Recipe 8.1. Turning Site Traffic into Loyal Visitors and Customers


Problem

You need to form a relationship with your audience so that your site's traffic will grow and benefit your business.

Solution

Web sites succeed when they demonstrate their trustworthiness to their visitors. The process of establishing trust begins when you first start planning a site, and continues as an integral part of the ongoing job of running the site.

A web site that visitors can trust has the following:

  • Information about the company

  • An easy way to contact the owner of the site

  • Grammatically correct, error-free text

  • A consistent design

  • A privacy policy

  • SSL encryption for transmission of confidential information

  • Fast-loading pages

  • Well-written and useful error messages

  • Fast responses to visitor messages

  • A webmaster who tests the site to stay on top of new problems

  • Frequently updated content

Discussion

The web-surfing population represents a spectrum of skepticism. Some will come to your site with preconceived notions and be wary of everything about it no matter what you do. Others will look past the inconsistencies and omissions that feed the skeptics and blithely conduct business with a site based on the recommendation of a friend or other trusted source. Your site should welcome both types of usersand everyone in betweenbut you'll have to work harder to satisfy the die-hard doubters.

When visiting your site, web surfers can't look you in the eye to gauge your integrity, or kick the proverbial "tires" of your products to determine their quality. Their assessment of you and your site's credibility will be derived from your ability to present a professional-looking site where people will feel comfortable doing business.

Many of the Recipes in this book touch on techniques that affect a site's perceived trustworthiness. Individually, none of them is a silver bullet that will bury all doubts about your site. Together, though, they can help squelch skepticism about your site.


Trust-building should be part of your web site from day one, when you start to make decisions about design and navigation and compile content. Inconsistency can breed mistrust, so strive to make every page on your site share the same look and feel. The navigation should occupy a constant location on all pages, and the logo you use should match the one visitors see offline. Likewise, proofread your copy to get rid of all grammatical errors and misspellings. When you neglect these small detailslike using proper punctuationvisitors are more likely to assume you can't handle the bigger details, like getting their order right.

Your web site should launch with some basic information about the enterprise that runs it, including an easy way to contact you. Don't procrastinate on these seemingly mundane details. When people can't satisfy their questions about who they're doing business with, they will take their business somewhere else. If you collect and use visitors' personal information, such as email addresses and phone numbers, you will need a privacy policy that spells out who, what, when, why, and how this information is handled (and protected). If the transactions include credit card numbers or other confidential information, you will need a secure server for encryption and a digital certificate for verifying the legitimacy of your web site to visitors.

In the day-to-day tasks that come along with running your site, you need to make a priority of eliminating problems that will challenge your visitors' ability to trust you. Surf your own site regularly to test links and forms, and uncover and correct any stumbling blocks before they start to drag on your online business. Optimize graphics and code to make sure that pages load quickly.

The speed at which doubt forms in a visitor's mind is inversely related to the length of time a page from your site appears in her browser!


If necessary, contact your web hosting provider about upgrading your account to one that can handle more traffic. Make sure you have a well-written and useful general error page that can head off visitor confusion (doubt's cousin) when something goes wrong.

Finally, you should consider adding some of the following components to your site as they apply to the nature of your online business. Although leaving them out won't necessarily detract from your site's credibility, having them can help strengthen the trusting relationship you seek to form with your visitors.


Photographs

Images of the company owner, the staff, or the business's physical location can help assure web surfers that they're giving their money and personal information to real people who work for a bona fide business.


Policies

In addition to spelling out the privacy practices you use when handling visitors' personal information, create a page that answers questions about the ordering process itself: how soon are orders processed, what are the options for shipping methods and how much do they cost, how are customers notified when an order ships, and what is the store's return policy. Most of your visitors might never consult this information, but you should still make it easy to find for those who want it.


Credentials

Display the logos of third parties, such as professional organizations, that can vouch for your site's legitimacy. Consider paying for a site audit from groups such as Truste or the Better Business Bureauand address any problems they findso you can display the auditor's stamp of approval logo on your site.


Testimonials

It's human nature to want to identify with like-minded people. Use quotations from real, satisfied customers to sway the doubters' opinions.


Customer focus

Sites that use affiliate links and pay-per-click ads (see Recipe 8.9) exist for the benefit of the site owner, not the visitor. You can't have it both ways. Curtail the income-generating site add-ons (or banish them altogether) and turn your efforts toward building a site that helps your visitors become your customers.

See Also

Security and privacy are further discussed in Recipes 6.1, 8.4, and 8.5. For more information on improving page load time and error messages, see Recipes 4.8, 5.1, and 9.1.



Web Site Cookbook.
Web Site Cookbook: Solutions & Examples for Building and Administering Your Web Site (Cookbooks (OReilly))
ISBN: 0596101090
EAN: 2147483647
Year: N/A
Pages: 144
Authors: Doug Addison

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