Everyone talks about getting visitors to your website, but what then? How do you turn visitors into customers? The key is that most users of the Internet are seeking detailed, up to date information. Deny them this and you will get what I call the “click and flick”.
On the Internet, limited or out of date information is worse than putting telephone callers on hold. With so many competing websites available your potential customers will click and flick straight to the next site.
You can tell if you are getting the click and flick – your site visitor statistics will show very short session times and a low number of pages viewed per session. (If your website provider can’t supply this information, seriously consider giving them the flick in favour of someone who can.) So how do you avoid this phenomenon and keep visitors on your website long enough to turn them into customers
First you need to ensure that your website has sufficiently detailed information for a customer to decide to do business with you. The most common oversight, amazingly enough, is pricing information. Internet users want hard information and they want it now – a call, emailed quote, or price list tomorrow will often not be acceptable. Even when not purchasing online, visitors interested in specific price comparison will be unimpressed by non-specific information on value. Adding offline e-commerce to your site can have a benefit far exceeding the direct sales volume by providing a structured source of detailed product specification and price information.
The next most common problem is lack of detail. While summary information and glossy images may be adequate for your brochures, your website needs all the background detail your most experienced salesperson gives when dealing with customers in person. Think detailed dimensions, plans, layouts, colour charts. Think performance data, explanations of design principles and rich information on the background. Think of background information about the technology that makes your product unique, preferably with hyperlinks to pages that give even more detail. If you’re in the service sector, think detailed examples of services you’ve provided successfully. Visitors who have their thirst for information quenched will leave with a good impression of your business and are more likely to become paying customers.
It’s no good hiding the information several layers into your website. If the path to detailed information is not clear, don’t expect visitors to persist until they find it. I recall a website in which the link to price information was so obscure I could only find it using the search facility. Having said that, a search function is a great asset – it shows you are serious about helping your visitors to find information. Properly set up, a site search gives your visitors a powerful way of homing in on the information they need.
But the most insidious and difficult to rectify cause of click and flick is out of date information. Failing to keep your website up to date is like letting cobwebs multiply on your shopfront. No one would expect a customer to buy from a shop where only last year’s model was on display. But that’s just what many websites amount to. While they were up to the minute when built they have been slowly going out of date ever since.
Another really important reason to keep content is current is to ensure your place in search engines. Search engines put a high priority on the date of your HTML file, some even compare the current HTML file to the last version they looked at. This explains why when you first register a website, you have great placement in the engines, only to find that within months you have slipped to the bottom of the pile. Web readers want the newest, latest information, and the search engines are designed to accommodate this appetite.
Even if your core information does not change often, prominently posting recent news will inspire confidence. You should aim to give visitors a reason to return to your site. Product news releases or newsletters are good, but only if you put up at least one a month. Another good idea is a monthly Internet-only discount – this encourages use of your website at the same time as clearly signalling that the website is up to date. Just remember the golden rule – no recent information is better than a six-month-old newsletter. So if you do not have the means to easily update the content do not put time sensitive or dated material on your website.
With so many websites so grossly obsolete, many of your visitors will be overly sensitive to any hints of being out of date. Make sure your website looks up to date – an old appearance or layout visually links your website with the enormous number of abandoned web pages and makes the click and flick more likely.
So now you’re all fired up to post detailed information and keep it up to date, how do you do it? Broadly there are four options. The first is to employ or train an in-house Webmaster; this may be the best option for a large company with a very substantial Internet presence but is probably overkill for most small and medium sized businesses.
The second option is to pay your website designer to post changes for you. This works well if you have a responsive designer, although it can become costly as the scale of your website increases.
The third option is to engage a specialist content provider who will also assist you to present the information effectively, often as part of a broader marketing consultancy. The improved quality of your content can justify the extra expense.
Finally, you can invest in a database driven website. These enable you to add and modify content through an easy to use web interface. As you or your staff can easily control all information on the site and update it with a single click, this is the simplest way of keeping your information up to date. This solution is also best in terms of providing detail, as your staff are invariably more knowledgeable about your products and services than any third party you may employ.
Irrespective of how you keep your content up to date, as long as you maintain a professional appearance and avoid technical errors you will be well ahead of the majority of your competitors. And by avoiding the dreaded “click and flick” you will dramatically increase the value you gain from your Internet investment.