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Easy Tricks for Simplifying Your Web Site and Turning At Least 60% More Visitors into Sales!

By Corey Rudl

If you're like me, you're probably pretty excited that summer's right around the corner. The days are getting longer, the veggies are growing in the garden, and barbecue smells are wafting through the neighborhood. Ah, summer!

Now that it's almost here, a lot of businesses are winding down for the warm weather lull. That means it's a great time to spruce up your web site. Whether your site needs a complete overhaul or just a little tidying up, it can really benefit from a thorough once-over.

In this issue, we're going to look at the top 4 "Fatal Mistakes" that many designers make with their web sites. These mistakes seem like innocent blunders, but they can really kill your sales. We'll also go over the top 10 essential elements that every site must have if it's going to be successful. Then we'll provide a list of useful resources that you can use to optimize your site's performance.

Read on to learn how you can simplify the design of your web site to improve its effectiveness and really get your profits to soar!

The Top 4 Fatal Mistakes Web Site Designers Make

If you want to be successful online, you have to develop a web site that serves the needs of your visitors in a user- friendly fashion. It's surprising how many people don't think about this when they plan their web sites!

An important rule of thumb when it comes to designing a web site is: SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY. Your web site should be easy to use and easy to understand. It should guide your visitors through the sales process in a simple and convenient manner. Your visitors should never have to guess at what you mean or what you're trying to get them to do!

With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the common mistakes businesses owners make when developing their web sites...

FATAL MISTAKE #1: Trying to "dazzle" customers instead of sell to them

A lot of new business owners want their web sites to be as eye-catching as possible. They think that by including a lot of flashy graphics and nifty animation effects, they'll capture their visitors' attention. That may be true, but they can distract your visitors from what you really want them to focus on: the value of your product!

Never confuse eye-candy for content. Graphics should only ever be used to support the main purpose of your site: to get people to buy what you have to offer! If a graphic doesn't directly relate to your product or service, then it shouldn't be on your site. It's just that simple.

You may want to impress people with your technical know-how by including lots of banners and links on your site, but too much visual clutter looks unprofessional and can ruin your credibility. And, if the graphics and gimmicks don't have anything to do with what you're selling, they're just going to detract from your main message. Anything that distracts visitors from your copy is guaranteed to lose you sales.

You also don't want to chase your visitors away with long, unnecessary Flash presentations and splash pages. If your customers have to spend too much time trying to figure out how to stop your Flash presentation so they can get through to the "meat" of your site, they'll be gone, most likely never to return.

Believe it or not, studies have shown that most first-time visitors spend only 10 SECONDS on a site before deciding whether or not it offers any value for them. You don't want to waste these precious seconds with a pointless splash page or distracting animation!

The best way to drive sales is to design a simple, clean site using only two or three colors and one or two fonts throughout the entire site. Avoid using colored or patterned backgrounds. You might think they look cool, but they make it really difficult to read your sales copy. Also be sure to keep your link colors and format consistent. People generally expect links to be blue and underlined. This may seem boring from a design point of view, but the links will be instantly recognizable and that's what really matters.

FATAL MISTAKE #2: Making Your Site Too Large

One of the worst mistakes people can make is building massive, multi-paged sites that take forever to load. "The more, the better," is NOT true, at least when it comes to web site design!

Our studies have shown that 30% to 60% percent of visitors drop off with each click they're made to take! Your site has to be as streamlined as possible in order if you want it to reach its true profit potential.

As you spruce up your site, try to reduce the number of pages wherever possible. If you're selling 10 or less products, include them on your homepage. Why make visitors click through to a separate "Products" page to see what you have to offer? Remember, every click loses sales! If you can't feature all your products on your home page, group them in categories and display each category of products on its own page, instead of including a separate page for each product.

Wherever possible, try to reduce the number of files on your web pages. The more files a page has, the longer it'll take to load -- especially if they're large graphics files. Use colored text instead of graphics to grab attention. If you must use a graphic, make sure it's a small file. Too many people make the mistake of using high- resolution images when they really don't need to. You need only 72 dpi (dots per inch) for screen resolution. And most graphics only need to be 256 colors or less.

Don't forget, you have only 10 seconds to grab people's attention. The longer visitors have to wait for your site to load, the less likely they are to stick around and find out about your products or services.

FATAL MISTAKE #3: Confusing Navigation

Some web designers like to show off their skills by creating new and different ways to navigate through a multi-paged site. Sometimes they hide links beneath icons or images, so that users can't find the links unless they mouse over the graphics. This may be very clever, but it certainly doesn't help people find what they're looking for!

Other designers put their navigation bars in different places on each web page, or change the look of the navigation bar itself, which can be awfully confusing. Navigation bars are like traffic signs: they have to be consistent and easily understandable in order to be effective.

The best way to deal with your navigation is to make it simple and obvious. It might seem boring and unoriginal, but that's the point. People don't want to have to guess how to make their way through your site -- they want it to be easy to understand. Otherwise, they'll go somewhere else to find what they're seeking.

FATAL MISTAKE #4: Burying essential information too deep within the site

Web surfers are impatient people! They don't want to spend a lot of time trying to find what they're seeking on your site. According to market research done by the Garner Group, more than 50% of Web sales are lost because site visitors can't find what they're looking for.

If you've buried important information too deep within your site, you're losing out on more than half of your sales!

A web site should be like a newspaper story. All of the really important information about your site -- what you're selling and how it benefits people -- should be the first thing your visitors see. That's the best way to capture their attention and get them to read more.

If you have only 10 seconds to grab your visitors' interest, don't make them waste time scrolling down your homepage or clicking through to deeper pages. People don't want to take any extra trouble to find out what you're offering -- you have to provide it to them right up front. Don't make them look for it; hit them between the eyes with it!

The 10 Essential Elements Your Site Absolutely MUST Have!

Now that we've covered what you shouldn't have on your site, it's time to review what you should include. If you have all these elements on your site, you'll be well on your way to success!

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #1: Attention-grabbing headline

The first thing people see when they visit your site should be a compelling headline that describes the most important benefit your product or service offers. The headline is THE key element of your site. It's what will persuade your visitors to stick around and check out what you have to offer.

Your headline should be well-written: clear, concise, and to the point. It should also be enticing. You want to pique your visitors' interest and make them eager to learn more about what you're selling. You can do this by emphasizing what your product or service can do for them.

Once you've crafted a compelling headline, format it so that it stands out from the rest of the text. It should be the first thing that catches your visitors' attention. Use a large font size, bolding, italics, a different color -- whatever suits the style of your web site.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #2: User-friendly navigation

As we said above, nothing drives your customers away faster than confusing or complicated navigation! Your customers should be able to know where they are on your site at all times, and should easily be able to find pages they've already visited.

Make sure your navigation bar or menu is clearly accessible and easy to understand. It should be exactly the same on every page of your site, and be located in exactly the same place. Your customers shouldn't have to hunt for it.

Remember: when it comes to navigation, consistency is the key!

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #3: Effective salescopy

The words you use to describe your product and its benefits are the key to the success of your business. Your salescopy is the only contact you'll have with the vast majority of your visitors. That's why you have to make the most of it!

Your salescopy should:

  • Immediately draw the reader in with exciting benefits and enticing copy so you can lead them toward the sale.

     
  • Establish your credibility -- nobody will buy from you if they don't feel they can trust you.

     
  • Describe the benefits of your product or service and explain WHY your visitors need it.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #4: A clear "Call to Action"

If you want people to buy your products or services, you have to tell them how to do it! Don't leave them guessing. You have to explain exactly what you want them to do, and you have to make it easy for them to do it.

If you want them to buy a product, present them with a call to action like this:

CLICK HERE NOW to order your six-month supply of Product X.

Provide your customers with clear, easy-to-understand instructions on how to make a purchase, and let them know what they can expect when they click on the link that leads them to the order page.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #5: Well-chosen images

Images can really help people visualize your products or services and their benefits. Be sure to include photos of every product you sell. Attractive product shots can really boost your sales!

If you have a lot of products for sale, use "thumbnails" that link to larger images. This will make your pages load more quickly. If you're selling electronically delivered products such as eBooks or software, you may want to create simulated product shots to represent them. This is guaranteed to boost your sales by making your product seem more tangible.

Including pictures of yourself and your staff helps to personalize your business and reminds customers they're interacting with real people, not just a web site. In addition, you should post photos of satisfied customers beside their testimonials. This will add credibility to their statements and show your visitors that they're not just figments of your imagination!

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #6: A strong opt-in offer

Most first-time visitors don't make a purchase. However, the fact they've come to your site in the first place means they're at least curious to see what you have to offer.

In order to pursue a relationship with these potential customers, you should collect their e-mail addresses by encouraging them to subscribe to a free newsletter or free download. This will give you the chance to send them updates and information, develop relationships with them, and enable them to trust you enough to buy from you!

Opt-in offers like this are a great way to turn visitors into customers and really maximize your sales. Your opt-in offer should be clearly linked to each page of your web site or, if possible, actually included on each page. One less click means losing fewer potential subscribers!

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #7: Testimonials

The best way to establish credibility is to provide evidence that your product or service really works. And the best way to do that is to include testimonials from satisfied customers that explain how your product or service has helped improve their lives.

Be sure to include the name of your satisfied customers as well as where they live. You should also provide a small picture of them. This will personalize their messages and demonstrate that they're real people who've enjoyed real benefits from your product.

It's a good idea to have a few of your best testimonials featured right on your homepage, for instant credibility. However, you should also have a separate testimonials page as well. The more satisfied customers you can show to reluctant shoppers, the better.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #8: An "About Us" page

People are often hesitant to buy things online. They miss the personal interaction of doing business face to face.

The best way to overcome their reluctance is to include an "About Us" page that provides information about you, your staff, and your business. Be sure to include pictures of yourself and your staff members. This shows your customers they're doing business with real people and will help ease any worries they might have.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #9: An FAQ page

It's a good idea to include a "Frequently Asked Questions" page on your site. This is where you list the questions most commonly asked by your customers and provide answers to them. It allows your visitors immediate access to the answers they need before they'll consider buying your product or service.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #10: Your contact info

In order to close sales and establish your credibility, you have to provide full contact information on your site. This includes your mailing address as well as fax and phone numbers. Businesses that only include e-mail addresses come across as unprofessional and possibly even disreputable.

Make sure your contact information is clearly visible on every page of your site. This will make it easy for customers to know how to reach you if they want to get more information or buy a product.

Final Thoughts

Once the hot weather starts luring your customers to the beach instead of your web site, take advantage of the lull by going through your site with a fine-toothed comb.

Create a list of "must-do" actions you can take to optimize its performance. Figure out where you can get rid of non- essential clutter and simplify the sales process. Don't forget, streamlined sites generate more sales!

Take the time to browse through other sites (including those of your competitors) to see how your site compares and get ideas for improvement. What do you like about their sites? What do you find annoying about them? This will help you get an idea of what to include and what to avoid on your own site.

After you've made some improvements, ask some friends to go through your site. How hard is it for them to get from page to page? Can they easily find their way back to pages they've already visited? Are they confused by any aspect of your sales process? Do they find your site appealing? Remember: you can never do too much testing!

The simpler and more user-friendly your site is, the more sales it will generate. It's as simple as that. So you should always be thinking about how you can remove any unnecessary clutter, confusing links, or visual eyesores to let your sales copy stand out.

Useful Resources for Improving Your Site Design

Finally, here's a list of resources you can use to maximize the effectiveness of your site:

  • Web Page Analyzer:
    http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

    A free web tool that determines how long it takes for each of your web pages to load. It also points out which parts of your page are causing problems.

     
  • WebGraphics Optimizer:
    http://www.webopt.com/

    A great tool for optimizing and compressing images for online use. You'll be amazed at how much faster your site downloads once you've reduced the file size of your graphics!

     
  • AnyBrowser.com:
    www.anybrowser.com

    Features a helpful tool that allows you to view your web site as it appears in all of the major browsers. The site also offers free HTML software, tools that allow you to validate your HTML code, etc.

     
  • NetMechanic:
    http://www.netmechanic.com

    Features detailed information and advice on how to improve your site performance, including webmaster tips and information on how to check your server.

     
  • SitePoint:
    http://www.sitepoint.com


    Features articles and tutorials on all aspects of web site design. It also has offers different software for sale.

     
  • Builder.com:
    http://www.builder.com


    Offers articles with related trialware, as well as e-newsletters, a discussion center, online courses and library, and product reviews. The articles are rated and include readers' comments.

     
  • Webmonkey:
    http://www.webmonkey.com


    A web developer's resource sponsored by Lycos.com. It includes a how-to library as well as reference tools.

     
  • WebDeveloper.com:
    http://www.webdeveloper.com


    A site for web developers with articles, and forums on different coding types, scripting, e-commerce, etc.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Corey Rudl is the owner of four highly successful online businesses that attract more than 1.8 million visitors per month and generate over $6.6 million each year. He is also the author of the #1 best-selling Internet Marketing course online.

To check out his site that's JAM-PACKED WITH THE EXACT INFORMATION YOU NEED to start, build, and grow your very own profitable Internet business, I highly recommend visiting http://www.marketingtips.com/tipsltr.html

This guy really knows what he's talking about!


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