Friday, May 09, 2008

Your Website Is Beautiful - But Where Are The Profits?

Most new e-business owners realize they need a website that looks professional. But how elaborate do you need to be? How much energy, creativity and money should you invest so that visitors gasp, "Wow – what a beautiful website?"

Experienced business owners know: Your goal is to create a website that sells, not a site that wins the electronic version of Miss Universe. Most of the time you'll want to win sales contests – not beauty contests.

Remember the commercial about the beer and the dog? A man sends his dog into the kitchen to get him a beer. We hear sounds of a refrigerator opening and a can opener humming…and then we hear lapping sounds. Oh no! The dog is drinking the beer!

Great commercial, right? Except … can you remember the brand of beer?

And of course we've all seen that big pink battery-powered rabbit. But many viewers can't remember the sponsor's brand.

(1) Emphasize your marketing message.

Recently I heard a speaking professional say, "My speaking wardrobe is designed to avoid calling attention to me. When the audience is thinking, 'What a beautiful suit!' or 'What a mess!" they're not listening to my message."

Your website works the same way. Stay focused on the content.

(2) Use graphics sparingly.

Graphics take awhile to load. And what sells your product? Not graphics – copy.

Research shows visitors seek information. So use graphics to convey specific messages. A fitness site could show a before-and-after. And real estate sites can show examples of real houses.

(3) Use meaningful graphics.

One award-winning site featured a menu on an elaborately drawn 3-ring notebook. The words were hard to read and frankly I'm not sure I remember what the site was all about. A 3-ring binder could be a calendar, a student notebook, or …

But let's say you want to target a business audience. You'd show pinstripes and briefcases. Sure, your target market wears business casual and carries canvas. But they'll pick up the symbolism, especially if you're trying to differentiate yourself from a leisure or family market.

(4) Skip flash and frames (usually).

You probably know this already. Search engines don't like frames and your visitors will get impatient waiting for flash to load.

If you're a famous musician (like Coldplay) or author (like Lawrence Block) you can create an elaborate site and your fans will wait half an hour, if need be. They'll expect something out of the ordinary.

And if you're a web designer, you probably need to showcase some of your tricks.

But most of the time, I believe websites are like basketball games. Web copy is out on the court, putting points on the board. Readers look for smooth moves and sharp uniforms but they're mostly paying attention to the action.

Graphics remain on the side, cheering the team. But let's face it: most of us don't come to a game to watch the pep squad.

(5) Create a great headline for each page.

Research shows, over and over, that readers respond first to your headline. If they're intrigued, they'll go on to read your copy.

Readers look first for headlines that communicate, "I share your pain!" They've got problems and they're surfing for solutions. And they don't have much time.

Bottom line: Focus on creating and communicating a great marketing message. Frame your message so you come across as professional – but keep your website focused on learning how you can provide solutions to their challenges.

About The Author

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is a published author, speaker, copywriter and business consultant. Are you a solo professional who needs to sell yourself but can't afford to sound sales-y? Get my Fr*e Report: 5 best-kept secrets of client-attracting websites

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