How effective is your website? Is it attracting lots of targeted visitors? Is your site bringing in new business and new contacts daily? Are customers, purchasing agents, business partners and new vendors finding you on the web? Or have you spent thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars for a website that seems to collect little more than electronic tumbleweeds and cyberdust?
Millions of web searches are conducted each day by government buyers, private industry purchasing agents, small businesses and consumers looking for everything from software to hoof trimmers for goats. Chances are there are people searching the web right now for the products or services you sell. If your site doesn’t capture their attention and order, a competitor will.
Typically, these prospects go to Google, Bing, or Yahoo and type in a keyword or key phrase describing the product or service they seek.The words might be a brand name and model or part number, a service they need along with their geographic location (ie, junk removal, Smithtown, NY), or something more generic such as "how to get rid of spiders." The listings they see on the first one or two search engine result pages (nicknamed SERPs by Internet marketing professionals), are usually the sites they visit to gather information and make their purchase. If your site doesn’t show up on that first page or two of results, or if your site does show up but is difficult to use, customers that could be yours will drift into some other company’s sales funnel.
So, how do you make your site show up in the first page of two of search results when you can find 800,000 search results on Google for a term like “bullet proof vests”? Why do competitors’ sites, and sometimes sites that are just lists of affiliate links, wind up on the first or second page of the SERPs when your site is on page 53? Why is your site missing in action – or, if it is getting found, missing the action?
There are many factors that affect search marketing results including how old your domain name is and how long it’s been live on the web. And sometimes, those ranking factors seem to change more often than a teenage girl changes clothes. But if your site has been up for several months and it isn’t bringing you leads, contacts or sales, then the problem may be that your site is guilty of one or more website marketing mistakes. Here are the most common – and the easiest to correct.
1 - Thinking your customers don’t use the web
Surprisingly there are still small businesses who think this way! I was at a dinner one evening with a small business owner who was complaining how difficult it is to get new customers and how much trouble he is having getting some of his old customers to pay their bills. I asked the owner if he had a web site and was using it to attract customers. “We have a web page up, but we don’t do anything with it,” he said. “Our customers don’t look for our services on the web.” I resisted the temptation to remind him that he had just said his customers don’t pay, either. Instead, I looked at his website the next day. It was just a single page with little other than the company logo, phone number, and a photo of their facility. Next, I searched for a couple of key phrases that described what the business sold. Not surprisingly, my dinner buddy’s site didn’t show up in the organic (unpaid) search results. But a lot of his competitors did. In addition, a number of his competitors were advertising in Google and Bing pay-per-click ads. They apparently had discovered what my friend was missing: customers on the web.
2 - Hiding your site from search engines
No one wants to hide their key pages from search engines. But that’s exactly what a lot of sites do because the people who build them either don’t understand how search engines work, or are more concerned with visual effects than getting found on the web.
Search engines are hungry for text. They can’t read pictures or flash or video very well. The text on pages tells search engines what a site is about, so the search engine knows when to display it in response to search queries. If the search engine can’t find any text on your key pages, or finds very little text, your site isn’t going to get found by people looking for what you sell.
Here are just a few examples of text-poor, small business sites I've seen very recently:
- A home page that includes the name of the business, a huge magazine-quality photo showing an example of their work, and very little else.
- A home page that includes a video, a link to sign up for a newsletter and nothing else except the business name and slogan, which aren’t representative of the service being sold.
- Flash or slideshows on a home page – and, of course, little else. In addition to masking the nature of your site from search engines, flash and slideshows could annoy visitors who want information now and without having to wait for a presentation to finish, or guess which link will tell them if your hair salon is open on Sundays.
- Pictures of text instead of text. Yes, your brochure looks lovely, but a scanned copy of your slogan or selling points isn't going to feed the search spiders any information about who should visit your site. If you had someone else create your website for you and don't know whether or not they used text or an image of text in your brochure, try to select a portion of the text on the web page the way you’d select a portion of text in a Word document. If you can’t select the words, the text isn’t really text. It’s a graphic.
If your home page and site consist of mostly graphic images, change it. Put text about the product or service on the page, along with a thumbnail sized graphic, and instruct visitors to click the graphic to see the demo, portfolio, or whatever big graphics you want displayed. That way the presentation will still be available for those who really want to see it, but it won’t stop you from getting search engine traffic from people searching for your type of business.
3 - Not using the right keywords and key phrases in the pages on your site.
Keywords and key phrases are the words people type into the search engine when they are looking for a product or service. To get found in search engines, your website needs to contain text that includes the query terms your customers are most likely to use looking for what you sell.
For instance, if your company, Johnson Technologies, sell voice recognition software called VoiceConverterNow and you target the healthcare industry, your prospects may be searching Google, Bing and Yahoo for terms like “medical voice recognition software” or “voice recognition software for hospitals.” Unless you’re a very well-known leader in your industry, they probably won’t be searching for the name of your company or for the specific name of the product. Neither will they be searching for terms such as “leading provider of voice- to-data conversion systems in the medical community,” or other puffery you might be tempted to put in brochures or VC presentations. Similarly, if you are an individual who provides copy-editing services to self-publishers, your site isn’t likely to get found if it talks about your expertise as a remote assistant who tunes clients' work to so their words are music to their readers ears. (But you might get some people visiting the site who were looking for piano tuners.)
To maximize your chances of getting found in search engines, be sure your web pages include common key words and phrases associated with the product or concept being described on the page. Appropriate keywords should appear in the page title, metatags, headlines and body of your text.
4 - Using social media pages as a substitute for your own website
Social media is all the rage these days. Just about every marketing person you speak with will tell you that you must have a social media presence, and you should. But you shouldn't be using social media as a substitute for your own website. The reasons are many, but the primary one is that you don't own the social media don't own your social media contacts . While you should be interacting with and engaging with prospects and clients on social media, your focus should be on driving them to your own website, and presenting them with some type of offer that will encourage them to give you contact information so you can reach out to them when you want.
5 - Making it difficult to understand what your business sells and what features the product or service offers.
Web searchers are impatient. They expect to be able to tell what you sell and where to click for details the moment they land on your website. They want that information in plain English with lots of short paragraphs and bulleted lists. And they want facts and product features, not vague lists of the benefits of buying from your business. You probably won’t get a lot of inquiries for your environmental testing laboratory if your home page states your philosophy of doing business and your services page makes claims for the reliability of your results – but never talks about the type of testing services you offer.
6 - Making it difficult to place an order or check out from a web store.
You’d think that online merchants would make shopping as easy as possible. Unfortunately, many don’t. “Buy Now” and Checkout buttons are often difficult to find. Customers are often asked to register and divulge personal information before then can place a single item in their shopping cart. And the order and confirmation process is sometimes long and confusing. Topping off all those problems, some merchants don’t provide phone numbers customers can use if they prefer to call in an order instead of typing it in online.
As a result, shopping cart abandonment rates are high and conversion rates are low. According to figures published by Baymard Institute, the shopping cart abandon rate in recent years runs between 55% and over 70%!
To identify and fix problems in your shopping cart, try this exercise: if you accept incoming phone orders, take them yourself for a few hours. Type all called-in orders into your online shopping cart. Make a note of everything in the ordering and checkout process that annoys you or slows you down. When you’re done, send your list of annoyances to your programmer and have her fix the problems and bottlenecks.
7 - Not getting permission to contact web visitors again.
Conversion rates vary by website and product, but on the average, only about 2 percent of visitors to a web site make a purchase. In other words, roughly 98% of the visitors to your site don’t buy during their first visit. A handful may bookmark your site so they can find it again in the future, but most of the people who leave will simply forget about your site.
Fortunately there’s something you can do about that sad statistic: Give the visitor a reason to leave you their email address and other contact information before they leave your website.
What kind of reason? There are many. Among them: offer a free newsletter; ask customers to sign up to be notified about special offers; offer a free, downloadable white paper about a subject related to your prospects needs; or even offer a free mini-course. When you deliver the newsletter or other material you offered, you get additional opportunities to market products to interested prospects – prospects who otherwise may never have returned to your site.
For More Internet Marketing Mistakes That Hurt Sales And Profits, Click here.
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