Call to Action: If you don’t ask for the sale, you’ll never get it.

buy now ask for the sale call to action

I’ve been designing and developing website for many years. I have built static portfolio sites all the way up to completely customized content management and ecommerce systems. Over the years I have learned a lot of lessons, some easy, some by trial and some lessons came the hard way with errors. One thing I can say definitively and universally:

If you don’t ask for the sale,
you will never get it.”

What does that mean? You have to have a good call to action (CTA). A CTA can be a button (like the BUY NOW above), it can be banner ad and it can just be text or text link. In all cases and no matter which method you use, a CTA is meant to help a visitor understand what you want them to do. The simplest example is an ecommerce website. At some point you want the visitor to purchase your product. Hopefully you’ve clearly defined the purpose or goal of your website (that helps). Hopefully you’ve done all the search engine optimization to get good quality traffic to your website. And hopefully you’ve have used best practice design/navigation/search to help funnel those visitors to the products and services that they have need for. So assuming all of those things and a customer makes it to the page they need to be on, a good CTA gets all up in their face and say’s “right here dummy, click me”. You shouldn’t hide the “buy now” or “add to cart” button. Use a bold color that sharply contrasts the color palette that you use on the website. You don’t have to use red or orange. If your sites primary color is one of those, it wouldn’t standout at all. Use text that is clear and binary, “buy now” and “purchase” for example. You can’t get more clear than those.

Ecommerce is not the only time you might need a good CTA. Every website should have a goal. In many cases the end goal or conversion is not an ecommerce transaction. Many times the purpose of a website is to encourage visitors to download something. Maybe you just want them to complete a form or sign up for a newsletter. Sometimes you just want to encourage visitors to call for more information. In all of these situations, you need a CTA. “Sign up for our Newsletter”, “Download Specification Sheet”, “Contact Us for More Information” or “Register to Win” are all great examples. If this is the purpose of your website, you need to drive the visitors eye to them. Again, using contrasting colors, bold and clear text and in the case of banner adds animation all accomplish that purpose.

Probably don’t use images like this though.Moving-picture-blue-down-arrow-animated-gif

If you have any question about CTA or agree or disagree with me, let me hear from you in the comments below.

Latest technology isn't always the right technology

Above is what I see now when I try to read an article on one of my favorite websites, Lifehacker. Lifehacker is an awesome resource, providing articles on all sorts of ways to improve your daily existence. I used to read almost every article on Lifehacker in Google Reader via RSS. Not so much anymore.

A little while back something changed. I am only speculating here so if I wrong feel free to correct me. It seems to me that Lifehacker’s parent company (Gawker) changed the way files were hosted. For example, generally website images are stored on the same domain as the website. If the domain is http://www.lifehacker.com, then the images might be stored at http://www.lifehacker.com/images/. A quick peek at their code shows me that their images are now being hosted at img.gawkerassests.com/img/. Normally, this might not be a big deal, after all Gawker and Lifehacker are the same company. The problem for me is, our corporate firewall software doesn’t like it, so the software blocks any files coming from that domain (images, css scripts, javascripts) and the results are what you see in the image above.

So why the the title? The experience got me thinking. In this case, Lifehacker has lost a reader because they changed to a “new”, “better” way of doing things. Many of us in web development and information technologies scramble to implement the latest thing. Case in point, Facebook’s mobile experiment, developing with HTML5 instead of a native application. Sometimes we should make sure what we are doing is best for our customers/visitors and not so we can play with the newest toys. JS.

I can still read Lifehacker on my phone, tablet and laptop, but I don’t look at it near as much as I used to.

Update: As of noon on 10/08/2012, whatever was broken with Lifehacker is now fixed. Yahhh!. Crazy that it is was broken for months before I wrote this.

Content providers and retailers, your mobile websites are pissing me off.

some mobile websites are pissing me off

First let me say:

  1. I love technology.
  2. I love mobile technology.
  3. I love my smart phone.
  4. I MUST have the latest and greatest smart phone.
  5. I do most of my personal web browsing on some sort of mobile device.

The mobile web is here and everyone is getting in on it. Retailers and content providers are launching mobile enabled websites and mobile apps as fast as they can and some of them are pissing me off. Why? It is because of bad user interface and auto redirection. We web folks are getting way too smart for our britches. Below are just two examples of what is wrong with the way many are using the mobile web.

Scenario 1
I made an online purchase and received an email to track the package. I clicked the email on my phone. The website identified my device as a smart phone and directed me to the mobile web version of their site. They are so smart right? WRONG! The functionality to track the package wasn’t on the mobile site. There was no link to “Go to Full Website” so I got stuck in an endless loop. I’m pissed.

Scenario 2
I’m thinking of what to make for dinner. I get on my smart phone and Google a recipe I’d seen in a magazine. Google shows me exactly what I was looking for in the search results, so I click. I am auto redirected to the mobile versions homepage. Brilliant, eh? Nope, I never could get the content I wanted. I typed in the title of the recipe in the mobile search box and got no results.

I back out of the mobile site and click the next link, a newspaper I think. They also direct me to a mobile website homepage.

I end up going back to the original link, scrolling to the bottom, clicking “Full Version”, typing in the search terms AGAIN on their search. I’m pissed.

There Must Be a Better Way
I know that having a mobile site and app is the cool thing to do. I understand the mobile traffic is growing exponentially, so I know why these companies are launching the sites. I know it is difficult to build all the functionality and content that a full website has into a mobile site that is compatible with most devices. I know, I know, I know. I’m not asking for any of that. I am just asking for better thought when redirecting. Here’s a novel approach, try asking your visitors what they want to do. How smart would you seem if visitors got this message when browsing from a mobile device?

“We noticed you are browsing on a mobile device. Would you like to visit our mobile website or continue to our full site?”

Or how about something like this:

“The content you are requesting is not available on our mobile website; would you like to visit our full website?”

Get to the Point
I have a crazy fast smart phone with a huge screen and great browser. At home and at work I am connected over Wi-Fi and when I’m actually “mobile” I have either 3G or 4G speeds. I can view any content that is on the “full web” and THAT is what I want to do. Don’t force me to use your mobile website, especially if it doesn’t have all the functionality or content that I want.

OK. Deep breathe.

Vent over!

Announcing the launch of the redesigned BrandiJackson.com and brand new JoeWatsonLaw.com

Joe Watson Law, Greenville, SCGreenville, SC – We are pleased to announce the launch of a brand new web presence for Joe Watson Law. The new website features Joe’s extensive experience as a Chief Prosecutor and Circuit Court Judge. The Greenville, South Carolina attorney specializes in Criminal Defense and Serious Personal Injury.

Learn More 

Brandi Jackson Golf, Greenville, SCGreenville, SC – Brandi Jackson, professional golfer, and web|aggression are excited to announce the redesign of BrandiJackson.com. The new website refocuses on Brandi’s career helping junior golfers, assisting in their college recruiting, giving golf lessons and facilitating golf clinics. The site also features Brandi’s blog, a biography and testimonials.

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News Flash: Great Web Traffic and Great SEO Rankings Do Not Get You Sales.

Great Web Traffic and Great SEO Rankings Doesn't Get You Sales

I work with businesses of all sizes. Some are very “web savvy” others not so much. I find a common thread through many of these businesses: they are under the illusion that if they are #1 on Google they’ll get all the traffic and therefore all the sales they can handle. WRONG! There are so many more factors.

Keywords
I’ve talked before about keyword selection, but for our purposes here I summarize with an example. Let’s say you sell widgets and your companies name is “ABC Manufacturing”. You might rank #1 in the search engines (SEs) for “ABC Manufacturing” but are no where to be found for “widgets”. Even if you were ranked well on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for “widgets”, it is such a broad term it is unlikely to convert very often. I say this to point out that you may have a #1 ranking but that ranking my not give you great traffic or sales if no one is searching it.

Before we continue, I will give you this: if you are #1 on the SEs for a great keyword that is relevant to your product, you should get great traffic.

Traffic
So, you have researched your market and have decided that “widgets” is the number one target. As I touched on above, a high ranking in the SERPs for “wigets” may indeed garner great traffic numbers but that can be deceiving. If you focus exclusively on “widgets”, in most case (and all that I have dealt with) you will not necessarily get sales. In a previous post I discussed Traffic vs Conversion, where I discussed how while short keywords can get traffic numbers long keyword strings get conversions. This is not rocket science. If someone is beginning there search for a widget they may not know much about those products. They might start with a basic search engine search by typing “widgets”, right? As they become more familiar with the type of widgets that are available they might search some thing more specific like “home widgets”. As they become even more familiar they might type “stainless steel kitchen widgets”, follow me? The more specific the keyword term used, the closer that consumer is to making a purchase (it is true, trust me). In an ideal scenario, when that customer does their first search for “widgets”, your website comes up. Then when they do the following searches, your website comes up as well. With that said, if I had to choose between a customer searching for “widgets” and a customer searching for “stainless steel kitchen widgets” (assuming that is the type of widgets I sell), I choose the long keyword term every day and twice on Sunday. So just because you get great traffic that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get conversions to sales.

Website Design
OK, now your getting great traffic to your website because you’ve targeted your long keyword terms and you are ranked highly in the SERPs. You’ve got all this traffic and when the customers get to you website, IT SUCKS! You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (through search engine optimization (SEO) or pay per click (PPC)) getting traffic to your website, but if it is poorly designed they still might not purchase. “Poorly designed”? What do I mean? Everything from the users interface (UI), how they navigate the site, how the product is displayed, the aestetics of the site, all of that plays a roll. I don’t even want to talk about the stability of a website. If the site crashes constantly or gives the users errors, see ya, they are leaving. When selling anything online you have to have the consumers trust. The aren’t going to give their credit card number to some shady looking site that doesn’t function properly. You can build that trust by having a well designed and functional site. I’ll briefly mention it here, but does your website properly “funnel” the customer to where you want them to go? I plan to delve into that in a future post, but funneling in website terms, in this case anyway, is the process of leading the customer to the purchase button.

Ecommerce
So, now you are doing awesome. You picked your keywords well, you optimized you website and have good rankings, your getting good relevant traffic for you product and you website is doing its job and getting the customer to click purchase. Well, there is still a lot to worry about. How is your purchase process? Does it require too much information? Does it have too many steps? Are you bogging them down with up sells (can you say godaddy.com)? An ecommerce experience should be as seamless as if they called a great customer services representative. I look at a lot of analytics for a lot of websites and I know when there is a problem. You can see it clear as day. Customers get so far along in the purchase process and then they just leave the site. Sometimes it is more obvious why then others. Either way, 99 times out of 100, there is someone else out there selling a product just like yours and if people get frustrated, they’ll bounce.

Conclusion
All of things build on one another. Don’t just focus on traffic or rankings, in the end the bottom line is sales. Great keyword selection and web site optimization can lead to great traffic. Great traffic and website design can lead to great conversions (purchase buttons clicked). A great ecommerce solutions (great customer services) will lead to happy customer who will give you sales.

Now if your product sucks, you are on your own.

Announcing the launch of a newly redesigned website for Osborn Contract Services.

Osborn Contract ServicesGreer, SC – We are excited to announce the launch of a newly redesigned web presence for Osborn Contract Services, Inc (OCS). OCS, a restoration and coating solutions providers, offers its services throughout the southeast. The new website features an easy to use content management system(CMS). Additionally, the website was built to improve the companies presence on the search engines by improving the internal linking of rich content.

Learn More 

Step one in designing a website: Define the purpose.


Many people may think this sounds so rudimentary, right? Duhhh…but do you REALLY know the purpose of your website.

I work with business owners small and large and it amazes me how many don’t have an answer to that seemingly easy question. So many think, “well, I just need a website” and for the most part I’ll buy that. However, without defining a purpose up front how can you ever determine success or failure? I don’t want to just build a website for a company, I want to help their business grow.

Do you want your website to generate leads or sales? Do you just want the site to help publicize your business or service? Start off with a simple goal, “I want my website to increase sales”. Maybe that is over simplified but at least it is a goal. In 6 months or in a year you can look back at your numbers and see if your sales have increased. (You would want to factor in what the industry numbers and if your vertical is cyclical, but you should be doing that anyway.)