November 22, 2007
Every website needs links. However, because not all sites are created equal, not every website needs the same amount of links or the same kind of links.
Links are like referrals. If you run a sporting goods store and you’ve got somebody in your store that’s looking to buy golf clubs, you’re only going to refer them to one of your salespeople. However, if you’re running a local golf conference, you’ll be handing out business cards left and right for golf instructors, golf pros, golf courses and golf stores for every person who asks.
Good linking is but one step in optimizing your website, but it’s an important one. The links you use should enhance your site, not detract from it or, even worse, drive visitors away.
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of the links on your site.
Links on sales sites versus knowledge sites
If you run a sales site, you want to limit the outbound links you have for one simple purpose: you’re trying to sell these people something, so you want to keep them on your site as long as possible.
If visitors click on a link and it whisks them away to a new site, then you’ve upped the chances of them not returning. Even if you’re linking something important like the Better Business Bureau or Verisign, you want them to pop up in a new window, rather than the current one.
It’s like having a customer walk into your store, then ushering them right back out with directions to the Better Business Bureau down the street. They may even run across one of your competitors in the meantime.
Links on a knowledge site
If you’re running a knowledge site, on the other hand, you should include as many outbound links as you can.
If you’re running a golf information site, for example, you wouldn’t just want to bring people to your site and leave them there. You would want to link to the best sites to purchase golf clubs. You’d link to golf courses and country clubs. If you had an article comparing golf clubs, you’d want to link each golf club brand’s website.
You want people to be able to get the information in the best way possible, and you want them to be able to retrace your researching steps. This way, they know you’re trustworthy, and it adds credibility to your site if you provide your users with ways to get more of the information that they seek.
For tips on linking, and especially evaluating link quality, check out this article: http://entirewebs.blogspot.com/2007/11/eleven-things-that-define-what-quality.html
Limit the clicks it takes to buy
The great thing about the Internet is that so much of it is instantaneous. Want to send a strongly worded letter to a newspaper or comment on a blog? No problem; just click a button and type away. In real life, you have the chance to hem and haw over what you write before you actually write it.
The same goes for sales online. Granted, you don’t want to take people to the “Congratulations on your purchase” page immediately, but the more links you have in the buying process, the greater the chance you have of your customers being overwhelmed by buyer’s remorse, just like in real life. They’ll talk themselves out of purchasing your product and click away, never to be seen again.
Take a look at how many clicks it takes to buy something on your site. Now imagine being a customer with credit card in hand, clicking through each of those pages, enthusiasm waning as the pages continue with no end in sight. Buyer’s remorse sets in, and with yet another confirmation staring them in the face, your potential customers say, “Forget it,” and close out of your site.
Cut down on this effect by eliminating the number of steps it takes to purchase a product. Make your conversion funnel as simple as you possibly can, and you’ll reduce the chance of customers hitting the wall of buyer’s remorse before they hit the “buy now” button.
Limit their options
Don’t limit customers’ options in terms of what you offer, but merely in what you allow them to do once they’ve hit a sales page. Too many links here will reduce the chance of you making a sale.
Once they get to a sales page, give them two choices: buy now (or try now), or go back. The “go back” option is sort of like a safety net for customers. If they get uncomfortable or change their minds, they have an easy out. The fewer the options, the better than chance you have of them clicking the “buy now” button.
Implement a follow-up
If customers do decide to abandon your site, a follow-up would be immensely helpful. If they leave in the middle of the buying process and you have their contact information, send a short email with an ad or perhaps a limited time discount on the item they were searching for, or a similar one. Take advantage of the impulse buy.
It might also be a good idea to ask them why they decided to abandon. If several customers are abandoning your site at a certain time in the process, then maybe something is wrong with your site. Asking for feedback is a great way to help you fix what’s wrong and keep your site working best for your customers.
Don’t just throw links on your website and pray. Take the time to utilize them effectively, and the links will pay off in big dividends for your site.
Author: President and founder of Xeal Inc., Tony D. Baker is Oklahoma’s leading Internet marketing expert with more than 10 years of Internet marketing experience. You can catch Tony on the Xeal Radio Show on Sunday nights on 1170 KFAQ Tulsa. Sign up for a free 25-point website evaluation and pick up crucial tips at Xeal’s free Thursday webinar at http://www.xeal.com/webinar.