The world wide web is the fastest growing traffic marketplace in the history of commerce. You can buy anything on the W3. Problem is, everybody knows this so everybody (and his brother-in-law) thinks they can get rich building a web site and selling something.
It might be products – shoes, sporting goods, eBooks and other hard goods. Or it might be services – accounting, printing, snow removal – the web is all about selling. However, with 125 million web sites already live and 6,000 new launches daily, you might be a bit behind the curve. You see, the web is also the most cutthroat marketplace in the history of commerce.
Whatever you plan to sell, enter that product or service into the Google search box and see how many competing sites you’re going to face. Opening a small computer repair service? 1.75 million other computer repair companies and tech heads are in front of you. They’re on line and doing business. Those are your competitors and they have a head start.
Or consider this: the average web user scans a web home or landing page for 6.4 seconds before deciding whether to stick around or “bounce” to another site. On the W3 we have the attention span of gnats.
The most important thing to remember may also be the most painful and difficult web success concept to keep in mind: Web site visitors don’t give a hoot about you.
Stings a little, doesn’t it, but think about your own web traffic surfing habits. When you land on a web site – whether through a search engine results page (SERP), a landing page, or from a link connected to another web site, do you think about the owner of the web site? Do you care that she’s got a kid in college? Do you wonder if he’s making money with that web site?
No, because the simple fact is – nobody cares about you, your needs, your dreams and visions. Site visitors want to know one thing – what’s in it for me? And if you can explain to a site visitor what’s in it for her in 6.4 seconds, you just might make a sale. And if you make enough sales, you just might be a web success. And above else, avoid these barriers .
Your Web Site Traffic Objectives
When you start to develop your digital business model one of the first considerations you’ll make is to define your objectives for your web site. Are you trying to make a sale? Capture an email address? Collect visitor data on the “form” page? How about getting the visitor to pick up the telephone and call you right then and there?
These objectives are sometimes called the most desired actions or MDAs. It’s the most positive outcome you expect when a visitor lands on your site. But here’s the thing – your MDA isn’t necessarily the site visitor’s MDA.
You want to make a sale or solicit a telephone call. You want to build a database of email addresses or have the site visitor complete an on-line form. The visitor, on the other hand, may have a completely different objective in mind when he links to your site. He may be comparison shopping. She may be researching. They may be looking for a local accountant or buying a new home in zip code 12345.
Rarely are the objectives of the site owner and the site visitor the same. In fact, in most cases, the visitors’ MDAs are 180 degrees opposite from the site owners’ objectives. And that’s why so many web ventures crash and burn within 12 months.
It’s not about you, it’s about the visitors and what they want and expect when they land on your web site. Get THAT right and you may actually generate some income from that entrepreneurial spirit that burns within you.
Creating a Brand – FAST
That’s how much time you have to convince a site traffic visitor to look around. And the more they look around the more likely they are to perform the MDA – your MDA. In fact, two key metrics that search engine optimizers look at are time on site – how long did a visitor stay on a web site and bounce rate. When a visitor leaves immediately upon arrival at a web site, that’s called a bounce. You got your 6.4 seconds but you didn’t convert visitor to buyer so they bounced to another site, or hit the back button on their browsers and clicked on the next link listed on Google’s or Yahoo’s SERPs.
That means you have to create a brand in less than seven seconds. Here are some tips to do just that:
Add trust builders.
Display the On-line Better Business Bureau logo, the VeriSign logo, association emblems and other credibility builders to the home page and throughout the site – especially on the pages where your MDA is performed.
Demonstrate your corporate culture.
Your on-line corporate culture should be client-centric. Some elements that demonstrate your concern for the site visitor’s convenience and well-being include:
- a toll-free telephone line
- 24/7 customer support (somebody’s always buying on the web; it never closes)
- freebies like free shipping, free returns, free features, free ANYTHING
- sales and discounts
- green web hosting services (makes a statement about your concern for the environment) – in other words, choose your website hosting carefully
- numerous payment gateways, i.e. credit card, PayPal, Google Checkout, etc.
- easy-to-use and understand navigation
- bulleted lists of benefits for the site visitor (we don’t read on the web, we scan and bullet lists simplify the process)
- illustrations, photographs, graphs, charts and other visual stimuli (see the point above)
- guarantees and warranties spelled out in big type and all targeting the prospective buyer
Most of us have Amazon accounts. Well, my Amazon home page looks different from your Amazon home page because we both see different recommendations based on our past buying histories.
If you buy a lot of mystery thrillers, Amazon wants you to buy more. If you buy a lot of games, Amazon’s got recommendations just for you. Oh, and you’re welcomed back by name: “Hi, Bob, we have some recommendations for you.” The personal touch goes a long way in keeping visitors returning to perform the MDA over and over – their MDAs, not your MDAs.
Know When to Stop Selling
Everything can’t be “the best.” Everything can’t be “unique,” “leading edge” or the “top seller.” Web users have gotten so used to seeing hype on web sites that it’s all but invisible.
Instead, describe the benefits the consumer receives when they buy from you. Always keep the interests of site visitors at the fore front of your site design. Visitors want information – unbiased information.
Back to Amazon: this site encourages buyers to leave product reviews. That takes guts for any retailer because you’re going to get some negative reviews. But you’ll also get some unbiased reviews that sing the praises of a product or service. More and more web owners recognize that unbiased information and unbiased product reviews sell.
Hype doesn’t sell. It’s a turn-off. So, know when to stop selling and start educating. Site visitors are looking for information, not long-form sales letters that insult the intelligence of a chimp.
Treat Site Visitors With Respect
You may make a customer – a one-time buyer – by hiding the fine print in the fine print but you won’t make a repeat buyer once they see that you’ve sold their email addresses to 1,000 spammers and now their inboxes are clogged with junk emails.
Treat your site visitors with respect and give them what they want – the facts, straight information, useful information that will benefit them in their buying decisions.
Success on the web isn’t guaranteed. In fact, more web ventures fail than succeed in achieving their objectives, in part, because the web site is all about the company and NOT about the site visitor.
Show visitors who you are – quickly – with trust building emblems. Make a statement about your corporate culture by using a “green” web hosting company. Make it simple for visitors to find unbiased information that they can use whether they buy from you or not, and make your business practices public knowledge. Don’t bury the double-cross in 6-point type buried in a stack of legal boilerplate.
You want web success? Of course you do. That’s why you’re considering starting a web-based business. Okay, then forget about your objectives and consider the objectives of potential visitors.
Give it away. And keep giving it away to create site stickiness. Visitors will even bookmark a web site that provides useful information and also happens to sell a product or service. And when site visitors finally decide they want or need that product or service…
…they’re going to buy it from you.