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7 Ways to Keep Online Customers Coming Back For More If you want to turn visitors into buyers, these tips will help you draw-and keep-the traffic you need to prosper.

By Corey Rudl

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you've been following this column for awhile, you alreadyknow how important it is to drive qualified prospects to your Website. What's even more important, though, is finding ways tokeep them there once they've arrived.

After all, what's the use of spending all that time andmoney on securing top rankings on search engines, setting up anetwork of affiliates and building a 200-page site if nobody staysonce they arrive? That's the hard way to learn the value of"sticky" content. The easy way is to keep reading. Theinformation I'm about to share with you will show you how touse content to turn visitors into shoppers...and shoppers intorepeat buyers!

We've boiled it down to seven simple ways to keep yourvisitors coming back for more. Put these tips into practice, andwatch your sales start climbing almost immediately.

1. Take charge of your content. It's important tospend a few minutes thinking about how often you really need toupdate your content. If your site sells reports on housing trends,your visitors may expect new content about the housing market on afairly regular basis. If you're selling nails and screws, yourcontent probably won't need updating nearly as often.

If your site isn't going to need content changes on aregular basis, think about writing the content yourself. Nobodyknows your product as well as you do, so who better to write aboutit? Of course, you'll want the content to have a strong focuson the features and benefits of your product or service, so hereare a few ideas for articles you could post on your site:

  • Three ways your product can save your customers time
  • Five ways your product has saved your customers money
  • Interesting or unique applications for your product

Ok, ok... I can already hear some of you saying "I'm anentrepreneur--I'm not a writer!" My answer? Why not giveit a try? You'll probably surprise yourself. Even if yourwriting isn't as clear and flowing as something crafted by aprofessional copywriter, your enthusiasm for your product will go areally long way.

There are a few situations where I would recommend hiring theservices of a professional writer. If you simply aren'tcomfortable writing your own content, then this is definitely theway to go. You'll also probably want to look into the servicesof a professional if your site is going to require frequent contentupdates. Writing can be very time-consuming, and as a businessowner, you'll need to decide on the most profitable way tospend your time.

Here are a few of the better resources I've found fortracking down copywriters:

Also note: Top-notch copywriters can charge up to $250 per hour,so you won't want to hire one just to proofread your site. Awriter, editor or proofreader can be hired for between $17 and $75per hour. Just be sure to check references and establishdeadlines!

2. Tell your visitors "What's New."Let's face it . . . nobody spends even close to as much timehanging around your web site as you do. In fact, your visitors mayspend just a few minutes a month at your site, so you'd betterbe sure their attention is immediately drawn to where you wantit.

If you're introducing a new product or service, it'simportant to make sure your visitors know it's new. Remember,people scan Web pages, they don't read them. They'remore likely to pay attention to an item with a "NEW" iconbeside it, or something labeled with the current date.

Unless you label new content as being special or important, yourcustomers have no way of knowing they should bother payingattention to it. But keep in mind that it's just as importantto remove those "NEW" labels every so often. Yourcustomers won't be very impressed by a flashing "NEW"banner next to an item about last year's Super Bowl.

Want a great way to tell your customers what's new whilebuilding your opt-in e-mail list and customer base at the sametime? Offer to e-mail your customers new content on a monthly basisin the form of a newsletter. (You'll want to includeinformation about new products, upcoming specials and currentsale-priced items.) Place a box somewhere on your front page with asmall blurb explaining that, by entering their e-mail address inthe space provided, they'll be e-mailed exciting new content ona monthly basis, along with exclusive offers available only tosubscribers.

The best part is, it's much easier than you mightthink to set up this kind of monthly newsletter. You've alreadygot the content, since it's up on web site, so it's just amatter of making a few formatting changes and then mailing it outto your customers.

3. Get your visitors involved. It's a proven factthat the more your visitors interact with your site, the morecomfortable they become. And the more comfortable they become, themore likely they are to make purchases. Here are threetried-and-true ways to get your visitors to interact with yoursite:

  • Set up an online suggestion box. This is a great way toget your customers involved with your products or services. Letthem suggest products they'd like to see featured, recommendways to improve your product, or tell you know what they think ofyour merchandise.
  • Run a contest. Ask your customers to submit a shortblurb about why they love your product, and offer a cash ormerchandise prize to the weekly or monthly winners. Not only willyou be getting your customers involved, you'll be collectingtestimonials to post on your site.
  • Conduct an online survey. They'll be able to voicetheir opinions about your business, and you'll learn a lotabout what they like (and don't like) about your products orservice. (More about this later.)

4. Check all of your content. Remember, when wetalk about content, we're not just talking about the text onyour site. We're talking about every single word, image, link,logo and e-mail address.

One of the most important things you can do to keep your sitecurrent (and drive sales) is to rotate your features and specials.Is your best-selling product featured prominently on your site? Ifnot, visitors won't find what they came for... and that'scosting you profits!

Always keep your catalog up-to-date. Nothing will drivecustomers away faster than receiving an e-mail from your companysaying that the product they ordered yesterday is no longeravailable. It never ceases to amaze me how often I come acrosssites with outdated, unavailable products still posted online.

Check all of your links, every last one of them--even that oneat the very bottom that links to your privacy policy. If the linkthrough to your "Satisfied Customers" page isn'tworking, how comfortable is a customer going to be entering theircredit card number?

And while you're at it, make sure that anything labeled"Coming Soon" will be actually coming soon. If it'snot going to be ready within a week, take it down.

I'd also highly recommend that you go through your site on acomputer other than your own. It's amazing what you'lllearn. That image that looks so great on your computer may actuallybe broken when viewed on someone else's! Make sure you takenote of how long content and images are taking to come up. If ittakes more than 10 seconds for the image of your product to appear,you're probably losing customers by the truckload!

The idea here is to make your visitors comfortable enough tomake a purchase from you. There is a direct correlation between howcomfortable people are and how likely they are to make a purchase.And a site where everything works is a comfortable place to be.

5. Check out free content providers. Believe it or not,there are actually a number of places to find content on just aboutevery topic imaginable that you can post on your site at no cost.Of course, the quality of this content varies tremendously, so besure to choose carefully.

You should be aware that some free content providers will try totake visitors away from your site. You may find, for example, thatthe news headlines you've posted on your site whisk visitorsaway as soon as they click on them. Obviously, this is not what youwant.

If you want to look into free content for your site, here are afew good places to start:

6. Never throw anything away. Want to know an almosteffortless way to make your site 50 percent more useful tovisitors? Archive your content. A study by online usability guruJakob Nielsen showed that an archive of past content increases asite's usefulness by about 50 percent. And since you'vealready produced the content, it's no hassle to simply indexall those articles in an archive. And, believe me, your customerswill be glad you did.

As your archive grows, you'll add credibility to yourbusiness, because your customers will be able to see how longyou've been around. With all those extra pages, your customersshould be hanging out at your site a little longer--making themmore comfortable and more likely to buy.

7. Look, listen and learn. So now that you've spentall this time getting your site as current as it should be, youneed to find out what kind of impact you've made. Of course, ifyou've done everything right, you'll start seeing resultsright where it counts--in your bankbook!

There are, however, a few other great ways to judge the successof all your hard work. Invest some time in going through yourserver logs (provided by your Web host), and see how much timepeople are actually spending looking at your content. If, forwhatever reason, people aren't using your "WeeklyUpdates" page, you probably shouldn't waste too much timewriting content for it.

The online suggestion box that you set up is also a great way tomeasure the usefulness of your content. If nobody EVER comments onyour "Monthly News" section, it's probably not worthyour while to slave over it at the beginning of every month.

Having fresh content isn't about having today's newsheadlines scrolling across the top of your homepage. As always,keep your eye on the bottom line and ask yourself, "Is thiscontent helping my sales"? If the answer is yes, you knowyou're on the right track.

Remember: Marketing a product online means that your site isprobably the only way your customers will ever interact with you.What you have posted on your site will speak volumes about the kindof company you're running: A site with relevant and currentinformation will deliver instant credibility to you and yourproducts.

Keep your site current and your content relevant, and Iguarantee your visitors will start spending more time there. Andthe longer they stay, the more dramatic the impact will be on yourprofits!

Internet marketing expert Corey Rudl has gained popularitybecause what he teaches are not theoretical approaches toonline marketing but real examples of what works when it comes tohaving a successful business on the Internet. He's also theauthor of the bestselling how-to guide, InsiderSecrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. For freetips and resources, please contact questions@marketingtips.com.

Corey Rudl, president and founder of the Internet Marketing Center is the author of the best-selling course Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. An internationally sought-after Internet business consultant and speaker, Corey focuses his energy on the research and development of practical, cost-effective Internet marketing strategies and software for the small and homebased business owner.

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