Whenever business dies down a bit or you find yourself with some time on your hands, take advantage of the lull by going through your site with a fine-toothed comb. The simpler and more user-friendly your site is, the more sales it will generate. It's as simple as that. So you should always be thinking about how you can remove any unnecessary clutter, confusing links or visual eyesores to let your sales copy stand out.
In order to figure out what works and what doesn't, below you'll find a list of the 10 critical elements your site should include:
Essential Element #1: An Attention-Grabbing Headline. The first thing people see when they visit your site should be a compelling headline that describes the most important benefit your product or service offers. The headline is the key element of your site. It's what will persuade visitors to stick around and check out what you have to offer.
Your headline should be well-written: It should be clear, concise and to the point. It should also be enticing-you want to pique your visitors' interest and make them eager to learn more about what you're selling. You can do this by emphasizing what your product or service can do for them.
Once you've crafted a compelling headline, format it so that it stands out from the rest of the text. It should be the first thing that catches your visitors' attention. Use a large font size, bolding, italics, a different color-whatever suits the style of your site.
Essential Element #2: User-Friendly Navigation. Nothing will drive customers away faster than confusing or complicated navigation! Your customers should be able to know where they are on your site at all times, and should easily be able to find pages they've already visited.
Make sure your navigation bar or menu is clearly accessible and easy to understand. It should be exactly the same on every page of your site, and be located in exactly the same place. Your customers shouldn't have to hunt for it.
Remember: When it comes to navigation, consistency is the key!
Essential Element #3: Effective Salescopy. The words you use to describe your product and its benefits are the key to the success of your business. Your salescopy is the only contact you'll have with the vast majority of your visitors. That's why you have to make the most of it!
Your salescopy should:
- Immediately draw the reader in with exciting benefits and enticing copy so you can lead them toward the sale.
- Establish your credibility-nobody will buy from you if they don't feel they can trust you.
- Describe the benefits of your product or service and explain why your visitors need it.
Essential Element #4: A Clear "Call to Action." If you want people to buy your products or services, you have to tell them how to do it. Don't leave them guessing. You have to explain exactly what you want them to do, and you have to make it easy for them to do it.
If you want them to buy a product, present them with a call to action like this:
"CLICK HERE NOW to order your six-month supply of Product X."
Provide your customers with clear, easy-to-understand instructions on how to make a purchase, and let them know what they can expect when they click on the link that leads them to the order page.
Essential Element #5: Well-Chosen Images. Images can really help people visualize your products or services and their benefits. Be sure to include photos of every product you sell. Attractive product shots can really boost your sales.
If you have a lot of products for sale, use "thumbnails" that link to larger images. This will make your pages load more quickly. If you're selling electronically delivered products such as ebooks or software, you may want to create simulated product shots to represent them. This makes your product more tangible to your visitors.
Essential Element #6: A Strong Opt-In Offer. Most first-time visitors don't make a purchase. However, the fact that they've come to your site in the first place means they're at least curious about what you have to offer.
In order to pursue a relationship with these potential customers, you should collect their e-mail addresses by encouraging them to subscribe to a free newsletter or a free download. This will give you the chance to send them updates and information, develop relationships with them, and enable them to trust you enough to buy from you.
Opt-in offers like this are a great way to turn visitors into customers and really maximize your sales. Your opt-in offer should be clearly linked to each page of your site or, if possible, actually included on each page. One less click means losing fewer potential subscribers.
Essential Element #7: Testimonials. The best way to establish credibility is to provide evidence that your product or service really works. And the best way to do that is to include testimonials from satisfied customers that explain how your product or service has helped improve their lives.
Be sure to include the names of your satisfied customers as well as where they live. You should also post a small picture of them beside their testimonials. This will personalize their messages, add credibility to their statements and demonstrate that they're real people who've enjoyed real benefits from your product.
For instant credibility, it's a good idea to have a few of your best testimonials featured right on your homepage. However, you should also have a separate testimonials page as well. The more satisfied customers you can show to reluctant shoppers, the better.
Essential Element #8: An "About Us" page. People are often hesitant to buy things online because they miss the personal interaction of doing business face to face. The best way to overcome their reluctance is to include an "About Us" page that provides information about you, your staff and your business. Be sure to include pictures of yourself and your staff members. This shows your customers they're doing business with real people and will help ease any worries they might have.
Essential Element #9: An FAQ Page. It's a good idea to include a "Frequently Asked Questions" page on your site. This is where you'll list the questions most commonly asked by your customers and provide answers to them. It allows your visitors immediate access to the answers they need before they'll consider buying your product or service.
Essential Element #10: Your Contact Info. In order to close sales and establish your credibility, you have to provide full contact information on your site. This includes your mailing address as well as fax and phone numbers. Businesses that only post e-mail addresses on their sites come across as unprofessional and possibly even disreputable.
And make sure your contact information is clearly visible on every page of your site. This will make it easy for customers to know how to reach you if they want to get more information or buy a product.
To keep your site in top form, it helps to review your site every now and then and create a list of "must do" actions you can take to optimize its performance. Figure out where you can get rid of nonessential clutter and simplify the sales process. Don't forget, streamlined sites generate more sales.
Also take the time to browse through other sites (including those of your competitors) to see how your site compares and get ideas for improvement. What do you like about these other sites? What do you find annoying about them? These visits will help you get an idea of what to include and what to avoid on your own site.
After you've made some improvements to your site, ask some friends to go through it. How hard is it for them to get from page to page? Can they easily find their way back to pages they've already visited? Are they confused by any aspect of your sales process? Do they find your site appealing? Remember: You can never do too much testing.
Corey Rudl, author of Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet and founder of www.marketingtips.com, is widely recognized as an Internet marketing expert because what he teaches are not theoretical approaches to online marketing but real examples of what works.