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by John Eberhard

For a commercial business, a web site is a marketing tool, not a technical item. Yet a lot of people seem to think that a web site should be designed by IT guys. Not so, as IT guys and programmers rarely have any feel for marketing, and rarely do things that will maximize conversions.

When I say “conversions” I mean the percentage of visitors to your site who do one of the desired actions for your site. And by “desired actions” I mean either buying something (if you sell items on the site), or filling out a form and becoming a lead or adding themselves to your email list.

Maximizing conversions should not be an afterthought with the web site. It should be central to your planning as you map out the site. You need to include things in the site, prominently displayed, to get your web visitor to convert.

Sales

If you’re selling things on the web site, you need to include prominent “buy here” type buttons on every single page of the web site. Consider that your visitor could decide at any moment that he wants to buy your product. When he does, don’t make him hunt or search for how to do it. Don’t make it a tiny little link and don’t be coy about it.

Once he clicks on your buy button, that should take him to your shopping cart, and the shopping cart should be well laid out with the products in categories, assuming you have various categories of items to sell. Make it easy to find whatever he or she wants. I like to set up shopping carts with thumbnail pictures or the products so the visitor can see what they look like. Once they click on the item it will take them to a product detail page with a bigger picture. It is also possible to set up your shopping cart “home page” so that it displays various specials you are promoting.

Lead Generation

Most web sites are set up for lead generation, meaning they are not selling an item directly online but the point is for the visitor to inquire for more information. I have always been of the mind that you should also offer various items to your visitor for free, in order to get him to give you his contact information.

This gets you the names and emails of people that you can promote to on a regular basis, who will in all probability be qualified for your product or service, and it gets you people who may not be interested in your product or service right now, but may be later. It allows you to continue promoting to them regularly, so that once they are ready to buy they will remember you.

You should always include an option for someone to contact you for more information. Here are some of the offers you could use on a web site to capture the people who aren’t ready to buy right now:

  1. Free email newsletter
  2. Free report or white paper on some topic directly related to your product or service. This report should be 700-2,000 words, be in PDF format so you can email it for no cost, and 80-90% of it should be helpful information of some kind. Then at the end 10-20% of it can be a pitch for your product or service. Do not omit this pitch at the end.
  3. Software demo (if you sell software)
  4. Free consultation
  5. Free analysis of something about their business, obviously related to what you do
  6. You could require that they give you their contact info in order to view a video, especially if the video gives in-depth information
  7. A free online course, where they receive several emails via an autoresponder, let’s say a week apart, teaching about some topic related to your business

The idea with all these free offers is to get people to fill out the form. So once you decide on one or more free offers, then you have to work them into the design of your web site, with navigation buttons or other prominent buttons leading to them.

You can check your web statistics program to see how many people are going to those pages that contain your free offers (if you don’t have a web stats program or have a lousy one, get Google Analytics). Then also check your overall conversion ratio, i.e. how many people filled out one of your forms each week, versus how many web site visitors you had. 5-10% is pretty good. I once had 50%, but that’s pretty rare.

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