Your Website Success
How to Help Your Visitors Help You Succeed
By Jim Coe MarinWebDeveloper.com
[ You may download the PDF version to your right —> ]
What Is This?
This is a guide for website owners to read first and then to pass on to their website developer. If you choose my website services for Design, Development or Marketing or Maintenance, it will also describe important issues we need to address in your project.
First a Review of the Basics
OK, I did promise “advanced”, not “basics”. Still we need to discuss some basics first, to enable further learning. Like me, you come here with some understanding and also with some ignorance. Nobody knows it all, so any training must help people to catch up, so we can all start more or less together.
This guide assumes that you have or want a full business website, not a simple online business brochure or a personal blog.
A Business Online is Still Just a Business
There’s nothing magical about moving or starting a business online. But it is different – with several advantages in cost, access, creativity and marketing reach. Like any other, your online business needs many prospects to thrive – that is, many people who visit because they have a need that you can satisfy.
Just as offline, you must convert a sufficient number of these prospects into customers. You hope that they will become repeat customers with whom you will eventually develop valuable long-term business relationships.
No doubt you understand a few things about acquiring customers. It costs money, even online. So repeat customers save you money. And long-term business relationships bring in new prospects through word-of-mouth.
Value is Critical:
To attract visitors and to help convert them into customers, then long-term business relationships, your website must deliver Value to them. Although there may be Value in your offer itself, you should also provide free value on your site – value which doesn’t require a sales action or commitment.
There is an important Social Psychology principle called “Reciprocity”. It compels people to feel beholden when they receive free value. Reciprocity only works when there is no “transaction” taking place. For example receiving a “free” item in exchange for an email signup is a transaction, not a truly free item. It’s just a trade of one valuable item for another.
Plan for Value:
Your website’s main value is usually a paid solution you offer to a problem that the members of your niche market need to solve. That means your value planning must include excellent Niche Market Research to insure your visitors are really in need of your offer. Nowadays this will be online research, since the World Wide Web is the best market research vehicle ever.
A successful website must attract visitors, then capture their attention and interest. A free Value Incentive can help to do that. A free Value Incentive is another offer besides your main offer. This Guide is an example. Your free Value Intentive can lead to visitors eventually accepting your main offer.
Build Free Value Incentives:
Value Incentives are often free valuable information: ebooks, infographics, software apps, etc. They invoke the principle of Reciprocity if acquiring the valuable item does not require anything more than a click from the prospect. The most important commodities to any web marketer are Attention and Interest. Value Incentives help you to capture those.
Fill a Motivated Need:
The more strongly a prospect feels a need, the more motivated they are. When their motivation reaches a desperate level they will overcome every difficulty on your imperfectly built website in order to take a Sales Action that solves their problem. A desperate prospect will put up with almost any website deficiency in order to satisfy their need. Of course a ‘Sales Action’ is something like signing up for your newsletter list, clicking on a buy button, filling out a form or calling you on the phone.
A better website will promote more sales because less desperate prospects will also be able to take action. The better your website, the less your success depends on the low hanging fruit of the most desperate visitors – all else being equal.
It’s All in Their Heads:
A critical learning here is that sales take place in the mind of the visitor – not on the web page. Your web pages must affect the visitors mind in the way you want. That’s why it’s so important to understand your visitors and their niche market and to select the best niche market for your offer!
These website imperfections cause what the experts call “Sales Friction”. Another source of Sales Friction is the natural and even inevitable prospect’s anxiety about parting with their money and making a buying commitment.
Today’s online shoppers are both savvy and cynical, so there is also the challenge of a prospect’s natural distrust of your offer. Your prospect must perceive your main offer as having more value than the costs – not only the financial cost, but also the emotional energy, intellectual reasoning and even the cost of overcoming inertia and taking action.
Substantiate Your Claims:
Because of this natural skepticism, you must accompany every sales claim with proof. This sales claim substantiation won’t work if it’s just another claim from you. It must come from a trusted 3rd party. Examples would be believable testimonials, 3rd party polls, charts or statistics, credible news stories, academic papers, government reports, etc.
You have a more effective website when you understand the online sales process. Then you can build elements into your website to quickly present your UVP with clarity, empathize with your prospect, gain their attention, interest and trust and minimize sales friction.
The best sites affect the prospect’s mind by:
- Gaining the visitors attention in a very few seconds
- Matching an offer more exactly with their visitor’s expectations and needs
- Adding incentives to overbalance mental sales friction
- Using trust symbols to increase trust and decrease anxiety
- Substantiate sales claims with 3rd party proof
On visiting a very well designed commercial website tuned to a market niche, the prospect will think something like, “Aha! Now THIS is exactly what I’m looking for!” They will abandon their search engine list of other websites and engage only with your site’s content.
On the other hand, if your website fails to grab and hold a visitor’s attention and interest, then in a few seconds they will click away to someone else’s site. You’re never more than one click away from losing your prospect.
Market Research is Critical
For all the reasons above, you must discover the niche market space where your product or service is the best solution. Some of the most effective products and services are created only after niche market research is completed. Then, the eventual website offers an exact match to the discovered need of that niche market.
Because the World Wide Web is a largely free resource with rapid access and many analysis tools, we can now easily and inexpensively “find a need and fill it”, rather than creating a product or service first and then later searching for a market.
Getting a website built is quite easy and need not be very expensive. However, getting enough high-quality traffic to a new website is critical, difficult and often expensive.
A note of caution: Don’t start a PPC campaign if you have not thoroughly studied how to do it successfully. Novices often lose money on PPC, sometimes more than they can afford to lose.
The best way to get high-quality traffic to a new website in a hurry is the expensive method of Pay-Per-Click (PPC). The preferred vehicle is the Google AdWords service. A daily budget of $20 or $30 (often more) is usually required. That’s a monthly spend of $600 to $900 in order to have your ad show during most North American waking hours.
Obviously, that’s beyond the marketing budgets of many small-time website owners. Some who can’t really afford to will “bet the farm” on a PPC campaign anyway, with sad results. Please do be careful with PPC.
Your cost will vary because PPC is based on a kind of auction where you bid on the price you pay when a search engine user clicks on your ad, which is associated with your chosen keywords.
Keyword bids in highly competitive fields, especially involving high-ticket items, get very expensive. A prime example (pun intended) is Real Estate, where clicks can cost tens of dollars each.
Another example is in my own field. The key phrase “web developer” currently costs about $5-$6 per click. On that basis, if my business website converts 3% of my visitors into customers and clicks cost me $5, then each customer costs me $167, according to one online calculator.
Considering this and my other costs-of-sale, if my average sale gains me over about $200, I can afford PPC. But if my SCR is only 1%, then every paying customer costs me $500. At a 0.5% SCR, it’s $1,000 each. If my customers don’t spend enough more than those costs with me, on average, PPC would cost me more than it earns. You can see why the sales conversion efficiency of your website is so critical.
With a high website SCR and an expensive product or service, where your PPC cost is well below your profits, a PPC campaign is like a license to print money – the more you invest, the more you gain, all else being equal. Otherwise it’s at best a kind of development cost – an investment that you may or may not ever recover.
We’ve seen that if your SCR is good and your product or service is expensive enough, PPC can be profitable. However, you probably can’t sell a $20 ebook or such on the basis of a PPC campaign.
Of course with PPC, you must pay for every click, not just for every sale. When the goal of your website is to generate leads, not final sales, then there is the additional cost of converting your leads into actual sales.
PPC has the advantage that you can tightly specify the type of prospect you want to attract by carefully selecting the keywords that needy individuals in your target niche market are likely to use in a search engine.
You also have a small text ad or visual banner allowing you some limited creative copywriting or visual marketing space. This pre-qualification of visitors can lead to a higher SCR because it helps match the visitor more exactly to your offer.
Your PPC campaign also generates many useful traffic metrics reports. With those, an expert can fine-tune and optimize your PPC results.
You can also run “A/B Split Tests”, where 50% of your website traffic goes to each of two versions of your web page. One version is what everyone would see with no testing. The other is a version of the same page with one or more changes that you think will improve conversions.
After sufficient traffic has visited your website to get a statistically meaningful result you can adopt your better version and create a new challenger. With constant A/B Split Testing, your web pages and their SCR can constantly improve. Every commercial website should be doing constant A/B Split Testing, but many do not.
This scientific testing is much more effective than the usual methods of trying to improve your website through guesswork and hunches, or trying the latest marketing guru advice.
The down side of A/B Split Testing is that for a new website with low traffic, waiting for statistically meaningful test results means waiting a very long time. Partly that’s because the most meaningful test method is to change only one element of your website at a time, such as your headline. If each single element takes weeks to test, because of insufficient traffic, then split testing becomes impractical. A new website with low traffic is exactly where good testing is required, so this is a serious problem.
One answer to this problem is to run a “PPC Burst Test”. That is, invest in a PPC campaign in order to get sufficient traffic for a fast A/B Split Test, then quickly pause the PPC campaign as soon as you acquire your split test results. Besides costing considerable money, this method will not be constant split testing, so it’s not ideal.
Again, a warning: PPC does require both serious expertise and ongoing analysis and maintenance. PPC novices can find their bank accounts depleted quickly for little or no gain. AdWords is about profits for Google’s shareholders, whether it helps you or not, so please do be careful!
If you’re new to PPC, hire an expert and/or do some serious study first. I can recommend Perry Marshall as an outstanding online expert with excellent training courses and ebooks on Google PPC. I’ve learned a lot from Perry’s books.
Online advertising using visual banner ads is also popular. Here the problem is that web users have developed “banner blindness” as a kind of antidote to the huge number of banners competing for their attention.
Banner blindness is the most pronounced for rectangular ads at the top of a web page or stacked in a sidebar. Well designed and well displayed banner ads do still work – which is why we see so many.
The Alternatives to PPC
Banner ads and other paid traffic acquisition methods have alternatives. They are the slow so-called “organic” or free online marketing methods. These methods are actually not free, if you consider the value of your time or if you pay to have them done for you. And it can take many months to get a healthy flow of organic traffic. For website owners with little or no marketing budget, there may be no other option.
Acquiring organic traffic can be successful so long as your website continues to provide enough value to your visitors. This means you must constantly add new valuable content to maximize your return visitors and to improve your rankings in the search engines.
A common mistake is to start slanting your website content toward the search engines, rather than your human visitors. For instance, you might start stuffing your content full of keywords, making it harder for your human visitors to read. Instead, you should realize that the search engines favor original content written well.
Avoid tricks and gimmicks, like stealing content from other websites and changing a few words to try to “make it your own”. If you find useful content elsewhere and want to add it to your own website, you must write your own original, content based on the ideas of the content you’ve found, not based on the words there.
Plagiarized content will not fool the search engines and may get you a legal warning notice from the content owner – or worse. If you do receive such a warning, remove the content immediately and stop plagiarizing content.
Original content has a copyrighted, whether there is a copyright notice displayed or not. The creator of that content has a legal right to it and a legal write to protect it. Just providing a credit and/or a link back to the original source is not enough to protect you either.
The correct way to copy content from others is to ask their permission first.
The relative ease of constantly adding content to a WordPress website is another reason for the growing popularity of WordPress Vs static HTML websites. When you also consider that building a WordPress website costs about 50% of the cost for a traditional static HTML website and takes about 50% of the time, you can see why WordPress has become so popular.
WordPress Trend (from Google Trends)
There is a tendency to promote the idea that anyone can build a successful WordPress website with zero programming skills. While it is true that nearly anyone can put together a WordPress website, the quality of a WordPress site built by an experienced developer with HTML, CSS and PHP programming skills will be superior. It will look better, perform better and be much more customizable.
Nowadays, people use the social websites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and others) extensively to get their websites noticed and to gain traffic.
Social Website Trends (from Google Trends)
As you can see from the above chart, the Facebook social website is by far the most popular. Don’t ignore the others though, once you’ve done your best with Facebook.
“How To” publications (from Google Trends)
Notice that “traffic attractors” (like this “how To” guide you’re reading) continue to be popular online. They can bring considerable traffic to your website, if made well and marketed successfully.
You Must Market Online
The “Build it and they will come” concept is completely true online. If you do build well and also market online well, then you won’t have to struggle so hard to “drive traffic to your site”, as the popular phrase goes. Your well-made website will naturally attract visitors with less marketing effort. If you are forced to “herd eyeballs” to your website, like some kind of modern day cowboy, something is wrong and needs fixing.
Some Website Building Details
Now let’s look at some proven methods for building successful websites. First there is the issue of page layout and website layout.
Standards and Usability
One issue is usability. It’s about the balance of “Unique Vs Standard”. Your website needs to “stand out from the crowd”, yet still adhere to the de facto design standards that website visitors have come to expect. Your website must not introduce elements or methods that are too unusual, such as non-standard ways of navigating between pages.
Today, no one expects to sell cars with tillers instead of steering wheels. It’s the same online. Visitors should never have to learn how to use your website.
This is another reason for the popularity of the WordPress website platform. It automatically provides accepted, standardized website layouts, elements and methods – with which web users are already familiar.
A Typical Website Sales Page
Notice that this is a “Landing/Sales” page, not a typical website content page. Therefore, navigation away to other pages is limited and sales elements are included. The green arrows show the likely eye path, which is critical to an effective sales process.
Once again, WordPress websites recommend themselves, since any of thousands of professionally designed WordPress themes are available to control the “Look & Feel” of a website, including the elements of Visual Marketing.
You do need excellent images and videos or animations for a modern visual website. It’s well worth the money to get the best stock images and to invest in Adobe Photoshop expertise (like mine) to gain the best image enhancements with the fasted page load times.
A typical site might convert one visitor out of 100 into a customer. That is a ratio of 1/99 or 1.0%, called a “1% SCR” (Sales Conversion Rate). An especially good website, or one where there is some sales promotion before the website visit takes place may do a few percentage points better.
This typically low SCR is why a large flow of visitor traffic to your website is so important, and why that traffic must be from your best niche market.
Online marketing experts call your website’s offer a “Unique Sales Proposition”. Your “UVP” does have to be unique, even if the only unique element is offering the lowest price available online. You have a big advantage if your product or service is actually unique and is also the best solution available – if your website can prove it.
Marketing During Hard Times
The natural tendency during hard financial times is to cut costs – even your marketing costs. Don’t do that! It’s wrong-headed on at least two counts.
First, when times are tough you need to maintain or even increase your profits in order to weather the storm, not decrease them. Doing less marketing is not going to maintain or increase your profits.
Second, there are often special marketing opportunities during financial bad times. An example is your competitor decreasing their marketing efforts to save money. If they do that, it will be an ideal time to kick your marketing efforts up to a level above theirs. Once you out-market your competitors, they may never catch up – even after the tough times end.
There are many expert online resources where you can learn methods that will help you make your website successful. But watch out for the many online charlatans offering you “get rich quick” schemes.
Beware Online “Get Rich Quick” Schemes:
As far as I know, there are no legal methods of making a lot of money online that don’t take considerable time and hard work on your part. Anyone who says different should be ignored or their methods given an extremely thorough investigation. Never pay money for these online schemes without a thorough investigation first.
There are a few honest “make money online” plans available, often under $100, complete with step-by-step guidance for newbies – but no honest ones that don’t require your serious time and effort. Before investing in any such plan, be sure to check for honest references from previous buyers (who are not the author’s partners or shills).
Above all, don’t get in the habit of so many internet marketing addicts who jump from one money making scheme to another, then yet another, when the money doesn’t flow soon enough.
This addictive habit of jumping from one online money making scheme to another is called “Chasing the Next Shiny Object”. It has emptied many a bank account and even split families apart. Don’t forget the lesson of the California Gold Rush. Almost everyone who got rich from the Gold Rush did it by selling goods and services to the prospectors – not by digging for gold.
If you do find a plan that looks reasonable and checks out after your due diligence, don’t abandon it prematurely. Anything that actually works is going to take considerable time and ongoing effort. There are no viable “earn lots of money online on autopilot” schemes, as far as I know.
Think about it – if someone was really making it big financially online would they actually invite hundreds or thousands of competitors? Only if their money really comes from training others and their original efforts are simply example websites used to convince buyers of the value of their training.
Now On to Some Trustworthy Online Resources…
There are research scientists intensively studying how online sales actually work and how to optimize websites to improve results. As you can imagine, such knowledge is valuable in the extreme. What may come as a surprise is that the Marketing Experiments researchers also give away their research results. Use their Marketing Experiments website or do a search on that name on YouTube to review their valuable recommendations.
Neil Patel has a very friendly, engaging and valuable website about optimizing your online efforts. There is both free and paid information and instruction at Quick Sprout. Here’s a link to his blog at Quick Sprout.His home page also has a tool to analyze your website.
Naturally, there are many forums (OK, “fora” for you Latin students) about online marketing. One of the best is the “Warrior Forum”.
As mentioned above, if you want to learn Pay-Per-Click advertising Perry is probably your man.
Marin Website Developer
I wouldn’t be practicing what I preach, if I didn’t include my own business website, in Marin County California, for those looking for someone to build, update, maintain or market their websites.
Then there’s my website and ebook on Visual Marketing Online.
You might also like to check out my Digital Fine Art efforts, or even…
..My website for artists.
Traffic Travis is a free SEO program that can be a big help in analyzing your website, checking out your competition, working with keywords and such. The paid “Pro” version is even more useful.
Google Webmaster Tools
You or your marketer should definitely set up a GWT account. It will help get your website into the Google search engine, correct website errors and give you useful traffic metrics.
Your GWT account should connect to your GA account for better traffic tracking. The Google Keyword Planner tool is also inside you Google Analytics account.
That’s All Folks…
Before signing off, I’d like to invite you to email me with any questions, comments or suggestions about this guide or anything else about websites or Online Marketing.