Sure you can add a bunch snazzy scripts and flashy new graphics. That’s your prerogative. Having some pizazz and style is a good thing, especially if you’re just starting out and want to set yourself apart from the competition.
But your website features and functionality is what counts towards your bottom line and ultimately decide which customers will return and tell others about your services or products. Along with bells and whistles, your website needs to some basic “must haves” that shoppers expect. In order to survive on the internet, make sure that your site meets the following requirements to have a fighting chance.
Secure East-to-Remember URLs.
Domain names are important to any online business. A name becomes identified with the business and people will also associate the name the quality of content you provide, so it’s best to find a name that is easy to remember. Try to steer away from names that are too long, not related to the topic or product, dashes, and non standard domain surnames. Now of course, rules are meant to be broken, so just you this list as a suggestion.
Provide a Convenient Payment Method
I shop online all the time, but I have no patience for complex shopping carts, entering the same information repeatedly or quirky shopping cart procedures. Regardless what a shopper is search for they all have one common goal, they want their experience to be quick and seamless. Keep it simple and before you choose a shopping cart system for your site, try it out to see how easy it is to make a purchase. Does it work for you?
Promote Security, Privacy, and Trust
Even the most avid online shoppers, who have making purchases for years still feel uncertainty when they type their credit-card number and click the payment button. Make sure your site is secure, by providing trust from a recognized online aymnt processor. In addition, if possible offer payments options through a third party like PayPal.
Regularly Updated Content
Do you have a favorite blog, commentary, or newspaper columnist that you like to visit each day? I certainly do. They are conveniently saved in my Google Reader. If these, content providers didn’t come up with interesting content I wouldn’t even bother returning. Also one key factor in SEO is frequent updates to your site’s content – search engines will love you for it and this will certainly help your overall SEO strategy and natural listings.
Be Current with Adding Content & Improvements
One of my biggest problems with other sites online similar to mine, is outdated content. Once you put up a website, that’s not the end of it. You need to make sure the content you provide current and relevant to what’s going on today. Granted if you have a blog, it would be nearly impossible to go back and rewrite old posts, so that’s understandable. But if you are providing static content, like tutorials or directions that your visitors still refer to. update those according to current practices.
Personally Interact with Your Customers
A personal touch is small, but can mean so much. Since you rarely get to meet your visitors face-to-face sometimes it’s nice to just one of your readers a email saying thank you, responding to a comment that was insightful or responding to an inquiry on your contact form. Regardless of how it’s done, quick responses with courteous thank-you’s are always encouraged.
You need to use your website to provide essential background information about yourself, why you started your business, and what your goals are. Be open and personal and share as much as you fee comfortable with.
When you sell from a website, your customer can buy your products 24 hrs a day and also your customers may be from other states that are thousands of miles away. Always provide contact information, preferably on every page of your website, complete with mailing address, telephone number and an email address that reaches you.
Map With Directions
If your business is strictly online, then you shouldn’t have to worry about this feature. However if you do operate a brick and mortar storefront, you will want to make sure location information and possibly directions to your location.
Newsletter or Sign Up Form
An absolute essential to building customer loyalty is finding a way to stay in touch with your customers to inform them of deals and new products. Newsletter forms can be easily and inexpensively integrated into your website that will allow customers to enter their email address to automatically be added to a newsletter mailing list. In addition many content management systems will offer this as a component, plugin or extension.
If you decided to create a static website or a shopping cart, blogs would be a great addition.They’re quick and easy to update, can be informal and a great way of encouraging two-way communications, by engaging the user and giving them the ability to comment on posts.
RSS and Atom Feeds
Allowing users of your website to subscribe to your news and blog feeds not only helps to establish you as an authority in your area of business, but also encourages repeat visits and increased brand awareness and loyalty – all contributing to increased levels of sales.
A functional footer is often seen as just another way of increasing clicks within your website. But it’s more than that. A functional footer improves usability, is simple to build, is very en vogue and provides a high density of key words to contribute to your SEO. In the Brand Build Sell footer, I decided to provide additional links to important information and also several ways to connect with me online.
Repeat Yourself (again and again?)
Drive home important points by explaining yourself in a number of ways or by providing examples to illustrate details.
Add Important Information to the Top of the Page
Important points and ideas should be visible “above the fold” to visitors. It means any information around 600px down from the top of the browser. Still confused? In plain terms, it means the information a users see when they first logon to your site without having to scroll down.
Place Targeted Keywords Prominently on Page
Keywords that are introduced towards the top of the page actually count more towards that page’s search engine ranking as well. This is logical in that the main theme of any page is expected to be discussed at the very beginning. first and last paragraphs on any page should emphasize the targeted keywords.
Use the Word “Free”
Find a way to work ‘free’ – in bold letters – into your site, especially the home page. You probably have something that you can give away, even if it is a PDF full of good advice. The internet was built on the premise of ‘free’. In fact, your customers may have typed in ‘free widget’ as a search term!
Use Bold Text for Keywords
Where your targeted keywords or key phrases appear on pages, make them appear in bold text at least once or twice to catch the attention of visitors and tigers! Using HTML, these tags are placed around the words: <b>word word</b>
Yes, search engines give these highlighted words additional increments of credit towards pagerank!!!