Secrets of Online Marketing for Offline Businesses Mini-Course by Chapter 4 Design Secrets Of Websites That Sell

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1 Secrets of Online Marketing for Offline Businesses Mini-Course by Chapter 4 Design Secrets Of Websites That Sell Just like art, everyone has different opinions about what makes attractive website design. But when it comes to making your website profitable, things are much more clear-cut. There are certain design methodologies that consistently outsell the alternatives by a significant margin. Check your existing or planned website against these guidelines to ensure your site is optimized for maximum sales results. Design Principle 1: Usability Make your website as easy as possible for visitors to understand, navigate and use The most profitable websites make it incredibly easy for visitors to navigate and use. They re said to have excellent usability. Websites with great usability dramatically outsell websites that make it difficult for users to find the information they re after. I know of one case where simply redesigning the navigation structure increased sales results by 270%, overnight. This stuff works! Here s a list of the most important usability guidelines that are often ignored: 4.1 Don t have a splash page A splash page is a doorway page to a website that features a logo or animation instead of content. Splash pages might look great, but they also hurt your sales. There are at least 3 reasons why: 1) They insert an unnecessary navigation step, making it more difficult for users to find the content and information they want. 2) Because splash pages often use large graphic or animation files, they may take a long time to download. That frustrates

2 visitors, driving them away before they even get to read your sales copy. 3) Because splash pages typically don t include much text, search engines don t like them, so they tend to hurt your search engine rankings. 4.2 Discuss one product or service category per page Have you ever been to a website where there are many unrelated products listed on a single webpage? In some cases, this makes sense (e.g. on the homepage, or in an online catalogue featuring a large number of products), but for most offline businesses that offer only a few product ranges or services, it s better to give each product or service a separate page. There are 3 reasons why: 1. Most users come to your site with a specific goal in mind. Suppose you re an accountant who offers three services personal tax returns, small business accounting and financial planning. The majority of your website visitors will be interested in only one of these services at a time. By giving each service its own page you can focus on selling one service at a time, without distracting visitors with competing content. 2. Search engines index web pages, not websites. By featuring each product or service on a separate page, you can optimise each page separately for the specific search phrases that you want to target. 3. In some cases (i.e. when using pay-per-click advertising), it s possible to direct prospects to a specific page of your website. If a prospect searches for small business accounting, you can direct them straight to your small business accounting page. This strategy of providing the most relevant content immediately results in a higher conversion of prospects into customers. 4.3 Fast download is critical Still keeping with the theme of ensuring that users can easily find what they re looking for, it s important to make sure your website downloads quickly. If your site takes too long to download, users get impatient and leave before they see your content, which is why a slow

3 site costs you sales. You need a web designer who understands that building a site that s fast loading and straightforward is more important than experimenting with the latest web technologies. Here s a tool you can use to test how fast your website downloads: As a rule of thumb, your webpage should take no more than 12 seconds to load on a 56K modem. Anything more than that, and you run the risk of driving away a significant proportion of your potential customers. (N.B: As more web users get high-speed Internet access, this rule is set to become less important, but at the moment it s still true that fast websites make more sales) 4.4 Put your most compelling content above the fold of the page The term above the fold refers to the top half of a newspaper page, which is read more widely than the bottom half. Websites are the same. Make sure your most relevant information and strongest benefits are visible on the first screen of information that the user sees. By testing different content (especially headlines) above the fold of your web pages and tracking your results, you can improve your website sales by a sometimes astonishing margin. 4.5 Make navigation a no-brainer You and your web designer have seen your website hundreds of times, but a new user has to start from scratch. Many websites that put aesthetics and originality before selling end up confusing and frustrating users. That s why ease of navigation is one of the most important usability considerations. It s a good idea to stick to standard navigation elements (e.g. a horizontal navigation bar near the top of the page, or a vertical bar on the left hand side of the page.) That s where users expect to find your navigation elements, so that s where you should place them. Breaking this rule with original navigation bars or menus will slash your sales. This is another case where you have to

4 decide whether you want your website to be artistic or profitable. 4.6 Make links obvious and visible Links are the most important navigation element on the web, so it s a good idea to make it easy for users to identify what s a link and what isn t. Some designers use colour schemes that make links and normal text look identical. This causes many users to miss important links, or forces them to waste time mousing over the page to work out where the links are. Of course, most of the time users can t be bothered doing this. Instead, they leave your website without reading your content. We recommend making links a significantly different colour from normal text, and underlined for extra visibility. Design Principle 2: Make your website Search Engine Friendly Search engines are an important part of a successful Internet marketing strategy, because they re the cheapest way to get large volumes of traffic to your website. And search engines are very particular when it comes to web design. Basically, search engines index text. They don t deal with images or animations well at all. So a search engine friendly web design is one that makes it easy for search engines to find and understand your keyword-rich content. Here are some design principles that will help you do that: 4.7 Don t use images to present text Some web designers like to use images to present text. Instead of using standard HTML to display text, they write the text onto an image then insert the image into the page. This is done to preserve the format of the text or to decorate it, but it also makes the text invisible to search engines. To make matters worse, images are sometimes used to present headings. Search engines place a higher importance on headings, so if search engines can t read your headings, your chances of being found on search engines will decrease.

5 4.8 Include plenty of standard text on any page you want indexed Content is King! Search engines like pages with at least 150 words of text, because text is the language they understand. What good is a nicely designed website if search engines don t know it exists? Words are also the most persuasive element of a web page. Well-written sales copy engages your visitors, and motivates them to buy or contact you. 4.9 Use Flash animation sparingly Flash is an animation program. We recommend using Flash sparingly because it can t be indexed by search engines, and it tends to be used for vanity reasons rather than selling reasons. Flash animation can be an effective selling tool, but only in the hands of a genuine pro. In many cases, there are far more cost-effective, profitable ways to get your sales message across Avoid frames Frames are a web design feature that allows different sections of a page to move and load separately. Pages that feature frames have more than one navigation area with a separate navigation bar, like this:

6 Frames are bad because they can t be bookmarked easily, search engines hate them, and they interfere with the back and refresh buttons on web browsers. Design Principle 3: Never Distract Users From Your Content 4.11 Avoid scrolling or flashing page elements Web design elements that scroll or flash can be pretty cool for about 3 seconds. After that they become incredibly annoying. Many users immediately switch off to anything that flashes because it looks like an ad. And scrolling content is often difficult or impossible to read in one go, detracting from the user s experience rather than adding to it Keep sales pages free of unrelated content When you re trying to sell someone something, the last thing you want to do is distract them. It s like a car salesman breaking his sales presentation half way through to offer you a deal on timeshare holidays. Yet a lot of websites do exactly that. They clutter sales pages with unrelated products or advertising banners, which only serve to distract users from the task at hand. Imagine your sales pages structured like a greased funnel that makes it impossible for visitors not to take action on your proposition Make your design complement your content, not compete with it The most profitable websites present compelling salesorientated content in a clear, easily understandable way. It s important to ensure that design doesn t compete with your content. The one exception might be if the website is for a design firm that wants to show off their skills.

7 Conclusion The design guidelines above will help your website sell more. They won t always have the graphical impact of more adventurous or original web design techniques, but that s the decision you have to make do you want your website to be a work of art, or an effective selling tool? Tomorrow s instalment is called, Content Secrets Of Websites That Sell Do you know a business owner, marketing manager or professional who would benefit from this mini-course? Tell them about it using this quick online form

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