[Image courtesy MarkDM]
Brochure websites need to be consigned to a museum as relics of the internet's evolutionary history. There I've said it. Websites, and the thinking behind them, has evolved a lot over the last few years. If you just want to recreate your company brochure into pixel form then, please, go ahead. But the longer you can keep prospects on your website the more time you've got to build a relationship.
People surf the web for information. Not sales messages. So your website needs to be interesting and 'sticky' if you want to engage your visitors' interest and keep them glued to your pages.
Here are my ten tips for making your own part of the web so sticky that you'll be politely asking visitors to leave so you can close for the day:
1. Simple navigation - Make sure it's easy to explore and has a familiar navigation. Much like the layout of a shop, you want to ensure visitors know where they are and can swiftly find the section they want without getting lost. Having a search box is essential for those who'd prefer to go straight to the helpdesk for directions.
2. Educate - People search the web for information. Not advertising. So rather than scare them away with shallow sales spiel, you should be looking to answer the questions that led them to your site in the first place(based on 80% of your traffic coming from searches on Google). Provide content that sells through education and builds trust e.g. case studies, company news, insight on your industry and advice on how to use your product.
3. Tell a story - the internet can seem an unfriendly, robotic place, so give your website a personality by telling visitors your story. Who are the people pulling the levers behind the scenes, what's your history and what are your dreams for the future? A cheerful 'about us' page is crucial for building trust, rather than a platform for boasting about how great you are.
4. Feed your visitors' appetite for information - create a directory of articles or, better yet, a blog, which visitors can easily search for answers to their questions and learn more about your expertise at the same time. It will help boost your Google ranking too.
5. Compelling content - Is copy the same as content? I'll let others debate that elsewhere. But for the purposes of making a website sticky then applying copywriting tactics is a good idea. Create content that's compelling, drives visitors to further explore the site and contains a call to action, such as subscribe, contact or, best of all, buy.
6. Subscription options - Most visitors aren't comfortable handing over their credit card details the first time they visit. So make it easy for them to subscribe to your blog or newsletter so you can develop the sales process over time. As the old adage goes - 'People like to do business with those they like and trust', and providing regularly updated content of value is a great way of building trust and confidence in your expertise.
7. Customer reviews - People switch off when they think they're being sold to. But they do listen to each other. Customers reviews can provide social proof of the quality of your products/service as well as keep people engaged writing their own.
8. Interactivity - Surveys and polls can provide another tool for enabling people to interact with your site. Make them short but sweet, and ask questions that provide insight into how you can improve.
9. Usability testing - Even when you think your site is finished there's endless tweaking that can be done. Ask friends, family or impoverished students to test your website for you. Can they find the answers to their questions and have you gained their trust when they visit? Watching how others interact with your site will provide invaluable info on what areas gleam and which need some extra polishing.
10. Measure, tweak and repeat - Use Google analytics to monitor how people are engaging with the site. Knowing which pages are most popular and which switch visitors off can help you fine tune your content and work out the path your prospects tend to take before becoming customers.
This post was inspired by a similar article I wrote for bda's blog. It's worth a read for reinforcing the value of content for engaging visitors and keeping them glued to your website.
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