Convert more customers from your websiteIt’s all very well building a website and having something that looks slick and professional, but it really is just the first step to take in the much bigger challenge of building a successful online business.

Over the years I have met a number of clients who have been virtually obsessed with getting their websites built, yet they have given little or no consideration to how they will attract and convert visitors into paying customers. With estimates that there is anything from 200-350 million websites worldwide, you have a lot of competition out there. So no business can afford to build a pretty ‘brochure’ site these days. And that fact also applies to ALL businesses not just ecommerce ones.

No matter what kind of business you’re in, if your customers look online for your product or service you are ‘trading’ online and it’s absolutely vital that you don’t let your website sit around on a virtual shelf collecting dust – it has to be a proactive tool that works hard for your business.

So how do you get it right?

I believe that there are five key steps to a successful online business. Some are bigger than others, but they are all integral to building a strong and effective online presence.

1. Forward planning – make sure your website is future proof and search engine friendly
You need to consider your objectives and target audience clearly and ideally plan for the next 5 years. Technology is moving so fast it’s essential to keep up. Future proofing your website you’ll ensuring that it will be compatible with all browsers and all mobile devices, so make sure that your web developers can deliver this requirement and that you’re not being sold a white elephant. Make sure your site can keep pace with your vision for your online business.

Search engine optimisation is your link to the rest of world – whether you are trying to attract a global or very local audience. It starts with choosing a suitable domain name for your website and is consolidated through the use of relevant keywords and phrases throughout the content. If you can, it’s wise to invest in the services of a SEO specialist, but if you want to go DIY, why not take a look at some of the SEO articles on my blog for some basic advice to get you started.

2. Attract and engage visitors by adopting search and content marketing techniques (aka blogs, videos, white papers, e-books, etc)
Search engines like fresh content. Naturally, humans rather enjoy having something new to read or view as well! The more new content you generate the more you will move up the search engine rankings, and the really good news is that this kind of marketing doesn’t need a massive budget. If you can string sentences together you can write a blog yourself, author a white paper or write an e-book. Even video has become more affordable over the last few years – I’ve used Animoto and was really pleased with what I could achieve with so little technical knowledge. At a more basic level, you can produce decent PowerPoint presentations for sharing using Slideshare.

3. Capture your visitors’ email data at every opportunity (but always ask permission first!)
Every visitor to your website is a potential customer and you need to grab them while you can. That means building data capture into your website by offering them good reasons to submit their email contact details. You might offer a regular newsletter or free and relevant advice – but whatever you do, make sure you’re offering something of benefit to your audience and a valuable reason for them to start a relationship with you.

An important point here is that you must comply with the Data Protection Act so that you have the required legal opt-ins for marketing communications. If you send to contacts that have not agreed to receive your marketing, you could suffer a large fine.

4. Know how to convert visitors into customers
You need to fully understand the customers’ buying process and the steps needed to convert them from visitor into a customer. Then you need to ensure your website enforces that at every turn and guides them through the steps, with the right reassurance at each step.

5. Retain your customers and encourage repeat purchases
Once you’ve got your customers they need to be shown some ‘customer love’! You’ve convinced them of the worth of your business, they understand your offer, so you’ve already successfully engaged them. The challenge is to keep them, build loyalty and trust. This can be as simple as offering regular email communication with incentives and special offers, as well as promoting new products or services as a cross-sell.

Attracting visitors to your website – and then converting them into customers – is a challenge for most businesses, so how have you tackled it?