As of January 2013, there were an estimated 726 million websites on the internet, comprising more than 11.27 billion pages. That’s a lot of reading, shopping, or just surfing. Although these websites and pages exist for different reasons, they all have one objective in mind: marketability.
Marketability is not exclusively defined as selling goods or services; it means providing information, promoting a cause, espousing opinion or sometimes, for better or worse, synthesizing conjecture and irrationality into fact. For our purposes, let’s focus on website marketability for goods or services.
Marketability is obtained through three types of criteria: personality, credibility and accessibility.
1) Personality – Your business should not be taken personally, as in letting your emotions affect your decisions, but it should have personality. This is accomplished by utilizing a style of design that accurately reflects that personality as well as specific and relevant content:
• Design. A well designed website should convey what type of business or industry you’re in as soon as the visitor lands on it. Color, fonts, and structure all come into play, as well as types of features included. For example, trades or creative services use many vibrant images with before/after shots; attorneys or financial services are very clean, conservative and unlikely to contain ads.
• The man behind the curtain. Putting a face (or faces) to the name of a business often helps visitors feel more comfortable about you and consider what you offer more seriously. On your About Us/Our Team page, make sure to include headshots with each team member’s profile, as well as some personal details about them (outside interests, hobbies, etc.).
2) Credibility – Your website’s credibility is a powerful thing because it can: a) change visitors’ attitudes so they think positively about, or feel comfortable interacting with, the website; and b) change visitors’ behavior by getting them to complete a transaction, return to the site again or recommend it to others. Credibility can be achieved with a few simple features:
• Make it easy to contact you. Visible contact information tells a visitor that there’s a real person behind your business – you‘re legitimate and they can do business with you – especially if there’s a phone number combined with a physical address. Remember, although someone is visiting your website, it doesn’t mean that they’re comfortable communicating with you electronically. Many people do their research by looking at websites, but still prefer to pick up the phone and speak to someone when it comes time to make a transaction. If you hide your phone number or other basic contact information, you’re losing business.
• Have accurate content. Be specific and up-to-date with the products or services you offer, and make sure your About Us page clearly defines your and/or your team’s range of expertise. Offering something on your website that you no longer do can not only diminish your legitimacy, but disappoint prospects and send them somewhere else.
• Promote accomplishments. Strategic partnerships, awards, and accreditations should be listed clearly on your site, as well as any charitable organizations or community involvements you’re pursuing. These things enhance the profile of who you are and help strengthen your reputation. Visitors will often see these elements and form a better opinion of you or your business – and in some cases, identify with you.
3) Accessibility – Your site should be easy to use – and useful. Websites that are difficult to find, have long names or confusing and obtrusive content will not keep visitors coming back, nor attract many new ones.
• URL. Your website address should be easy to remember, as short as possible and should include either your business name or a call to action.
• Optimization. Even if you’re not doing SEO on your site, basic optimization elements should still be used. Page titles and descriptions, tagged images, submission to search engines and a presence on Google+ are simple tactics to implement and will help you be found – provided you do them periodically.
• Precise navigation. Website content should be categorized and easy to find. Combine relevant content into submenus so the user spends less time finding what they want. Create introductions to the most important information and feature them on your homepage, with links to detailed breakdowns.
• No distractions. If you have ads or other promotional material that make your actual important content hard to find or read, it’s another turnoff for visitors. If you’re going to have ads, distance them from your content and don’t make them too big. And NEVER use pop-ups.
Website marketability breeds business profitability. If you consider these points when creating your website, you will be on your way.