Do you have a web-based business? If you don’t, you should consider starting one. If you do, what you’ll notice is that there is always more room for improvement.
Over the past few years, I have started a handful of web-based businesses and consulted a hundred or so. No matter what size company I was working with, I noticed that there were always 8 things (if not more) I could do to improve it.
Hopefully, you are already doing some of these 8 things, but if you aren’t, here they are:
Perfection doesn’t exist
Nothing is ever going to be perfect. You have to get the misconception out of your head that your website has to be perfect. Just look at some of the worst websites on the web. A lot of them make a shit load of money.
So, instead of going the route of creating a perfect website, why not just throw stuff out there and fix it over time? I am not saying your website has to be ugly or non-functional, but I am suggesting you need to realize that your website visitors aren’t as picky as you are.
Keep it simple, stupid
Features, features, and features! Who doesn’t want the latest stuff on their website? Having the latest and greatest of features on your website will make it look cool, but it can also ruin the usability.
Some of the most successful sites on the web are very simple. Just look at Craigslist. There isn’t much to it from a user perspective, but yet it is popular.
A great way to keep things simple is to focus on one major objective. If things fit that objective, do them. If they don’t, don’t waste your time on them.
Ask your users for feedback
Does it really matter what you want? No! All that matters is what the customer wants. Before you make any major changes to your website, consider surveying your visitors.
Find out what they want or don’t want and why. And after you figure that out, dig a bit deeper because a lot of times people will say they want something they will never use.
In other words, surveying your users is a great first step, but you actually need to get to know them to get useful feedback.
Help your visitors trust you
Even if you aren’t, many people are afraid to swipe their credit cards online. If you want convert visitors into customers, you should consider a few things:
- Add testimonials – don’t create fake testimonials—add real ones from real customers. If you don’t have any testimonials, give away your product or service to a few people in exchange for an honest testimonial. And once you have a few testimonials, integrate them into your website, e.g., on the checkout page.
- Badges build trust – whether it is the Better Business Bureau badge or a money back guarantee sign, badges help build trust.
- Contact options – in addition to listing your email address, consider adding a phone number and a live chat option. All of these things will show your visitors that there is a real person behind your website.
- Video clips – it doesn’t matter if you are ugly and have a terrible voice, people want to see and hear from you. Having a video on your website will help build trust.
- Press – if your website gets showcased on any popular blog or in the mainstream media, let your visitors know.
Optimize for conversions
The smallest changes like the color of your call-to-action buttons can drastically affect your conversion rate. Consider testing every aspect of your website’s layout so that you can maximize your conversion rate.
A few things to consider testing that you may have not thought of before:
- Use different fonts. Certain fonts are easier to read than others.
- Test different website copy. All the way from your headlines to the text within your paragraphs, the copy on your website is one of the main things that will affect conversions.
- Remove different elements from your design to see what impact that will have. Typically, having fewer elements will result in more conversions.
- Try different variations of your website’s background color.
- For your call-to-action buttons, don’t just test how different colors perform. Test how different shades of a color perform.
- If you have pages that are very long and your goal is to get people to read all your content, try adjusting the color of your scroll bars. Different color scroll bars can affect the number of visitors who actually scroll through your content.
In addition to that, make sure you check out popular sites like Amazon, who have already invested millions of dollars in optimizing their conversions. There is nothing wrong with copying.
Optimize your website for search engines
An easy way to get more traffic to your website is through search engine optimization. Two detailed guides that go over search engine optimization are the Beginner’s Guide to SEO and Optimizing Your Blog for Search Engines.
The guides above are long and may be overwhelming, so I’ll give you a few ideas to start with here:
- Make sure your URL structures are clean. You don’t want extraneous characters (* & % $ =) in your URLs. Ideally, a URL should only consist of numbers and letters. Dashes are also acceptable, but try not to use underscores.
- Both your title tags and meta description tags should be unique on every page of your website. They should also be descriptive of what the page is about, and readable. And don’t stuff keywords into your title and description tag—it’s the last thing you want to do.
- Create an XML sitemap that includes all your URLs, and submit it to the major search engines. This will help them index your pages faster.
- Google Image Search can drive a ton of traffic as long as you describe what each image on your website is about. Bots can’t look at an image and understand what it is. By using alt tags to describe each image, you help search engines do a better job of categorizing your images.
- When you read a book, how do you know what a certain chapter is about? Headings, right? Just like the way books use headings, use headings on your website. You do this by using of H1, H2, H3, and H4 tags.
- The most important aspect of search engine optimization is links. The more websites link to you, the higher your chances of getting more search engine traffic are. So, creating a good website is the first step in increasing your chances of getting other websites linking to you, but it isn’t enough. You have to get creative and leverage social media sites like Digg or create things that are viral such as games or quizzes.
There are hundreds of other things you can also do to improve your SEO, but the six things I mentioned above are a great start. Nonetheless, I still recommend you read the two guides that I linked to above.
Sell, sell, sell, and then sell some more
If you already have people coming to your website who are purchasing, why not up-sell to them? Just look at sites like GoDaddy. Have you seen how many times they up-sell?
There is nothing wrong with up-selling to your existing user base. Up-selling converts very well because the customer already has some faith in your company.
But before you start up-selling, take a look at the emails Amazon sends, and walk through the GoDaddy checkout process. Hopefully, those two sites will spur some creative ideas that will help you up-sell to your customers.
Step outside of your little box
Your web-based business doesn’t end with your website—it starts with it. If you want to grow it, you have to start looking at some of the new hip media around the web such as Facebook.
Does your company have a fan page on Facebook? And if you do, are you also leveraging Twitter?
The possibilities are endless. If small companies like The Purse Blog can make money through their Facebook fan page and big companies like Dell can generate 3 million in sales through Twitter, it’s possible for you to leverage the social web.
In addition to this list, there are a ton of other things you can do to improve your web-based business. Although you should never stop looking for new opportunities, you have to prioritize the tasks you need to do for your website.
Typically, the answer is going to be: go after the lowest hanging fruit.
Anyone else have any ideas to share?
P.S. If you want more ways to improve your business or need a helping hand, click here.