your expertise.
- If you’re not a writer, you can get good articles from a variety of sources and post them to your web site.