Is your website under-performing? Or worse, not performing at all?
Chances are you’re making one or more of these major mistakes:
1. Your copy isn’t edited. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, typos, even bad sentence structure ’break up’ your message and undermine your professional credibility.
These not-so-little mistakes interrupt the smooth flow of information and distract the reader’s attention from your message. They also make a terrible impression. It doesn’t matter how little your product or service has to do with your writing ability, or who your target audience is: You’ll come off looking unprofessional, careless, or even inept.
2. Your copy is written for print. Web copy is different. You can’t just take your print ad copy or promotional literature and paste it onto your web pages. Neither can you just slap your message across the screen.
Good web copy is more like a letter to a friend than a promotional flyer to a stranger. It’s personal; it conveys not just information, but your ‘voice’. At the same time it must be persuasive and interesting enough to capture and hold a typically short-spanned web user’s attention.
Speaking of which…like newspaper articles, web copy should flow in a reverse pyramid; with the most important points made first. Even more so than newspapers, online good headlines are vital and it should be immediately obvious what the message is about.
3. Your site is too cluttered. Too many text boxes, widgets, images, ads, etc, and none of them will get their message across.
More than 3 colours, more than 2 fonts, long lists of links, categories, tags in the sidebar… It’s a visual barrage and a total turn-off. Choose 1 or 2 important messages and focus the front page of your site on them, using clean lines and eye-soothing fonts that go easy on your user.
NOTE: This is especially important now that Google search result listings offer site previews on hover. And the preview image is small. If a user hovers over your preview and sees a complicated mess, they’re going to keep moving down the page until they find a more appealing site.
4. Your site isn’t user-friendly. If your site isn’t easy to navigate, takes too long to load, or sends users searching for the information they want, your visitors will get frustrated and won’t wish to come back. Worse, they’ll associate this sense of frustration with your business – not just your website.
Make sure your ‘contact’ page is included in your main menu so visitors don’t have to search the site if they want to get in touch with you. Include a ‘search’ bar in, or close to, your header so visitors can find specific material easily. These and other seemingly minor details make all the difference in the all-important ‘UX’ – user experience.
5. Your site is boring. This is a deadly sin online. The user’s finger is like an old lady’s foot on the brake pedal. Poised to click at the first sign of boredom, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to send them bouncing off your site.
Even the most mundane information, product or service in the world can be presented in an interesting way. Use bright, colourful images and break up long posts & articles with headers, bullet points and numbered lists. Interactive elements like galleries and polls provide interest for your visitor & marketing benefits to you. Display your portfolio in a slideshow rather than a long (or worse, short) list of links.
Be creative in how your present your material and make sure your copy is lively and relateable. The more inherently unexciting your business is, the better your copy has to be to hold attention.
6. Your site looks amateurish or old-fashioned. And no, it’s NOT ‘better than nothing’.
Online users are sophisticated and their expectations are high. Your visitors know what a site can be; they will compare you to other sites and at best, be unimpressed with you. At worst, they’ll bounce from your website with a snort of contempt and dismiss your business as cloddish and inept.
If you can’t put up a professional-looking site, you’d be better off sticking with a great Facebook page or Google Places listing.
7. Your target audience is ‘Everybody’. Let’s be realistic: everybody doesn’t care about you or what you offer. You’re wasting your time talking to them.
Is your actual business geared towards ‘everybody’? I’m guessing not. You have a target market and a customer or client profile that you market to. Well, your website needs a specific target, too. Create a detailed profile of your quintessential audience; one person, or a small group with defining characteristics.
Be specific. Who are they? What are their lives like? What kind of jobs / interests / pursuits do they have? What is their age and income bracket? What are their online interests? What are they looking for on your site? What can you offer them that they want? And so on. The more developed the profile, the better you can communicate with them and the more effective your message will be.
8. It’s not immediately obvious what you do. Unless you’re world-famous, your business name, logo and a witty tagline are not enough.
Like a good business card, the header, or at least the first screen, of your website should make it immediately apparent who you are and what you have to offer. Don’t leave it to people to figure it out - they probably won’t bother.
So, for example: “Sunrise Consultations – Learn from the past, Plan for the future, Work for today” is very clever and looks good on the company letterhead; but “Sunrise Consultations” could be anything – a freelance tech developer, a marketing firm, a team of personal development coaches or fundraising specialists. It may not sound as poetic, but “Sunrise Consultations – Offering the best in corporate training and human resource development” tells people exactly what they need to know about you, right away. Note also that it contains relevant key search words for the fictional Sunrise Consultations, an important element of SEO.
9. Your site has no call to action. It’s simple: If you want people to do more than read your copy, you have to tell them what to do, how to do it, and why they should bother.
A clear call to action is an invitation to take another step; whether it’s visiting your online gallery, clicking for a free download, or signing up for your newsletter. It’s not tacky or pushy; or at least, it doesn’t have to be. ”Sign up now for regular updates”; “Download your free copy now”; ”Become a member today”; or even “Buy Now!” all promote actions that you are otherwise relying on your guests to arrive at on their own.
10. You’re not incorporating SEO. You don’t have to be, or even hire, a professional SEO consultant to implement the basic principles of search engine optimization.
Do a little research into the top search words for your industry/ niche market. Create and insert meta titles, descriptions and tags based on your findings: these determine how your listings will appear and where. Find businesses to backlink with – clicks to your site from an industry-relevant website act as a sort of recommendation to search engines. These ‘votes’ help build page ranking, which in turn affects how your listing shows up.
Most importantly, incorporate keywords and phrases into your content. To be effective, online copy must include the relevant search words to the SERPs (search engine results pages) you are vying for. The most persuasive copy in the world won’t do you much good if nobody finds your page to read it.