Is your website ready for the holiday season? Do you sell products online? Are you sure your site is user friendly and persuasive?
The objective of this checklist is to provide you with assistance in making sure your website is ready to generate revenue. Each item is intended to support your online marketing investment by increasing the overall usability for everyone who visits your site. User experience design is most often considered an afterthought. Truly successful websites include usability, user experience and customer experience design as part of their business requirements and plans for their online presence.
Remember – Every page is a “landing page”.
1. Help your website visitors make good decisions. Many people don’t know what they want. Help them make choices or browse longer. Most visitors just need a little extra incentive to make a purchase.
2. Use models of all shapes, ages and sizes for clothing sites. The images you select may turn away potential customers. For example, Victoria’s Secret neglects curvy women, plus size and women over 27 years old.
3. Choose crisp, clear images. Find ways to show the size of products. It is difficult to determine the size of a bird feeder, humidifier or compost bin without either reading a description or viewing a comparison picture. Provide close up details of craftsmanship. Show tread. Provide step by step images of custom work.
4. Online shoppers are unable to touch materials used for clothing, crafts, furniture, etc. Therefore, write product descriptions that describe every detail, including how it feels when touched, worn, and used.
5. Add real life use cases to promote sales. Technical sites with gadgets often forget that how we use devices is important to know. Can your products be used in the rain and snow? What is the average life span of a battery, roofing tile, light bulb? If a light bulb lasts 7 years, it is worth paying a little bit more for it.
6. Some people will not order online with a credit card. They will, however, use their PayPal account. Increase conversions by providing alternative payment methods.
7. Does your navigation inspire clicks? Be descriptive. Add categories. Men’s what? Plus size what? Absolutely avoid mystery links that don’t specify exactly where you are taking visitors. They don’t have time.
8. Look at how Amazon does their site search in the header. Visitors can search the site or by category or with keywords. Auto-complete functionality is also helpful. Your website has to function as the salesperson who is guiding a customer by making suggestions.
9. Add related topics, related items, favorites, testimonials, customer ratings, etc. to product pages.
10. Provide a newsletter with coupon codes, special deals, limited time specials, etc. Never require a phone number for a free newsletter.
11. Offer functions such as wish and favorites lists. Add a way to “Pin” items. This not only acts as a way to add to a personal wish list but advertises your products to others.
12. Membership has its benefits. Provide personalization and perks to increase the number of return customers and visits. Etsy and Amazon are examples that track customer orders and browsing history, which helps visitors with remembering and re-ordering.
13. Put vital information at the “point of action”. For example, place the return policy, shipping and warranties on the product page by inserting brief notes “No hassle returns” and “Free shipping”.
14. Provide examples for how your items are used and then place the call to action button nearby so that it can be ordered with ease. Consider a podcast along with visual and text stories.
15. Always provide navigation that communicates “sense of place” for your visitors, such as where they are, where they came from and where to go next. If a link is intended to take a visitor off the website, provide a warning in the link label that they are about to leave the site.
16. Answer questions at the point of action, point of sale, and inside landing pages. The moment you force a visitor to go hunt for information is the click of death for revenue.
17. Add content. Your products and services will not sell themselves. Describe features in image captions. What are the benefits, how to care for it (think fabric), etc. Add bullet points or tabbed menus for benefits, features, ingredients, comparisons, etc.
18. Create confidence by thinking of every possible concern a guest could have and respond to it with your site. How many days are left to ship? Can you rush it? Answer these questions within the content or product descriptions instead of a FAQ.
19. Provide proof of expertise and skills if you sell services and certain products like crafts online. This might be in the form of awards, customer feedback, ratings, interviews, and video demonstrations.
20. Place your specials, offers, products and promotions on the top half of every landing page and the homepage.
21. Replace your sliders with smaller images. Studies indicate that most sliders do not convert. Replace them with one or two static images, with a killer offer and big juicy call to action button. Reference: Carousels Don’t Convert
22. Update the Title and Meta description. Add a value proposition in the Meta description of each product page. Insert a trigger word such as “Free”, “Award winning”, “Top Rated” into the Title tag. The goal is to stand out in search engine results pages.
23. Review and spruce up your calls to action. Try changing colors for your buttons. Experiment and test color choices. Reference: The Science of Colors in Marketing
24. Navigation links are vital to your website. Without links, people would have no idea where you wish to go. Create momentum by adding action words to top level navigation such as “Explore Resources”, “Learn About Us”, and “Browse Services. Try including keywords and verbs, like “Learn about [my company name]”, “Browse Custom Furniture”, and “Explore Marketing Resources”.
25. Whenever possible, avoid stock photos. Choose “real life” pictures of products, or to help convey a mood, create desire or make an emotional connection with your customers.
26. Place a demonstration video into a page. However, do not set it to run automatically when the page loads. Allow site visitors to choose to watch it when they wish to. If it is used to sell a product, be sure you have a call to action button next to the video.
27. Review text content to be sure it is not too long and rambling. People scan rather than reading every word on a page. Shorten text, and chunk it up with smaller paragraphs and sub-headings.
28. Remove distractions from product landing pages. They know what they want, came to get it and your page must let them order it without any additional nonsense. Related items are okay. Advertisements are not.
29. Provide a site search near the page header or somewhere in the top half of every page for fast access.
30. If you have huge inventories, provide alternative search options such as A-Z search, drop down categories, search by brand, ratings, etc.
31. If you are out of stock on an item, provide a way to backorder it or show when it is available again. Provide a way for your customers to opt-in to receive an email when the product is re-stocked.
Several years ago the department store, Target, was sued because blind persons were unable to make purchases from their website. This was a wakeup call to ecommerce, and any website intending on being used by all people. Accessibility means that all people, no matter what their physical limitation may be, can use your website.
This means that your website should be designed for people who wear glasses and contacts, are color blind, or may have trouble with lighting and color contrasts. It means that people with injured hands, hand and body tremors and carpel tunnel that makes using a mouse impossible, can still use your website. It means that screen reader software will work, so that people can listen to your website to use it. Design for special needs includes handicapped persons, deaf, blind, those with diseases that cause shaking, and people who are ADD or ADHD and find it difficult to stay focused while reading.
32. Check color contrasts in your text. Use this free color contrast tool. Poor color contrasts in your text content make it difficult to see and read your web pages.
33. Place Alt attributes behind images. Every image should contain an alt attribute that describes the image. Place your company or website name in an alt attribute behind your logo. Never stuff keywords into alt attributes. Reference: Alt Attributes WCAG2.0
34. Be careful when using animation or moving sliders on webpages that contain text that you want your visitors to read. If you insist on a slider, do not put it on automatic. Give your visitors control by allowing them to start and stop the images. Reference: Animation for Attention and Comprehension
35. Avoid colored text on colored backgrounds unless you have tested it for color contrasts. Gray text is a fad. Use black, dark green or dark blue for reading.
36. Never use black for a link color if your text content, headings and sub-headings are also black.
Last year I was at PubCon. That was the last time I would see Dana Lookadoo. One minute she was snapping pictures at the Epic Dinner and the next moment severely injured with a broken neck and spine.
One night we were laughing like school girls, sharing information on alternative healing methods and the next minute, she is told she may never walk again. One night we were chatting with friends and eating together in a Las Vegas hotel and the next minute, she can barely use her hands.
I’m on the east coast, too far away to be sitting next to her with my Reiki healing hands and stupid jokes, but believe me, I desperately want to be doing that. I want to witness her smile that has always lit up rooms and hallways at conferences. I want to hear every story possible about anything that Dana has to say because she is a colleague I admire and woman warrior I respect even more.
With an increase in her pain level, decreased use of her hands, frequent trips to the emergency room and constant need for more tests that most often bring back discouraging news, I began to wonder if it were me, would I be so strong? Would I, already in constant pain from arthritis in my spine, neck and knees, have what it takes to deal with pain levels that are a constant 10 plus? Would anyone care if I hurt? Would anyone care if medical expenses were so bad my house would be lost?
Prayers are there to give her hope. The more I learn about physics and energy healing in my other life outside my career, the more I understand that everyone’s prayers send her healing in forms we don’t see with our eyes, but are there regardless. Dana reports that she responds to prayers. She is ultra-sensitive. I knew that the moment I first met her. She knows how to help herself but it is frustrating to focus on one’s injured body when it is reacting and fighting to heal.
I decided to send Dana part of my earnings to help with her medical expenses. I’m not wealthy, and really, since starting all over again with my new company, I’m certainly not really in any financial position to give money away. I didn’t go to Pubcon this year .
November will mark one year since Dana’s life changed. She wants to walk and ride her bike again. It will take a lot of healthcare and rehab to get there.
I am upping the incentive to encourage website owners to participate in this fundraiser. I will pay you $50 for every Special Review you sell from the three special fundraiser deals below, or 10% referral fee for every large project in which I am hired, where I am also donating 25% of my fee to Dana. This means my take is $150 or 35% less than I would normally earn.
If you want to help raise money for Dana, here is how:
It’s hard for her to keep up with her journal but she does try to keep her friends up to date on her progress in Facebook in Updates on Dana.
EARLIER: Spent 3 hours for a 1/2 hour appointment with spinal cord specialist at UC Davis Medical Center. Learned that it appears I have additional damage to my spinal cord and that my increased pain is increasing my muscle spasms. #NoTearsAllowed
Treatment: see neurosurgeon, pain management specialist, and urologist; alternate drugs, physical therapy, do biofeedback, and other modalities to decrease the perception of pain.
Even though it’s unfortunate about the huge setbacks, they said I’m doing well given the extent of my injuries. Have to admit this is hard to take given decreased mobility and function and that most of my time is spent in pain management mode.
Believing in miracles and not giving up! #PressingOn
Several years ago I listened to a talk at a search engine marketing conference where the speaker insisted that whatever we were charging, triple it.
I kept waiting for the presenter to talk about why our fees should increase that much. No reason was offered other than, “You are not charging enough.” I was still doing SEO work along with web site usability testing and charging from “give away” to not much more than a building contractor would earn per hour. It took me a very long time to inch my fees upwards.
When I was sub-contracted by a famous company to perform one of my specialized skills, I under-quoted and the Project Manager encouraged me to ask for more. That was many years ago and while my skills are more refined in that area of my practice, I never increased my rate and to this day Project Managers ask me to increase my rate.
At another conference a conversation with someone was again about what I should charge, with the advice being given from somebody who has never seen my work and only knows my reputation. The recommendation was to ask for five times what I would charge a small to medium business client, which I was counseled not to target. I was to use my name to position myself higher to get corporate clients with free flowing budgets.
Once again, advice on pricing with no need to prove my expertise. All I needed was a short skirt, teased up hairdo, knee hi boots and a street corner and I could be rich in the SEO world.
Which brings me to the saga of the SEO Snake Oil Salesman and SEMPO’s meeting this week at Pubcon about ethics and compliance with some kind of unified code of conduct.
My company, Creative Vision Web Consulting, LLC puts together projects for any size company wanting a website that will be found in search engines from any type of digital device. I partner with carefully chosen companies, each of whom abide by a common belief, which is to never overcharge anyone and they deliver methodologies that will never, ever hurt a client’s website.
In addition, I am approached on a weekly basis by site owners and large agencies seeking my recommendations for reputable companies to hire for PPC, link building, and social and Internet marketing because they have lost money, been penalized, or treated badly.
Finding reputable referrals has proven to be difficult and sad.
For starters, the pricing for those services has skyrocketed. If a company does not have $5000/$10,000 per month to spend, they are not considered to be candidates as clients. If a company has that budget, in no way does that automatically translate to receiving expert service.
Some of the problems are in education. For example, there remains an enormous amount of outrageously incorrect information on all forms of search engine marketing. One famous global organic healthcare products company that has resellers provides them with their own free website and “website submission” services. The free website template alone is so poorly designed as to be hysterical even for someone who has no training in usability and user experience design.
The problems with finding affordable healthcare in the USA are made worse because not having it can mean fines. This allows health care companies to manipulate services and pricing. The SEO industry knows that a similar situation exists in their favor because not having any type of search engine marketing strategy results in no business.
They know, too, that companies come seeking help for marketing with websites that don’t work well, and rather than tell their clients that the website itself needs usability testing to uncover issues and hunt for positive user experience opportunities, they pocket the links, PPC and content marketing money and promise the client miracles in search.
SEMPO is not about to try and sell a new culture and this is why I feel they will struggle to convince people to agree to their proposals. The SEO industry has gotten away with pricing many companies directly out of the right to compete with Fortune companies for years.
Charging 3 to 5 times more than competitors does not mean a company is doing reputable work. It does not mean that companies that charge high hourly rates employ skilled people. In the SEO industry, it is a myth that you get what you pay for. Ask any website that is penalized by Google or company that has never recovered from link buying schemes that cost them countless thousands of dollars.
It takes a tribe to raise a website these days.
Start with smart council.
My new company, Creative Vision Web Consulting, LLC, is raising funds for a colleague who was severely injured in a bicycling accident and not expected to walk again. She is very brave, in terrible pain and making progress on some days, and sliding on others. I am paying a seller fee, referral fee and part of my fee’s in an effort to help.
If you are a newcomer to SEO and read a recent article on the future of SEO you would discover there are 16 “expert, industry veterans” in SEO and they are men.
The article, Expert Insights On The Future Of SEO, Part 1, is taking some heat for its featuring men.
For me, the issue isn’t about gender. That was the trigger. The red balloon that escaped into the sky to make us all look up and take notice. The real pain point is the imbalance. The lack of leadership needed in an industry with boundless talent that continues to be represented by the same people slapping the same backs, beating the same drums.
According to some comments left in Part 1, several of the women who were contacted had specific reasons for not participating. For example,
“I’ve been asked to provide detailed answers as quickly as possible “within 48 hours” so “businesses planning their 2015 budgets can use my input to lay foundations for future results”.
Another woman wrote,
“My first thought was they wanted me to lay out, in detail, what companies pay me to lay out.”
She is absolutely 100% correct in her assessment here. I no longer accept requests for these types of articles for the exact same reason. If a company needs expert advice, they should pay for the expert. A smart businessperson keeps the very best and valuable advice private, for use with paying clients.
The series, in my opinion, was an opinion fluff piece rather than an expert advice series. From now until the end of the year and into next year the topic of looking into crystal balls will be popular. What is the purpose of these articles?
Again, the balance is off. What would drive a CEO, Founder or VIP to take the time to share expert advice? Do they need the traffic and sales, brand reminder, and links? They are already famous. Was there no value in finding newcomers?
Clearly, Danny Sullivan is appalled at what has happened with the article. He already knows and understands the hurt women in SEO feel on a regular basis as they strive to find a seat in a male dominated industry. No doubt he will do whatever he can to fix this wrong. But will he be working on repairing the correct wrong?
How many times a year do we have to see evidence of gender imbalance in a technical industry? It’s an old fight that for most women in the SEO industry isn’t even the point. What matters is finding leaders who make a difference.
Well written, authoritative articles boost the credibility and brand of the site that runs them. The strategy is to find skilled columnists who are not afraid to research and get quotes from experienced professionals. However, we see the same people interviewed over and over again.
Is there any interest in asking SEO professionals, who are not experts and veterans, how they may see the future of SEO? They may have a different set of expectations or perspectives not influenced by past practices. Perhaps they have invented their own strategies and have something new to teach us. It is an honor to be asked to participate in a series and it helps new people with their new companies to attract business. Networking can be done in many ways, and one of them is by inviting a wide variety of people to participate in interviews and articles that feature various opinions and advice.
The best leaders are generous. They are not vain, egotistical, greedy or unjust. They know the value of providing all perspectives. They listen with an open mind to all opinions, not just the elite, famous, well to do and successful people. They value the skills brought to their industry by both genders.
When people don’t like something, they form their own group. In the SEO industry there have been gatherings at conferences that are for women only. There have been websites that feature just women in SEO. This signal went ignored by anyone in a leadership position but it provided a much needed way for the women in the SEO industry to meet and support each other. It opened up new business opportunities. This new group divided from the greater group because it felt ignored and undervalued. These women wanted balance. It was never about inequality or a battle of the sexes.
To me the fault of the article could be felt by anyone who values leadership and centered, balanced and unbiased information.
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