Create a Website that Draws a Crowd
We've talked about how to turn visitors into your best
customers using email marketing, but what about your online
presence? How do you create a new website or improve your
existing website to increase your online success? This week
our friend, and award-winning business writer and author,
Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts gives us some great tips on writing
and designing a website that gets results!
Create a Website that Draws a Crowd
Your website is your face to the world; it's unlike any
other form of marketing or selling you'll ever do. If you
want a website that people flock to, it needs to be rich in
content and functionality.
Whether you are working with a professional to design
your Website, or going it on your own, you must understand
and maximize the contribution you make to the success of
your site. Here are some important things to consider:
Clarify your goals
Years ago people built websites just to have a
cyber-presence. Today's Websites can do much more. So
first, determine what you want your site to do. Do you
want it to be an online brochure? Will it be
educational? Will it be a sales vehicle? Are you doing
e-marketing or e-commerce?
Determine key words and phrases
You must determine the words or phrases your audience
will use to find your site. If an attorney uses
"matrimonial attorney" and people search under "divorce
lawyer," they won't find that attorney. If you're a
money lender, for example, you may use "factoring,"
"asset-based loans," and "bridge loans."
Remember that first impressions are key
Always put the good stuff first. Think of your home page
as a giant magazine rack. Your audience scans the front
cover of the magazine. Within 8 seconds, they'll decide
to stay or look elsewhere, so make sure you capture
their attention right away.
Write for your audiences
Remember that your site should be about your audience,
not just about you! You must understand and be able to
convey "what's in it for them." Benefits and features
work well. Look at the websites of your competitors to
see how they tantalize (or frustrate).
Write for readability
Web audiences want instant information. Therefore, you
must keep the text concise-often much shorter than its
print equivalent. Here's how to give your audience the
information they want quickly:
- Write headlines that give key information.
(Pattern your headlines after those you see in a
- Limit paragraphs to 8 lines of text.
- Use bulleted lists.
- Make effective use of white space and
Think about the content and how the average person will
access your pages. Keep the topic and content of each
page focused, making each page one complete thought or
idea. This means that each page should be able to stand
alone. People have different browsing styles, so they'll
enter your website from different paths. Therefore, you
should consider providing your key information on
several pages of your site.
Link to other sites
No matter how great your content is, don't waste the
most valuable feature of the web-links. You've probably
found that one of the best experiences you have on the
web is the serendipity of stumbling upon a cool website
you didn't know existed. When you provide useful links,
your website becomes a valuable resource that your
audience will return to, and recommend to others.
Build in tracking
You must be able to quantify the return on investment (ROI)
of your website by measuring the activity of visitors,
e-marketing, e-mails, faxes, and phone calls. It is
critical to know who visits your site and how often.
Publicize your site
What good is your wonderful site if people don't know it
exists or how to find it? Here are some ways to
publicize your site after it's published:
- Include the URL on your letterhead, business
cards, and e-newsletters (Some people print out
e-newsletters and distribute them.)
- Add the URL to the signature portion of all your
- Post it to appropriate newsgroups.
- Send out a press release, if that's appropriate
for your business.
Keep your site current
A static site is a boring site. A static site may work
for some businesses, but you want to give people a
reason to return. A good way to keep your site current
is to include new links, industry tips and trends, and
any other information your audience will find useful.
There are a number of reasons that websites aren't
successful. Here are just a few:
- Lack of key words: You must
have the key words people will use to search for
your site. Otherwise, they won't know you're there.
These words must be peppered throughout the site
because you may not know where people enter.
- Bleeding-edge technology: Your
site isn't New York City's Times Square. Don't use
images that have an overpowering effect on the human
peripheral vision just because you can. That's akin
to generating documents that look like circus
posters just because you have a word processor.
Include only what you need and what's appropriate
for your business.
- Hard-to-read colors: People
still use black backgrounds with yellow lettering,
or something equally awful. Use appropriate,
- Outdated information: Keep your
site current. You need a web gardener to weed your
web garden and replant new flowers. An outdated site
is the sign of an outdated company.
- Long downloads: Human factors
guidelines show that audiences lose interest after 8
seconds. Many people still use dial-up modems, and
download time may be a significant factor for your
As Internet access grows across the globe, so do
translation and download problems. Following are some
guidelines to help meet the needs of a worldwide audience:
Work with a translator
If the site is to be translated, identify the languages.
Send text, menus, and entries to the translator to learn
of potential problems. For example, in other languages
nouns may not have similar conventions and many words
and phrases we typically use may be offensive.
Be aware of download time
There are many parts of the world that have slow modems
with Internet access billed by the minute. Users in
these regions (and many are right here in the United
States) will visit sites that are quick to download.
Site must be printable
There are also parts of the world where Internet access
is very expensive and users often share computers.
People print out websites and distribute hard copy
Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts, Principal of Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts
& Associates, is an award-winning business writer and the
author of 18 books. She's written brochures, proposals,
video scripts, and Web text that have paved the way for
clients to close multi-million dollar deals. You can contact
Sheryl at 508-229-8209 or check out