June 9, 2011
A strong web presence is crucial to the success of your business, especially in today’s economic climate. You know it, your marketing team knows it, and, unfortunately, your competition knows it. In other words, if you don’t pay attention to the quality of your website, you’re going to lose business to someone who does. According to a study by leading web traffic controller Akamai Industries, a poorly designed website can lose 30% of its viewers within seconds. They also found that if a site takes more than four seconds to load, 75% of its viewers will not return to the site.
Fortunately, there are simple solutions to the design problems that could be keeping your website from being as effective a tool as possible to bring you additional sales and optimize your search engine rankings. Take a look at the following “how-not-to” list, and then cast a critical eye on your own website. Even a few simple changes could pay big dividends in increased direct business and a more robust web presence.
Six Strategies to Lose Your Viewer: An Overview of What Not to Do and Why
1) Make sure your homepage takes forever to load:
Why Not Do This? To return to Akamai’s findings, you don’t have much time to keep a viewer. Web surfers are an impatient bunch. If they have to sit for five minutes waiting for a page to load, they’re going to look elsewhere. A friend of mine got married recently. When she was looking for a wedding photographer, she found dozens of photographers who wanted to showcase their best (and most high resolution) work on their homepages. The problem for the photographers was that the bride-to-be never got to see those pictures. She got impatient and went on to the next site. She didn’t use their services, she never linked to their sites on her wedding website, and she never raved about their fabulous photos to her friends. I’m sure their homepages looked fantastic once they loaded, but did they achieve their purpose?
2) Make your homepage visually boring
Why Not Do This? This may seem to contradict point number one at first, but a visually unappealing homepage can lose viewers in seconds. Use graphics or photos that catch the eye and draw a viewer in. We can take a lesson from print media here. Newspapers try to place a particularly striking photo “above the fold” on the front page to make their paper look more interesting than the one next to it on the newsstand. You can benefit from this technique as well. Just make sure that your graphics don’t compromise load time.
3) Design your site thinking only of SEO and not an audience of real people
Why Not Do This? In the quest for SEO and those all-important backlinks, businesses often forget a very basic truth. People aren’t coming to your site to help you increase your web presence or your search engine ranking. They want something – to get information, to buy a product, to be entertained. If you don’t provide interesting and original content, they won’t be satisfied. A site with quality content that is updated regularly will keep visitors on your site longer, bring them back again, and prompt them to email a link to friends. This will help you build backlinks naturally. Remember that sites go viral because they’re entertaining or emotionally engaging – not because of their keyword density.
4) Make the purpose of your site unclear:
Why Not Do This? Again, I’m impatient, and I know there are lots of other sites out there that will give me what I want. If I’m looking for grass-fed, certified organic goat cheese, I need to know pretty quickly whether I can find it on your site. If I need to spend more than thirty seconds trying to figure that out, you’ve lost me.
5) Make navigation confusing and difficult:
Why Not Do This? Ok. I can tell from your homepage that you have the cheese I want, but I don’t want to spend all day figuring out how to find a list of your products, prices, and shipping information. Make it clear where the links are that I’ll need to get around your site by placing them in one or two main areas. Don’t bury them all in a lot of text that I may or may not read. If I spend ten minutes on your site, but I never end up buying your product, you’ve won the first battle but lost the war.
6) Jam the homepage with lots and lots of text:
Why Not Do This? Your homepage should draw a viewer in and provide clear links to get to additional information. Use enough text to make the purpose of your site clear and capture the viewer’s attention, but don’t use so much that your viewers get information overload. Think of your own web browsing habits. If you wanted to spend hours reading a lot of words, you’d pick up a copy of War and Peace; you wouldn’t hit the Internet.
The common thread here is that you should always remind yourself that real people are viewing your site. Put yourself in their position. Is my site interesting and fun? Is it easy to get around on? Does it quickly give viewers what they’re looking for? If not, is there really any reason anyone should spend their time there?
Guest post written by Tim Eyre. He helps residential and business customers who use self storage when they don’t have enough storage space on their own property. Tim’s company has locations from coast to coast, including Las Vegas self storage.
January 16, 2011
Hey everybody, just a quick note to let you know that I’m being interviewed on Women in Business Radio tomorrow. Tune in and follow by Twitter to ask questions. Then stop back by here and leave comments with your thoughts— and accolades 🙂
October 7, 2010
Many readers of Can I Make Big Money Online have the technical chops to create their own website. But what if you don’t? What if you have to hire, gulp, a web designer? Here are a few things you’ll want to consider. You’ll need to make some choices about your domain, hosting and hiring a website designer.
When you’re choosing a domain, there are a few directions you can go. You can choose a domain to brand your business, to appeal to the search engines or sometimes you can combine the two. George wrote a pretty extensive article on choosing a domain some time ago, and there’s not much I can add to what he already said.
However, here’s one thing that wasn’t included in his original article. When choosing an extension, opt for a top level domain versus a .info domain name, if it is available. While most people search for domain names typing in a .com extension, you can also be quite successful with a .net or a .org extension. It’s not uncommon for website owners to buy several versions of their domain name with different extensions. If multiple extensions are available, consider buying them to keep competitors from buying them later and benefiting from your success.
No matter what domain you choose, always have it hosted by your own hosting server. This bears repeating. Use your own hosting. Preferably paid hosting, not on a friend’s server in his Mom’s basement. You think you’re saving money by going this route, but in the long run the potential headaches are not worth the less than $100 per year you’re going to save.
Some people try another “cheap” route for hosting. “Free” website builders that offer free hosting. Usually this means you will not have your own domain name. For example, if you were with Freewebs.com, it would be freewebs.com/andyourname here. This domain name does not look professional and it is too hard for your potential customers to remember (plus you’re advertising someone else’s company every time you advertise your website). If you’re looking to save money, take advantage of the free domain name registration that some web hosting packages offer.
If you’re looking for great, reliable hosting at a reasonable rate, we always recommend Hostgator. Yes, that’s an affiliate link. Throughout the years, we’ve had our sites hosted through several different companies. Hostgator is far and away our favorite.
One more note about domains— make sure your domain is registered in YOUR name, not in your website designer’s name, not in your hosting company’s name. Even if your hosting company offers to register your domain for you, make sure that you will be listed as the technical contact. You may want to register it yourself if you have any doubts about how the registration will be handled, even if it means passing up on a “free” offer. If you ever want to change hosts or designers, you’ll be glad you spent the ten minutes and $20, vs. the hassle and potential expense of trying to reclaim a domain if it wasn’t registered in your name.
Finally, if you’re not comfortable designing the site yourself, you’ll need to find a website designer. Of course, we’re partial to MantyWeb Designs, but no matter who you choose, make sure that you ask to see some examples of the designer’s work. You may want to even find some websites you like and see who the designer of that site is.
Talk to the company before hiring someone. In fact, talk to them a couple of times. Make sure they explain things in a way you understand, that you feel comfortable talking to them and that they return messages in a timely manner. If you have an idea of the technical requirements of your website (like you know you want a blog), make sure that the company has experience with that type of site. Different designers have different areas of expertise. Just because a company makes really pretty sites doesn’t mean you want them designing your ecommerce site.
While you may be tempted to immediately go with the cheapest designer, don’t. Make sure to choose someone who can complete the project in a timely manner and who will not disappear before the project is complete. This happens ALL the time! Having to start over with a new designer just wastes your time and money.
So, those are the basics. Choose a good domain, pick hosting that fits your website’s needs and find a website designer you enjoy working with. Now, I’d like to hear from you below. Have you gone through the web design process? How was your experience? Any additional tips?
June 1, 2009
Life has a funny way of forcing your hand. I’ve been playing around at this online thing for several years now and have made some decent money at it, but never really committed to it. I’ve talked about doing it full time. I’ve dreamed about doing it full time. But I haven’t been DOING it full time. Then a month ago I was laid off from my job as a JAVA developer. I spent some time putting together a resume and talking to recruiters before realizing I didn’t really want another job working for someone else. I wanted to work for myself. Full time.
So, after a series of events unfolded (which could be the focus of a later post), my wife and I decided to take the plunge and start our own business. So, I am very pleased to introduce MantyWeb Designs (www.mantywebdesigns.com), a full service web promotion and web design company. We will be specializing in helping local businesses with underperforming websites turn their websites into a valuable part of their marketing plan. I’ll be focusing on helping people increase traffic and improving conversion rates. My wife will be concentrating on sales.
While we are based in Houston, we’re available to help people all over the U.S. So, if you’re in need of assistance, contact me. You can leave all well wishes in the comment section.
April 29, 2009
Over my time online, I’ve created a few web sites and optimized them. Over, and over, and over again. In my occasional misadventures with them, I’ve picked up on a few things which can make your visitors happy, or drive them away in irritation.
Here are a few handy things to know in that regard, in no particular order.
- Your text can be too wide. Yes, too wide. Overweight, portly, stretching-too-far-across-the-screen wide. Comfortable reading width maxes out at around 750 pixels or so. Personally, I try to keep text widths within 700 pixels at most. This doesn’t mean your whole site has to be that wide, but no block of text on it should be any wider. If you’ve seen a sales letter site, you’ve seen this principle in action.
- If your text is too small to read, no one will try before they leave. I like 12-14 point for main content text, and 10 pt at the very, very minimum. If your sidebars require smaller text, get wider sidebars.
- Images are good, but all things in moderation. If you have so many of them on a site it takes forever to load, they’re not going to do you any good. If you do have a fair number of images, as with a magazine-styled site, try to keep them small so they load quickly.
- Multimedia works better than text alone. Try text and a picture or two, or text and a video, or text and some audio. Again, all things in moderation due to load times, but if you can, embellish your text.
- Automatic audio loads on site start-ups are really irritating. If you’ve ever landed on a site with automatic music, you’ve experienced this for yourself. Don’t use it. If you use audio, give the visitor control over it.
- If you want to put pictures in your background, you can make cool backgrounds with small repeating images. I’ve seen an entire site background done with a simple 5px by 5px image that seamlessly blended into every image around it.
- Never write over images. Gradients are the only exception to this rule. No matter how much transparency you apply to anything else, though, writing over images it is going to look bad.
Learn from my blunders. Use these tips to help make your site a much better place to visit.
July 7, 2008
Mini-sites are sites designed to do just one thing, such as sell a product, promote an affiliate program or collect a list. Plus, they do it automatically, and once they’re optimized until they convert, you can just drive traffic to them and let them go.
But what do you need for a mini-site? They’ll all have certain things in common that shouldn’t be neglected.
- Your copy, and that includes the initial header and headline that will grab the attention of your visitors so they continue reading.
- Some way to deliver your product or sign-up bonus that defeats fraud. That means only people who’ve bought it can get to the download page. Yes, there are those sleazy enough to post a link straight to your product page, so you want your product delivery to be as fraud-proof as you can make it.
- If you’re selling a product, some way to collect a list. That’s half the point in going through all the trouble to sell something online. You can collect a list before or after the sale. I don’t recommend collecting a list beforehand because it will irritate your affiliates, but collecting one after annoys PayPal unless you give your buyers a way to bypass your squeeze page. I still use list collection after the sale myself, and provide a bypass link to keep in compliance with PayPal’s TOS.
- Remove all distractions. Your mini-page is designed to do one thing, and one thing only. You don’t distract from that one thing with above the fold ads or pop-up windows, though I’ve recently started using an exit pop in an attempt to reclaim departing traffic.
- A way to get in touch with you that works. Email addresses should be specific to the site. For example, email@example.com looks far more legitimate than a Yahoo or Hotmail email address.
- Make sure it’s all working prior to launch. The last thing you want is for your product or bonus delivery to bungle, and that people who join your list get lost in a glitch. If you’re promoting an affiliate program, test the link to insure you’re getting credit for the hits before spending to drive traffic.
Keep these things in mind, and you can make a productive mini-site that will produce results for you.
June 5, 2008
Have you ever seen a site with a favicon? It’s that tiny little image to the left of the URL that also appears in your favorites list if you bookmark it. It doesn’t seem like all that much, but it could be useful to you. How? It could help your site stand out in the crowd, and on the Internet, with its millions upon millions of sites, standing out is an absolute must.
Plus, it makes you look good, and you’ve probably noticed that effect for yourself. You might have landed on a site with a favicon, looked up in the URL, saw the neat little picture, and suddenly had a much higher opinion of it. I personally love them, and take sites that have them more seriously just because of one nifty little image.
That’s why I added some of my own to both of my current web sites. I’ll grant that they’re not much more than colorful monograms, but they still do the job nicely. They’re not hard to install either, and you could even make your own.
So, how do you install a favicon on your web site?
1.) First, you make it, and you can do that at
This site will also let you upload an image and change it into a 16×16 pixel favicon. I preferred that method, because punching them out by hand didn’t work as well as a picture conversion. Just remember that when you make your soon-to-be converted image, you’ll be reducing it to a tiny icon, and you’re going to lose a lot of detail.
2.) Name your image ‘favicon.ico’. The maker at the web site I gave you will do that, and save it to your computer besides.
3.) Once you get your desired favicon, put it in the root directory of your web site, and these tags just below the HEAD command in your HTML.
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="http://www.yoursite.com/favicon.ico" />
<link rel="icon" href="http://www.yoursite.com/favicon.ico" />
Don’t copy and paste these, but type them into your site’s HTML file with your site’s name instead. They’re formatted to display properly in HTML, and not to be put in a text file.
Putting both LINK commands covers multiple browser types.
4.) Make sure your favicon looks the way you want, and that it appears. IE7 gave me some trouble with updating the images if I downloaded new ones, but Firefox was more cooperative.
I put mine up recently, and I suspect they’ll require some optimization just like everything else. Still, I like the way they turned out, and recommend you adding your own.
March 13, 2008
I look back at my original money-making concepts, and while they were valid, they leave me
with the same conclusion.
It’s not that I got the principles wrong, because you can make money from content sites and
blogs. No, it was more a question of a resource mismatch. My manpower consisted entirely of me and any task I happened to outsource as I needed. That isn’t so good when you’re trying to maintain a blog or content sites.
Those types of sites take a lot of work to keep fresh unless you’re a scraper, and you never want to become one of those because some people consider scraper sites to be unethical. You can’t just let them sit, because fresh content is the only way you get repeat traffic and in the case of blogs, syndication. This means you’re always adding or changing content, which adds work you could be spending making money with something else less effort-intensive.
Mini-sites are another matter entirely. For those of you unfamiliar with them, a mini-site
is a tiny site built specifically to do one thing well. This includes such things as:
- Get you to buy something. If you’ve ever landed on a sales letter page, you’ve seen this type of mini-site.
- Get you to opt-in to a list.
- Get you to click and buy through an affiliate link.
In fact, when it comes to making money online, mini-sites are ideal for the single individual entrepreneur. They don’t take much to maintain once they’re optimized and working, don’t require regular content updates, and aren’t megabytes worth of code in size. Once you add the fact they focus the attentions of their visitors on a single thing, you have a good concept for a low-cost, low-maintenance sales tool. In other words, less time in building and maintaining the site, and more time to promote and profit from it.
I grasped this myself, but my other mistake was to make my mini-pages part of my existing web site instead of giving them their own URL’s. This won’t work well because:
- The URL will be unattractive, or at the very least not memorable.
- It gives your visitors too much of an opportunity to be distracted.
- It makes it impossible to brand with a catchy URL of its own and perhaps go viral.
So learn from my goof, and mock not the humble mini-site. You can make money in other ways, but the mini-site is ideal for a single individual to make and then use in list gathering,
affiliate page promotions, or sales of ebooks. It’s the reason I won’t be using anything else in the future.
January 9, 2008
Site stickiness is a big issue whether you realize it or not. All the traffic in the world won’t help you if no one stays on your site long enough to do what you want them to do. Want sales, opt-ins, or paid clicks? It won’t happen if you can’t get anyone to stay long enough to make them happen.
I’ll readily admit that stickiness has a lot to do with psychology, which is more ‘trial and error’ than ‘systematic’ to fix. The mistake is in believing that all stickiness is defined this way. Just because its not all cut and paste doesn’t mean you can’t fix the things that are obvious problems.
One big thing you can do to make your web site stickier is to eliminate the ‘Sticky Killers’. You can sum up ‘Sticky Killers’ with two major categories:
- Negative first impressions that immediately drive visitors away.
- Bad site experiences that drive them away after they’ve been on your site for a while.
The first problem, negative first impressions, include things such as:
- Difficult to comprehend, irritating, or ‘crowded’ site layouts and colors that cause negative gut reactions at a glance.
- Pop-ups barrages or other types of over-the-top spamming tactics like ad stacks or nonexistent content.
- A sloppy, home-made, or thrown-together look that makes your site appear unprofessional or gives the perception that it’s a waste of a visitor’s time. This doesn’t mean you have to own a fancy Flash site, but it does mean you’ll need a little thought or a good template when you make one.
Bad site experiences are the things on your site that drive visitors away after they have stayed long enough to do something. Bad experience departures are caused by things like:
- Bad navigation that makes it impossible for visitors to get around or find what they want.
- Poor content that doesn’t meet an expectation. Even sales letters are ‘content’ and the copy can be either good or bad. Or if you say you have informational/funny/interesting content and only provide junk, your visitors will leave and not in the way you want (such as through a paid click link).
Remember the two big ‘sticky killers’ when you’re making (or commissioning) your sites. Negative first impressions result in traffic leaving a few seconds after it arrives. Bad site experiences will give you decent ‘stay’ statistics, but nothing you want to occur will ever happen. Neither one is good for you or your bottom line.
Had enough of visitors just surfing away? Learn how to glue them to your pages with Flypaper Content.
July 20, 2007
I have been under the weather all week, so I have done very little blog reading and blog writing for that matter. Here are a few things that caught my eye this week:
The Open Source Web Design Toolbox: 100 Tools, Resources, and Template Sources
Excellent list of open source web design resources.
Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Website Traffic Metrics with Google Analytics
The title pretty much says it all.
Does it Take a PhD to Read Your Content?
Good reminder for those of us who tend to use big words in our writing.
You wanted my secrets now you have them!
A very interesting look at how Amanda is raking in money with paid ads.
Sometimes It’s Better to Hit Delete
Personally, I am not into writing “controversial” posts, but I know many people are. Do you ever wish you had deleted a post, before publishing it?
Free Internet Marketing Tips Video
Lastly, this video from Eben Pagan (formerly known as David DeAngelo) has some solid Internet marketing tips in it.
April 27, 2007
This week, I took a bit of a break from business activities. However, I still read some of my favorite blogs and did some searching for new gems. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite reads from the web this week:
New Calacanis link-baiting rules
Jason Calacanis’ post on how to link bait him is an EXCELLENT read for those wanting to learn how to link bait top bloggers. Jason left me a comment last year when I listed him as one of the people I would like to meet in this post. I think that I followed most of his rules, which would explain the comment. I would still like to meet him, along with the other people on that list. I should probably write a new list, since the list of bloggers I would like to meet has grown quite a bit since last year.
WordPress Theme Generator
This was a pretty cool find by Mark. The only thing I didn’t like about the wordpress theme generator is that it can’t generate three column themes. Otherwise, it’s pretty cool.
The Ultimate Guide to Productivity
I really liked Wendy’s simple tips in this post.
Using Stumbleupon and Squidoo Advertising to Promote Blogs
Chris Garret reveals his results with Squidoo and Stumbleupon advertising. Based on his results, I might test out Stumbleupon’s paid ads.
The Husband and Wife Blog Traffic Battle
Now this was real interesting. A husband and wife are doing a year long contest to see who’s blog can get the most traffic. Found this via the Sitening Blog. Something worth keeping an eye on.
Develop Your IM Network
If you are interested in gaining some new Instant Messaging friends, then check out Daniel’s invitation. Personally, I don’t use Instant messaging systems. I will probably join one in the near future, because so many of my online friends use instant messaging.
March 15, 2007
Here are some of the best Internet Marketing articles that I read this week:
Good is not almost as good as great
Seth’s blog is always loaded with great marketing advice. This post really hit home for me. It’s something I have been thinking about a lot lately.
What Everyone Ought to Know About Hiring a Web Designer
Good read for those of you who want to hire a web designer.
Bloggers Face-Off: Rand Fishkin vs. Lee Odden
The latest round of blogger face-offs on Daniel’s daily blog tips blog.
Copyright Law: 12 Do’s and Dont’s
As a website owner it’s important to keep copyright laws in mind. Daniel does a good job of highlighting some important aspects of online copyright laws.
Do Pre-made Stores or Pre-made Online Merchant Websites Have Any Value?
Aaron gives an excellent answer to an excellent question. It’s important to remember that it takes hard work to excel in business.
Motivation – Or Lack of it – Is there a cure for Laziness?
Rob poses a very interesting question. Some of which I plan on addressing next week in a post I am putting the finishing touches on.
The Successful Blogger Volume Two
Another excellent post on blogging by Garry Conn. It includes a good interview with Scott Rafer of MyBlogLog.