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Refreshing Tired Web Marketing Sites

Woe is you! All of a sudden (or was it sudden?), your Web site has dried up as a source of leads or sales. The number of buyers flowing through the conversion funnel has been reduced to a trickle. What to do? Try these ways to figure out the problem and solve it.

Diagnose the problem correctly

Before you begin solving any problem, investigate when the problem started and how long it's been going on. If it's sudden, make sure that your site has been running without problems. Check your daily site statistics. If there are hours or days without any traffic, contact your developer or host right away. You might have a serious issue with server reliability.

If you just launched your site, your expectations might be unrealistic or your fears might be well founded. If your site has been up for more than three years, it's probably due for tune-up, if not a complete redesign. If you haven't tended your site with loving care, your competition might have outdistanced you online.

Review your design for user appeal

Whether your site is old or new, take time to review your site with new eyes. Assess concept, content, navigation, decoration, and marketing efficiency. Ask several customers who have never used your site to accomplish a task or purchase something and give you feedback. Usually, a total of five people will give you enough feedback to get a good perspective on what's going on.

Every site must attract new viewers in the first few seconds on the home page, keep users on the site to see two or more pages, and bring them back for repeat visits. Where is your site falling down? If you're seeing a slow, downward drift in time onsite, maybe your site is getting old. Post new content and see what happens.

Make site operation easy for users

Check all links to make sure they're working properly. Ask your developer to run a link verification program to check that all the internal and external (offsite) links on your site are working. You have to confirm by hand that those links are really going where you want them to and that external links all open in a new window. Make sure that all e-mail links function.

If you ask users to download PDF files, try them! Make sure they open properly and that there's a link for users to download Acrobat Reader. If you have forms, check that they work, too. Does the site have gracious error handling for phone numbers, e-mail address formats, or required fields that have been left blank? Does the site have a Thank You page to confirm that a request has been submitted? That's not only a matter of courtesy and usability, but essential for tracking how many people actually reach that page.

Check page statistics

People find your site in one of three ways: They type in your URL, they link from somewhere else, or they find you through search engines. Look at your traffic statistics for the past few months. If possible, compare them to use in comparable months from the prior year. Cyclical variations in traffic are normal for every site. Search engines look for recent updates; if you see a slow, downward drift in search engine position, try updating your site.

Use multiple techniques to build traffic

Don't put all your marketing eggs in one basket. If overall traffic is down, you're not getting people into the top of the conversion funnel. Use a combination of onsite, online, and offline marketing techniques to ensure that you have many ways to reach your audience. Choose from:

  • Free info tools: Signature blocks, blurbs, FAQs, Yahoo! Groups
  • Onsite techniques: Chat rooms, message boards, wikis, contents, games, coupons, surveys, free samples, event announcements, Tell a Friend
  • Word-of-Web online techniques: Blogs, What's New, hot sites, award sites, online press releases, search engine optimization, inbound link campaigns, e-newsletters
  • Paid online advertising: PPC campaigns, newsletter sponsorships, banner ads
  • Offline advertising: Literature, stationery, packaging, promotional items, community events, direct mail, coordinated ads in other media

Optimize your site for sales

Assuming your site fits the criteria for sales, review it to be sure you're doing everything needed to convert browsers to buyers. Here are some of the techniques you might use:

  • Update merchandise regularly.
  • Offer products that people want at a price they're willing to pay.
  • Sell benefits, not features.
  • Use marketing's three-letter word (YOU!).
  • Require only two clicks to order.
  • Make the shopping process easy — for example, offering options to keep shopping, change the order, view a total, estimate shipping.
  • Offer reasonably priced shipping.
  • State customer policies clearly.
  • Provide onsite product search capability.
  • Include detailed product info.
  • Use marketing's four-letter word (FREE!).
  • Increase your conversion rate with calls to action — for example, offering options to Add to Cart, Reserve Now, Register to Save.

Never stop working on your site

Like your children, your Web site will be with you for the length of your (business) life. If you ignore your site, it will flag, sag, drag, and ultimately collapse from neglect. Recognize the commitment required before you start.

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