Our original article, entitled “Is your website selling your company, or your competition?” explains the effect that a poorly formed web site could have on your competition. It’s now time to clarify exactly what steps you can and should take to ensure that you aren’t helping to sell your competition with your web site.
1. Keep your text READABLE.
It’s one thing to want to make sure that search engines know what you do, and to ensure that you appear highly in them for the keywords that are important to your company. It’s another thing altogether to make your site a collection of unreadable, poorly formatted keyword paragraphs. Many people don’t even realize the way their content comes across to site visitors, because they haven’t taken the time to read it themselves, or to solicit feedback from individuals who don’t know the company or the industry well already.
How to do it.
Ask friends and neighbors to read through your most important few pages or products, and to give you honest feedback. After reading each page, would they know more than they did when they started, or would they have a headache trying to make sense of what is written?
2. Keep your text FRIENDLY.
No one wants to be talked at, in person or on the internet. Does your text have a friendly demeanor, or is it boring? Does it inspire people to buy from you, call you, e-mail you, or does it inspire them to look to the next web site?
How to do it.
Don’t take yourself quite so seriously. Yes, you sell an important product or service, and yes, people need to know more about it. But friendly costs nothing, doesn’t hurt the quality of the message and makes people feel like they are doing business with a human, not a computer. Note that this doesn’t mean you should tell jokes about your products or showcase your items in a ridiculous way, it simply means adding a personal touch.
3. Keep your DESIGN friendly.
Is your web site solid black, or bright blue with yellow text? Is the text large enough, the menu noticeable and easy to navigate, and the color scheme one that makes people want to stay on the site? Do you have a bunch of meaningless flash animation, with dancing letters or loading screens?
How to do it.
Be very aware of how your site design is perceived by others. Does it make them feel happy or sad? Lethargic, annoyed, or intrigued? Try asking a select group of non-company related individuals to use five words to describe your site design, and see what comes up. Also remember that if you are selling products, white sells. There’s a reason Ebay, Amazon, Target and all of the other large, successful online retailers accent their web sites with white. It emphasizes the product rather than the web site, and it makes people want to buy. What colors are you using?
4. Keep your content FRESH.
Seeing a news headline that invites visitors to a conference in Cleveland scheduled for two years ago, or a Merry Christmas message in the middle of April is a dead giveaway that you don’t pay attention to your web site. What does that mean to the visitor? It means that you may not be paying attention to keeping your product cutting edge, either. People want to know they are getting a new product with solid innovation behind it. If your site shows signs that it’s old and outdated, people could easily assume your product is as well.
How to do it.
If your site allows it, put “end dates” on your time sensitive articles. Our customers use SE’s built in date function to allow articles to disappear before they get too old, so there’s never a concern about having a conference invitation that has long expired, or reference to a holiday that has long-since passed. If your site can’t do this, then keep a note on your calendar to remove these old items the day they become dated. Another note, if you don’t have a lot of news, make sure your articles don’t mention the date. Nothing says “never updated” like an article with a post date of 2006.
5. Make it EASY to reach you.
It always amazes me when I see a web site with tons of great information, a clean design and… absolutely no way to contact the company.
How to do it.
This one’s easy. Place your phone number prominently in the top-right hand corner of your site header (studies have shown that this is the first-looked to location for contact information), and have some sort of simple and obvious link or button that directs people to your contact us page. Speaking of, you do have a “Contact Us” form, don’t you?
A simple, clear and concise contact us form is much easier on the visitor than a simple e-mail link. Instead of having to open their e-mail program (or give up if they are on a public computer without access to their account), the visitor simply needs to enter a little information and press send. Having a well-built contact form also prevents spammers from getting your e-mail address and using it to their advantage (aka sending you spam). Just remember, the more fields to fill out, the less chance someone will do them. If your contact us form has 20 fields to fill out, expect your e-mail box to be lonely.
Taking it further.
Did you like this article? Need some clarification, or want to know how these principles apply to your business and web site? Send us an e-mail and tell us what’s on your mind.