The Internet – It’s NOT About You, It’s about the Internet User
For starters, consider your own web use practices when you browse the Internet.
Internet User Expectations
Next, when you access a web site, do you think about the owner of that site? Do you care if that web site succeeds as an on-line business? Do you have certain expectations when you visit for the first time?
See, it is not about features or benefits. And it is definitely not about you. Consequently, all of your web site copy should be targeted at meeting the needs of site visitors.
Your Internet objectives might include:
- selling a product
- selling a service
- collecting email addresses through an opt-in module
- signing up subscribers to your newsletter
- enticing site visitors to pick up the telephone and call you
- providing incentives to visit your store or place of business (local search)
- gathering information through the completion of a form
These are one or more of your objectives. However, they aren’t the objectives of the site visitor who may be shopping around for a better price (comparison shopping), seeking the advice of a business or financial consultant or printing out directions to your store across town.
The fact is, the objectives of site owners and site visitors are often at odds and that leads to a high bounce rate. Visitors arrive on site, at some expense and effort on your part, however they fail to find the information they’re looking for and they bounce – they leave before they perform your most desired action.
The key to site success is to meet all of your site visitors objectives simply, clearly and transparently. Any attempt to “fool” visitors is bound to fail. Today’s sharp web users know a come-on when they see one. The tactics that worked five years ago don’t work today.
For example, when you offer a free eBook download in exchange for an email address opt-in, that visitor knows that her email client inbox is going to be loaded with spam as you send out auto-responder after auto-responder in a fruitless attempt to back sell that visitor to the grave. Even capturing an email address with an ethical bribe no longer works. Web users know why you want their email addresses and many are reluctant to provide that information in exchange for a 10-page download on keeping tropical fish. It’s just not worth the hassle.
See, as a web site owner, you don’t know where a new visitor is going to land on your site. It MAY be your glitzy home page with a fancy Flash animated carousel and a complete, 20-minute video sell piece, but a site visitor is just as likely to land on an interior page – a landing page deep within your site accessed by an in-bound link from another site, a pay-per-click ad (PPC) or even organic search engine results.
The fact is, many visitors arrive on a site page that doesn’t interest them. That’s why web site navigation is so important. Clear, concise navigation enables visitors to find the information they’re looking for quickly, keeping them on site longer. Consequently, the longer a visitor stays on site, the more likely they are to perform that all-important MDA.
- always place the navigation bar or column in the same place on every page of your site
- use descriptions that are unambiguous for navigation tabs
- always provide a HOME link that equips new visitors to start at the beginning, or to start over in their searches for specific information
- never mislead visitors by redirects or “tricks”
- make navigation pop, i.e. stand out from sales text and informational content
- use navigation to draw visitors deeper into the site through the use of drop-down and fly-out sub menus
Use navigation to simplify and enhance the on-site experience for the uninitiated. Confusing navigation creates confused visitors – visitors who don’t want to “figure out” what a navigation tab means. Keep it simple and keep them on-site longer.
Internet Benefits, Not Features
Features describe an aspect of a product or service. A benefit describes an advantage given to the site visitor.
For example, if you sell lawn mowers, you might be tempted to stress the fact that this particular model uses a key to start the lawn mower engine. That’s a feature.
The benefits? No more pulling the start cord. Starts the first time with the turn of a key. Simplifies lawn mowing chores. Translate features of your product or service offerings into benefits that site visitors recognize and understand immediately. Tell them what’s in it for them in no uncertain terms.
Consequently, it is not about features or benefits. And it is definitely not about you. All of your web site copy should be targeted at meeting the needs of site visitors.
And don’t expect site visitors to determine benefits of features. TELL them what your products or services do to them and for them.
This is perhaps the single-most important step you can take to create a client-centric site.
Most important, always provide numerous means for site visitors to contact you. They may have questions before they buy. Or possibly they want more information before they sign up. They may want an order status update. The ability to contact your help desk or order desk easily, using a number of common tools, indicates that your on-line business is all about site visitor satisfaction.
So, how can visitors reach your people? Some suggestions:
- Provide 24/7 access to a human being by telephone, even if it’s an order capture service. Your web site is open 24/7 and you never know when a prospect needs a little hand holding.
- Provide flexible scripts for the employees who man the help desk and empower them to deviate from the script within certain parameters. When you see an unidentified charge on your credit card and discover it’s a late fee, for instance, you can often get that charge reversed simply by talking to a human who’s empowered to credit your account.
- Talking to a human, rather than the typical call-answering maze is always a pleasant, welcome surprise.
- Install an email module on your site – a link that opens an email box into which visitors can enter questions that don’t need an immediate response. It may be a billing question or a question on your latest service offering. Simplify the contact process.
- Consider live chat. Many larger companies employ this tool. Visitors click on the LIVE CHAT link and are connected to assistance in real time. Often, it’s easier than trying to get through by telephone and the advice sent back to the visitor has been vetted, i.e. it’s accurate and correct.
Keep the Focus On the Internet User
If your site is industry specific, use the jargon of your industry based on the assumption that site visitors know what SIPs are or what a sell sheet does.
The plain truth may be a little painful when you weigh the amount of time, energy and capital you’ve laid out to build your on-line web business but it’s true: site visitors simply don’t care about you when they land on your web site. They don’t know you, they don’t care what your objectives are, they don’t care that the rent is due on Monday. Pay close attention to content accessibility and navigation.
Moreover, the first question any site visitor asks is “What’s in it for me?” Answer that question quickly and easily, equip the visitor to move through your site without a lot of headaches, simplify the checkout or contact process and talk about visitor benefits, not product or service features. Remember, the history of the web is still in its infancy. But at the same time, there has been exponential growth. You have numerous competitors out there ready to grab your customers away from you.
In the end, visitors will recognize that you value their business and they’ll be back. A lot.
Most important, isn’t that your prime objective? If it isn’t, it should be. Meet visitor expectations and expect to see your most desired action performed more frequently.
In closing, web success follows organically and you’ve got a successful web site – when you put site visitors first.