7 Rules For Making Your Web Site Sing

Posted by Poppy Behrens on Oct 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM

By Jennifer LeClaire

So, you finally invested in a Web site. Now what? Whether you just launched an online presence or you’ve had one for years, it’s time to take a fresh look at your Web initiatives. Are you really making the most of your Web site? Or, is it getting lost in the virtual crowd? Discover seven rules for maximizing the return on your Web site investment.

1. If It’s Broke – Fix It.

Today’s Web users want information and they want it fast. If you don’t provide that information, you might as well put a button on your site that says, “Visit my competitor,” says Tim Haverluck, president of Reklis Design Group in Phoenix. “A well-designed site is like walking into a finely tuned facility. If things look good and work well you will probably buy something, come back again, and refer your friends and family,” he says. “On the other hand if your site does not look good and functions improperly, then you will get an opposite result.”

2. Lead With Benefits.

Understand this: Visitors don’t care about you—they care about what you can do for them. So lead with the benefits. “Using no more than 200 words of text and lots of ‘you’ and ‘yours’ is always a good idea,” says Penny Sanservieri, principal of Author Marketing Experts in San Diego. “Use lots of benefit statements. Don’t make people hunt for the reasons why they need you. Be clear and up front about it right away.”

3. The Five-Second Rule.

You have, on average, less than five seconds to make an impression and influence positive activity. “People tend to scan content online looking for something that clicks,” says John Bailey, president of Wood Street, Inc., a graphic design firm based in Frederick, Md. “This happens fast. Use short sentences that get right to the point. Bullet your services, solutions, etc. And, make your call to action obvious.

4. Put A Face On It.

Photograph yourself, the receptionist, or any friendly face at your facility and feature it on your site, suggests Mike Ward, president of Web Architects in Boca Raton. “A little graphic treatment will make the viewer feel as if they’re being welcomed to your business personally,” he says. “And, sprinkle in a small dose of testimonials. This old technique is a great way to brag and promote yourself without sounding pompous.”

5. Capture The Contacts.

Don’t let someone land on your site without trying to get their contact information, says Sansevieri. “The percentage of people who are ready to buy the first time they land on your site is smaller than most business owners suspect, and having a sign up for a newsletter or mailing list is always a good idea—don’t forget your ethical bribe!” she says.

6. Tap Into The Power Of Video.

Imagine exactly what your most popular type of visitor is asking for and answer that need in the first two sentences of your Web site, says Jesse James Wroblewski, principal of Generations Beyond in Long Island. “If that task is too difficult for your market, be sure to provide an easily broken out list of bulleted items to help visitors find exactly what they are looking for quickly,” he says. “If all else fails, try video; people may dislike commercials on TV, but when faced with the choice between reading and watching a video presentation, video on the Web is king.”

7. Get Keyword Savvy.

Enter keywords on Google™ as if you were a new customer looking for self-storage, says Melanie Rembrandt, a publicist in Redondo Beach, Calif. “Check the sites at the top of the list and see which keywords they are using,” she says. “Are they offering unique articles, FAQ pages, online forums, and other great information about your industry, products, and services? By conducting research like one of your potential customers, you’ll get a great idea of what your site is lacking and be able to make the appropriate changes.”