By Gabriel Shaoolian, Blue Fountain Media, for AMEX Open Forum.
When I meet with a new client for the first time, I always make a point of asking if they're satisfied with their website’s performance. When doing business online, performance means:
More prominent placement in Google search results
Greater repeat visits and customer retention
Ultimately greater sales and brand exposure
So, how do you go about enhancing the performance of your website? Here are five ways.
1. Create effective landing pages
A landing page is a page designed to receive the traffic generated by a specific marketing campaign. The job of a landing page is to convert that traffic into actions, such as a phone call, sign up, download or a purchase.
Let’s say you are Macy’s and bringing people to your website as the result of an ad for designer handbags. The worst thing Macy’s can do is direct the visitor to their homepage. A far more effective way to drive sales is to direct the visitor to a page that has nothing but designer handbags. Think of it as eliminating the middleman.
Provide value added content
To message effectively on the Web it is critical that you provide information that serves the needs of your target audience. For example, if you are selling electronics, provide content that educates the visitor on the features, ease of use and specifications. This kind of information enhances your brand, builds trust and makes people want to do business with you.
Provide calls to action
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make online is to forget to give visitors the tools to take the next step, whether it’s making a purchase or requesting more information. If you want them to buy, give them a large "buy now” button. Whatever action you desire from your visitor, make sure that is easy for them to take that action!
2. Improving your message
To turn visitors into customers or clients, you need to deliver your company’s central messages clearly, quickly and convincingly. The main job of a homepage is to deliver your central message and then create pathways to the internal landing pages that best serve the needs of the visitors.
A great example of this is the Zappos.com homepage. They use large fonts and brief copy and provide clear paths to the appropriate internal pages ("Dresses for all Occasions” "Fall Catalogue,” "faux and fabulous,” etc.).
3. Give your visitors a reason to come back
It's a great accomplishment to get a visitor to come to your site. It is even more important to get them to come back for future visits.
Why? Because studies show that visitors to your site are rarely converted on the first visit.
The key to getting repeat visitors is to give them compelling reasons to return. Some of things I see on successful sites include:
A regularly updated blog or another content driven portion of your site.
User-generated contentNewsletters and RSS feeds
4. Make better use of social media
Very few companies have a clue as how to use social media effectively on a company website.
Just putting a bunch of icons like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn on the top of your website is good, but is mostly ineffective as the vast majority of users don’t click on them. So how do you use social media as a business-generating tool?
The key is to integrate these platforms with compelling content on your site. If you provide interesting articles relating to your business, articles that visitors would really be interested in sharing, then give your visitors the opportunity to share that content through a variety of social media platforms.
5. Measure and monitor your results
Web analytics answers some extremely important questions for a site owner:
What kind of traffic are you getting? Where is it coming from?
What is your conversion rate?
What is your bounce rate?
How much time are they spending on your site?
What is the last page they visit before leaving your site?
Amazingly, the vast majority of business owners have no clue as to how to answer these questions.
When you fail to monitor the behavior of the visitors to your website, you miss a huge opportunity to make the same kinds of adjustments that will enhance your business.
The good news is that this kind of information is not only readily available; it is free with services like Google Analytics. It is quickly installed and will immediately provide the kind of data and insights that will help you grow your business.
Your website can be and should be your single greatest marketing and sales tool. By following some basic principles, you can greatly increase the performance of your website.
OPEN Cardmember Gabriel Shaoolian is the founder and CEO of Blue Fountain Media, a results-driven Web design and online marketing company based in Manhattan.
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