Prospective clients often send me emails asking me to visit their websites to learn more about them and their product, book or business. They want to avoid repeating to me what they’ve already spent so much time and money to explain on their site.
But often when I get there, I have to dig to find out what they’re promoting, who they are, even how to buy what they’re selling – if that information is actually there. I find grammatical errors (not much of an endorsement if you’re a writer!), no contact information, and scant detail about who they are on their “about” page – if they have one.
Frequently, when I point out these shortcomings, the person responds, “But I paid a lot of money for a web guru to design it for me!”
Your website is a crucial tool both for marketing yourself and for turning visitors into customers. You’re investing considerable time, effort and money into gaining media exposure that sends visitors to your “shop.” When they finally get there, if it’s confusing or (gasp!) disappointing, they won’t stay around long enough to buy anything.
I’ve mentioned before that we recently created a new website for EMSI. One reason was because the old one was beginning to look dated. We also realized we could benefit from a more vibrant design, make it easier to navigate and make it more useful to visitors who wanted to learn about us. The site has launched, but this is such an important marketing tool, we’re still fine-tuning it.
We hired Joe Thomas of Left Brain Digital, www.leftbraindigital.com, and we were so pleased with his work, we continue to recommend him to others. He’s also become part of the team in that he’s always happy to share his expertise with PR Insider readers.
I asked him to give you some straight talk about evaluating and improving, if necessary, your website. As always with Joe, he cut right to the chase with this piece:
What to Do if Your Site Needs Surgery
… So the guy stands there with his mouth agape and says, “But Doc, why do you have to operate on my foot? The splinter is in my finger!”
Why am I leading off with a punch line? Because it applies to about 80 percent of people who can’t figure out why their website doesn’t “work.”
Pretend your website is the patient in my half-a-joke. Now toss in a “web guru” as the doctor. There are two main reasons why you’ve gotten surgery on a foot when a finger was the problem.
- You didn’t correctly explain the symptoms.
If your product or book is not selling from your website, don’t tell the doctor you don’t like the colors. Or that you need more Flying Thingies on the page. Tell the doctor that your product is not selling from your website.Some people consult with their sister-in-law, best friend and lawn boy before seeking the help of a professional. Or, they guess at the cause of the problem themselves. When they finally consult with a professional, they tell him or her what they want: Use blue not red, make that picture bigger, add a joke of the day. For the right diagnosis, just tell the doctor, “The site’s not selling” and let him or her figure out why.
- There are a lot of quack doctors out there!
Let’s be honest, a surgeon makes his living performing surgeries, and a web guru makes his living performing guru work on web sites. The moral? Without patients and web projects,
the surgeon and the web guru go on unemployment.In all aspects of business, and especially Internet marketing, some people may say whatever it takes to sell you on “surgery.” Proceed with caution! Before you hire someone to develop, design or “fix” your site, get referrals. Ask people you trust for recommendations.
Ask the “doctor” questions. If he or she can’t take the time to explain every procedure, find someone who will. You need to understand the suggestions – and the reasons for them.
Also, be warned there is no Standard Pricing Guide. My best advice is to avoid being sucked into the cheapest deal you can find, or being fooled by the “we are the best so we charge the most” designers.
If you’re not getting the results you need from your site, ask yourself a few questions:
How does your site stack up against your competition?
We’ll assume you already have a website … Whether you’re an author, manufacturer, business or blogger, you have competition. Surf around and take a LOOK at the other guy’s site. How does his LOOK compare to yours? We’re not talking about what the site says, just the overall aesthetics. Does yours look as good, or better?
When visitors open your site, do they know what you’re selling?
Obviously, you know your product or service, but is it plainly visible to visitors? Is the information your visitors are looking for easy to find and understand? Are the “calls to action,” such as “sign the petition,” “read the blog” or “buy my cool book” easy to find?
Did you check your ego at the door?
Who is your site trying to please? Are you trying to impress yourself or your customers?
Too often, websites get hung up on self importance. While it IS important to show your visitors that you’re an expert, the product or service needs to be the focal point. If you’re selling beans or bikinis, nobody really cares that you climbed Mount Everest in your pajamas last October.
Common sense is the most valuable tool at your disposable, but be smart enough to know what you don’t know! Successful websites don’t just appear. They’re properly developed, cultivated and then regularly watered.
Developing a successful website is hard work; finding the right surgeon can be even harder.
I hope Joe’s advice helps you view your website with a fresh, critical eye. Sometimes the most difficult questions (Why aren’t my books or products selling?) have a simple answer.
Take a look at your site. Is the first thing visitors see a compelling reason to buy your book or product? If not, you’ve got a serious problem, but the good news is it can be easily corrected. Are the links to your “about” and “contact” pages easy to spot? Do they provide visitors with ample – and relevant – information? On the home page, is there a “click-to-purchase” button that makes it easy to buy?
If your website is the problem, I hope you’ve now found some answers.
Your future visitor,