Announcement: How to get better results online with the Website Owner’s Manual

Have you ever noticed how websites and cars have a lot in common? They’re both essential tools for business, and they can both cost a lot. And they both need maintenance from time to time.

Except it’s relatively simple to maintain a car

You can simply drive your car to your local mechanic, who’ll take care of it all for you. The mechanic does the work; you hand over the payment; and you drive home in your fixed car. (OK, so you may wince slightly as you hand over the payment, but that’s another story!)

It’s a bit more complex with a website…

Websites are more complex to maintain because there’s so much gobbledegook involved! And yes, there are certainly lots of people who say they can get you better results on line, but their promises are so vague or so jargon-riddled that you have no idea whom to trust.

Typical sales pitches you might hear include:

“We’ll get you to the top of the first page of Google” … um, yes, for which keyword? And is it even a relevant keyword?

“We’ve noticed that your website uses meta java and it’s affecting the page rank serialisation of the inter-web and makes your site invisible to dogs when there’s a full moon.”

OK, so I made that last one up, but you get the picture. 😉

The picture being that there’s a huge amount of jargon out there, as well as lots of vague (but impressive-sounding) promises.

How are you meant to make sense of it all? After all, you have so many other things on your To Do list!

That’s where the Website Owner’s manual comes in…

At last! Easy-to-read and plain-speaking tips to help you get to grips with your website.

At last! Easy-to-read and plain-speaking tips to help you get to grips with your website.

The Website Owner’s Manual is an eBook written by me, Cornelia Luethi, that’s designed to rev up your website… and for less than the price of a tank of gas. It outlines in clear English:

  • Website updates: How often should you update your website? And what on earth could you possibly add to it?
  • Conversion: What tweaks could you make to your website to turn more visitors into customers?
  • Links: Why is it important to have quality websites linking to your website? And how can you go about getting these links?
  • Communication: How can you communicate with your customers online? And what sort of content could you use?
  • Measurement: What exactly should you be measuring? And how?
  • Real world strategies: What can you do in the real world to encourage people to visit your website?

65% more content!

The Website Owner’s Manual has just had a huge update. After all, technology moves quickly, so I make sure that my eBooks are always up-to-date too.

This eBook now has 65% more content… and it’s still at the same great price! The update includes 3 new chapters on:

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) basics: You’ll discover the process I work through when I write SEO website copy for my clients… this is the first time I’ve revealed my ‘secrets’!
  • Social media: Find out how to leverage this on your website – even if you’re not actually using social media yourself.
  • Conversion factors: How to build trust online.

60 Day Money Back Guarantee

Easy-to-read layout!

The Website Owner’s Manual is packed with graphics, screenshots and checklists to make it practical and easy to use.

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s what a customer has said about it…


“I didn’t really understand my website till I read this eBook”

“Although I have a website for my business, I don’t really know much about it or how to get it to perform better. I was hoping that the Website Owner’s manual would enlighten me – and it certainly did.

The eBook is written in a way that’s really interesting and is full of information that’s totally new to me. In fact, I found the eBook so absorbing I couldn’t put it down and even continued reading it at dinner in a restaurant!

I’d really recommend the Website Owner’s Manual to any business owner wanting to get the best results from their website.”

– Mark Barham, Auckland Plumbers Group


Cornelia Luethi will show you how to help stop your website visitors from leaking away in her Website Owner's Manual eBook.

Cornelia Luethi will show you how to help stop your website visitors from leaking away in her Website Owner's Manual eBook.

To find out more about the Website Owner’s Manual, and to buy online, visit:

http://wordsbycornelia.com/products/website-owners-manual/

And remember, it costs less than a tank of gas for your car, and it’s got a 60 Day Money Back Guarantee, so go check it out!

Cornelia

Cornelia Luethi BSc (Hons), DipM

– Author of the Website Owner’s Manual

Goods and services provided by FX Marketing Limited (New Zealand)

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.

 

What’s the purpose of a website home page?

You’re wandering through the mall, in need of a new pair of shoes. Walking around, you check out the shops from the walkway.

Hmmmm, that shop looks like it only has trainers and casual shoes – that’s not what you’re after!

And that shop looks far too pricey; keep walking, keep walking, don’t get tempted by those expensive shoes!

But ewwwww, that shop looks really cheap and nasty. You want better than THAT. Heck, there’s even a funny plasticy smell coming out of the doorway! Gross!

You keep walking round the mall, and finally you find a shoe shop that looks just right, and you find the perfect pair of shoes.

Notice what you’ve just done?

You’ve been making judgements on the shops without even setting foot inside them. You were quickly able to guess whether a shop is suitable or not just by looking at their window displays and into their open doorways.

A website home page is like a shop window

The home page is there to entice the right customers to enter.

Think about it in terms of the website user: they’ll be wondering if your business is the right company for them, in terms of products, services, culture, personality, and price.

In short: can your business fulfil their need? Do you have the right solution? And can they trust you?

The reader’s attention span is short

Not only does your website have to convince the reader to hang around – it has to do it very quickly. Website users have short attention spans and make snap decisions. In fact, you have just 5 seconds or less for your website to make a good first impression and to lure the prospect to read on.

It’s a bit like the shoe shop in the mall: you might wander in, thinking that the shop is the right one for you. But then you see the prices, and you walk out again.

Thus your website needs to make a good initial impression, and then earn the reader’s eyeballs for the next 50 seconds.

Yikes, that sounds like a lot for a home page to do!

Yes, your website home page has to work very hard indeed. So make sure that it:

  • Clearly identifies who your target customer is.
  • Demonstrates your understanding of your target customer’s key challenges.
  • Begins to hint at your solution… but don’t go into too much detail. (That’s the job of your Products or Services page.)
  • Sums up what’s unique about your business (i.e. why should they choose you, rather than a competitor?)
  • Conveys that your business is trustworthy and reliable.
  • Looks professional; is easy to use; and has an attractive design.

If you manage to do that successfully, you’ll have an attractive shop window that’ll attract your target customers.

Leaving you to sit back and admire your new shoes when you’re talking to the new clients your website has attracted. 😉

 

What is SEO? A beginner’s guide in plain English…

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about making sure your website gets found online. And the way that most people find websites is via search engines.

Google is the biggest, most popular search engine with approximately 65% of traffic. Their competitors include Yahoo (approximately 15%), Bing (13-14%), plus some smaller players. *

How do search engines work?

We need to have a quick look at how search engines work in order to understand what SEO is all about.

In short, the goal of a search engine is to bring its users the most relevant results possible to their searches.

After all, if a search engine consistently gives you, the user, a load of bad results (e.g. poor quality websites, that don’t reflect what you’re looking for, or spammy websites), you’ll end up using a different search engine. The search engines want you to keep using them, so they want to give you relevant search results.

To give you relevant results leading to good quality websites, the search engines use complex formulae (known as “algorithms”) which look at a variety of factors when ranking websites. The higher the ranking, the more relevant the website is seen to be to the user’s search.

These website  ranking factors include:

  • Keywords: does the website’s content use the same kinds of words as those that the user has input? If so, that’s a notch in your favour. Keywords are good! That’s leads onto the next factor:
  • Information-rich websites: search engines love good quality websites that are rich in unique, well-written content, which is regularly updated. It’s not just search engines that love it, but readers do too. And for the website owner, it’s an opportunity to use a rich variety of keywords, which will help rankings further still.
  • Inbound links: the search engines figure that a good quality website will be linked to from other good quality websites. Notice the word quality: if you have links to your site from spammy websites, it could count against you.
  • Bounce rate: have you ever followed a link to a website; didn’t like what you see; and immediately hit the “back” button to leave the site? That’s called a bounce. A bounce indicates that the website is irrelevant to the user’s search; and a lot of bounces for a particular website tell the search engines that the website isn’t a good quality one. So bounces are bad. (You can see on your website analytics what the bounce rate is for your website.) A high bounce rate is bad; a low bounce rate is good, and it’s one of the factors used by search engines when formulating their rankings.
  • Time on site: again, if users spend a good amount of time on your site, the search engines will figure that your website’s a good one. So the time users spend on your site is another factor addressed in the algorithms.

SEO means that a website owner is actively addressing these ranking factors used in the algorithms. It’s about taking a proactive approach to a website, and increasing its chances of getting good rankings for as wide a variety of search terms as possible. This might sound easy, but the goal posts are continually moving!

Things change over time

The list of ranking factors is a basic one, to give you an overview. But you should also be aware that these algorithms aren’t static – far from it. They’re continually being tweaked and fine-tuned.

So what’s a business owner to do with these changes in the SEO world?

There’s one strategy that’s never changed: and that is to have a well-built website, that’s full with good, information-rich content, and that’s updated regularly.

Don’t be tempted to try and “cheat” the system – it’s not worth it. It’s far better to focus on having a great site that real people (as well as search engines) will enjoy using.

 

* 2011 data from http://www.quantumseolabs.com/blog/seolinkbuilding/bing-google-market-share/

 

What’s best: a contact form or email address?

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

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

You’re working on your website, and you’re umming and ahhing about what to put on your Contact Us page. Should you use an enquiry form, or your email address – or both?

Let’s look at this from your prospects’ point of view

Why are they looking at your Contact page?

Um, probably because they want to get in touch with you, right? So it makes sense to encourage them to do just that, by making it as easy as possible for the customer to connect.

So what makes it easy for the customer to connect?

Well, that can vary from person to person. Let’s look at both contact forms and email addresses…

The case for and against contact forms

Contact forms (or enquiry forms) make it super-easy for customers to get in touch. Readers don’t have to launch their email software; they can easily just type in the info, click “submit” and bingo!

But contact forms aren’t perfect. Have you ever had the experience of filling in a contact form, and never hearing back from the company? And you don’t have a record of what you’ve just sent them, to follow them up?

Frustrating, isn’t it?

And most people will have had a frustrating experience with enquiry forms

Sometimes the frustration might be around the contact form asking you to select why you’re contacting them; and then a sub-menu pops up.

And the darn form won’t send until you’ve worked your way through all these “compulsory” boxes. Yet so often, none of the options seem to apply to you!

Another common frustration with enquiry forms is that you click “submit” and the message disappears into the ether. Often you have no record of what you said; and so often you never hear back from the company you’ve emailed.

If you want to use an enquiry form on your website, a simple (and very customer-friendly) thing to do is to add some words along the lines of:

Please contact us by filling in your details here – you can expect to receive a reply from our friendly team within 2 working days. If you don’t hear back from us by then, it means that something’s gone astray, so please give us a call on 123 456 as your enquiry is important to us.

That should encourage your prospects to submit their info.

The case for and against email addresses

The frustrations with contact forms give the benefits of including your email address: there are no drop-down menus; and you have a record of your message in your Sent Items folder.

The biggest reason you’ll hear for NOT including your email address, is that spambots might harvest your address and you’ll get bombarded with spam.

Um, what would you rather do: delete some spam emails, or miss out on an enquiry that could be worth thousands of dollars?

Most business owners quite happily put up with a bit of spam to ensure they’re not missing out on sales. After all, we’re in business to make sales! It makes no sense at all to miss out on enquiries by not including your email address.

And if you’re really that worried about spam, invest in a spam filter. If your email service provider doesn’t offer one, then look around for an add-on service – or change providers.

Summary

1. Make the contact form as simple as possible; don’t clutter it with lots of drop-down menus and other “compulsory” boxes.

2. Ideally, include an email address AND an enquiry form for ultimate customer-friendliness.

3. Put some friendly words alongside the enquiry form, to let prospects know how soon they can expect a reply, and what they should do if they don’t hear back within that time frame.

4. If you’re worried about spam, invest in a spam filter.

… In short, the most customer-friendly solution is to provide both an enquiry form AND an email address. That’s what’ll maximise your enquiry rate.

 

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.

 

How to get your website visitors to stay for longer

Have you ever looked at your website statistics to find out how long visitors spend on your site? This information is very important for two reasons.

Firstly, if readers are spending a good amount of time on your site, it’s because they’re finding your content useful and engaging – which should hopefully translate into sales for you.

Secondly, the time visitors spend on a site affects your Google rankings. Google is in the business of giving its users links to quality content; the time that people spend on a site is one of the measures of quality.

How long should visitors be spending on your site?

There’s no hard and fast rule as to how long visitors should be spending on your website. That will vary, for example an e-commerce website is likely to have visitors staying for longer than a brochure website, simply because of the whole shopping and checkout process.

Instead of aiming for a set time, a good way to approach this is to have a goal of increasing the average time visitors spend on your site.

How can you get visitors to spend more time on your site?

There are various ways that you can get visitors to spend more time on your site, and they all boil down to good quality content. Here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • Articles and resources: Having good quality reference information is a great way of engaging visitors and getting them to spend more time on your site. Just make sure the information is on your website, and not a link to someone else’s website! Also, make sure that it’s unique information, rather than something you’ve copied from elsewhere.
  • Blog posts: If your blog is part of your website (rather than a standalone blog site) that too is a great way of keeping your visitors engaged. Be sure to update your blog frequently, so there’s plenty of fresh and interesting content for your visitors to read.
  • Videos: Websites don’t have to be about written content: having some good quality, engaging and informative videos are another way to keep people on your site for longer.
  • Fun stuff: This is material which isn’t related to your business, but things that you’re interested in, and that your readers will find interesting too. It could be things like recipes, cartoons, photographs, games, humour… whatever you feel comfortable with.

Summary

Getting people to spend more time on your website isn’t just good for Google rankings. It’ll mean that you’re engaging readers more, so they’re more likely to remember your business – and therefore more likely to buy from you, or recommend your company to their friends and colleagues.

 

How to make your website ridiculously easy (and pleasant) to use

Is your website customer friendly

Is your website customer friendly?

It’s a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon and you’ve done all your chores. Now it’s time to sit in your favourite armchair and indulge in a little bit of television viewing. And oooh look, there’s a new cookery show on, promising to show you how to make easy-but-delicious meals. Perfect!

The TV show gets underway, but rather than relaxing you, it’s irritating you. It’s full of zany camera angles and bizarre zooming in and zooming out. Obviously the producers have decided that their cookery show needs to be a different to all the others… but this is just making you dizzy!

You can’t focus on what’s actually being said.

In frustration, you flick over to another channel.

Websites are no different

Just as you expect a cookery programme to be filmed in a certain way, websites are created in a certain way. The internet has been around for a while now, and people have become used to websites having a standardised layout.

Deviating from this standardised layout won’t do you any favours; it’ll just confuse people. So don’t be tempted to re-invent something that’s become the norm, simply because you think it’s “boring”, or want your site to be different.

If you want happy website users, don’t make them think!

Well, don’t make your website users think ABOUT your website – make them think about what you’re saying! Unusual layouts are just too distracting, and will most likely irritate viewers. Instead of changing TV channels, they’ll go back to Google till they find a site that’s more user-friendly.

How can you make your website user-friendly?

1. Logo in the top left hand corner. That’s where people expect to see it, so make sure that’s where it goes.

2. Hyperlink the logo to the home page. This makes it really simple for web visitors to navigate back to the home page if they’re lost. Many readers expect this functionality, and it’s quite irritating for them if this isn’t set up on your website.

3. Navigation menus. On most brochure-style websites there should be just ONE navigation menu, either horizontally across the top, or vertically down the left hand side. Period.

4. Easily-located contact details. As well as having a separate “Contact Us” page that’s labelled “Contact Us” (don’t be smart and call it anything too different to that), it’s wise to put your contact details on every page, too. There’s no such thing as making it too easy for a prospect to contact you. Plus many of your existing clients may go to your website to look up your phone number – so don’t make them click to find your details.

Summary

If you follow these four steps, your website will be well on the way to being customer friendly. And don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these usability rules: it is surprising how many websites ignore at least one of these. Yet websites that are easy to use are far more likely to generate sales or enquiries – and that’s exactly what we want!

So don’t be tempted to engage the website equivalent of zany camera angles and other techniques that’ll make your customers dizzy. Stick with the recipe that works.

Which fonts are best for websites?

Have you ever been in a restaurant and the plate brought to your table is the size of a serving platter? And not only is the plate massive, but it’s piled full with food.

And this food isn’t to serve your whole group – it’s just for you. While you enjoy your food and have an appetite, the volume of stuff placed in front of you is ridiculous. You can’t even eat half of it, and leave the restaurant feeling over-stuffed and a little unpleasant.

A website that’s crammed with text can have a similar effect

If a website has lots of information that’s hard to read, it can make readers feel a little overwhelmed and anxious. They can’t read or digest the information, because it’s visually too daunting.

The font you use on your website has a role in that

Fonts for websites aren’t just there to look pretty… they have a job to do. And that job is to get read! Some fonts will help with this; some will actually hinder.

Meet the two main types of font: Serif and Sans-Serif

“Serifs” are the little lines (or tails) you see at the end of characters. Open a book, and you’ll see a Serif font. You see, these little tails lead your eye from one letter to the next, so these fonts are ideal for long, printed copy.

 

Serif Font

The little tails are known as “serifs”.

Here are two examples of Serif fonts:

Examples of some popular Serif fonts.

“Sans-Serif” means that the font is without those little lines or tails:

Sans Serif Fonts

Examples of some Sans-Serif fonts… notice how they don’t have those little “tails”?

These Sans-Serif fonts actually make large blocks of text harder to read in print… but they actually work well on a website. You see, people tend to skim read websites, rather than read them word for word, and Sans-Serif fonts aid this.

So which Sans-Serif font should you use on your website?

“Arial” is a popular Sans-Serif font which is simple and clean-looking. “Verdana” is another popular font and was developed by Microsoft to be easy to read on computer screens.

Both of these fonts are good choices for the body copy, i.e. the main text (like this).

It’s OK to use Serif fonts for headings and sub-headings because they’re just short lines of text. But do stick to Sans-Serif fonts for the body copy to make the text as readable as possible.

Once you have chosen a readable font it will make your website so much easier to read. And that means that readers will be far more likely to digest the information they’ve read – without feeling daunted, overstuffed, or intimidated.