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Should Your Site Require Registration? Before you ask customers to sign in, consider whether it's beneficial for both them and you.

By Corey Rudl

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: I've navigated some sites where I can go anywhere I want without registering to the site. And there are some sites that take me to the registration page first. From the marketing point of view, which process is more suitable?

A: If your site offers a lot of valuable free content, perhaps you're thinking about packing a lot of that good, free information away behind a registration process, forcing folks who want to find out more to hand over their contact information in exchange.

Or, if your site is regularly changed and updated, perhaps you want people to register to your site to be notified of updates.

But is site registration a good idea? How will it affect your business?

  • Benefits of site registration. Only .05 to 5 percent of first-time visitors to your site are likely to actually buy anything, so collecting their names and e-mail addresses so you can contact them again in the future should be one of your primary goals in almost any online business.

Having people sign up as registered members of your site is one way to collect their information, allowing you to send them promotions and updates to entice them back to your site at a later date. And don't forget that most people need to be contacted an average of seven times before they'll buy from you!

Plus, once they've signed up at your site, the likelihood of those visitors becoming repeat visitors skyrockets. So why wouldn't you collect information from all your visitors? Well, there are a few problems with site registration that you'll need to consider before going ahead with it at your own site.

  • Problems with site registration. To be perfectly honest, the main problem with forcing people to register at your site is that for the most part, they'd rather not.

In fact, more than 75 percent of Internet users have left a site at some point to avoid site registration. And they've given three main reasons why:

  1. They don't want to receive any e-mail marketing from that particular Web site.
  2. It's just too time-consuming to fill out a bunch of form fields. Often, surfers are just looking for quick information and don't want the hassle of filling out forms.
  3. They want to protect their personal privacy. They don't want to hand over personal information on the Internet. They're worried about security concerns. And heck, most Internet surfers would really rather remain anonymous.

On most sites, you're better off not including registration unless it's necessary, or unless it will really be beneficial to your visitors.

  • Tips for successful site registration. If you decide that site registration is for you, you'll have to ensure that the benefits of membership outweigh any perceived "negatives" visitors may feel about sharing their e-mail address. Be sure to also consider the following tips:
  • Make sure you have a privacy statement. A privacy statement will help to assuage the fears of nervous Net surfers and allow them to hand over information more freely. It is also required in many instances by the FTC.
  • Reassure customers. Take the time to prove to your visitors that your site really is safe and trustworthy by getting seals of approval from such well-known organizations as TRUSTe and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Clearly explain how you will use the information you collect. Letting people know why you want their information is one of the keys to earning their trust. No one in their right mind would hand over a credit card number, for example, without having a very good reason why they should. Plus, site registrants want to know if they'll be receiving e-mail marketing, regular updates, perks, benefits and so on.
  • Don't ask for information you don't need. The longer your registration form, the less chance your visitors will want to complete it. Keep it to the bare minimum--and never ask for information about which people might be sensitive or nervous (like social security number, driver's license and sometimes even age).
  • Ensure that membership has its perks. Can you offer registrants a discount? Give them access to privileged information? Can you allow them easy access to members-only information? Have your site set up so that members never give you their information more than once, whether they're signing up for a new service, supplying a password or ordering a product. And make it worth their while!

If your intention is to collect the names and e-mail addresses of your visitors, you are better off in most cases just offering a free newsletter or running a contest. (The one exception is usually an information-packed site, where people see an immediate value in registering.) Unless you can come up with a very good reason why people should register to your site, they probably won't.

However, if your business model dictates site registration, or if you think it just might work in your case, be sure to follow the guidelines I've provided here. And, most importantly, look for feedback from your visitors and your customers and monitor their reactions to your changes!

Corey Rudl, president and founder of the Internet Marketing Center, is the author of the best-selling courseInsider 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.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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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