Webmasters and website owners often strive to increase the numbers of visitors to their websites when their websites don't sell well in the first place. The idea is to get hits-hits-hits or, in the parlance, "traffic". While there's everything right about this, and whether "sales" means actual sales, sales leads, subscriptions, etc., there is always an unspoken assumption-in-a-vaccuum: that more visitors will result in more sales.
This assumption can lead to false hopes and future letdowns: while Web "hopefuls" are told that just getting a website will make them rich, it is not an absolute truism that all websites sell well simply by the mere fact of their existence.
If your website doesn't sell, it is not time to give up hope. It's not that "the Web doesn't work" -- you've simply skipped over a few steps. If sales are poor, the answer is not just getting more traffic. The real answer is to make your website sell and then increase the traffic.
One reason to address this now is that the world of search engines is changing (again). Many website owners have gotten used to getting loads of free traffic from search engines, and many have come to depend solely on this traffic for visitors and sales. But as the number of existing websites increases, the competition for "top spots" has also increased. Meanwhile — and this is an important corollary — many search engines have moved more and more toward either charging for including your pages or adding paid ads onto their search results pages. It means more competition, and possible fees in the future.
On the other hand, you may choose to pay for listings, advertising space, or "pay-per-click" services from companies such as Overture. In this case, one can extrapolate continual increases in these costs as more companies find value in paid advertising.
Of course, one may hope that new search engines will always appear on the horizon, gain the market share (wide acceptance and use by surfers) of a Yahoo or a Google, and provide traffic to everyone free of charge. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that this will continue indefinitely, just as there's no guarantee that the "big boys" in your industry won't show up with bagfuls of advertising dollars to buy out all the top spots.
Bottom line is that now's the time to address your customer acquisition and sales.
Making it work for you
You've got a great opportunity to make this work for you. It costs money and/or effort to attract every visitor you do get to your website and to turn him or her into a customer. This is your "customer acquisition" cost, and you can move now to decrease your customer-acquisition costs by ensuring that you make better use of the visitor traffic that you do get.
Since only a percentage of visitors will buy, sign up, etc., a simple increase in the percentage of people that you turn into customers means an actual increase in sales and a decrease in your customer acquisition cost — without increasing your website traffic one iota.
If your website is new, you don't yet know if it sells, and the only way to find out is to get people to visit. Once you've done that — and assuming for the sake of argument that you've attracted people who are actually interested in what you have to offer — your results will tell you whether the website is effective. The bottom line is simply this: if you find that it does in fact sell, then pouring on the promotional and advertising efforts and dollars should pay off for you.
If, on the other hand, your website has been around for some time and gets a reasonable number of visitors but sales are poor, it's time to discover the underlying reasons — there's no point in wasting money and effort on a non-selling website without addressing what's wrong.
This is the $64,000 question. True story: early on in the history of our web design studio, we'd build websites for clients and then not hear from them for months. Eventually, being an ethical and honest sort, I'd worry that our website building efforts were less than they should be. Since I did not want to tell people that we could design a good website for them without knowing this was true, I'd call our clients to tell them we had to rework the site immediately. Given the lack of prior feedback, some of the responses took me by surprise:
"I beg to differ. We just got a huge new client from the website — and we've been getting them all along."
"After we uploaded the new [redesigned] website, our income doubled."
"The website saved me 100 hours of work last month."
"I'm paying off my mortgage."
One client told me he'd consistently made in each of the two months since his site had gone live what it had previously taken him four months to make.
If you're having problems with sales, study of your website will help you to isolate what's going on. Without further ado, I'll give a few tips.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather should provide an orientation that will help you look at your website with a fresh pair of eyes -- and enable you to begin to improve both the experience of your visitors and your sales.
DianeV Web Design Studio
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