OMIX WHITE PAPER
DATE: MARCH 10, 2003
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more OMIX Technical Whitepapers
TITLE: HOW TO MARKET YOUR WEB SITE
AUTHOR: OMIX, INC.
Kyle Hurlbut and Milla Milojkovic
102 Vaquero Way
Redwood City, CA 94062
Ph: 650-364-1598 Fax: 368-6973
infomation@omix.com, www.omix.com

OVERVIEW

OMIX has been building Web sites since 1994, even before search engines existed. In those early days, most Web site marketing was based on the theory, "Build it and they will come". When there were only a handful of sites on the World Wide Web, visitors would come simply because there were few if any Web sites with similar offerings. But by about 2000, once millions of sites had been built, the dot-coms realized that the Web was over-crowded with sites that could not pull in enough visitors, not to mention paying customers. As long as the money held out, dot-coms turned to traditional forms of advertising like television and magazines to find new site visitors, but when investors decided that the dot-coms were burning cash too fast, the expensive advertising campaigns soon disappeared for all but the richest companies.

Today, companies that are trying to make money through their Web sites are figuring out new ways to drive paying customers to their sites and are finding they can do so quite inexpensively. Since 2000, many companies have turned to OMIX for suggestions on how to accomplish this very thing. This whitepaper was created with the intention of compiling the most effective methods that OMIX uses to bolster Web site marketing. We hope you will find these tools useful for marketing your Web site.

From a high level, successful Web site marketing campaigns integrate the following concepts:

  • Understand Your Customers – and why they choose to buy from you, rather than your competitors, is key to the success of any business. This whitepaper will not even try to work out these answers for your company. However, you should come up with a hypothesis and use it to design the marketing campaign for your Web site.
  • How Visitors Will Find Your Site – There are probably thousands of ways you can get customers to visit your site. Since most business people are familiar with traditional forms of advertising, personal networking and public relations, we will focus on newer forms of boosting site traffic, namely Search Engines.
  • How Not to Lose Prospective Customers – Most site visitors will browse one or two pages and then leave, never again to return. You must figure out a way to prevent this from happening by engaging these potential customers.
  • Quality of Your Site: Content & Design – This whitepaper lays out a few tactics you can use to engage visitors, but without a tasteful and sophisticated Web site, it's unlikely that you’ll achieve the results we hope for you. For this reason, we’ve included some practical advice concerning content and design.
  • Helping Your Customers Buy – Because many of your site visitors will not become customers immediately, you must know how to nurture them over time into becoming a customer. This whitepaper emphasizes ways you can drive people back to your Web site as well as ways you can turn your Web site into a better sales tool.
  • Measure Results and Revise – Each Web site is a work in progress; Yours must be just that to accommodate ever-emerging technologies and ideas that keep your product fresh and hip in the eyes of site visitors. Analyzing site visitors' behavior is relatively easy to do with the help of tracking software. This whitepaper shows you what to look for when analyzing tracking reports and how to go about making revisions.

UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMERS

Profile Your Customer – Write a detailed profile of the site visitor your site marketing campaign aims to target. If you really have two different types of visitors, then come up with two profiles. Try to keep it to no more than two profiles by creating a profile that is broad enough to combine several different user patterns (i.e., a hurried business person may have a high speed Internet connection at work, but a slower connection at home, where he or she might be more inclined to make a purchase; this type of user could be viewed as a visitor that will likely make a purchase from a computer with a slower Internet connection). Give the person a fictitious name and make sure your Web team understands the profiled people (called "personas"). The whole tone of the Web site should speak to these personas, which represent your target audience. Your site will have to guide these audience members toward the response you want from them. Profiling should be performed repeatedly and often, to keep abreast of the evolution of your visitors and customers.

Unique Offering – Why do your customers buy from you and not your competition? What is your unique selling proposition? Your unique selling proposition should be reflected throughout your site.

Leveraging Statistics about Your Customer – Recent studies indicate that over 50% of North American Web users are women. Women also comprise over 68% of frequent buyers (at least one purchase a week) on the Web. Bear in mind also that the number of Web users outside of North America is growing rapidly every day. Remember that your targeted customer probably responds differently to a given site than do Web professionals or your coworkers, friends and family. Your site must appeal to your targeted customer in order to be successful, so don’t waste precious time and energy trying to please everyone.

HOW VISITORS WILL FIND YOUR SITE

As mentioned in the overview, this whitepaper will focus on using search engines as a tool in driving new visitors to your site. In order to make Search Engines an effective tool in your marketing strategy, here are some concepts you should understand about them:

Why Search Engines? – Although advertising, personal networking, and public relations all help to raise awareness about your site, studies have shown that an average 90% of new visitors will be directed to a site based on search engine results.

Affiliate Programs and Affinity Strategy – The 2nd most likely way (but a distant 2nd) to drive new visitors to your site is by using Affinity Strategy, whereby you appeal to your partners' audience. One example of Affinity Strategy is an Affiliate Program, where a partner site features promotions and links to your site. Generally, in exchange for click-through's generated by the link/banner hosting site, the beneficiary company pays a "commission" fee to the host site. You can outsource your Affiliate Program administration or you can build and maintain your own, probably smaller-scale, Affiliate Program. You can research your options regarding Affiliate Programs at www.affiliatemarketing.co.uk or at www.wilsonweb.com/ebooks/affilisoft.htm

Search Engine vs. Affinity Strategy – If you have a niche product or service (i.e., left-handed boomerangs), then you’ll likely experience great results via search engines. If you have a product that draws broad interest (i.e., e-commerce systems), then an affinity strategy might produce more results than optimum search engine placement. The biggest benefit that Affinity Strategy offers is that you will probably spend a lot less time tuning your site for Search Engine Optimization, but in turn, you will probably spend a lot more time on Affiliate Program administration and a lot more money on commissions (as well as Affiliate Program administration). Search Engine 101 – Search engines are those wonderful sites that let you type in search terms to find a site that best matches your terms. OMIX finds that the top engines for supplying new visitors to www.OMIX.com are Google, Yahoo, and MSN. The top search engines according to industry reports are Google, Yahoo, MSN, Altavista, AOL, Lycos and Overture (not necessarily in that order). Other popular ones are LookSmart, Hotbot, AlltheWeb, OpenDirectory, dmoz, and DirectHit. Though directories like Yahoo should not be mistaken for search engines, they too can be used to drive potential customers to your site, so for our purposes we will include them in this category. When OMIX considers enhancing a site for search engines it considers the following:

  • Home Page Keywords (Meta Tags) – Your site home page has an invisible Meta Tag area, where keywords are stored so that they can be referenced by search engines. Up to 30 keywords should be listed in the Meta Tag area of the site, and the keywords should be expressed both separately ("Java", "consultant") and jointly ("Java consultant"). To figure out the best keywords for your area of expertise, use a Keyword Suggestion Tool (which can be found for free on the Web via search engines). You may also want to check out www.overture.com (formerly www.goto.com) for suggestions. Keywords can be very effective if they are in the title, Meta Tags, company name and page content. Popular words are good, but they often return an overwhelming amount of results, which may all but bury your site listing. You can avoid this problem by combining your main keyword (i.e., "dentist") with the town in which you are located, as in "dentist Palo Alto". Some choose to create a clone site with different keywords that redirects back to their actual site, but we don't recommend this as an alternative because most search engine spiders don't bother to explore the second, cloned site. This method can work if the clone site is given an entirely different company name and URL (without any cross references).
  • Spiders – Spiders are programs (used by search engines) that act as software robots that automatically crawl sites on the Web looking for keyword information, and then capture results on the search engine site for future reference. OMIX site statistics show many spider visits, especially from Google. Spiders help organize and index the vast amount of information available on the Internet for search engines. Spiders are designed to find your site very appealing and they increase the likelihood that your site will be found by your target customers.
  • Cloaked Pages – You can create hidden pages that are optimized for particular search engines. Cloaked pages are generally created to attract the attention of a spider, but the pages are not meant to be viewed by site visitors. The cloaked pages usually contain iterations of keywords in order to boost the findings and placement of your site within the search engine results. Cloaked pages guide the visitor toward the actual site pages. Be careful with Cloaked Pages, since some search engines may say they will reject your site as a listing if you incorporate them, although we have never seen this happen. An example of a Cloaked Page can be viewed at http://www.sanfranciscolimousineservice.com
  • Home Page Title – The title of your home page should consist of up to 15 unique words (avoiding marketing jargon like "excellent" and "#1"), existing as a hidden field that search engines can reference.
  • Home Page Description – The description of your home page is another hidden field containing 15 words or less that may include marketing jargon.
  • Home Page Content – It's important that the HTML text on the home page attract the attention of a spider since graphics and images are ignored. It is wise to include text content that repeats words used in keywords, the title and any hidden (meta) tags on the home page. If you have links on your home page, try to get the link text to emphasize keywords as well.

Listing With Search Engines – In the early days of the Web, listing with a search engine meant simply filling out a free online registration form. Now that they've grown so popular (and the library of information that search engines reference has grown so robust) you must consider the following:

  • Google – Listing at Google is free, but placement of search results depends on how many links to your URL are out there across the World Wide Web. It helps to send out lots of newsletters and place a link to your URL on many different sites. "Free For All" (FFA) sites are a venue where you can place links to your site at no cost. You can gain thousands of links to your site by applying this technique. Another thing you should know about Google is that it does not search Meta Tags; instead, it looks at home page title and body text.
  • Yahoo – Yahoo offers a Web directory and it costs $299 (2003) to even be considered for listing in that directory. Once your URL has been listed with Yahoo, it's nearly impossible to change it. If keywords match the name of your business, placement will generally be higher. Be sure to place keywords in the Home Page title, because Yahoo relies heavily on the content of the title. Currently (2003), Yahoo performs a Google search as soon as the Yahoo search engine comes up short. So, a good strategy is to optimize for the Google search engine and kill the Yahoo bird with the same stone.
  • Submission Services – For $299, Looksmart.com registers you with the top search engine sites (except Yahoo). For $60 per year Submit.com and bCentral.com (from Microsoft) will list you with top engines. BCentral resubmits to the major search engines every 6 weeks to refresh data. A free listing is available with www.dmoz.org. Inktomi costs $39 per year (as of June, 2002) and it is the engine that runs AOL and MSN among other search engines.
  • Pay Per Clicks – The benefit of a Pay Per Click (PPC) service is that you're usually only paying for the click-through's your site is receiving. The disadvantage is that clicks can get expensive; furthermore, PPC services don't offer the same "First incoming minute free" feature that some wireless phone services do to avoid charging you for wrong number incoming calls. We only recommend PPC service if you can find an ongoing budget for this, or if the time you would spend optimizing search engine results (or the money you would spend to hire a Search Engine Optimization professional) is worth more to you than the amount you'd pay for the PPC service. You can begin researching at www.overture.com, and you can also buy hits on MS Internet Explorer. At times, bids for the top listing returned by the search terms "San Francisco Limousine" is $1 or $2 per hit, but sometimes it will dip below $0.50. You can use the View Bids Tool at http://www.overture.com/... to research how much you'll likely spend for a top tier listing given specific search terms. Different PPC's charge varying click-through prices according to the search terms entered by the visitor. Often, generic terms are cheaper than those more specific (i.e., sometimes Limousine Service is cheaper than San Francisco Limousine). Some PPC's allow you to pay baseline price for some search terms and premium price for other terms designated by you. If you don't want to blindly trust the click-through results report your PPC provides each month, you can set up a dummy entry page that redirects the hits to your home page. Then you can analyze the results as you look over your Web statistics.

Learn More About Search Engines - You'll probably need to do more research on search engines in order to take full advantage of their offerings. You can learn about them at www.searchenginewatch.com, www.payforclicksearchengines.com, www.rankwrite.com, www.rankright.com, www.subia-search-engine-optimization.com/ or www.traffick.com)

Importance of Picking a Good URL – Securing a good URL is important, but it's not necessary to waste much time or money securing the perfect one, since most customers will not remember the URL for non-national brand companies. Here are a few rules of thumb for how to pick effective URL's:

  • Own Your Own – Rather than using a free URL such as www.acme.geocities.com, you'll probably agree it's worth the investment to own www.acme.com.
  • Avoid Funny URL's – Don't use "~" or "_" in your URL name. Try to get a ".com" suffix; or if you are a nonprofit, government or true network, then do what you can to get a ".org", ".gov" or ".net" suffix. Hyphens ("-") are fine, especially if they make the URL more readable, or if they help you secure an otherwise unobtainable URL. It's ideal if you can obtain a URL that will accept both a hyphenated and a non-hyphenated version (i.e., www.foothills-club.org and www.foothillsclub.org)
  • It Has to Be Unique – You can get a unique URL by making up a word (like www.google.com or www.omix.com did), or adding a numeral (i.e., www.2learn.com). Or you can combine two or more words (i.e., www.realmcrossing.com). You can check for uniqueness at www.register.com or www.nameboy.com. These sites can also be used to register the name.
  • Easy to Spell – This should make sense, right? I never could find www.gazoontite.com, or is it www.gesundheit.com?
  • Keywords In Your URL – For example, www.actionplan.com offers marketing plans, so the use of the word "plan" in the URL helps search engines find it.
  • Check the Trademark – Sometimes this can be expensive, but a free search on www.uspto.com is available to help.

HOW NOT TO LOSE PROSPECTIVE CUSTOMERS

Most Wanted Response – Before you figure out how not to lose your visitor, you must know what you want your visitor to do. For relatively inexpensive products, your most wanted response might be for the visitor to place an order on line. For more expensive products, like OMIX services, the most wanted response might be for the visitor to request a newsletter subscription or make contact with the sales department. It's wise to track the most wanted response with a conversion rate. The conversion rate is equal to the amount of most wanted responses divided by the number of visitors. Desirable conversion rates are generally between 0.25% and 5%, and the bigger, the better. A higher conversion rate attests to the effectiveness your site in obtaining the most wanted response from a visitor. Both quantities (number of visitors and most wanted responses) should be tracked relentlessly in order to avoid losing potential customers in the future. Furthermore, tracking these numbers will help you to determine the effectiveness of your efforts to increase the number of visitors (by way of search engine placement tactics) as well as the effectiveness of your efforts to improve the conversion rate itself. You can experiment by tracking one week's conversion rate, then making a change and tracking the next week's conversion rate. Obviously, if the conversion rate improves, the adjustment you made has helped your site become more successful at obtaining the most wanted response.

Order Pipeline – If your site is an e-commerce system, streamline the checkout process as much as possible. If the checkout process includes steps that allow the customer the time or opportunity to think twice about the purchase, the likelihood of the sale being finalized decreases. Require only the minimum information you need to process their credit card (first and last name, billing and shipping addresses, credit card number and expiration date). Try also to provide a 1-800 phone number and a fax order form so that visitors can order products in whichever manner is most convenient to them. Most modern visitors have faith in Internet security, so don't get hung up trying to offer alternative ordering processes (like checks, money orders, or phone in orders) for those afraid to use their credit cards online. Contact Form or Newsletter Subscriptions – For more expensive products that can't be sold online, a contact form or newsletter subscription is probably the first step in obtaining a lead (your most wanted response). Keep the form as short as possible, again requiring only the minimum information necessary, so that you don't turn away your potential customer. If there is optional information that you would like to capture, you might consider making that request on a separate screen that the user does not view until they have submitted the critical information. Promise to use their email address only for sending the requested newsletter or information and also promise to remove their email address from the subscription if they request for you to do so. You might also consider a pop-up thank you screen for when visitors submit their email addresses. You will probably need to sell the free subscription pretty hard since most people are wary of spam and reluctant to give out their email addresses or read any email that isn't on the critical path to getting through their daily lives. Make sure that your newsletter has a unique selling proposition so that people will want to read each issue. Tell them what they want to hear, not what you want to tell them. Post back issues on your site; this will help attract search engines and new subscribers as well. You may experiment with a pop-up subscription ad, but be sure to set a cookie so that the ad does not annoy returning visitors. If the pop-up ad does not attract additional subscribers, remove it. Newsletters are getting more and more HTML-oriented, which may cause problems for some email applications. To see examples of good HTML newsletters you may want to check out: http://www.zdnet.com/anchordesk/ or http://www.wilsonweb.com/webmarket/

Keep Your Site Fast – Make sure your hosting company has the computers and bandwidth to support the optimal speed of your site. Don't overwhelm the site with a plethora of useless graphics, animations or special features; they will make your site too slow for modem users to enjoy. It's better to err on the side of speediness, which will make the site load extremely fast for users with better Internet connections.

Dead-end Pages – If you need to provide additional information that does not lead to your most wanted response, place it in a dead-end page. This page should look like any other page on your site (although you may want to remove the left navigation bar), and it should only have next and previous buttons at the bottom. This helps to ensure that the visitor can easily navigate from the dead-end page (or pages) to the path that leads to your most wanted response.

Leaving Your Site – You may want to experiment with a JavaScript alert that flashes a short message asking them to call or email you with any questions. You may also want to experiment with an offer that will encourage visitors to return to the site (or at least stay engaged with your company) like a free subscription to a newsletter you send only to customers, a free report (which is really a sales letter), or a free 30-day trial download. Offer your visitors something free should they submit a friend's email address as a referral. Be sure to track the page from which each visitor leaves your site. Ideally, visitors will not leave until they have navigated to your "closing" page, indicating that these visitors have indeed heard the whole pitch. If you notice that a substantial number of visitors are leaving from a particular page, consider modifying it.

Newsletters – It's crucial to the success of your business to encourage a relationship with each and every visitor. Most Web surfers will visit a site only once and it's not likely they will call you for information they cannot obtain on your site. If your site can convince them to sign up for a newsletter, you have the opportunity to make multiple impressions on what would otherwise be a one-time-only visitor. Also, the number of people that may read your newsletter can be many times greater than the number of people that visit your site in the same timeframe.

  • Newsletter Subscriptions - A "Subscribe Now!" button will attract roughly one quarter of the hits as a button that says "Get a free report along with a subscription to our newsletter". The only piece of information you need to capture in order to subscribe a visitor for your newsletter is the visitor's email address. Don't track anything but a subscriber's email until they initiate contact to ask about your services or products.
  • Newsletter Content The newsletter is your opportunity to brag about your company's accomplishments (only if it is of interest to your reader, of course), and it's also your opportunity to educate potential customers about your services and sales process. Each newsletter subscriber is a potential customer and should be nurtured as such.
  • Newlsetter Engines – OMIX uses a simple Unix script (included at no additional charge for OMIX projects) and a desktop ACT! Database to send out email newsletters written and sent to look as though they are personal text-only emails to the subscriber. Companies that supply similar services are www.topica.com, which does it at no charge, and www.databack.com, which has a database mailer that increases flexibility and cost. For up to 19,000 subscribers, the databack service costs $100 per month.
  • Newsletter Frequency – You may want to experiment with the frequency at which you send out newsletters, but we have found that a once monthly mailer is a good starting point. If a mailer drives online business and has really good content, try sending them out weekly.
  • Newsletter Functions – Newsletters can host all sorts of incentives for the readers. You can add a link which reads, "Newsletter subscribers can click here to find out if you are one of the 5 subscribers who has won a free day of technical consulting from OMIX's CTO". If you want subscribers to visit your site to check out new content, try running a contest such as the one described above, or mention an archive article with links that return the visitor to your site.
  • Good Newsletter Examples – Of course, we urge you to sign up for the OMIX newsletter (write to information@omix.com), but to learn more about marketing, sign up for Robert Middleton's newsletter www.actionplan.com. You can subscribe to another good marketing newsletter by writing to subscribe@y2marketing.com.

Email Uses – Email can be used to engage your audience in several ways in addition to sending out your newsletter. You can use email for the following purposes:

  • Promoting sales for a new product line or for discounted items;
  • Encouraging interaction with your Web site by placing links throughout the text;
  • Strengthening loyalty to your brand (and avoiding customer defection);
  • Gaining knowledge about your customers and what subjects interest them;
  • Promoting other brand building items such as screensavers, newsletters, catalogs, flash/video demonstrations, and contests.

Email List Building – Opt in strategies are best, and email addresses can be gained from customer orders, your old customer lists, direct marketing and convincing your site visitors to give you their email addresses. RealmCrossing.com built its email list for $100 by offering a free drawing for submitting an email address and completing a marketing survey. Your site should help you gather email addresses by offering prizes or a newsletter.

QUALITY OF YOUR SITE: CONTENT & DESIGN

Home Page – Your home page should clearly define the problem that you solve, the solution you offer and how you have provided that solution in the past to your multitude of satisfied customers. Paint a mental picture of why your service is great, and make a bold headline statement. For example, an industrial-strength cabinet maker might claim, "We found the biggest, fattest guy we could and had him jump up and down on our cabinets, so that we could guarantee that they would stand up to your use." Start every page with a problem statement.

Services – Presenting services can be pretty dull to visitors. A good way to keep it interesting is by describing each of say 5 services you offer on one page.If you're concerned that you will not have enough detail, you can define each service you offer in one compressed headline and link it to more detailed information. The services you offer should also include your business approach. For example, the steps one would take to begin working with OMIX are as follows: (1.) Talk to an OMIX sales engineer, (2.) Phone consultation with an experienced OMIX senior engineer, (3.) Requirements survey, (4.) OMIX delivers a proposal with price estimates based on your budgetary demands.

Client List – Advertise the clients for whom you have worked. You may also wish to group clients either by industry (i.e., Financial Services, Retail) or even by the nature of the work you performed for them (i.e., E-Commerce Systems, Content Management Systems); if you list common problems along with solutions that you provided for Clients A, B and C, readers will likely identify themselves with such Clients, and they will read about solutions that are relevant to their own specific needs and gain trust in your ability to provide them with a similarly excellent solution.

Case Studies – Case studies that are written in story format are most persuasive. Make sure to highlight a few of the challenges in each case and how your company managed to overcome the hurdles and provide an excellent solution.

Testimonials – Customer and partner testimonials should be sprinkled liberally throughout your site. Ideally, each testimonial should headline a bold statement and include the name, company, and position of the person making the statement and if necessary, a link to read the full testimony. Also, be sure to reiterate case-specific testimonials in the Case Studies section as added proof that your clients are happy to have worked with you.

Contact Us – In this section, you’ll want to give the visitor an idea of what they can expect to gain by contacting you. Answer the following questions briefly in this area: what your company will do in response to the client's inquiry, to whom will the client speak, and what the client should know about the company's process. If possible, avoid using a form or fill-in fields the visitor may be reluctant to complete. In addition, it is a good idea to list your company's name, address, fax and telephone number on every page of the site.

FAQ's – Frequently Asked Questions can be a good way to answer most questions, but if your company offers more expensive services or products, you might not want to list prices so that they call you. However, many Web marketers feel it is useful to list your prices in order to attract customers of the right budget, who could be turned off at the idea of having to call a bunch of sales people to get pricing during their initial investigation.

Articles – If a visitor has taken the time to browse your site, you can be sure that this visitor wants to know how and what you think. Use articles to further educate your prospective customers and convince them that you share like principles. Drive traffic to these articles via your newsletter and callouts on your site.

Who Needs Us? – This might be a good page to have, but it may also be limiting. Site visitors can usually infer to whom your products or services apply by reading your client list or researching your services. However, if neither of these pages is particularly compelling, well established, or easy to understand for non-industry experts, you may want to include a Who Needs Us page that spells it all out for them.

Content Considerations – Include:

  • Marketing Content Test – All marketing content should be able to pass the "Well, I would hope so" test. For example, a headline that states, "OMIX is a professional and friendly company" would not pass the "Well, I would hope so" test. On the other hand, a headline stating, "OMIX was building Web sites before most people had heard of the Internet" does pass the test. This kind of content suggests uniqueness, which you should strive to achieve in all of your content. And don’t forget the proof. Make sure there is enough evidence on the site to prove that you really can deliver what you promise; testimonials, case studies, facts, models, and logical, persuasive arguments are good ways to accomplish this.
  • Write Towards Your Targeted Customer – Again, this requires that you know a lot about your ideal customer. Hard selling copy might be appropriate for a teenage audience but not for a CIO. Often, hard-selling copy can drive away people who tend to be more skeptical or cautious in their decision-making practices.
  • Give Them Something for Visiting – People really do appreciate free stuff, so a few ways to keep visitors engaged is by giving them information, software, whitepapers, chat rooms or screensavers; something to make them feel that visiting your site was worthwhile.

Recommended Writing Style – It really is the copy that sells a Web site. Your writing style should include:

  • Headlines that Grab the Reader – Headlines should always act as an advertisement for the words that follow, and they should always entice your target visitor to read more. Graphically speaking, a bigger font in a different color can help to grab attention, but all capitalized letters takes attention-grabbing a bit too far. Brainstorm 10 different headlines and then pick the best one. You may use the following list for inspiration:
    • Bold Claim
    • News
    • Comparison
    • Numbers
    • Guarantee
    • Problem-Solution
    • How To
    • Questions
    • Inflammatory
    • Testimonials
    • The OFFER
    • Who, Which, What, Why
  • Headlines with Benefits – Rather than appealing to your visitor with another listing of your services, appeal to them in terms of how they can benefit from reading the copy that follows the headline, or even how they can benefit from contacting you. For example, "Marketing Writing that Drives Sales" will probably draw more response than "Learn About Marketing Writing". Make sure that you tie the benefit in to the body text so that the site visitors do not feel that you made them an empty promise just to get them to read ahead.
  • Body Text that Grabs the Reader – Your body copy should dramatize the benefits of your product or service. Imagine you are talking to your prospect in person over coffee. Use active words, paint a mental picture and tell stories in a tone that fits your targeted customer. Short and tightly written paragraphs are better, but long pages can be okay too (even though Web designers tend to think they are tacky).
  • Scannable Text – Use bullets, short paragraphs (of about three lines) and a width of about 400 pixels. All help to make pages scannable, so that visitors do not have to read the entire page to understand what the main points of discussion are. Long pages are okay if they hold a lot of information that must be grouped. In fact, scrolling can actually help engage the visitor, whereas linking to additional pages sometimes loses the visitor.
  • Build Trust – Remember that you must build trust in your company and brand. Your writing style should be friendly, breezy, and conversational in tone, generally as informal as your product or customers will allow. Make a great first impression with copy, graphics and speed of download. Then build your case with proof, testimonials or any other information that can help. Giving visitors free samples and content can help build trust in your company's expertise.

User Interface Design Considerations – Include:

  • Graphics that Support Idea – We caution you against overdoing animation, graphics or photos. Your use of these elements should be limited to support of the writing. Unnecessary graphics will reduce speed and ease of download. Graphics should be used to enhance the "look and feel" of your site, and words should be used to paint a mental picture of your offering.
  • U/I Flow – In order to encourage the most wanted response from site visitors, you must nail down the order of the pages in your site. Then by including directives in the concluding sentences of each page, you can gently guide visitors to the next area you want them to explore. Headings, sub-headings and first sentences should stand out in bold or colored text so as to make each page scannable. Indents, bullets, divides, color and simple graphics can be used to organize information as well. Too many links on a page can be confusing, and the more options you provide to a visitor, the more likely they are to stray from the path of your most wanted response.
  • Links to New Pages – Remember you are leading your targeted customer through your site to your most wanted response. The end of each page should contain a directive which leads the visitor to the next page you'd like them to visit. For example, "… and that is why 7x24 hour response is key." When users click on the underlined link, they are channeled to the 7x24 hour response page.
  • Navigation – Navigation must be simple and consistent. Create a site that allows a visitor to navigate easily from any page of entry.
  • Design for Use – Fight the designers who want to give it a cool look by adding things that are difficult to read or understand. Use a font that is large enough to read; Verdana is a great font for on-screen reading, while most use Arial. Keep in mind that fonts are displayed much smaller on Macs. AOL defaults to low resolution, which can especially hurt small fonts. Avoid light text on dark background. Avoid cluttered layout by adding white space. Avoid frames, which hurt search engine results, look clunky and usually affect printing. Make sure your site prints and works on both PC's and Macs running all browsers version 4.x and above.
  • Getting Results from Hired Designers – When considering hiring a professional designer or design group, show examples of sites you like. You can find examples of both good and bad Web sites at www.Coolhomepages.com and www.Webpagesthatsuck.com.
  • Optimizing Speed of Download for Graphics – Avoid pointless Flash animation and any other graphics that don't help guide visitors to where you want them to go. JavaScript can be good for rollovers, but avoid scrolling bars since they are slow to load. Avoid horizontal scroll by designing for pages that are 800 pixels wide.
  • Things to Avoid – Here are a few things you should avoid altogether or use sparingly in the design of your Web site:
    • Splash Pages – The general consensus is that splash pages are useless and a total waste of your visitor's time. In case you don't know what a splash page is, it is an entry page before the home page, which generally presents only the company logo and an "enter our site" button. Search Engines are not particularly attracted to splash pages, likely due to the fact that there is rarely any content to offer up keywords.
    • Flash Animation – Not all Flash is undesirable. Not all Flash is desirable. If it serves a purpose and helps to communicate something important, use it. But don't use it just because you think it looks cool, because it may really turn off non-Flash users and visitors with slower Internet connections.
    • Pop-Up Windows – Pop-up windows should not be a mainstay on your site; they have been known to confuse and irritate visitors.
    • Frames – Frames usually do not print and some browsers have difficulty reading them; all the time and money you spent designing your site could be lost on these users.
    • Large Pages – Make sure that each entire page of your site will download within 10 seconds on a 28K modem connection. Another rule of thumb is to make each page no larger than 30K bytes (you can check file properties to see how large a page is).

HELPING YOUR CUSTOMERS BUY

Nurturing Prospects – Think of site visitors as fruit on a tree at various stages of ripeness. The riper they get, the more likely they are to become customers. You can help each piece of fruit reach ripeness. Each site visitor is a piece of fruit that can be nurtured along toward ripeness, and once you devise a marketing plan, you'll know precisely how to nurture your prospective customers. Like many others, OMIX uses newsletters to accomplish this. Other materials are good too, like whitepapers, tapes/CDs, and videos. To see this concept in action, sign up for a newsletter at www.wadecook.com (warning: you will probably end up at one of their investment seminars) or at y2marketing.com (and you may buy their marketing services). They really are good; try to emulate them as much as possible.

Unique Selling Proposition – Never, ever stop emphasizing the uniqueness of your unique selling proposition. What makes you different, better, or stand out in any way? If you owned a fruit stand at the Farmer's Market, you'd probably want to teach people how to recognize the tastiest, ripest fruit, whether it was by the color of the fruit or the sound it makes when a person taps on it. You'd also want to tell them how to recognize rotten fruit. In this same way, teach your visitors how to recognize the shams that your competition might try to pull on them. Teach them why you create your products the way that you do, and why they’ll be smarter and better off if they buy from you rather than your competition. Build a bulletproof case just like a lawyer would.

Call to Action – Give site visitors a reason to take action now. There are so many ways to do this on a site, most of which we've mentioned before: strategically placing Next (most wanted response) Page links in concluding sentences, including contact information on each page of the site, referral emails to win contests, etc. Just make sure that your "Calls to Action" are placed strategically so that they appeal to the right audience, meaning the "riper" fruit on your prospect tree, so to speak. Otherwise, to less "ripe" fruit it may appear that you're going in for the hard sell, which may be a turn-off to them.

E-Commerce – Here are several things you will want to consider if you're planning to include E-Commerce functionality on your site:

  • The Model for E-Commerce Sites – If in doubt, copy Amazon.com. They have spent more money on market research than you ever will in order to determine how customers like to buy from an e-commerce site.
  • Product Description – Depending on how many products you offer, and the amount of description needed to adequately describe each product, we suggest 3 to 10 pages of description and marketing copy for each product. Most visitors should only need to read about 10% of the description to get their questions answered.
  • Shopping Cart – You can buy a fairly inexpensive cart at www.1shoppingcart.com, which is an Application Service Provider. It's easy to set up a merchant account on this site. Or, of course, you can buy a much more sophisticated and scalable e-commerce system including cart from OMIX, where we will customize it based on your own particular needs.

MEASURE RESULTS & REVISE

Survey Customers – Ask your current customers how they found you, if they used a search engine, and if so, which engine and search terms did they use. While you're at it, ask them what they are not getting from other vendors in your business, which is likely the reason they chose to work with you. You might also ask them if there's any additions they would like to see on your site. If you don't think your clients will want to take the time to complete a marketing survey, you can run a raffle or give them something in exchange for completing the survey.

Tracking Software – WebTrends is OMIX's favorite site tracking software. For $50, you can buy Position Gold and use it to check site performance and visitor statistics. Once weekly, run a report to check out how your site is stacking up against your competitors' sites. You can use this report to track visitors' behavior on your site and measure the effectiveness of each page on your site. The report will tell you which search engines your visitors used to find you and which search terms they used, as well as where your site is in terms of search engine result placement. It's vital that you learn from your competitors; find out what their sites are doing differently and analyze whether or not it makes sense for you to emulate them. You should spend at least one hour per week analyzing results and tuning your site based on findings.