Things You'll Need
Creating a site worth visiting
Does your site pass the crucial 8-second test? When visitors land on the homepage, is the web copy compelling enough to make them stay and read what you have to say?
Less than 1% of website visitors take any action. Let me say that again. Less than 1% of all the visitors who land on your website will contact you, bookmark your site, subscribe to your newsletter or make a purchase. And once they've gone, they may never come back. So you must provide compelling reasons for them to hand over their contact details.
Think how you use the internet yourself. In the last few days you may have made a couple of online purchases, and they were probably purchases of things you've bought before or buy regularly. The majority of your time online is spent finding information - researching potential purchases, reviewing the competition, checking your back account, etc. So why would your prospective customers behave any differently?
Even if your site is 100% commerce, it must also be a source of high-quality information about your area of expertise. This could include downloadable reports, copies of your press releases, product reviews, top tips and even competitions. Customers often don't know what questions to ask (imagine the last time you had to make a purchase you knew very little about), and this inevitably makes us nervous and uncomfortable. So help them out by explaining the benefits, the application, the value, the ways to get best results, comparison of brand, etc.
Bringing visitors to your site
Do you have accurate statistics on your current visitor numbers? Whilst a simple visitor counter is useful, it is much more beneficial to understand the path your visitors follow through the site, the time they spend there and the links they click. If you don't already have this information, you could try a package like www.statisfy.com, which is completely free and easy to understand.
If you've never tried the revolution in advertising that is Pay per Click, this is something you really need to get good at. Pay per Click is the perfect online demonstration of testing and measuring your marketing, as you only pay when visitors click on your link. You can measure your adverts click-rate and constantly try to improve your advert copy to increase the number of clicks. You can also include negative key words so your advert doesn't show against irrelevant search entries. Visit Google Adwords to learn more about how the system works.
The "importance" of your site is a key part of where your site appears in the "natural" search results on search engines, but it also plays a big part in where your Pay per Click advert appears, regardless of the amount you bid. To check your current Google ranking score, download the Google Toolbar, which includes the Page Rank gauge. You should be aiming for a page rank of over three. And the best way to do this is to increase your "importance" by adding incoming-only links. Reciprocal links are disregarded by the search engines, so incoming-only are 3-way links will increase your ranking. Visit www.alltheweb.com to see who currently links to you.
Registering your details in online directories or posting classified ads is also a good way to improve your search engine optimisation, but ensure they are good quality sites, otherwise they won't appear.
Although banner advertising is often considered to be appropriate only to big companies, it could really work for your business. By testing headlines and offers in Pay per Click, you'll know what generates the best response and you can trial banner advertising. Always ensure your advertising is "direct response", that is asking visitors to click for a specific purpose, instead of just in the hope that they'll like your site!
What to do when they get there
As so few visitors will stay long enough to really read the content of your site, you must attempt to capture email addresses at every opportunity so that you can keep in touch with them and build the relationship directly. Newsletters are very common now and don't often form a strong enough reason in themselves, so in order to get your visitors to hand over their details, make sure you are offering valuable information in the form of reviews and reports. Newsletters shouldn't be disregarded completely though, as they are an excellent way to keep in touch regularly with visitors.
The opt-in approaches you use on your site are also a great way for visitors to self-qualify their interest. For example if you are a financial adviser, visitors downloading information on repairing adverse credit will be looking for a different relationship than those who download advice on buying overseas property.
Another point to remember when visitors are navigating your site is your ordering process. Are you making it difficult for people to buy from you? A look at your shopping cart abandonment rate will give you an indication of current statistics, and your hosting company can help with this.
When you've got that elusive customer all the way from information to ordering to checkout, how can you increase their order as much as possible? Point of sale purchases work in the real world and the online world are equally successful. You can introduce a linked system that shows "other customers who bought XYZ also bought...", or if your business is less focused on online sales, you can ensure there are constant reminders of your full offering throughout the site.
And if it wasn't daunting enough to collect all those email addresses, how do you keep in touch afterwards, without employing half a dozen more staff or having a nervous breakdown? Autoresponders are the answer. A quick search on any of the search engines will present dozens of autoresponder providers, and you can learn more about how these automated message systems work.