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How to Optimize Your Product Online Get people on to your email list. Offer information they need. Demonstrate how your offer can solve their challenges. Only then should you ask them for the buy.

By Thomas Smale Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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You work hard to attract visitors and prospects to your website and product listings. But if those people leave without buying -- or without at least signing up to receive email updates from you -- they may not come back.

Related: 3 Ways to Optimize Your Startup's Content Marketing

You can still retarget those who have been to your website, and retargeting is a good way to capture those who might not return. However, if there is a disconnect with your offer, you might not convert your visitors, regardless. If that happens, you'll just end up wasting money on advertising that's not going to give you a favorable return on investment.

If you want to generate consistent sales, you need to optimize your product listings. Here's how.

Get your customers to refer their friends.

Your customers aren't going to tell their friends about your business unless there's a compelling reason. Every sales professional knows the power of getting referrals from paying customers; it's a good way to find new customers and open a larger market.

Crazy Egg suggests offering referral discounts to boost sales. It notes that both Optimizely and Airbnb have tested similar offers where customers could earn credit by referring a friend. Optimizely was able to increase its engagement by 60 percent just by changing the copy for its button. Airbnb tried a closed-beta program that brought in an additional 2,107 members from its original 2,161. Essentially, for every customer it already had, it brought in another.

So, whether you offer cash credit or a discount, a referral program with these rewards may help you double your results without doubling the money you put into your marketing. The exact amount you offer your customers will depend on how much they'll be spending with you and on your profit margin.

Build trust and credibility with your website visitors.

According to UX Booth, studies conducted by both McAfee and VeriSign show that ecommerce sites can boost their credibility by 10 percent to 36 percent simply by displaying familiar trustmarks. These include the Better Business Bureau, VeriSign, PayPal and other organizations your visitors are likely familiar with.

Related: The 6 Online Marketing Strategies Every Entrepreneur Needs

Be careful not to display these badges on your site simply because you can; get validated. You can also display the major credit cards you accept, as well as the logos of recognizable brands whose products you sell.

Marketing expert Neil Patel also encourages online sellers to use what he calls "logo porn" to boost credibility. He is referring to notable publications you've been mentioned in or awards you've received. He says he discovered that removing these logos reduced his conversion rate by 9.9 percent, again showing that third-party recognition helps with credibility.

If your store is still new, and you haven't gotten any press yet, it may be worth it for you to build an authority blog, network with publications and columnists in your industry, partner with known service providers or vendors or seek out opportunities to get featured in the media using a service like Help A Reporter Out.

Utilize reviews and testimonials.

Reviews and testimonials boost your credibility. According to BigCommerce, product reviews can increase sales by up to 18 percent. It also notes that 40.9 percent of customers believe reviews and testimonials are an important purchasing factor. In addition to your product pages, you might consider using positive feedback on your home page, sidebar or footer. This demonstrates that real people shop with you and enjoy what you offer.

Email is one of the best tools you can use to survey, and get feedback from, your customers. If you haven't begun building an email list yet, that's a good place to start. This is because you'll likely send your customers that SurveyMonkey or GetFeedback survey you're using through email.

For better or for worse, remember that it's best not to game the system, especially if you're selling on Amazon. You could put your business at risk by incentivizing reviews. Instead get real testimonials from real customers -- the best way to build trust with your prospects.

Use a service to improve your product listings.

Are your Amazon listings not converting at the rate you expected them to?

According to Asteroid Aim, this may be because your product isn't adequately optimized for the keyword it should be ranking for. Another common problem is a lack of persuasiveness. The language you're using on your listings may not be building confidence in those viewing your products.

Asteroid Aim will find keywords on your behalf and tweak your product description to convert more visitors. It even offers unlimited revisions for free.

Even if you aren't an Amazon seller, keyword and copy optimization is crucial. Tools like SEMrush can help you identify keyword opportunities, and there's nothing quite like knowing your customer pain pointsto help you put together compelling product descriptions. Do your research.

Test your designs.

Many marketers tout the benefits of an attractive, quality website design, as well as eye-catching graphics to turn visitors into customers. The problem is that this is vague advice. Without knowing exactly what to tweak or how to tweak it, you're left without any relevant action steps to take.

With Verify, you can test your designs before they go live. You can create mockups for your designs, collect real data and determine what's working. Instead of relying on hunches, you can make informed design decisions to convert more visitors into paying customers.

At times, it's the simplest things that affect outcome, such as the position of a button, its color or how much it stands out in relation to other elements on screen. Armed with this data, your website won't just look pretty -- it will become a cash-generating machine. And isn't that the point?

Final thoughts

Think about the customer journey. For most customers, purchasing isn't the first step they're going to take with you. First, they're going to want to learn about possible solutions to their problem. And, then, once they feel informed enough to make a purchase decision, they will finally move into the buying phase.

Related: How Small Businesses Can Optimize Content for Better ROI

Unless you're marketing directly to warm prospects, don't make it your goal to sell website visitors on the spot. First, get people on to your email list, offer information they need and then demonstrate how your offer can solve their challenges. Only then should you ask them for the buy.

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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