October 16, 2007
Most Saturdays, I conduct a free networking and brainstorming call, where we critique and give makeovers to 2-3 websites. On the weeks that we don’t review websites, the calls are generally “open discussion” of Internet marketing issues.
These calls are just another tool in my very effective marketing arsenal, and you can join them by registering at: http://WillieCrawford.com/free-brainstorming-calls.html
During most weeks, I get dozens of joint venture proposals, and several potential new clients who want me to evaluate the potential of a project that they’re working on.
Many of the joint ventures that I turn down, and many of the clients that I reject, are for the same reason. Their websites are so poorly written that I know that the websites won’t convert. I rarely do outside copywriting, but I often suggest revamping their websites before they move forward.
With the sites reviewed on my calls, and with the sites I look at for other reasons, I notice many of the same mistakes. Here are 12 of the most common:
1) The Site Has No Focus.
A website should be designed with its primary purpose in mind. You should have ONE thing that you’d really like most visitors to your page to do. Almost everything on that page should lead the visitors toward deciding to take that primary action. Nothing on the page should distract them and “lead them off down other trails.”
Common primary actions that you’ll want your visitor to take are to join your list, buy your product, download a free trial version, or join an online community. Make sure that you know what you want your visitors to focus on, and get rid of the other distractions. It’s been proven that if you give your visitors too many choices, or confuse them, they will simply choose to leave!
2) The Site Has No Email Capture Mechanism.
Most honest copywriters will tell you that in most Internet marketing type niches, a 1-2% response rate to a sales letter is VERY respectable. You’ve worked very hard to get visitors to your site, and if you completely ignore the 98% who don’t buy you’re not going to be in business very long.
Incorporate a form into your website that gets them into an autoresponder so that you can follow-up with them. Offer them a free report, access to an MP3 on the topic, or access to an exclusive community. Get them to opt-in, and then you can follow up with them on their topic of interest.
Your opt-in form can be set up “in-line” as a part of the webpage, and even take them back to the point on the webpage where they were reading before they stopped to opt-in. You can also have an exit popup, or pop- under, that offers them a freebie as they’re leaving your site. Once they’ve decided to leave, you’ll probably NEVER see them again unless you have a way to invite them back. An autoresponder is the perfect way to do this automatically.
3) The Owner is “Hiding Behind the Website.”
Web surfers are skeptical and distrusting. You need to let them know that there is a real person behind the site. Give them contact information, show them your photo, and even let them hear you. You can easily add audio or video to your website, and allow it to “touch” your visitor on such a deeper level. When people hear your voice or see you talking, and get to watch your body language, you communicate so much more effectively than just the written word.
To add audio to your website, all you need is a microphone plugged into your computer. To add video to your website, all you really need is a webcam plugged into your computer. There are services that will take this audio or video, allow you to edit it with a few clicks of your mouse, and then stream it from their servers or upload it to your server.
A totally amazing service that I use is called Audio Acrobat. I use it to have customers, subscribers, etc., call in and leave testimonials. I use it to record some teleseminars, interviews, product recommendations, and for dozens of other purpose. I do record video from my webcam to this service too. You can also upload video recorded on a regular video camera to this service, and then stream it from their website.
As I said, I LOVE Audio Acrobat. If you want to check it out, you can get a free 30-day trial from here: http://williec.audioacrobat.com/ It’s where I have dozens of testimonial lines, dozens of audios, and a few videos. It’s also how I save on my web hosting bandwidth 😉
4) The Owner of the Site Offers No Credentials.
The very first question I ask when reading a magazine article, watching a television show, or reading a web page, is “What makes this person qualified to teach ME this topic.” Most web surfers don’t trust you, and believe that most Internet sites are out to rip them off. You need to show them that your experience and training makes you qualified to teach them the topic. In addition to formal credentials a professional looking website also shows that you are a serious business person. Don’t skimp on your website’s design!
5) Not Offering Proof of Statements.
It’s natural for you to say how great you and your product are. That means nothing to potential customers. Get others to share how your product improved their lives. Use media interviews, and statements by officials in professional organizations, to provide third-party validation.
Testimonials with photos, audio, or video, are very powerful. Testimonials with just a set of initials, or with just a first name, have NO credibility.
6) Offering the Wrong Payment Options.
The majority of Internet users prefer to pay via credit card. If your product allows you to do it, and still make a satisfactory profit, consider taking orders through an answering service or call center, via fax, via snail mail, and through third party processors such as Paypal as well. Evaluate each of these options and decide which of these make sense for you. As an aside, I once considered even offering my customers the option to order C.O.D (cash on delivery). My local postmaster strongly suggested that I NOT do that and also pointed out that it’s almost never done these days. He convinced me that it was more trouble than it was worth.
7) Using the Wrong or Too Many Fonts.
When you use different sizes and colors of letters on your webpage you need to have a real reason. When you highlight or underline text on your webpage you need to have a logical reason.
As your site visitor reads your webpage, he will subconsciously ask himself why you emphasized a certain word or sentence on the page. If you had no logical reason, you pull him out of your message as his mind “wrestles with the why.”
Your page should be structured such that a “skimmer” could just read the headlines and sub headlines and get the message. He should be able to read just the highlighted text and get the gist of your webpage. He should be able to just go to the bottom of the page, read the “P.S.” where you’ve restated your offer, and order without being forced to read the rest of the page… if he’s in a hurry.
8) Using Header Graphics that Distract from the Message.
Your header graphic should spell out or emphasize the main benefit of your product. It should be simple enough that the visitor is not forced to waste time trying to decipher its meaning.
Sometimes, it’s better not to even have a header graphic. This is something you should test. You want to get your visitor reading the text on your page and discovering how your product can help him, as soon as practical. This is what will sell him… not cute or fancy graphics.
9) Not Focusing on Benefits Rather than Features.
Don’t tell your visitor how great the product is, tell him how it will improve his life. Your testimonials should also provide concrete, and very specific, examples of how it improved someone else’s life.
10) Focusing on “I” Rather than “You!”
Look at your webpage and make sure that it talks about the customer and his problem more than it talks about you, your company, and your products. Your customers don’t really care about you. They care about how you can help them! Read through your copy and make sure that it answers that question. Make sure that you’re not talking about yourself too much, and that when you do talk about yourself, it’s answering the question of how you can help the reader.
11) Not Emphasizing the Guarantee.
When a customer purchases with a credit card, or through certain third-party processors, the guarantee is implied anyway. So, why not make your guarantee a selling point? If a customer goes to Visa or MasterCard and states that they are unhappy with their purchase from you, they will get their money back in most cases… and you’ll pay an extra fee for the “chargeback.” If a customer goes to Clickbank or Paypal with a complaint, they will end up issuing a refund in many cases.
Make it easy on yourself by offering and honoring a guarantee. It will increase your conversion rate, and unless your product is total JUNK, it won’t increase your refund rate.
12) Not Using a P.S.
Many busy surfers will jump right to the end of your webpage and read the P.S.(s). If they were somewhat pre-sold before they arrived at your page, many will go ahead and purchase at that time. Use the P.S.(s) to restate your offer, emphasize the guarantee, showcase your bonuses, and to emphasize any scarcity factor in the offer.
The bottom line is that, if your sales page is horrific, it’s pointless to drive traffic to the site. Fix the page before you do anything else, or you’re just wasting time and frustrating yourself.
A well-written webpage is so pivotal to the sales process that many professional copywriters will often rewrite bad sales letters. When they discover great products that they KNOW would sell if the products’ owners just had better copy, they will often rewrite bad sales letters, pre-sell the products, and then send the “ready-to-buy” customers directly to the order form.
My friend and colleague, Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, recognized the value in revamping bad sales letters so much that he went as far as to set up a membership site, offering members rewritten sales letters for Clickbank products in hot niches. You can check out what Dr. Mike has done, and join his site, if he hasn’t already closed memberships, at: http://FixingTerribleWebpages.com Tell him that I sent you.
Fix the 12 common errors covered above and your website will be more effective than 99% of direct sales websites out there. Don’t fix these mistakes, and your sales won’t increase, but at-least now you will understand why.
Author: Willie Crawford has been teaching Internet marketing for over 9 years. Take advantage of his uncanny insights and unusual candor by subscribing to his free, information- packed newsletter. Also visit his top-rated blog. Do both at: http://WillieCrawford.com/ezine.html