Guest Blogger Series Part 5: Gail Gardner has been involved in the computer industry since the late 1970s, originally servicing hardware, and as a Project Manager for data processing centers, banks, and retailers.
Since 2003, she has worked exclusively in online marketing, specializing in optimizing blogs and ecommerce sites, pay per click advertising, and Local Search listings. You can find her at www.GrowMap.com.
By Gail Gardner
When you know how to evaluate what you offer your potential buyers through your efforts online, you can greatly increase your sales and profitability. These concepts apply to your activities here at Merchant Circle and in other communities and Social Networks, your blog, and your store.
You must have a very clear idea what you hope your visitors will do and then make it obvious to them too!
You know what your business does, but can those who visit you immediately tell? If they can't they will simply click away! The layout and design of your business site either increases your sales or reduces them. Make how to use your site obvious and focus on answering your visitors' questions and your sales will go up.
Here is an easy way to test. Print out your home page, hand it to random people, and ask them what the business on that page does. If they can't tell you by a quick look at the header of your site you have some work to do. The sooner you complete it the faster your sales will start improving.
First, develop a slogan that lets others know what your site is all about and what makes your business unique. This is often called a USP and belongs near your business name in your header on every page of your store, blog or Web site. With this short phrase you let potential buyers know why they have landed on your site and why they should stay.
To make a really strong first impression, seriously consider having a professionally designed logo developed. As we have all heard forever, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Logos are the best way to make your site memorable. Use a matching Avatar in your Social Networking profiles and on any sites that provide room for a photo. Think of these as reminders for your visitors to return.
Besides your logo, business name, and slogan, there are specific items that belong at the top of your Web site including links to important pages (about, contact, faqs, shipping info). Your checkout or shopping cart should be in the top right corner. This is where major sites such as Amazon position it and where your buyers will expect it to be.
Provide a search box near the top right of each page. If you have a store with many products, upgrading your search function is critical. If visitors can not find what they want they won't be able to buy it. Test yours by searching for very specific items by brand, name, and color. Only improved search functions handle this type of search well.
Now that your visitors know why they should buy from you and can easily find the products they are interested in, to increase your conversions – and conversions are far more important than more traffic – buyers must feel:
They can trust you
The product is exactly what they are seeking and worth the money
All of their questions have been answered
Do everything you can to help them feel comfortable buying from you. Put a photo of your business on your about page. (Conversions go up when people visit that page just before checking out!)
Make sure you can be contacted. Provide phone numbers and an address on your site. Consider using services such as BuySafe, OnlineBBB, TrustGuard, ShopperScanned, SiteSafe, Authorize Net, or McAfee Secure.
Add testimonials to your site and links to reviews of your business and products. Reviews are how the public finds trustworthy businesses. Being an active member of Merchant Circle can increase the number of reviews you receive. A great way to start is by reviewing other businesses here.
Provide all the information you possibly can on each product. Consider using more than one image. Be sure your descriptions contain everything they need to know: size, color, material. The best advice on this I ever heard was from Marsha Collier, author of the eBay for Dummies book. She said to provide written descriptions so strong that you don't need photos and photos so clear that you don't need written descriptions. Although few sites today are that good it is a great target.
Unless you answer every question your visitors have they are not going to buy! Consider installing Live Chat and having someone available as much as possible. Volusion Live Chat offers an excellent free option. Being available to answer quick questions will greatly increase your conversion rate.
Once your site is converting well then you can focus on increasing traffic. Merchant Circle can assist you there too. Creating coupons gets your listing additional exposure. The Merchant Circle Blog function is easy to learn. (If you get stuck just ask us and we'll explain how it works.) Use it to learn to blog or if you already have another blog consider posting in your Merchant Circle blog to let your friends here know about new posts.
The tips above and the links provided to additional information can assist you in increasing your sales and profitability. Visit the GrowMap blog for additional information on the above concepts, for free ways to increase your traffic using Social Networking, blogging and incoming linking, or to ask any questions you may have on growing your business. You can also follow us at Twitter.
This marks the conclusion of our Guest Blogger Series. You can go back and read posts from Andrew Shotland, John Jantsch, Dane Carlson, and Professor Samuel Bornstein. That you to all our contributors!