The Top Seven Mistakes Websites Make

    July 28, 2003

Throughout my research, I’m always surprised when I stumble onto websites that seem to offer great products and services but lack or fail in certain important elements — elements that, with just a few short changes, can help multiply the results almost instantaneously. Generally, I have found that there are seven common mistakes that these sites make.

1) They Target the Wrong Audience

Often, this is the number one cause of online business failure. Traffic has been long touted to be the key to online success, but that’s not true. If your site is not pulling sales, inquiries, or results, then why would it need more traffic? The key is to turn curious browsers into serious buyers. Target your market by centering on a major theme, benefit, or outcome so that, when you generate pre-qualified traffic, your hit ratio (not your hits) will increase dramatically.

2) They Take a Long Time to Load

Unlike the TV or radio, computers as well as the Internet are still in their infancy. Earlier, less capable browsers and slower modems are still the norm. If your site includes Javascript, frames, plug-ins, and dazzling memory-intensive graphics in an effort to impress, it will work against you. Many potential sales are lost due to a slow-loading, unbrowsable web site.

According to an article published in “Home Business Magazine,” research by an on-hold phone message marketing company found that people start hanging up when put on hold for more than 30 seconds. The Internet is no different. If they have to wait for more than 30 seconds for your page to load, visitors will leave. In short, if they have to wait, they won’t.

3) They do Not compel Others to Act

While some sites are well-designed and provide great content, their offer may be stale. They do not offer compelling enough reasons for people to buy or at least come forward. Visitors are often left clueless when looking for the answer to that burning question: “Why?”

In other words, why should they buy? Why should they buy that particular product? Why should they buy that product from that particular site? And more important, why should they buy now? Not answering that simple question “why” will deter clients and impede sales. What makes your product so unique, so different, and so special? What’s your competitive edge? What’s in it for your customers (what are the benefits) that they can’t get anywhere else?

4) They Lack Scarcity

Jim Rohn once said that, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” People fear making bad decisions. And with scams and snake oils being more rampant on the Internet, they do so even more when shopping online. Consequently, they tend to procrastinate and do so even when they’re interested. While some sites offer great products and services, they do not effectively communicate a sense of urgency that compels visitors to act.

Use takeaway selling in order to stop people from procrastinating and get them to take action now. In other words, shape your offer — and not just your product or service — so that it is time-sensitive or quantity-bound. More important, give a reasonably logical explanation to justify your time-sensitivity or else your sales tactic will be instantly discredited.

5) They Lack Guarantees and Testimonials

Speaking of the fear of making bad decisions, today’s consumers are increasingly leery when contemplating offers on the Internet. While many professionally-looking web sites may have an ethical sales approach and offer proven products or services, the lack of a guarantee will still, particularly on the Internet, cause most visitors in the very least to question your offer.

Guarantees and testimonials help to reduce the skepticism around the purchase of your product or service and give almost instant credibility. So, help remove the risk from the buyer’s mind and you will thus increase sales — and, paradoxically, reduce returns as well.

6) They Provide Poor Copy

In cold cyberspace, the lack of human interaction takes away the emotional element in the selling process. A site must communicate that emotion that so empowers people to buy. However, many sites fail to answer a person’s most important question: “What’s in it for me?” It should cause a person to think: “Wow! This is something I can’t pass up! Where do I sign up?” A site’s sales copy must be effective enough to make its offer irresistibly compelling.

Some sites get so engrossed in describing companies, products, features, or advantages over competitors that they fail to appeal to the visitor specifically. On the other hand, bullets are captivating, pleasing to the eye, clustered for greater impact, and deliver important benefits. They usually follow the words “you get” or “reasons why,” such as “With this product, you get.” Therefore, tell the visitor what they are getting out of responding to your offer.

7) Finally, They Lack a Clear Call to Action

Answer this million-dollar, skill-testing question: “What exactly do you want your visitors to do?” Simple, isn’t it? But it doesn’t seem that way with the many sites I’ve visited. The KISS principle (keep it simple and straightforward) is immensely important on the ‘Net. An effective web site starts with a clear objective that will lead to a specific action or outcome.

If your site is not meant to, say, sell a product, gain a customer, or obtain an inquiry for more information, then what exactly must it do? Work around the answer as specifically as possible. The mind hates confusion. If you try to get your visitors to do too many things, they will do nothing. Keep your message focused or you will overwhelm the reader. Use one major theme. And most important, provide clear instructions on where and how to order.

Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, “The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning,” when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, “The Profit Pill.” See now!