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David Ziguras June 30th, 2010

More and more Australian businesses are selling online, but compared to the US we have a lot of catching up to do. Online spending has grown from 1% to 3% of overall spending over the last 10 years, compared to the American equivalent of 7%.

2010 should be the year in which businesses start to realise they cannot operate without an eCommerce offering.

The whole market in general is maturing. Businesses that didn’t want to do it originally are now deciding they have to do it, because if you count the number of competitors you have now compared to last year, there’s certainly a lot more out there.”

It’s no surprise that if the majority of corporate Australia reviewed their website properly, either old or newly built, they would be in shock; or perhaps just depressed about its failure to convince people about its purpose.

It’s not about complicated marketing strategies. Most websites fail on the basic stuff. Let’s go back to the basics and see if your website passes these simple tests.

What is the purpose of your website? If your immediate answer is anything other than “to make sales,” Then you shouldn’t own a business website.

When people visit your home page – the main page of your website, what’s the first thing they see? If all they see is a nice long message about what a great person you are (who cares?) and how you want to run a good business (Hope so or you should not be in business) and if they have any questions, they can send you an email (They knew that anyway) and how you look forward to doing business with me (Of course you do, that’s why you have this website), what’s the point?
That person came to your website in response to an ad or a referral so they’re looking to buy something. Why are you wasting their time? They want you to sell them the product. Take their money.

Pick any large retailer that does big business on the Internet. What’s on the front page of their website? Pictures of stuff to buy. Links to buy more stuff. They want your money. They are relentlessly working to get it.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming a well built website with s compelling message should cost the earth. Having a strong call to action, an easy to navigate site and one that encourages people to buy from you or at the very least pick up the phone to talk to you doesn’t always reflect the price of the website.

Websites vary in cost due to a couple of simple factors:

1. Design – static and simple or highly interactive and visually heavy
2. Functionality – simple and straight to the point, or a site that encourages participation and is highly functional and perhaps pulls data and features from third parties
3. Size – smaller site typically cost less than those with hundreds of pages.

The home page of your business should be clean, uncluttered and have a few basics:

1. Your company name, and brand
2. Images (if relevant) and big headings about your key products/services
3. A big call to action
4. Visible, enticing links to inner pages where more products and services can be purchased

Beyond the home page, make it easy for the visitor to navigate around, and buy from your site. It is said that a new visitor will take up to 8 seconds to stay or leave a website, and spend up to 52 seconds on average reading and reviewing information on a single page before moving to the next. Make the information on each page count.

From Information to Solutions

Something else you need to think about in terms of how potential clients are going to find you on the web, is what stage of searching the potential client is at. Understanding whether or not the potential client is ready to buy is key to your marketing strategy.

There are several stages a person goes through before they’re ready to buy:

Identification –

This is the earliest point at which a potential client can identify a need. Clients at this stage are the least likely to buy. However, if you can hook a potential client at this stage, you may get her to come back later on when she is ready to buy.

Information –

Once a person has identified a need or a problem, they usually set out to learn about it in-depth. They start seeking the advice of experts. This is a transitional stage, where it is more likely that they’ll buy than at the identification stage, but where most people don’t rush into anything. This is where real value-added content comes in handy on your website. Being able to provide usable and reliable information helps to position you as an authority in your niche. Once the customer is ready to buy, they’ll remember your expertise and come back to you.

Purchase-Ready –

At this point, the potential client is ready to buy. They understand the problem or need, know what can be done about it, and are ready to pay someone to get their solution. These are your best prospects, and the easiest people to convert into a sale. People who are ready to buy can get very specific in their search terms.

Marketing Across the Stages –

Effective marketing for your business will at least touch on each of these stages. While the details and specific tactics may vary from one niche to another, most will want to spend their time in the second stage. By providing useful information to potential clients, you build your image as an authority in your field. While not every client will wind up coming to you for services, many of them will. By adding real value, you create a positive experience for the client and engender a certain degree of trust. When the time comes for a solution, they’re going to come to you rather than randomly searching on Google or the Yellow Pages.

If you have a website that hasn’t seen any change in a while then it’s time to give it an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) checkup. There are some simple tasks you can perform that will significantly assist the success of your website in search engines.

Google Analytics –

Google Analytics is free, easy to use and incredibly useful. If you are not paying an SEO company to optimise your website and get it ranking in search engines, then this is for you.

What do you get: Google Analytics will tell you how many people are visiting your website, what keywords brought them to your website, what websites referred them to your website, where they are from, how much time they spent on your website, what page they entered your website, what page they left your website and much more.
The information is fantastic. However, ensure you analyse it and act on it. There is no use having so much relevant information and not taking any action on it to ensure you are tweaking your site the right way. One of the most important pieces of information you will gather from Google Analytics is what type of visitors you are attracting to your website. Are they the right type of visitors and potential clients? If not, tweak your Title meta tag and your content to let the search engine know, for example: you want people who were searching for “web design” not “web development”.

Check your links:

There are many tools available today, free to use, that will tell you if you have any broken links. Be sure to use these, and correct any broken or missing links you may have.

Meta information:

Examine your Title meta tag on each page. Is it reflective of the content on each page? Does each title meta tag contain the relevant keywords for each page? Be sure to consider making the title location specific if relevant, such as “iPhone development, Melbourne, Victoria”.

Examine your Description meta tag. Make sure that each page has a different meta tag description. Google does not like repeated information.

Spread the word:

Go to your favourite search engine and search for something based on keywords that you should appear on. Perform two different kinds of searches, global and location specific.

Examine the back links to make sure that you are also listed in the same business directories as the top ranked websites. You can do this quickly using a “back link checker.” Do this often to increase your search engine ranking.

Content makes Sales: To generate a high level of organic optimisation, you must look at your website content through the eyes of your site visitors. Try to see what they will see when they visit your website for the first time. Is your web content full of industry jargon that makes it difficult to read or it concise and clear?

What are the website no no’s?

• Dead links & broken graphics.
• Non-essential pop-up windows.
• Excessive vertical scrolling.
• Straight-line navigation.
• Navigation should also be present in internal pages as well.
• Horizontal scrolling
• Multiple frames
• Excessive animations
• Too many photos and graphics
• Complicated background graphics
• “Under Construction” signs
• Streaming audio with no “off” button.
• Disabling of the “back” button
• Generating new browser windows when windows are closed
• Bad grammar & spelling
• Missing meta tags
• Over use of dark colours
• Ensure your site works on all major browsers

Whether you plan to design and build your website yourself, or you are planning to hire a professional web design company, each and every website must possess a few key elements. These core elements are absolutely fundamental to the success of your website.

Here are some tips below:

1. Plan your site. Map it out on paper. Plan the navigation, layout, links, and rough look and feel. Ensure it’s consistent, easy to navigate, and the look and feel is pleasing and simple to follow.
2. Ensure you have an attention grabbing headline. Further to having a good headline, make it easy with the use of headings and sub headings for visitors to follow the general point of each page. Tell your visitors what you are all about, and what the website is selling or promoting. Don’t clutter any page.
3. Make it easy for visitors to provide you with their email address. Don’t ask for too much info. A good way to get information such as an email address is to link the address to something you are prepared to give to the visitor for free, such as a report or book.
4. Use your Keywords properly. Get advice from a professional SEO company on how best to do this, but also try some of the free SEO tools available to perform quick checks on this.
5. Navigation is important. Make your site easy to navigate. Make it simple, and obvious, and don’t move the menu, or change it on each page.
6. Create a blog, keep it updated, and promote it. It’s a great way to keep people interested, and coming back to your site.
7. Where possible, give items away for free. This builds trust, credibility and starts you on the path to establishing some loyalty with visitors.
8. Request feedback from visitors, engage with them as much as possible, where possible. Take their feedback onboard and make relevant changes.

Once finished, look at the site objectively and ask yourself, is it a site you would enjoy navigating around. Is it easy to pick up the key messages, is it nicely designed? Once you answer yes, you are on the way to having a good website.

Get Expert Help: If your website does not stand up to the test, it is time to call in the professionals to help deliver results. You need to call in the services of a web design company, along with an SEO company (in some instances this can be a single company).

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