by Jim Martin
Your website is obviously important to you. Your goal should be to make it important to your customers. If your website becomes the “go-to” site for a large percentage of the people looking for your type of product, your business will grow. Your products and your customer service will help bring return customers to the site, but you can benefit from doing just a little more. Consider the following features and the impact they might have.
HTTPS. HTTPS is a more secure communications protocol which uses encryption to protect sensitive transmissions between computers. Many people won’t even notice the difference, but it can affect the traffic you receive. Google has announced that HTTPS sites will get a rankings boost in their search results. Having Google rank you higher is an obvious plus. Switching to HTTPS will also increase your credibility; customers will trust the secure connection to your site. They will browse more when there’s a big red x next to your URL on Google Chrome.
Photo Rotation. Don’t let your site get stale. It costs you very little time or money to replace the photos on your web pages. Even if you’re only displaying straight-forward displays of merchandise, you can move text from right to left, change to display slightly, change the background color or employ any other creative change to make the content seem more dynamic. You also want lots of color.
Video. When you update your content, add video. Videos will help sell your product or brand, especially if that product is not easy to demo or explain. Show your product in action, and your customers will be more likely to add them to their shopping carts. The functionality of video is constantly improving, as companies like LifePrint and Embedly develop tools to embed video within physical photos. (You can find more information on this topic at www.embedded.com.)
Well-Integrated Testimonials. Online testimonials can be powerful. Testimonials and endorsements can set you and your business apart from the rest of a crowded market. And they’re a flexible feature you can add to your site in an organic manner, whether as a standalone page, a video or simply a sidebar of positive reviews from satisfied customers.
Unobtrusive Email Signup Forms. Too many email signup forms appear as pop-ups when the visitor’s cursor moves away from a page. People seldom like pop-ups, but not having an email signup form is bad business. Since people subconsciously like being asked to act after experiencing a site’s content, well-placed email signup forms can help retain customers and ensure returns to your site. Kill pop-ups and put your sign up forms in places where they will be seen and used.
Creative 404 Recovery. In a perfect world, all users can easily navigate your site. But some users occasionally find themselves in a dead-end loop after typing a bad entry into a search block. If that (likely) happens, make sure your site’s visitors don’t get frustrated with the redirect and leave your site altogether. A good 404 landing page points viewers back to a different page (often the home page), and creative humor in 404 error messages can turn a potentially bad experience into a pleasant side trip.
Your website can read like an obscure dictionary or like the latest hot novel. The choice is yours. But a site that employs the best of tools and refreshes dynamically on a frequent basis is guaranteed to attract more customers.