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Your Website May Reveal More Than You Really Want Customers To See

by Barry Welford


What do customers or potential customers think about your company. Do they ever see your company facilities? Have they received some of your company literature? Or is it based on meeting you or one of your representatives personally?

In this Internet age, a big part of their impression of the company will be influenced by your website. For potential customers, your website may be their only impression. The vast majority of managers, particularly in companies with the best purchasing potential, now use the Internet as their principal tool to research companies they may do business with. As they search the Web for potential suppliers, your website may be enough to get you dropped from their short list. Indeed even if they meet you personally, they may want to check further by visiting your website.

Who visits your website and how long will they stay?

So who exactly is visiting your website? What are their characteristics? Unfortunately they are not all the same. You must try to make sure that your website is attractive to your target niche of potential customers. Also nothing must get in the way of them seeing this attractive view of your company.

You are playing the percentages here. Undoubtedly many of your visitors are stressed and busy and will not work too hard at getting information. Whoever they are, you want them to see as much as they need to develop a favourable attitude towards your company.

Some purely mechanical features influence this:

  • Many visitors are using 800 x 600 pixels display. If at this resolution, the pages must be scrolled sideways, then some visitors will be lost.
  • Some visitors prefer using Netscape or other Internet browsers, some of which may treat your programming code differently. The pages may appear distorted to them and this may lose some again.
  • Some visitors are still using a dial-up connection, particularly in their home office. Key pages, which have over 50 kilobytes including images, may lose them as they wait for ever to download the images. Even though in the office they may have a high speed connection, they may wish to catch up at home on a backlog of work. This probably makes them even less forgiving of an irritating website.
  • Pages seen on the computer screen should have 25% or less of the words of an equivalent printed page. Too many words will cause some visitors to click off.
  • If pages are very long and you must scroll down or page down several times, then here is another way to lose visitors.

So hopefully we have retained them for a short visit. Now how do we create that favourable impression?

What will impress your visitors

The potential buyer can so easily get information about potential suppliers from the Internet. How can we stand out from the crowd of competitors? Just as in face-to-face meetings, first impressions are very important. The potential buyer wants to get the best solution for his needs from a strong supplier, who is likely to give satisfactory service in every way.

To create that rapid, favourable impression, the website should deliver at least the following information on:

  • What the customer will get from your company and why this is better than the competition
  • The team that will provide this to him or her
  • News on recent successes of the company
  • Satisfied customers, who can vouch for the company's performance

The website should also confirm the other attributes, which the potential customer may be seeking. Likely this means that the website should have an uncluttered appearance with professional graphic images. The website should be easy to navigate, with only few clicks to get to whatever information you are seeking. If significant sales are made in Quebec, then a bilingual introductory or "splash" page should allow access to English or French web-pages. If any sales at all are made in Quebec, then at the very least a link should be on the Welcome page, giving access to the French pages.

What may turn your visitors off

However good your website may be in terms of the messages you are delivering, some unfortunate oversights in your website may destroy that favourable impression:

  • You are emphasizing the high quality of the products you produce, yet there are typos on some pages!
  • You explain that you provide on-time delivery, yet some pages are under construction (and perhaps still a month later on a subsequent visit).
  • You take pride in the reliability of your service, yet some links on your site no longer work.
  • You describe your company as on the leading edge, providing innovative solutions, yet the most recent news item is> 18 months old.

You may feel that these are exaggerations yet there are many examples among current websites.

And how do you get them to find your site?

The very best way to get visitors to your site is to invite them. Send them a personalized email message or give them your business card (which should always carry your website URL). However some visitors may use a search engine to find your site. How do you make sure that the search engines will find you and will put you high in their rankings?

This is too big a topic to cover here, but some of the simplest and most powerful factors are often overlooked by websites which are otherwise very attractive. Here are a few:

  • If your site avoids the use of frames, this is probably an advantage.
  • Each page should have a Title, which in a very short sentence describes what your company does for the client.
  • Each page should have a Meta tag, which gives a 250 character Description of what your company does.
  • Each page should have a Meta tag, which gives important Keywords, which visitors might use with a search engine to find your website.
  • The Home page should feature the important Keywords early in the page.
  • So how good is your website?

    Unfortunately, many companies seem to have a blind-spot as they look at their website. Their website shows a picture of their company, which may turn off or at least downgrade them relative to their competition.

    Here are the key questions you might want to ask yourself about your website. Or better still, get an outsider, for example one of your customers, to answer them. Don't forget to mention that you want a critical review, because you are looking for ways to improve.

    • Does the overall impression confirm the strengths of your organization?
    • Can website visitors quickly see what your company will do for them?
    • Are there any obvious errors in the site? e.g. typos, links that don't work.
    • Can website visitors quickly find information, which is important to them?
  • If you get honest answers to these questions, then you may be in for a surprise.

    For a more complete evaluation of your website as the most forceful element in your marketing strategy, why not use our free Website Evaluator. This details many of the important factors, which determine the effectiveness of your website with potential and existing customers. It provides a measure of this effectiveness.

    To obtain a copy of this Excel worksheet, download it into another window (It is only 41 kb). Then have a number of people rate your website and see how their opinions compare. Check out the competitors' websites and compare your own website's ratings with their ratings..

    Go try it. You'll probably find some surprises.

    It is important to see your website through the eyes of someone who does not know your company well. A knowledgeable marketing coach can be a useful partner in such an exercise. This will ensure that your Website is a strong component in your Internet strategy.

    If you wish to use this approach, SMM will be happy to work with you. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience, creativity and practical common sense can complement those of your company. So write us a Fast Message today, Friday, March 4, 2005, on what you're looking for.

    Discuss this in our Forum:

    About the Author:

    Barry Welford is the president of Strategic Marketing Montreal. SMM provides Internet Marketing Consultancy and Coaching to clients in the manufacturing and service sectors. This includes strategy development, website conception including usability, SEO, credibility and sales conversion aspects, search engine marketing and sales force management. Many will have seen his writings through the SMM Newsletters. He is a moderator on the Cre8asite Forum along with other major search engine forums. Barry is known for his writings in two associated business blogs BPWrap and the Other Bloke's Blog.

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