Sunday, October 30, 2011

Convert Visitors with Content

Everyone wants visitors to convert. Depending on the organization, that could mean bookmarking the site, subscribing to the newsletter, purchasing the product or service, registering for an account, donating to the charity, or what have you. But visitors won't make the effort unless you make an effort.

What exactly do I mean by that? Stoney deGeyter uses the analogy of being in the middle of a brick-and-mortar store without any sales assistants around to help. “Looking up and down isles, not finding an available employee within driving distance, I get the urge to shout, 'I'm going to steal something!' just to see if anyone cares.” I can do him one better than that. Stuck in a store with employees that won't help, I'll walk right out the door and go visit their competitors, who are more than willing to give me all the assistance I need.

So think about that for a second. If I'll go to the effort of walking out of a brick-and-mortar store that won't help me and drive to one that will, how fast do you think I'll click away from an unhelpful website and seek out one that gives me what I need? And how likely is it that the website I find belongs to your biggest competitor?

With a website, you can't be right there in the flesh to answer every question. But you can give a visitor the information they need to make a good decision. Indeed, if you take a look at Amazon, perhaps the biggest online retailer there is, you'll see that their product pages offer visitors a lot of useful content. Indeed, deGeyter notes that adding content to your site can dramatically improve your conversions.

Some sites, according to deGeyter, seem to think that content is the barrier that stands between the customer and the checkout page. I honestly don't know where that idea got started, but what you're really taking away when you remove the content is the helpful sales associate who walks your visitor through making an informed decision – and turns them into a satisfied customer.

How does adding content to your site accomplish this goal? We'll start with the most obvious point. When you explain the value of your products and services with unique content on your home, category, sub-category and product pages, you answer your visitors' questions. They need to know whether or not your product will suit their needs before they buy it; if they don't know that, they won't buy it.

Providing your visitors with more information helps in less tangible ways as well. When you provide a lot of well-organized information about your offerings, you appear more credible in your visitors' eyes. You give them more reason to trust you, and we all know we're more likely to buy from someone we can trust. We're also more likely to buy if we have enough information to see that making the purchase would be a wise decision – and the more expensive the offering, the more information we need.

Providing enough content to help a visitor make an informed decision works well as a long-term strategy. A visitor who buys from you will remember that they had a good experience, because you helped them make up their mind. They'll be inclined to do business with you again. If one of their friends needs a product or service that you can provide, they'll refer them to you. Even a visitor who doesn't buy from you will remember that you provided plenty of content, and is likely to come back when they do need your products or services. They might even tell their friends about your site. After all, you've proven that you're credible by the amount of information your site provides.

If you want to make sure you remain credible, though, you need to provide not only lots of information about your products and services, but the right kind of information. If your blue widgets aren't waterproof, for example, and your customers might take them out in the rain, you'd better mention it up front. As deGeyter explains, “Being up front with both pros and cons, benefits and possible side-effects, allows the customer to weigh each against that of other products or even your competitors. Short of that information you risk having an unhappy customer or no customer at all, when all that was missing was the correct information they needed to pull the trigger on a purchase.”

By including the pros and cons, you're not just adding important content to your site; you're showing your visitors that you're open and honest, and worthy of doing business with them. If you do this, according to deGeyter, your visitors and customers will be more open with you. “This will give you better opportunities to meet their needs, if not now, at some later point down the road with a new product or service.”

Building up your content is a strategy for the long haul. It's not going to happen overnight, but it will pay dividends both now and down the road. Good luck!

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