What is the purpose of a website?

The purpose of a website is to (1) Attract traffic, and (2) to Convert readers into prospects. Here's how to get optimum performance from your website.

The purpose of a website is to (1) Attract traffic, and (2) to Convert readers into prospects. Here’s how to get optimum performance from your website.

A website is a vital business tool: it’s as essential for a business as having a phone number, or email address, or business card. But what is the purpose of a website, exactly? 

How can a website help a business?

In my view, the purpose of a website is 2-fold:

Firstly, the website should attract traffic (i.e. visitors).

Secondly, the website should convert as many of those visitors as possible into a prospects who contact you in some way.

Let’s take a look at these two purposes in more detail…

Purpose of a website #1: Attracting traffic

There’s no point having a website if no one can find it or no one knows about it.

Your website needs to get visits from as many relevant prospects as possible.

There are a number of different ways in which you can get traffic to your website. Each of these tactics is approached in a different way, and has benefits and drawbacks:

  • Free search engine traffic: Attracting search traffic rarely happens by itself: you need to take proactive steps to make your website attractive for search engines (and for human readers). This is called search engine optimisation (SEO). It takes a bit of work to set it up, but if it’s done well it can potentially generate traffic to your website for years and years to come. For most businesses, the return on investment is very good.
  • Paid search engine traffic (e.g. Google AdWords): This can be effective, but you only get the traffic if you keep paying for it. This can work out to be expensive after a number of months, unless your business has a very high average dollar sale and high profit margin.
  • Online display ads and banners: with “pay per click” or “pay per view” advertising, you only get the traffic if you pay for it. This too can be very expensive – especially for businesses with modest average dollar sales and profit margins.
  • Links from other websites: This is a good strategy to pursue, but in practice many businesses find it hard to get meaningful links. It is important that the links come from high quality websites: if they come from poor quality, spammy websites your website’s online reputation could suffer as a consequence. So think quality rather than quantity.
  • Links from directories: The success varies, as any directory these days is secondary to Google. Think carefully about paying for listings: crunch the numbers upfront; and monitor the results.
  • Links from social media: You have to be committed to social media for this marketing channel to work. That involves having a clear social media strategy and making the updates consistently. Social media might be free to use, but it takes a good amount of skill and commitment to get it to work or to get any traction. Social media sites to consider include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. There are many others, too, but those are the main ones. Use the ones that your customers use: e.g. there’s no point tweeting like crazy, if your target market isn’t on Twitter!
  • Include your website address on your business cards and other printed stationery: Yes, you need to do this, but your reach will be limited, so don’t rely on this alone.
  • Include your website address on any sign writing, e.g. premises, vehicles, etc.: This can be very effective, but again, your reach is limited.

Tip: Before you commit to spending money on any website traffic attraction strategies, carry out a break even analysis to see if what you’re considering is likely to be pay dividends – or be an expensive waste of money. It’s far better to discover that upfront before you spend a cent!

I’ve seen businesses work wonders with some of these attraction methods. Some businesses do really well with Google AdWords. One person I know gets a substantial amount of his business from LinkedIn. A small business with multiple vehicles on the road gets crazy good results from their vehicle sign writing.

But there’s one website attraction technique that works consistently well for most business types. And that is, search engine traffic – which usually comes from Google, seeing as they have 89.69% global market share (as at September 2013).

Source: gs.statcounter.com

How do you get more Google traffic?

When it comes to websites, traffic is a good thing!

When it comes to websites, traffic is a good thing!

Getting traffic from Google comes down to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are different SEO techniques; I’d argue that the most effective technique I’ve seen is to write website content that targets the keywords users put into Google when conducting their searches. This is known as “SEO website copywriting” – in other words, writing content that uses keywords.

I earn my bread and butter from writing SEO website copy for my clients. Here are some of the results I’ve achieved for my clients:

  • A client with a multi-million dollar business is getting 42% of his business from his website. (He measures this data carefully, so that’s an exact number.)
  • A one-man band in a service industry reckons he gets 95% of his work from his website.
  • Another customer is steadily getting $50k worth of business from her website year after year… she may have spent say $5,000 dollars on the website and content, so that’s a 900% Return on Investment! And the website keeps delivering more customers year after year!

So if you’re wondering why your website isn’t attracting more traffic, maybe it’s because your website hasn’t been set up with this in mind. (This is very common: many website developers aren’t aware of SEO techniques.)

I’d suggest you look into this to find out if optimising your website content for search engines would bring you more traffic.

Remember, if this is done well, the search engines are likely to keep delivering traffic for you, year after year. So if you want to turn your website into a cash machine (or at least a prospect generation machine), then check out SEO website copywriting.

Aren’t you biased because you do SEO website copywriting for a living?

Yes, I write SEO website content for a living… but the reason I started specialising in that area is because of the staggering results it achieves.

I firmly believe that small business owners need marketing techniques that are sustainable over a period of time, and will generate returns for them. I haven’t come across any website attraction techniques that deliver such good returns in the long term as SEO website copywriting.

Of course, results vary: some industries are more competitive than others. Or if you’re in a fledgling or niche industry, the search volumes may not be that high.

But with the bullet point list above, of the different ways to get website traffic, you can start evaluating different tactics to see what might work for you.

Attracting website traffic is the first purpose of a website – now let’s look at the second:

Purpose of a website #2: Converting readers into prospects

The second purpose of a website is to convert readers into prospects. What this means exactly will depend on your business model.

Conversion could mean any combination of the following:

  • Getting people to call you, email you, or fill in a contact form.
  • Getting people to download your Free Report or white paper.
  • Obtaining email subscribers.
  • Making an online purchase.

These are the best kinds of conversion goals, because they are measurable.

However, getting those conversions is no mean feat, as it generally means getting complete strangers to trust your business right away.

Your website need to build trust quickly

You have something like 5 to 9 seconds to grab readers’ attention, and compel them to read on.

A big part of the reader’s decision making is based on trust, so your site has to instil trust and confidence with complete strangers – and very quickly.

Here are some resources to help you:

http://wordsbycornelia.com/marketing-resources/increasing-website-conversions-101/

You’ll find comprehensive resources via that link.

But if you just want some quick tips, then check out my quick, 10-step guide to building trust online.

http://wordsbycornelia.com/your-quick-10-step-guide-to-building-trust-online/

Have a clear and obvious call-to-action

One important thing to mention about converting readers into prospects is having clear and obvious calls-to-action. In other words, what is the next step a prospect should take to buy from you? This may be obvious to you, as the business owner, but on many websites this is very unclear and ambiguous.

  • Should people phone you? Or email you?
  • Is there a consultation? If so, is it free or paid for?
  • Do you provide written quotes or estimates? Are they free or not?
  • Do you have a shop, showroom or office? Can people just pop in, or do they need to make an appointment? What are the opening hours?

Your call-to-action should be clear and obvious on every page of the website. And if your buying process is more complex (e.g. architects, builders, business consultants, etc.) then include a page called ‘The Process’ or ‘How it Works’ or something like that. Once people know the steps involved in the buying process, they can start to picture themselves going on that journey. Conversely, if people have no idea what’s involved, they are far less likely to contact you to take the next step. It’s up to you to explain your process clearly and concisely – and encourage prospects to take the next step.

Hint: If you’re thinking of re-writing your website’s content to attract more traffic, also look at the content in terms of conversion. Are there things you could do to the content that’ll help transform more readers into prospects?

After all, if you’re going to re-work the website content, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s converting well as well as attracting traffic. This way you can kill two birds with one stone.

Summary: Why a website is much like a car…

Like a car, a website needs fuel and maintenance for optimum performance.

Like a car, a website needs fuel and maintenance for optimum performance.

If you’d like an easy analogy to describe the purpose of a website, a website is a bit like a car.

You buy a website development like you buy a car: that part of the investment is like the technological nuts and bolts.

But to get your car anywhere, it needs fuel. And that’s where the content comes in: words, pictures, videos… and for a website to really travel the distance, it’s a good idea to keep topping it up with fuel (content).

A car also needs regular servicing to keep it running smoothly. If you don’t do that, the car might break down. Similarly, a website needs tweaking and reviewing regularly, too. The most successful websites are continually tweaked and revised, and the results tested and measured – just like a racecar is continually fine-tuned for optimum performance.

I’m known for telling my customers that “a website is never finished” – this is much like car maintenance and re-fuelling being an on-going task. It is definitely a worthwhile task: there are few marketing channels as effective as websites.

Where the analogy ends is traffic: in a car, we don’t like traffic – but for our website we want lots of it! 😉

So go on, fuel up your website and get your business moving in a whole new direction, and with more momentum. Vrooooom!


Next step: Products to help you with your website

Looking for ideas on how to rev up your website?

The Website Owner's Manual is written in plain English to help small business owners get better results online.

The Website Owner’s Manual is written in plain English to help small business owners get better results online.

If you know you need to rev up your website, but you’re not sure where to begin, the Website Owner’s Manual will help you.

The Website Owner’s Manual:

  • Explains SEO (search engine optimisation) basics.
  • Lists 14 essential elements to help with trust building and conversion tactics.
  • Gives you ideas for extra content you could add to your site… stuff that your prospects (and the search engines) will love!

The Website Owner’s Manual costs less than a tank of gas for your car, and it’s written in plain English for normal, non-technical people.

CORLUE---eBook-Call-to-Action-Button

Do you want to do your own SEO work?

Keyword Research: Discover my SEO website copywriting secrets.

Keyword Research: Discover my SEO website copywriting secrets.

Want more search engine traffic? And want to do your own SEO (search engine optimisation) work? The Keyword Research training goes through my whole SEO website copywriting process:

  • Brainstorming keyword ideas.
  • How to use the free Google Keyword Planner to get data on keyword search volumes.
  • How to format the data so it’s easy to work with.
  • How to create a keyword strategy for your website.
  • How to use keyword strategy and optimise the page content.

This is the exact same process that I use for my SEO website copywriting clients – and it gets phenomenal results!

Training-Call-to-Action-Button

 

How to write a Contact Us page (that actually makes it enticing for prospects to contact you!)

It's vital that your website's Contact Us page makes it easy and enticing for prospects to contact you.

It’s vital that your website’s Contact Us page makes it easy and enticing for prospects to contact you.

What action would you like your readers to take when they look at your website?

Do you want prospects to contact you? Perhaps to make an appointment, or to request a quote?

Some kind of “Contact Us” message is the main call-to-action on most brochure-style websites. So hopefully you’ve got calls-to-action sprinkled throughout your site. (And ideally in a way that’ll appeal to both Decisive Dan and also Tentative Tom readers.)

But what happens when people visit your Contact Us page?

Is your Contact Us page carefully crafted to sound friendly and inviting?

Or is it a page that you quickly threw together to get it off your To Do list as fast as possible? (After all, how hard can it be to write a good Contact Us page?!)

It’s kind of ironic that the most important page on a website is usually written without much thought…

It doesn’t make sense when you stop to think about it, does it? If “Contact Us” is the primary call-to-action on your website, then you need to put a bit of effort in when you write a Contact Us page.

Here’s a checklist of things you should include when you write a Contact Us page:

1. Friendly introductory blurb

Don’t just go straight to the nitty-gritty contact details, as that can come across as being rather abrupt.

Instead, add a sentence or two right at the beginning of your Contact Us page that makes your company sound friendly and approachable.

2. Email address

Even if your website has an enquiry form, you should always always include an email address as well. Read my article to find out why you should include an email address.

3. Contact form

You should be aware that lots of people (a) hate filling out forms, and (b) have filled out forms, only to never hear from the company they’ve contacted. So treat contact forms with caution.

To make contact forms more user friendly:

  • ALWAYS specify how quickly you’ll respond to enquiries. Will it be within 24 hours? Or 1 to 2 business days? Tell the reader! Also tell them what to do if they don’t hear back within that time frame.This is really important. Contact Forms aren’t perfect. By adding this blurb, the keenest prospects will get back in touch with you. (This happened to me just last week!)
  • NEVER use CAPTCHA – you know, those awful codes you have to input to prove that you’re not a robot or a spammer. Most of them are totally illegible and incredibly frustrating. Read my rant about CAPTCHA – which includes a far better (and totally unobtrusive, human-friendly) solution.

4. Physical and postal addresses

Putting an address on your website is vital for building trust, as it shows that you are a real, actual business.

Now, here in New Zealand things are a bit quirky in that many businesses get their mail delivered to a PO (Post Office) Box rather than to their physical address. That’s the norm here. I have no idea why.

But having  PO Box address is good for work-at-home businesses, like myself. A friend of mine, who also works from home, initially put her physical address on her website and business card, and then had an unexpected visit from a client – whilst she was in her pyjamas! Oops! In this scenario, by using a PO Box address you can still build trust, but without having to worry about strangers seeing your PJs.

Extra tips for businesses whose premises are visited by clients…

If clients routinely visit your business, there are some extra things you should do:

  • Opening hours: You would be amazed at the number of physical retailers that don’t put their opening hours on their website. Craziness!
  • By appointment only: Don’t have set opening hours? Then tell readers that they are welcome to visit, but must make an appointment first. That way they know where they stand, and what to do.
  • Car parking information: Visiting a business can be stressful for people, especially if they’re not familiar with the area. It can also be incredibly frustrating to get somewhere and find out that there’s no parking available, or that they need change for the parking meter.
    • Visitor Parking: make it clear if you have Visitor Parking, and what the procedure is for parking there (for example, does the space need to be pre-booked?).
    • Other parking: If you don’t provide parking, tell readers where they can park, and if they need to pay for the parking, tell them what the payment methods are (e.g. cash, credit card, TXT-a-park, etc.). This is hugely valuable for people like me who never carry cash!
    • Time limits: Also, if there’s a time limit on the parking (e.g. 30 minutes, an hour, two hours), let people know. You’d be making a very big negative deposit into your customers’ emotional bank balances if they were to get a parking ticket, clamp or towed as a result of visiting your business!
  • Photograph of your building’s exterior: Makes it easy for prospects to find your business.
  • Map: Ditto! My preferred tool is Google Maps… not only is it free, but their maps are also interactive and let users get directions… very handy!
  • Directions: If your premises are difficult to find, include written directions as well.
  • Public transport links: If your customers take public transport to travel to you, include this information. E.g.: bus route(s), location of nearest bus stop or train station, etc.

5. Phone numbers

Yes, list all of your relevant phone numbers:

  • Land line
  • Cell phone
  • Fax
  • Skype username.

If there’s a specific number you’d prefer people to call you on (e.g. your cell phone, if you’re always out and about), then:

(a)  Put your preferred phone number at the top of the list.

(b)  Make your preferred phone number bold and stand out.

(c)  Make it clear that that’s your preferred number, e.g. by saying “this is the best number to call us on” next to it.

Also, if you prefer being contacted by phone than email, then put your phone number(s) nearer the top of the web page, and the email details below it.

(And likewise, if you prefer email contact, put your email address near the top of the page, and the phone numbers further down the page.)

6. Links to social media profiles

The Contact Us page is a good place to include links to your social media profiles:

  • Facebook Page
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube Channel
  • Pinterest
  • Anything else that you use!

Tip: set up these links to your social media profiles so that they open in a new web browser window (the HTML code for this is: target=_blank). This means that visitors won’t be taken away from your company website.

You could include your Facebook Feed or Twitter stream here, but that’s not essential.

7. Photographs of key contact people

Remember, the goal of the Contact Us page is to encourage prospects to contact you. And making your company look friendly and approachable will really help with that.

So be sure to include some staff photos on your Contact Us page. Photos help with trust building – and also help with building rapport.

If you have a Receptionist or Customer Services team, or other people who field most of the calls and enquiries, use their photos. A good caption to go with this kind of photo is:

“Mary Smith, our Receptionist, is the friendly voice you’ll first speak to when you call us.”

(The caption explains who the person is; and what their role is in the business.)

Or if you’re a one-person business, use your own photo and write a suitable caption.

8. Signature

Finally, end the page with your signature, name and credentials.

This helps with building trust – you can read all about using signatures for trust building here.

9. PS message with a final call-to-action

Is there a really important message you’d like to remind people of before they leave your site? Then include it in a “PS” message at the end.

PS messages do get read, and if people have scrolled to the bottom of your Contact Us page (and haven’t made contact), then point them towards some other useful content on your website. The person reading this message is likely to be a “Tentative Tom“, so your job is to give them all the information they need to spur them into contacting you.

Here are examples of the final call-to-action you could include in your PS message:

  • Testimonials page: Want to see what our customers are saying about us? Find out here
  • Newsletter sign-up: Get all the latest tips for free! 
  • Free quote: Contact us today for your free quote: call
  • Resources: Get the inside tips…

Pick just one message in your PS… if there’s more than one option, the reader will probably feel overwhelmed!

Summary

  • “Contact us” is the main call-to-action on many small business websites, yet many businesses throw these pages together quickly without much thought.
  • A good contact us page helps with conversions – and also helps to build rapport with your prospects.
  • Include the following when you write a Contact Us page for your website:
    1. Friendly introductory blurb
    2. Email address
    3. Contact form
    4. Physical and postal addresses
    5. Phone numbers
    6. Links to social media profiles
    7. Photographs of key contact people
    8. Signature
    9. PS message with a final call-to-action
  • If you have business premises that you want your customers and prospects to visit, also include:
    • Opening hours – or by appointment only
    • Car parking information: visitor parking, other parking, and any time limits
    • Photograph of your building’s exterior
    • Map
    • Directions
    • Public transport links

 

 

How to build trust online with your profile photograph

The purpose of profile photographs in business is to look friendly and approachable.Do you find that an out-of-the-blue interaction with a nice, friendly, cheery person can make you feel all smiley and glowy inside?

That’s how I used to feel whenever I parked in my favourite multi-storey car park in Auckland CBD.

For inside this grey, gloomy building was a cosy pocket of warmth – known as the payment booth. An elderly (and generously proportioned) Pacific Islander lady with white hair and a jolly disposition resided in this booth. It seemed that no matter which hour, or which day, I visited the car park, she was always there. And always knitting. And always ready with a big smile.

In fact, I always used to look forward to paying for my car parking fee, knowing that the jolly Islander lady would be there! A sincere smile and chat with her made my day.

One day it all changed…

One time I arrived at the car park to discover that the barrier arms at the entry at gone. And Pay and Display ticket machines had been installed. And – horrors! – the payment booth was covered in metal shutters. Ugh!

For me, the whole vibe of the car park changed instantly. Instead of feeling safe, protected and looked after, it now feels cold, impersonal, and almost creepy.

It’s the personal touch that makes a difference

It’s the personal touch that can transform a routine transaction into something more pleasurable. Maybe even a relationship of sorts.

After all, that’s why people like to do business with other people

We all know this, but in this world of computers and websites and email, many business relationships veer more towards the impersonal rather than personal, warm and friendly. Yet friendly faces make us relax, smile and feel good about ourselves!

Wouldn’t you like a bit more warmth and friendliness in your working day?

Here’s an easy way to make business communication more personal…

It’s easy… you use a portrait photo of yourself in your marketing communications!

But I don’t look attractive enough to use a photo…

This is something I hear quite often from business owners. They think that they’re not attractive enough to use their photograph.

But here’s the thing: no-one expects you to look like a supermodel. (Heck, it would be a scary, intimidating world if everyone did look like Heidi Klum!)

Rather, it’s about you looking friendly, and approachable – and like you. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. Truly.

But I’m not very confident about how I look…

You and me both!

So before I had my profile photos taken, I spent some time with my beautician and hairdresser in order to look the best I could. And the photographer I engaged was excellent: she specialised in portrait photos (she’d even won some awards) and I really liked the shots in her portfolio.

How you pose in a portrait photo is important too, because the body language is so important. Here are my tips on how to pose for portrait photographs.

In short: with a bit of preparation, you’ll end up with shots that you will be happy and comfortable using.

You’ve got the photographs – now what do you do?

The photographs are no good sitting on a CD or on the hard drive of your computer, oh no! You need to use them!

Me personally, because I felt very uncomfortable about putting my photograph everywhere, I did it in stages.

Step 1: Put your portrait photograph on your website

Putting your portrait photograph on your website immediately adds warmth and credibility – and builds trust. Visitors like knowing that there’s a real person behind the business: dealing with a faceless persona just feels weird.

The key pages to add your photograph to are:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Contact page
  • Sales pages.

There were unexpected benefits of using my photograph on my website…

I must admit that I didn’t really think about how putting my photograph on my website would benefit or affect me. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I didn’t think it would make a difference to me, only to my website readers. Wrong!

After I started using my photo on my website, I’d notice that when I met prospects and new clients for the first time, they were noticeably friendlier to me! Not that people are normally unfriendly, but because these people had seen my photograph (and read about me), they felt like they already knew me a little. It’s a huge ice-breaker and rapport building tool!

I’m shy by nature, so it makes a big difference to me when the person I’m meeting for the first time not only recognises me, but also approaches me with a big smile. It’s wonderful!

Step 2: Use your photograph in your email signature

I can’t remember who suggested this to me, but I was very uncomfortable about using my photo in my email signature. It’s not something that’s normally done in New Zealand, and it just felt a bit cheesy and attention seeking.

But whoever told me to do it must have been very persuasive, because I did finally do it. And the results were very unexpected!

I instantly received an email from an A-Grade client saying how much she enjoyed seeing my photo in my email. She said that it made her feel like she was communicating with a real person, and that it took the impersonal nature out of emails.

Example: Here’s my current email signature. I change and update the design quite often, but the photograph is the one constant:

Here's an example of using a profile photograph in an email signature.

Here’s an example of using a profile photograph in an email signature.

The wonderful feedback from my A-Grade client gave me the confidence to keep using my photograph in my email signature.

I’ve noticed that using my profile photo in this way is great for building rapport with new clients – just like it does on the website. That was one result I semi-expected, but I was in for another surprise.

The surprising thing I’ve noticed since using my photo in my email signature is that the replies I receive are somehow… nicer.

It’s not that I’d usually receive lots of nasty emails from people, no. But because people see my face when they’re writing a message to me, somehow their tone changes, just a little bit.

Seeing my photograph makes people aware that they’re communicating with a real, live human.

And this slight difference in tone makes a huge difference to my day. We all like to be addressed in a friendly, courteous manner, so this directly impacts my happiness at work.

One thing’s for sure: I’m no longer scared or hesitant about using my photo!

Step 3: Other places where you can use your profile photograph

There are other places where you can use your profile photograph too:

  • Other website pages: e.g. newsletter sign-up pages, download pages, etc.
  • Email newsletters: This adds a personal touch to your mass communications.
  • Business cards: This helps people to remember you long after the initial meeting.
  • Proposal documents: Put a friendly, personal touch to quotes and estimates. Think about it from the reader’s point of view, who may find the document a bit scary and intimidating – especially if it’s a high-value purchase. Wouldn’t a friendly smile on the cover page warm you up to reading it?
  • Sales letters: I’ll often include my photograph in sales letters to clients, as it adds that friendly, personal touch.

In short: you can use your profile photograph in the same places where you use your digitised signature.

Are there any places where you shouldn’t use your profile photograph?

I do think that it’s possible to take the profile photograph thing too far.

For example, a few years ago I received a fridge magnet for a mortgage broker with his photograph on. Do I want to look at his photograph every day when I’m making breakfast? Um, that would be a no!

We also received a Shopping List pad from a husband-and-wife real estate team (people we have no relationship or connection with). That went straight into the recycling pile.

While it’s good to use your profile photograph to build a relationship, there is such a thing as being too “in your face”, so some common sense is advised!

Remember, the aim is to add a friendly, personal touch… not to freak people out!

I wish that the multi-storey car park owners in Auckland CBD realised that their facilities now freak me out, and I park elsewhere that feels friendlier. 😉

Summary: benefits of using your profile photograph in your marketing

Benefits to your prospects and customers:

  • They trust your company/brand more quickly.
  • It helps to put them at ease and makes them feel more comfortable… dealing with people whose names and faces you know is nicer than dealing with an anonymous entity (or a machine!).

Benefits to you:

  • It can help to boost your sales conversion rates, or speed up the decision-making process, because your prospects trust you more (and do so more quickly).
  • It’s a wonderful ice-breaker and rapport builder for meetings: people will feel like they already ‘know’ you, which puts both of you at ease.
  • People may communicate with you in a more courteous manner. It is easy to be rude or vent to an anonymous entity than a person whose name and face you know!
  • It differentiates your business and your brand against your competitors. There is no competition to be you!

 

How to build trust online with your signature

Adding your signature onto your website is a simple way to build trust - and quickly.

Adding your signature onto your website is a simple way to build trust – and quickly.

Do you remember the last time you had to sign a document? It may have been a contract, or a form, or something authorising a payment (e.g. a cheque or Direct Debit).

Signing your name makes something feel quite official, yes?

Even if you didn’t read all the small print in detail, you just know that when you sign something, it had better be correct. You know for sure it’s something serious and binding.

What does signing your name have to do with websites?

Websites are tricky beasts, in that a potential prospect will decide in 7 short seconds whether they’ll read your site further, or if they’ll hit the ‘back’ button on their browser and go to a competitor’s site.

Therefore you have mere seconds to communicate that your business is trustworthy and reputable. Adding a signature to your website is one of the tools you can use to help with this: it’s a powerful, visual way of building trust.

What does a signature on a website do? A signature tells us that:

  • There is a real person behind the business.
  • This person is willing to sign their name to what they say… which in turn ads gravity to what it says on the website.

… and it does these things within a very short space of time.

What’s more, a signature is also very unique. A signature can even become a brand element that will let your business stand out against your competitors. It’s a very powerful branding tool – and also a very inexpensive one!

Example of a signature on a website…

Yep, I use the ‘signature on a website’ tactic myself:

Signature on website example: Notice how the signature adds a friendly and personal touch the website.

Signature on website example: Notice how the signature adds a friendly and personal touch the website.

Now that you can see what you’re aiming for, here’s how to implement your own website signature…

Tips on adding your signature to your website

1. Sign your name in a good quality, black pen on a clean piece of plain paper

  • Do not use your “official” signature, e.g. your credit card signature!
  • Use a good quality, black pen. My personal preference is for a pen with gel ink, or a fountain pen, as this makes a good, solid line. Ball point pens don’t have a smooth ink flow, so the result can look blotchy. And a thick pen (like a marker pen) will look too chunky and overbearing.
  • Your signature needs to be legible, or you won’t succeed at building trust. (Illegible signatures make it seem as though you have something to hide.)
  • Use your first name and last name, or just your first name. Do not use initials. Initials look too formal, or though you’ve got something to hide. For example:
    • Good: Joanna Smith, Joanna
    • Not recommended: JS, J Smith.

2. Scan your signature to digitise it

You’ll need the signature in a JPEG or PNG image file.

3. If necessary, enhance your signature in image editing software

Make sure the black is nice and crisp; the white background clean. If necessary, rotate the signature so that it is level.

Then save your signature in a website friendly format. Your signature graphic should be a small file size, so it’s quick to load, but still good quality so that it looks crisp and sharp.

4. Add your signature onto your website

You can add it onto as many pages as your like – the list below is a minimum:

  • Home page
  • Sales pages
  • Contact us page, as it is important to humanise this page: all too often, Contact Us pages are very abrupt and not very compelling! Adding your signature – and your photo – makes the “contact us” message more personal and thus it’s more enticing for prospects to contact you.

5. Type your details under the signature

Underneath your signature, type your name in full and any recognised qualifications you may have.

Then on the next line, add your job title and company.

6. Add your photo

Use your photo, too – like I did in the example above. (See some tips for cringe-free business portrait photos.)

Is this signature-on-a-website tactic relevant for all businesses?

In my view, adding a signature onto a website is a worthwhile tactic for all small business, whether you’re a solopreneur, or have a handful of staff. After all, why wouldn’t you want to build trust on your website? It’s simple, deceptively powerful – and very cheap to do!

Also, it’s a tactic that’s relevant for all types of industries, whether you’re business-to-business, business-to-consumer, selling products, or selling services.

Even large corporations can benefit from this approach. Just look at how Richard Branson has plastered his name over his various Virgin companies (encompassing airlines, trains, telecommunications/internet, record label, wine merchant, radio stations, financial services – and a whole lot more besides).

By adding his name (and the flamboyant personality that goes with it), the Virgin Group has a unique brand. The Virgin Group of companies have a very different vibe to their clinical-looking, staid, corporate competitors.

Why looking “corporate” stifles your business

Some of you reading this article will be appalled that I’m suggesting adding a signature to personalise your business. A common objection I hear to this tactic is, “but I want my business to look serious and corporate. Adding a signature and photograph just makes my business look small and amateurish”.

Here’s my view on the desire to look corporate…

During my time as a Marketing Consultant in the UK in the late 1990s (a time when the economy was strong), I met many business owners who did not like their business being called a “small business” or an “SME”… even if that’s exactly what they were.

These business owners thought that it was all about size. Indeed, such business owners considered the use of the word “small” was an insult to their ego; to their stature in life; to their importance.

Consequently, these size-challenged business owners wanted their marketing materials to emulate the corporates. Yes, they actually wanted their materials to be faceless! They wanted to focus on the “brand”, and not on people.

What’s the result of “corporate-looking” marketing?

All of these corporate-looking marketing materials were dull, faceless, bland and interchangeable. The copy was jargon-riddled nonsense. The photographs were generic stock library images.

You would have struggled to tell one company’s marketing materials from the other!

In these days where many small businesses are still struggling with the after-effects of recession, competition for your prospects’ share-of-wallet is tougher than ever. What’s more, with increased use of technology, many small businesses now have to compete against overseas suppliers (who are often able to supply at a lower cost), as well as local competitors. Business life is tough!

So, in these days of hyper-competition, do you want your business to look dull, faceless, bland, and unmemorable?

Or do you want your business to stand out; be unique and memorable; and start building meaningful relationships with your customers?

It’s your call… but I know which approach is likely to yield the better results.

Summary

The benefits of adding your signature to your website are that:

  • Using your signature on your website is a visual tool that instantly builds trusts and adds credibility. (Signing your name = a commitment to what you’re saying.)
  • Using your signature helps you stand out from your competitors. Based on my experience, I’d say that most of your competitors won’t have the balls to add a signature in such a public way, so that’s another thing in your favour!
  • It adds personality and depth to your message, in a way that a logo by itself will never do.
  • It lets prospects and customers know that there’s a real person behind the brand. Not only does that build trust and credibility, but it’s also the beginning of forming closer relationships.
  • This is ridiculously easy and cheap to do!

 

Your quick, 10-step guide to building trust online

Getting your readers to trust (and like) your website straightaway is vital.

Getting your readers to trust (and like) your website straightaway is vital.

When prospects visit your website, they will decide within 7 short seconds whether they want to explore your site further – or if they’ll hit the “back” button and look at a competitors’ site.

A big factor in whether they hang around (or not) comes down to trust: but how do you do that in such a short space of time?

Here are the top ten ways in which you can build trust online:

  1. Full contact details: include ALL your contact details – landline number, mobile number, postal address, physical address and email address.
  2. About us page: this is a vital trust-building page, and should include details of key people within the company (with photos).
  3. Memberships and associations: using logos of organisations you’re a member of (assuming you have their permission) is a quick visual way of building trust and credibility. This includes membership of business groups such as BNI and Chambers of Commerce, as well as any industry-specific associations.
  4. Professional website design: because professional companies need to look professional online. This is about having web pages that are well laid-out, and with an appropriate colour scheme and fonts.
  5. Professional logo design: your company’s logo should appear on the site, so make sure your logo has been professionally-designed. A poorly-designed or dated logo doesn’t help with building trust.
  6. Professional photographs: it’s not unusual to see small business websites that are generally quite decent, but then ruined with amateurish photography.
  7. Well-written content, with correct spelling, punctuation and grammar: when people look at a website, all they can judge your business on is based on what’s in front of them. So the smallest details take on a big significance… and that includes the accuracy of the writing.
  8. Testimonials: client testimonials are a vital tool in building trust. Make sure your website has a top-level page dedicated to testimonials.
  9. Up-to-date content: have you ever looked at a website, and wondered if it’s up-to-date? Don’t let this kind of doubt creep into prospects’ minds. A quick way of communicating that your site is current is via the copyright details in the footer of each page. For example:
    Copyright © ABC Company 1995 – 2012.
    This quickly tells readers that (a) you’ve been in business for a while, and (b) that your site is up-to-date. How easy is that?!
  10. Easy-to-use and logical navigation: make sure your site is easy to navigate. If your website is confusing to use, it may frustrate users and affect your company’s credibility online.

 

Are you using this little-known online trust building technique?

Imagine you’re looking for something online. You find a promising link on Google and click through to a company’s website. You quickly skim-read the home page and scroll right down to the bottom.

But uh-oh! You’ve just seen the Copyright date! And it says 2006! Immediately your alarm bells ring: is this company still in business? Is their website up-to-date?

All of a sudden, you’re not sure about the professionalism of this business, and you go back to Google to find an alternative supplier.

This example might sound extreme, but it’s surprisingly common online behaviour

When we’re evaluating a new supplier, and all we know of them is their website, every little element has an important role. And that includes the Copyright date in the footer.

You may not even have noticed this Copyright date before

If you haven’t noticed it, have a look at some websites, and scroll right down to the very bottom. There you’ll see some information, probably in a very small-sized font, along the lines of:

Copyright © XYZ Company Limited 2005 – 2012

The purpose of this information is to protect the company’s copyright of the content (i.e. they are asserting that the content is theirs, and that it is illegal to copy it). Copyright law applies internationally.

But this article isn’t about law, it’s about online trust building. So look at that example above again, and you’ll notice that there’s a date range.

What does this date range tell you?

The date range tells you two things:

  1. The business has been online since 2005, so the business itself has been around for a number of years. They’re therefore unlikely to be a “fly by night” operation.
  2. The last date is the current year. That means that they’ve probably updated their website recently, which indicates that the information on the website is up-to-date. Moreover, it tells you that the company pays attention to detail and is professional in its dealings.

Of course, that’s a big assumption to make

But it’s a very powerful assumption… and all from one little innocuous sentence at the bottom. It’s a small but very important (and easy) trust-building tool. And it’s one that you should be using.