I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Making websites sell for you

man pointing to various elements of a successful website

The right website elements = sales & money

If you run a business website, it makes sense to have it help you sell stuff, right?

But have you ever looked at your website to see if does help you sell stuff, or if it makes hard work for your potential customers?

A recent review of websites…

I have been looking for some software for a c lient without any prior knowledge of any relevant suppliers. So I was relying entirely on what I found online.

Not surprisingly, I looked at a few sites.

  1. I started with the top site listed in Google AdWords and found… 
    • very small font that was hard to read (lucky I don’t have poor eyesight to start with!)
    • after 5 minutes, I found a small link on one inner page that showed me a demonstration of the program (for a function I didn’t actually want) – otherwise no screenshots or demonstrations are on the site
    • the list of features includes things like “enables businesses to focus on their skills” and “proven reliable since 2000” – it doesn’t answer questions about the capabilities of the software to the point that it really isn’t a list of features at all
    • there was a huge list of testimonials on a distinct page (not near any information) rather than actual information
    • there are no prices listed on the site to give me any guidance as to the quality of their product or if it’s within budget
    • I decided I didn’t trust them with my email address or phone number so they are not a potential supplier
  2. So I went to the second site listed in Google AdWords to find it… 
    • looked much better than site 1 – it was clean, easy to read and not text-heavy
    • the prices and features pages were just contact forms so the site was actually information poor
    • I noted the footer mentioned an affiliation with a company I know overcharges like a wounded bull so I closed that window, too

    clarity leads to trust; clutter leads to confusion

  3. Thus I moved onto the third site in Google AdWords…
    •  it was professionally laid out, gave clear direction to relevant parts of the site and written with a consumer in mind
    • they provide a 30 day free trial which built my confidence in them
    • includes a clear list of ‘for $x you get these features’ so I could assess if it suited my needs and budget straight away (and no need to waste their time on a non-qualified customer)
    • all packages even include a webinar on how to use the software, available to all my client’s staff – this is a great bonus and probably cost very little to produce
    • I trusted this business but the features my client needs weren’t there unfortunately – at least I knew that quickly, though
  4. Next, I looked at the fourth site from Google AdWords and saw 
    • lots of white space on the page and an overall professional look and feel
    • clear answers to key questions, followed by a list of benefits (eg saves time and improves revenue) and some testimonials – all on the home page
    • home page has a button ‘instant demo’ so I can see what is on offer and mentions a 30 day free trial – instantly developing my trust. And 30 days money back guarantee effectively means you get 60 days trial!
    • the home page has a feed from their blog – with 3 items from the last two weeks showing me it is current and they maintain their site
    • the pricing page is a comparison table of their plans, clearly showing the actual price and included features
    • their main menu includes ‘help’ which leads to a knowledge base and a lot more details than I need to know at this stage. Note the excess information was not in my face to overwhelm me, but it easily found which again builds my trust
    • I recommended this supplier to my client and we have since trialled the software and it is working very well in tests.

I actually looked at a couple more potential suppliers, but these four  showed the absolute importance of a good website to help you sell to prospective customers.

*Images courtesy of 123rf

Using Santa for trustworthy content

Baby in a Santa suit is trustworthy and cuteRight now, Santa and all things Christmas are popular topics and adding these keywords to your content can be useful.

At any time of year, using topical words and common events in your marketing can be valuable. For example, think about a chocolate company that advertises all year but leading up to mid February, they use more romantic concepts to tie in with Valentines Day.

If you don’t sell gifts, however, you may not think Christmas and Santa can help your marketing.

Actually, you may be surprised at how you can use current events to promote your business (and I’ll give some ideas later in the week) but here is an example from Jeff Bullas where he used Santa in a heading and one tip to tie an article on building trust to the Christmas season.

Let’s face it, are there many people more trusted than Santa? Would people trust your business based on your online presence?

If you do try to link your business in with Christmas, Santa or some other major event, it is important to do it in such a way as to build and maintain trust; make your message relevant to the added keywords rather than just adding topical words in a heading or description for purely keyword and SEO purposes.


* Image courtesy of Love Santa

Building your integrity

Would you buy anything from a business you didn’t trust? Or a business that you’ve heard bad things about?

Most people wouldn’t so it is crucial to ensure your business is trustworthy and maintains that image. Honesty, integrity, straightforward, transparent and respect are all parts of that trustworthy image.

Here are some key activities to show your integrity and trustworthiness, gained from watching people do the opposite as well as showing integrity even when it’s hard.

  • pay your suppliers on time – or discuss it openly if you can’t do it as timely as expected. What’s more, do not hire new suppliers if you are in debt and know you can’t afford to pay them – doing so is one of the fastest ways of destroying your credibility and risking legal actions
  • take responsibility for yourself, your business and even your team. Blaming others and looking for excuses doesn’t put you in a good light and can worry protective clients and suppliers hat they will be blamed for future issues – not good for building trust!
  • be honest – don’t make grand claims on your website, own up to errors and tell clients what they need to hear (rather than what brings you a quick return)
  • be open – share bits of information about the people behind the business. That doesn’t mean tell us all your son’s achievements or what you had for breakfast, nor give out private details, but let people know the human voice of a business as well. For example what impression do I give when I occasionally mention I am a cub leader?
  • be transparent – put your pricing and/or policies in easy-to-understand terms in an accessible form (I hate websites that don’t show delivery prices until you finish the shopping, for instance) and let appropriate negative comments remain (although I suggest answering them as well!)
  • be professional and pay attention to small details so people can trust you will do a good job for them
  • be consistent so people learn that you always do things the same way and that they can rely on that
  • take care with where and how you promote your business – and ask for help. Being open about needing help is one thing but publicly asking for help on many aspects of your business  gives little reason to think you can provide the promised services. As my role is to prepare content, I can post online that I need help with preparing some graphics but a coach publicly asking for funding to set up anything is dubious
What other ways have businesses earned your trust?

Twitter for relationships

When twittering, it is about conversations and building trust so why not be personal?
Tonight, I got multiple tweets within half an hour from someone I don’t know or follow. She was using a company name as user name but talking about the business as ‘they do the hottest websites’ etc. Here’s my response to her tweets…

  1. It’s not very personal to say they when she could have chatted to me about how she could help me – and it looked stupid for XYZ to say “see xyz.com – they do the hottest websites”. No credibility and she lost the opportunity to get to know someone (someone who had just posted about businesses needing good designers, too)
  2. She obviously hadn’t read my reply which said ‘ no thanks, I’m not looking for a designer’ as she kept telling me to look at this design company. She didn’t build my trust or respect at all.
  3. She made no attempt to have a real conversation with me. I twittered about not just using anyone to help with setting up a new website which would have been a perfect opening for her to agree, ask questions about why I tweeted that and perhaps give some tips on choosing a good designer. But she preferred to tweet me repeatedly with a sales pitch – and even a newbie to Twitter like me knows that rule #1 is don’t do a sales pitch!
  4. If you are going to take the time to respond to a stranger’s tweets, and send them a number of tweets, surely you could take a few minutes to look at their profile and get some idea of who they are or what they do? One of her tweets listed various industries ‘they’ have designed for – none were my industry so she missed another opportunity there by not targeting her spiel.
  5. note: we're sick of spamSending multiple emails telling me to ‘hit their website’ annoyed me (both in the repetition and in the terminology!) so I blocked her. Frankly, I considered her tweets to be spam and I don’t like being spammed.

In other words,  she actively lost a client by her actions so totally wasted her time. It would have been so easy to have written ‘we’ instead of ‘they’, and have a conversation with me.

Do you follow anyone who talks in the third person about their business?

I don’t know that she’ll had learnt anything by being blocked, but maybe someone reading this post will learn from her mistakes instead!

Be professional with the little things…

It amazes me sometimes how people ignore some of the little details that are so easy to deal with.

I read recently that someone would never take advice from a financial planner who can’t afford a quality tie (bad taste is a different issue, of course!) My equivalent statement is that I would never hire someone for SEO help/advice or other digital services (social media marketing, web design, ecommerce, etc) if they can’t be bothered setting up a non-hotmail, non-yahoo email address – Gmail and IP provider emails are not really any better.Receiving professional emails on your laptop

The blog I looked at yesterday came to my attention by the owner asking for guest blog posts. He provided a domain name and his Hotmail details. Why on earth doesn’t he have an email based at that domain name? Especially for someone claiming to know about SEO?

This is a pet peeve, but there are some valid reasons to use a domain-related email address:

  • it builds trust to use your domain name – you have taken the time to get a domain name and matching emails so expect to be in business for more than five minutes
  • it looks professional
  • Hotmail does not build credibility – many people use Hotmail as untraceable email addresses so it is not always seen as reputable. Have you noticed a number of places won’t accept a Hotmail address when you register?
  • every time someone receives your email, you can promote Hotmail/Gmail/your ip provider or you can use your domain name and promote your business. No brainer to me
  • it shows you pay attention to the little details in your business so probably care about your products/services
  • it gives consistency, especially when you list your contact details in one place like on a business card or the end of an email
  • you don’t have to change your email address if you change ip providers or the email service stops (or changes rules in a way you don’t like)

Blogs and trust

A few days I wrote about the Edelman Trust Barometer and the reduced trust in Australian business.

One statement made by Edelman that I didn’t mention was “Digital communication such as blogs and social networking sites are not trusted sources of information. ” I left it for a separate post as I think it is worth more discussion.

I think that statement is simplistic, especially as it is not backed up with statsitics or specifics. For instance, are no blogs trusted or just those run by big companies? Does the style of blog or age of the respondent make any difference to their answer?

Instead of writing an essay on this topic, here are just a few of my thoughts, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, too:

  •  reading a blog gives you insights into the person behind the business, making it more personal and therefore more trustworthy
  • blogs doing things like overusing keywords, be ads trather than information, ignoring comments (especially negative comments) and not providing meaningful links are not going to build trust – but many others avoid these behaviours
  • blogs and social media are very different – and the perception is probably bigger for those who don’t use tweeter, FaceBook, and so on
  • regular blog posts show a commitment to the business and clients – much more than a website or promotional materials that are only updated once a year or less
  • blogs are a quick, easy way to communicate information quickly. I have a client whose customers requested more updates on the business and industry, and their web stats show the blog is attracting a lot more traffic. I believe it is building their trust as they know about changes well in advance of an annual report or quarterly newsletter

Do you trust blogs in general? Do they help you trust the busienss providing the blog ?

Building trust

One of the reasons I give for writing promotional articles and blog posts is build trust in the community and your (potential) clients. By sharing relevant information, people can trust your expertise and learn about your personality and integrity.

In the current global situation, building trust may be even more important.

The Edelman Trust Barometer for Australia is a survey of consumers and how they feel about various institutions. In February this year, they noted a huge 74% decline in trust for business – only 34% of respondents trust a business to do what is right in a specific situation.

What is critical to learn from this survey is the following:

  • 87% of Australians will  not buy from a company they don’t trust
  • 64% of Australians will pay extra to use a company they do trust
  • Australians prefer Australian-owned companies to foreign owned companies as a general rule (obviously that changes in specific situations if the Australian company isn’t trusted)
  • corporate advertising is trusted by only 6% of Australians – and corporate websites by only 13%

Some other interesting notes:

  • people between 25 and 34 years are twice as likely to share experiences of a company than older respondents
  • treating employees well is important – even more important than an environmental commitment – in building trust

As for the survey, it was based on “4,475 upper-income, highly-educated people in 20 countries, including 1,375 in Asia-Pacific countries.”

Spam denial…

Following on from defining what spam is, I thought I should mention why adding ‘this is  not spam’ to your emails isn’t a good idea.

  1. As I posted recently, certain words can trigger spam filterswhen an email arrives. The word spam itself rates highly in these filters so referring to spam in any way can actually prevent your email reaching your recipient(s)
  2. Most of us are sick of spam and therefore are suspicious of emails we don’t expect or that include questionable content. As soon as you mention you aren’t spam, we are going to wonder why you feel the need to tell us that – a genuine message should speak for itself.
  3. If the person reading your email disagrees and believes your message is spam, they will perceive you as having lied to them and any trust you may have had is gone or at least badly dented.

Learning from SEO spam

Last week, I wrote about SEO offer spam emails. Having just received another one of these annoying emails, I thought I’d give some examples of why I don’t trust them…

We can put your site at the top of a search engines listings. If this is something you might be interested in, send me a reply with the web addresses you want to promote and the best way to contact you with some options.


First Last

So what is wrong with this email?

  • no greeting is rude. Even if he didn’t want to take the time to research my name, he could have said “Hello” at the minimum
  • who is he? There was no other information to help me identify his business or contact him except by reply email
  • if he doesn’t know what my website is (so how did you email me then?) how can he be sure he can help my rankings improve? Maybe I’m already at the top, maybe it’s a family site I don’t care about rankings for, maybe a thousand different things that mean his service is not relevant
  • what does he mean by ‘top of a search engine listings’ anyway? Top of page 10 in Google is still top but not something I aspire to! Top for an irrelevant or obscure keyword won’t help me either. By not being clear, he missed an opportunity to show me he knows what he is talking about and starting some trust.
  • where is he located? Yes, we could deal via email which means his location isn’t too important, but knowing he is overseas helps understand time differences. Further, I would be more likely to hire an Australian as they understand my market better and I don’t have to deal with the dollar value.

Whilst I hope you don’t send out spam to get business, the above tips will hopefully help you avoid answering spam like this and help you write better sales emails.

Use your words wisely!



Trusting suppliers

Outsourcing is a valuable activity in business – you gain expert assistance, time and completed projects.

Yet many business owners choose to not trust their suppliers. Now obviously you need to maintain control and ensure suppliers are providing you with what you’re paying for, but you are also paying for their expertise.

I recently did some webcopy for a client. Amongst other things, I rewrote their about us page – both adjusting the content (as requested by the client) and improving the flow and grammar of the page.

The feedback from the client was ‘that’s good thanks, but we made a few changes to the about us text’. That’s great – they should take ownership and make changes so it is accurate and they are comfortable with the final copy.

However, when I looked at their changes I saw that they had replaced a lot of my text with their grammatically incorrect text again. By grammatically incorrect, I’m talking about sentences like ‘we started our business because my son needed…’ without indicating who ‘me’ actually is. It ended up not making much sense and looking very amateurish, unfortunately.

The point is that if you’re going to pay a professional writer, then take their advice on grammar, flow and style, even if you want to change the tone or content of the work.

I’ve heard graphic designers, accountants, web designers and database programmers express this frustration, too. In all instances, the professional has done what the client wanted but is disappointed in the result as they are aware of the errors. The professional is also unlikely to add that project to their portfolio so you won’t get any free advertising that way, either.

Question a professional by all means, make a suggestion even, but listen to what they tell you before you assume your way is best.

If you are not ready to take professional advice and direction, then maybe you aren’t ready to give up any control of your business and outsourcing won’t help you.

Outsourcing will help you and save you time, but only if you are ready to accept that help.