Another year has passed and a new one has dawned. It’s an exciting time to have an online business. More consumers have computers and Internet connections than ever before, and people are more comfortable buying things online than in years past.
As an administrator and consultant on over 100 domain names and web sites, I get to hear all the stories of what works and what doesn’t from individuals and small business promoting their online businesses.
Based on my own experiences and those of my clients, I wanted to share with you a list of 6 essential steps any webmaster can take to make their website more successful in 2006.
A full copy of this Article, as well as links to all the tools mentioned in it is available at:
1. Ensure you have a reliable web host
Nothing loses a sale faster or creates a worse impression than your web site being unavailable. It’s especially costly when a potential customer is looking to spend money right away. Unless you’re fortunate enough to be in a business with no competition (if so let me know what business that is) website downtime could cost you sales!
So many times I hear people bragging about their $2.99/month web host and how much money they’re saving on hosting. What they don’t realize, until they test their uptime, is that the potential sales they lose when their web site is unavailable are far more costly than paying a little more for a reputable web host.
Several services are available to test your website’s uptime. Anything less than 99.9% is unacceptable for a business site. Check out http://www.infinityws.com/ and test your site for a month. For $13.00 you can find out for sure where your site stands.
2. Get a fresh modern look for your web site
First impressions are important to potential customers. On the Internet your web site is all you get to make a first impression. If you haven’t updated the look and feel of your website in a year or two it may be time to consider updating your site.
Make sure your copyright dates are current, but also leave your initial copyright dates on to show the customers that you are an established business. For instance, on my site my copyright reads 1999-2006. People will be more comfortable buying from you if they know your site has been around for a few years.
Check out http://www.templatesresource.com/ for a selection of over 2000 web templates (all under $19.95.) Use a template to get a jump start on your new site design. Depending on your level of expertise in web design you may still need to hire someone to help customize the template you choose to your business. Even so, having a template start with will drastically reduce development costs.
3. Check your site’s compatibility with all browsers and operating systems
Everyone knows the bulk of internet traffic is going to be Windows users with Internet Explorer 6 but that doesn’t mean you should ignore everyone else.
I tallied up a summary of over 2,000,000 hits from the latter portion of 2005 to find that IE6 users make up about 75% of the web traffic to the average site that I administer. If your site only displays properly for IE6 users you could be losing up to 25% of your sales due to browser incompatibility.
Unless you have several computers and a lot of spare time you won’t be able to test all the combinations yourself to know how your site looks on other systems. Fortunately NetMechanic has a service that solves this problem for $15. Check out: http://www.netmechanic.com/browser-index.htm for details on the service. Chances are you’ll be shocked by how your site looks in different browsers!
4. Add fresh and relevant content to your site
Search engines love it, and your site visitors love it, it’s a win-win scenario. Many people say they can’t write or don’t know what content to add to their site, but neither is an excuse anymore.
RSS feeds are a great way to keep automatically updating content on your site with no day-to-day work for you or your web designer. You simply plug a feed of your choice into your website and when the writer updates their feed your site automatically updates with the new content.
Another great way to add content is using royalty free articles. Writers and site owners write them specifically for you to use on your site. The only condition is that you keep a link to their site and their name on the article. It’s a small price to pay for adding relevant content and keywords to your site.
RSS Equalizer is a program that helps you find and manage RSS Content for your site.
Article Equalizer is a great program that helps you find and manage Articles for your site.
5. Make it easy for customers to contact you, and be sure to respond quickly
Putting your email address on your page with a mailto:// link is only going to ensure that you get more spam than you can imagine. It not only takes up your time to delete the spam but it also increases the likelihood that you will miss real messages in the process.
The best solution to this is using a contact us web form. This type of form never reveals your email address for spam crawlers to spam but ensures that customers can get a message to you easily. Contact forms are available for all web server types either via CGI, or ASP, or PHP. Most hosting providers have sample forms that are compatible with their hosting packages available to their clients. If your hosting provider won’t work with you to set up a contact us form it’s time to find a new host.
Once your contact form is functioning and you get a contact from a customer, don’t delay in responding! Be sure to respond professionally and in a friendly manner. When someone is looking to buy, getting a quick and polite answer can be a big factor in deciding to continue the purchase.
6. Advertise professionally and affordably
Once you’ve followed the steps above and your website is in good order and ready for whoever visits it, consider doing some advertising. Google AdWords are a great way to get some low cost, highly targeted traffic to your site.
AdWord Generator is a great program that helps you brainstorm and create profitable Ads.
AdWord Analyzer helps you find the most profitable and low cost keywords to run your PPC ads on.
May 2006 bring great success to you and your web site!
About The Author
Chuck Hall is the owner of Binary Pros, a custom software development and consulting firm specializing in Internet marketing products and tools for webmasters.