Don’t over think your website

The number one most common problem we come across during the website design and build process is that customers massively overthink their website.

They want too much from it (and usually without paying for it).

Imaging a shop window. Let’s say it’s the shop window of your favourite high-street retailer. They use eye-catching design to grab your attention, they feature new and fashionable products, they use simple but effective graphic design, and that’s about it.

It’s highly unlikely that as part of that display you will find every scrap of detail about each individual product – barcode, product name, item description, sizes available, conversion chart for sizes, colour choices, price range, etc.

Instead, that minimalist but well thought-out window design has the sole purpose of grabbing your attention and getting you to go into the store to find out more.

Your website needs to take exactly the same approach.

Your website is in fact your shop window. It is the place where you need to grab the attention of passing visitors, and make them want to contact you to find out more.

Less, as they say, is more.

Provide your potential customers (visitors) with enough information to wet their appetite, and give them easy ways to get in touch with you to find out more.

The getting in touch part is essential. Why? Because once they contact you they have taken the first step in creating a relationship with you. And it is relationships that make money.

So, think about your website. Have you made the fatal mistake like so many others and shoehorned every last scrap of information onto your web pages?

If you have then it may be time for a rethink of your strategy.

ASA regulations also cover websites and social media

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is well known for governing the advertising campaigns of UK Businesses such as print publications and TV advertising.

However, many smaller business owners were not aware that the ASA also govern the use of advertising on digital platforms including websites and company owned social media accounts.

The announcement made by the ASA explains the extent of which their regulations cover is “Advertisements and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities and gifts, or which consist of direct solicitations of donations as part of their own fund-raising activities”.

This guidance is fairly clear cut, but there are some key points that every small business owner should take note of.

1. All communications on your website are subject to the ASA regulations. These regulations aim to control communications that are designed to mislead, harm or offend. Particular focus is placed on communications relating to alcohol, health and beauty claims, children and young people, medicine, finance, environmental claims, direct marketing, prize promotions and gambling.

2. Social Networking Sites are included in other non-paid-for-space, and are subject to the same regulations as your own website. Interestingly, if you share a line of text on a social media account that is actually an advertisement then you should include a statement that tells people it is an advertisement, such as using the hash tag #Ad on Twitter, or placing an “Advertisement:” or “Ad:” warning on Facebook and other such sites.

3. Any comments posted by a 3rd party, such as a customer, will not be your responsibility. Only those communications that are posted by you or a representative of your business/company are subject to the regulations.

Basic email marketing tips

Email marketing is a powerful tool that every business large or small should consider using.

There are however some key tips and tricks to running an effective email marketing campaign, some of which are detailed below:

Signup Permission

There are numerous laws that govern the use of email communications, and these laws change from country to country. Essentially though, if you have not been given permission to send email marketing communications to a recipient then you are classed as a spammer.

As such ensure that rather than purchasing email lists and emailing random contacts you should instead consider building a list via a signup form on your website that requires a user to enter their name, email address and confirm that they wish you to contact them.

By ensuring that a user opt-in to your email communications you are not only ensuring legal compliance, but you are also ensuring that each contact on your email list is a pre-qualified prospective customer.

Avoid Spam Filters

Nearly all ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) have rigorous spam protection in place to help trap and reduce unsolicited email messages before they reach a customers inbox.

There are lots of different criteria that these filters use to identify an email message as spam, but they generally rank each individual email by these differing criteria’s and then if that email achieves a rating about a specific level then it is automatically flagged up as spam and deleted.

To stop this from happening to your email communications ensure that you don’t use words such as “Free”, “£££”, “Save” or “Discount” in the subject line and content of your emails. These, and many like them, are used regularly by spammers and as such you are likely to be flagged up as one such spammer if you use them.

Personalize Your Emails

It doesn’t take much to do this, as most email software allows you to send to a distribution list with an option of how each email recipient is addressed.

Receiving an email addressed to you… your own name …is much more personal than a “Dear Subscriber”, and it immediately creates an emotional bond between you and the recipient.

Improve Conversion

Research shows that by including text links in bold, blue and underlined have a much higher click-through rate than using banners and buttons. So, keep it simple.

Simple Unsubscribe

Make it easy for your recipient to unsubscribe from your emails. Over time people turn off from what you are saying, and your emails become irrelevant. When this happens there is little point in sending them your communications, as they do no good, and in the eyes of the recipient become spam messages (even when they have given you permission to contact them). As such, ensuring that there is a quick and easy way to unsubscribe allows you to keep your email campaign legal and as effective as possible.

Repeat Email Communications

It has been proven by thorough research over the years that repeat communications work better than single ones.

If you are sending an email telling your list about a special offer then you are likely to receive only a small amount of interaction from your first email. A second email increased that interaction. A third email significantly increases that interaction. And in many cases a 4th and 5th email can see increases of up to 300% in the interaction seen previously.

Stay Consistent

The look and feel of your emails should stay the same on each email, and should be sent at roughly the same day and time each week.

Using a simple template and email auto-scheduling will ensure this is achieved as best as possible.

Subject Line

When someone is checking their email inbox they dedicate approximately half a second to each email subject line to see what catches their attention.

With this in mind you should take great care over the subject line you choose to ensure maximum open rates.

Test Your Emails

Before sending your email en-mass ensure that you send yourself a test email to see how it displays, and to ensure that all images and links are working as they should.

Nothing screams unprofessionalism more than receiving an email marketing communication that does not work.

Signature

Ensure that every email includes your signature. Not only does it look more professional and radiate a more personal touch, but it also significantly increases click-through rates.

Your signature or footer should also include your registered address and contact details to comply with email communication laws.

Great content increases website conversion rates

Studies show that a half of pretty much all retail sales are influenced directly by content found online. Prior to making any kind of buying decision many people perform web searches for information on a product or service, and often visit multiple websites in search of that information. They make informed decisions based on both technical information and user experiences.

Interestingly, there is significant research that details a massive surge in consumers making online purchases via their mobile phones, further reassuring small businesses that buying habits are changing and that more and more people are now choosing to shop online versus making that trip to the shops.

Small Businesses are of course reacting to this, partly due to a better education surrounding the benefits of a presence on the Internet, but also due to these significant shifts in buying habits.

Once such reaction is to invest (however large or small) in a website and the related web marketing to drive qualified traffic to their sites.

However, spending all this money driving consumers to a website that does little other than display a little bit of text describing a product or service is very much like hiring the most expensive limousine you can find and having it drive you to a field full of manure… pointless!

Driving the traffic to your website is only one tiny part of the online challenge. The rest of the work requires achieving high levels of engagement and interaction, culminating in a conversion… which for most is likely to be a direct sale or at least an online enquiry.

There are key things you can do as a Small Business Website Owner, starting with ensuring that you offer outstanding content to your visitors.

If you are advertising a product or service don’t just publish a paragraph or two about what it is you are asking people to spend their hard earned cash on… give them a compelling reason to buy it. Turn their “want” into a “need”.

Ensure that you include a high quality featured image, then back it up with additional images so that if they want to delve a little deeper they can. Use a “grabbing” headline style product or service title, back it up with an additional sub-title, then offer simple, easy-to-read and energizing copy to get the consumer hooked.

Finally, use other consumers to seal the deal, and provide some kind of customer comments and/or ratings section, allowing genuine consumers to let everyone else know just how outstanding the product or service actually is.

You need to imagine that a website and it’s sub-pages are the same as the in-store sales process. You must greet the customer at the door (your home page), let them know you are there to help (onsite search and FAQ’s), present your sales pitch (sub-pages) and finally close the deal (online payment or direct contact page). Sales psychology doesn’t just apply to real bricks and mortar businesses… it is equally relevant online.

Keeping your website legal

For most of us building a website is a really exciting time in the business lifecycle. It’s our opportunity to add a little bit of creative flare into our business image, and it’s a way of introducing our business to the wider world.

Something that we often forget during this process though is the legal side of things. Keeping our web presence on the right side of the law, both here and in other countries is essential. It may not seem like anything to worry about at first glances (you are probably thinking that there are so many websites online that the chances of being prosecuted are minor) but the liability that you face is potentially huge should you not take some simple steps to protect yourself and your business.

Copyright

The first thing you need to understand is that all content both offline and online holds a copyright. Images, text and design are all examples of content that can hold copyright.

There are two ways you can ensure that you do not breach anyone’s copyright.

  1. Ensure that your content is your own work and unique to you. That means using your own words, your own images (taken by you or for you) and ensuring that your website is designed from scratch and uses unique code.
  2. Ensure that any content you use that is not rightfully yours is licensed for you to use, and that you use that content exactly as per the terms of your license. That means that if perhaps you don’t have your own images you may consider purchasing stock images from an online site. When doing this ensure that you check the terms of the license agreement and ensure that you retain proof of purchase and your granting of license. If you want to use other peoples text, designs or even want to link to their content then ensure that you first seek permission to do so, and keep a record of that permission just incase you are ever challenged.

Trademarks

Sometimes you can infringe registered trademarks without even realizing it. There are lots of different things that people trademark including images, words and phrases.

It’s not only the actual content of your site that you need to think about when it comes to this, but also the domain name (web address) that you register where your website is displayed.

You should carry out thorough checks before purchasing domain names, using straplines and so on, to ensure that you do not breech registered trademarks – be it intentional or not.

Defamation

Making false statements about someone or some organization that could be damaging to their reputation means that you could be held liable for a defamation claim.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t mention people or businesses online, but it does mean that you can be held accountable for what you say.

As a basic form of protection you should ensure that if you do have a need and a reason to pass comment then that comment must be based 100% on fact – the truth!

Linking

Without links the World Wide Web would not be World Wide, nor would it be a Web. However, there are a few no-no’s when it comes to linking.

Do not use an IMG link, which shows the images located on someone else’s website on your own. This is a form of copyright breech as you are using their work as your own. If you wish to do this you should first seek the copyright owner’s express permission to do so, and retain a record of that permission.

Using frames within your website to display external content. This again runs the risk of breeching copyright, than less of course that content belongs to you. If you wish to do this then again ensure that you first seek and gain permission, and have a record of that permission.

Usage Policies

Every website should set out clear guideline for use of the site in the form of a Terms of Usage or Terms and Conditions style document. The document should be easily viewable online and in some cases it could be worth providing a printable copy too.

A Privacy Policy should be in place to explain to visitors how you treat their privacy. This is especially important should your site collect information from them, sell products or services, or use cookies to track their browsing habits whilst on your site – even if you use external services such as Google Analytics rather than your own on-site service. And, as per new EU Legislation you must also seek to gain a visitors permission to use cookies prior to them using your site. A simple pop-up window that asks them to either agree to the policy or not use your site should protect the average website.

Accessibility 

The Disability Discrimination Act here in the UK means that if you own a website you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that it can be accessed by everyone, regardless of their ability.

In order to adhere to this legislation you should ensure that your website is built inline with W3C standards and you should regularly review your website design and performance to ensure that it remains compliant as technologies change.

Protection

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to stay totally within the law. It could be that the use of a single word could breech someone’s trademark, and potentially no end of research would flag that breech up.

If your website is commercially based (used for business rather than pleasure) then it would be strongly recommended to think about some form of insurance cover should the worst happen.

Many standard insurance policies for business now include a clause regarding the running of a website, or at least have add-in’s to cover for such things. If however you run an e-commerce site the it would be advisable to look into full e-commerce insurance to ensure that you are fully protected for all eventualities.

Summary

We are by no means experts on the law. We are not legally trained, nor should our advice within this post be taken as gospel.

Wherever possible, should you feel that your website requires it, you should consider seeking out professional legal advice.

However, hopefully this article will serve as a rough guide to help you make informed decisions.