On any given day there are a ton of customers searching the net in need your product or service. Are you getting your fair share of these customers?
First, it’s important to understand the thought process of the “online shopper” (be it for products or services) . And quite honestly, the online shopper’s thought process isn’t that complicated. For example, you do a Google search for a Seattle graphic designer and ten businesses come up on the first page alone, plus another eight appear as click-through ads in the right column… who do you check out first and how many of those “above the fold.”? Most of us will read the business summaries that are near the top of the first page and click on the ones that best match our needs.
Online shoppers look at just a handful of these websites. After all, who has time to surf sites all day? Once on a site, the decision to stay or leave is made within seconds. Part of the thought process to stay or leave is driven by our subconscious. Is the site warm, inviting, organized, logical and current or does it look cold, confusing, boring and outdated. I’m not suggesting that people revamp their sites every three to five years just to stay trendy, but ask yourself, what year does your site look like it was designed? (Have you not changed your site because you are beholden to your designer or webmaster for even the small changes?)
The messaging on the home page needs to be crystal clear (or so compelling that visitors head to another page…does your home page answer the question: what’s the service or product and why is the business unique. The combination of the visual impact and the main message keeps us on the site and moves us into another page to go deeper.
As shoppers, we don’t have time to call or email every business that had a good website, just the businesses that really pricked our curiosity.
So now that we’ve reviewed how the online shopper thinks, these 5 tips to get more business from your site will be much more meaningful.
1) Invest in Search Engine Optimization. When someone searches for your service or product, do you come up on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing?
This part is critical, because no matter how great your site might be, if no one finds your site, well, it’s like having a store in the middle of a forest without any roads.
Depending on your business, you might be able to rank high just creating great page title tags and meta descriptions. These take priority over the page content and basically tell the search engines what your page is about. If you manage your own website with a program like WordPress, you can enter your own SEO title and description tags. If your competitors have done a great job with their SEO, you will need to do much more to outrank them. There are plenty of SEO experts out there that can help you.
An alternative to SEO is pay-per-click (PPC), also known as search engine marketing (SEM). These are the ads that you see in the right hand column of the major search engine. You bid on keywords and pay when someone clicks on your ad.
Local search engine marketing is one more way to get found on the internet and drive customers to your site. Google and Yahoo/Bing both offer free listing on the local search. They don’t list every business category but do list most business categories that have retail fronts and a few that don’t. This is a great way to get noticed if you are willing to invest the time.
And there are scores of other ways to get visitors to your site, like having a complete Biznik profile with your website link! Biznik is designed to be SEO friendly and therefore a fully populated profile is a potent marketing tool by itself. Get visitors to your Biznik profile and then link them over to your site to really sell them.
2) Invest in great website design. Your site needs to be warm, inviting, and professional-looking, otherwise the site visitors will run to the nearest exist.
Ideally, you want your website to have the WOW factor…a look that really impresses the site visitor. It’s no different than a retail shopping experience…you’re much more inclined to stay and shop at REI than most other outdoor stores.
Your site should look like it was built in our current technology era. One can easily recognize sites build in the prior technology era by their old school look. Website designs have evolved to much wider pages as laptop and monitors have gotten wider. And thanks to faster download speeds and innovative developers, the sites today are filled with huge images and ton of interactive functions.
3) Give you site visitors a reason to stick around and a reason to come back. Make it interactive.
By interactive, I’m talking about videos, audios, image sliders, photo galleries, twitter feeds, flash presentations, connections to your social media networks, polls, and of course a blog. For WordPress alone there are over 13,700 plugins that add to the functionality of your website. Give people easy means to stay engaged.
4) Create a home page that captures the interest of your visitor.
You got just a few seconds! That warm and friendly feel must be present on your home page (and ideally throughout your site). The messaging that tells the customer what you do and why you’re unique has to be crystal clear. Finally, the navigation has to be logical and intuitive. After all, the objective of the home page is to get the visitor to go deeper into your site and eventually contact you, or perhaps purchase something online.
If you’re not a designer, it’s worth the expense to get help from a graphic designer so your site will have the WOW effect that reflects your personality and values. If you’re not a writer, it is worth getting help from a professional writer so your home page messaging truly reflects the essence of your business. Please care about the quality of your writing for the sake of your business.
5) Tell the visitor who you are and what you’ve done.
You’ve heard the saying people buy from people, not businesses. As solopeneurs, this is SO true. Your prospective customer needs to get more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling about your business, they need to also get that same feeling about YOU.
People want to know who’s behind the curtain. Solopreneur, you are the business. It used to be they wanted to see your resume and your experience. Now prospective clients want to see your photo and see you in a video. If your business involves working one-on-one with your clients, they want to feel conformable that you’re someone they both like and trust and get a sense of your personality and values.
And lastly, does your site reflect your accomplishments? Whether you’re a photographer, graphic designer, writer, landscaper, interior designer, etc. seeing your portfolio page is the piece that closes the deal. And for those of you who have a portfolio, there are now so many exciting ways to display your work and WOW the visitors!
Embrace current technology and see what it pulls in for your business. And if you are not a DIY kind of person, get the help you need where you need it. You’ll thank yourself for doing so.