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Create an Awesome Website in 10 Easy Steps
By Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
Building a website is the single most significant thing we can do for our business, product, or book. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a website for years, or if you’re building one for the first time. Even though we know how important websites are to our businesses, I’m amazed at how many folks will jump into this work with little or no knowledge of what it takes to build a website. I’m not talking about design, although that is very important. I’m taking about the goals, the mission, and understanding the principles that go into creating something that isn’t about you, but about your user because in the end, that’s the only thing that matters.
Today, there are myriad ways to build a site, many of which are affordable, or even free. Free websites come with guidance about how to add pages but they don’t come with a marketing design expert who can help you decide what components will make your website soar and what could make it fail. And even if you hire a designer, not all of them build a website from a marketing perspective. Some are just great designers and while there’s nothing wrong with that, you need to know some basics about what will not just attract readers and customers, but what will sell them, too.
- Set your goals: First thing’s first: why are you even building this site? Because someone told you that you had to have one? Not a good reason. You need to know why you’re building this site before you even get started. A site that lacks a single goal is a site without any real direction.
- Know your customer: Knowing your customers and what they need is the number one thing you should know before you start building a site. Why? Because your site isn’t about you, your book, product or your accomplishments. Your website is about your customers and what you can do for them.
- It’s not about “you” it’s about YOU: How many times do you say “I” or “we” on your website? Go ahead, count them. If you’re like most folks, I’m betting you say that a lot. Guess what? You need to get rid of that language, or at least most of it. Saying things like “I” or “We” is great – but use it sparingly. Instead, say “you” and “your” – because again, it’s about your consumer, not about you.
- Words on your website: Now that we know the importance of you and your, let’s talk about the words consumers will read on your site, i.e. your website copy. This is critically important and often overlooked. Authors and business owners will write their own copy with little idea about how to create compelling verbiage or how to weave calls to action onto the page. If you feel like you’re hitting all of the points in this article but still aren’t selling off of your site, it could be your website copy. How do you know if your copy isn’t working? Ask someone who knows. This might be your end-user or a professional who can evaluate it.
- Write a Newsletter: It’s no longer enough to have a big social media following. While that’s great, social media is changing. Facebook, though still a great resource, has gone to a largely paid version. If you aren’t running Facebook ads, your updates probably aren’t consistently showing up in your fans’ newsfeeds. A newsletter is a must if you want to grow your business and readership. You can get an account pretty easily via sites like MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Aweber. Most of these places offer free accounts until you hit a certain number of sign-ups.
- Upgrade your ethical bribe: I’ve talked a lot about giving someone something in exchange for their email address. When someone signs up for your newsletter you really need to give them a solid reason to do so. Time was, giving someone a chapter of your book or a free report was enough to drive sign-ups. But now, consumers expect more and you need to deliver. For some folks, offering a $25 gift card in the way of a monthly drawing could be a great way to drive sign-ups. If the idea of a gift card doesn’t appeal to you, think of something else that’s substantial.
- Build trust: Would you ever buy something from someone you didn’t trust? Most people would probably say no. Yet I often see many sites without any kind of testimonials, reviews, or social media love. For example, do any of your social media icons show numbers? “Join 1,000 other fans on Facebook!” That helps show your consumer that they, too, can belong to a large tribe of adoring fans. If your social media numbers are low, you can skip this until you grow them, but testimonials are definitely a must. And speaking of testimonials? Have you ever considered video?
- Film videos: Studies show that having one enthusiastic consumer talking about a product, message, or person can outweigh any other promotion you might do and for this reason, video is very important for your website. Whenever you can, record people using/reading your product, or get them to record something after they’ve used/read it. You can also do it for them, here’s an easy way. Invite them to Google Hangouts and record it using their YouTube connection (see: http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/onair.html). It’s very easy to do and a simple way to grab more video for your website!
- Upgrade your blog: I read the most brilliant piece the other day. It was about how to double, triple, and in some cases, quadruple the sign-ups you get to your website. How? By using your most popular blog posts and offering an “upgraded” or enhanced version of them. Let’s say you have one post that you know does amazingly well. It’s been shared a lot and has a ton of great comments. Why not offer an expanded version of that blog in exchange for an email address? Pretty cool idea, right? You can see the full post here: http://backlinko.com/increase-conversions . I wish I could take credit for this, but I can’t, although I can assure you that we are implementing this now.
- Different types of calls to action: For a website to be an effective sales tool, you’ll need a strong call to action, but not just one. You should have several different types of these action statements to help pull visitors in. Here some of the most popular:
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One final tip: make sure that your site has Google Analytics installed so you can measure traffic and gauge where folks are coming from, what keywords are driving them to your site, and your bounce rate. A bounce rate is the percentage of people who “bounce” off of your site after landing on it. Regardless of what anyone will tell you, there is no typical number for this. For some of us a 70% bounce rate is where we need to be, for others it’s too high. If you’re not sure, check with your web person or someone who understands your market.
Websites seem like very complicated animals and when it comes to building them, they certainly can be. But the process of creating a site your consumer will love is deceptively simple: give them what they want. In the end, that’s really all that matters. Because a website is more than just a pretty face.
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Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Follow on Twitter @Bookgal.
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