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How you can retain and build your online audience

Presenting your site to the public is only half the battle, Paul Rigby looks at how you can retain and build your audience How you can retain and build your online audience

Your website and your business will get nowhere fast if your users, readers and customers do not trust you. Without trust, you shouldn’t even in business. Trust is a basic. It’s a bedrock. With trust secured, you can plan ahead and look towards the future. In these circumstance, trust ‘has your back’. So, how do you gain that trust?

Let’s start with your window onto the business world itself, your website. It has but one chance to make a first impression. So make that design a good one and that it fully represents you, your aims and philosophies. If you ever view your site with, “Well, it’ll do,” then back off , clear your head and start again. Never ‘make do’.

Next, use your About page to the full. Reveal yourself - in the nicest possible way of course - to the public. Tell them who you are, where you are and how you got here. Make it easy for people to contact you with phone numbers, email address, physical addresses and social media locations. Without that information? It looks like you’ve got something to hide.

Make sure your website is always up to date. When information and news is months out of date, you look out of date. You also look tired, disconnected, unconcerned and out of touch. Regularly update that website.

Security

I changed my website address from ‘http’ to ‘https’ as soon as I could. This gives your site a security certificate and indicates an encrypted website. It apparently also acts as a website ranking boost by Google - so it’s attractive on two counts. Talk to your server about the upgrade. Also related security logos liberally placed on your website and used within the same, such as anti-viral software, will help.

Related to this, for shopping, make the transaction process as simple as possible. The longer it takes for a customer to pay for something, the more frustrated they will become and the quicker they will go elsewhere instead. Look out for abandoned shopping carts for indications that all is not well.

Make sure you off er a solid returns guarantee too. Take away any perceived risk of shopping on your site. This helps the customer to buy with confidence and it gives a strong message to the customer that they have nothing to fear.

Next, if you can honestly place logos from paid or even unpaid Ads from other reliable companies on your homepage then you score in the trust stakes by association. This effect will also work if you have worked with other respected clients.

Testimonials

Customer’s written testimonials and/or case studies are another array of useful tools to enhance trust. Testimonials/ case studies allow different people to explain how their unique requirements (and everyone has different needs) were served by you. This has the additional benefit of allowing you to look responsive, light on your feet, adaptable and able to change to meet customer’s needs.

To increase conversions, regularly feature attractive giveaways. Of value, though. Not rubbish. Allow the prizes to reflect the quality of your site. Then advertise the competitions using notifications on social media. Some people will only turn up to win the prize but others will hang around.

Before I re-launched my current website, I decided to self-produce my own site using Wix (wix.com). A system that’s easy to understand and use. I eventually found out that Wix is great for simple website presentation (say over a single or two pages) with an uncluttered homepage and little content. My site is more of a magazine that demanded quite the opposite, though. Result? My site looked cluttered, hard to navigate and – to my intense frustration - was slow. I found out that my readers trusted me and the high quality content on offer but they didn’t trust my site. Despite having everything else going for me, I began to lose readers. I found a web designer that I could work with, one who was ready to talk at the end of a phone (even on a Sunday would you believe), a real person and not a call centre in Florida. He developed a fast webengined system that could handle a massive amount of information, based on Wordpress (wordpress.com). Since those changes were implemented, my conversion traffic has increased 10 fold.

Why? Because my readers, my customers, can access the information I’m offering at any time, in any place, using any device and it’s there. Instantly.

The moral here? Make sure that any and every website implementation you employ is thoroughly road-tested but also make sure that you have a proper support system in place. A high conversion rate can only be achieved by a concerted team effort. Even if that team is you and your web designer.

Conversions can also be quickly applied by involving yourself in social media. The downside? Social media can use up a lot of time and effort. So you need to allocate a portion of your day to dedicate to it or switch members of staff to it full time.

The benefits are that social media users can access you immediately and ask questions. They can get to know you, your personality, your views, your products and services and more. The ‘getting to know you’ bit is critical. Absolutely critical. ‘Getting to know you’ is one step away from ‘trust’. Just don’t blow it. If you allocate staff to this area, make sure they are fully trained, compatible with the task, are patient, carry a thick skin, an even temper and can think on their feet to take advantage of opportunities.

Even better than having a mere presence on social media - a company page on Facebook or Twitter page for example - is for your company to become actively involved in specialist groups pertaining to your industry, on a daily basis. If you sell gardening tools, for example, join specialist gardening groups. Don’t push your company down other people’s throats and don’t be heavy handed in promoting the company itself. Your user name (which is linked to your company page) will do that for you and people will eventually ask questions of you. Let them come to you. Just offer your expertise, offer help and advice. Pretty soon, people will be running to you with questions and wanting to know how you know so much about Marigolds!

Finally, let’s talk Groups. I recently launched my own Facebook Group. This is relatively advanced stuff, I know, takes up even more of your time but it does allow you to build an actual community devoted to your thoughts and ideas.

A Facebook Group is a forum which you host and features members that you either invite to the group or grant permission to join when they come to you. In your Group, you set the agenda but you’re also free to implement gentle marketing techniques: competitions, giveaways, more advice and help and so on. When you get to this stage, conversions flow like water.

Gaining trust and guiding conversions from that trust is an essential part of online business - from any business, actually. Using the above advice, though, you can make a good start in putting your business venture on the right track.

About the author

Paul Rigby is a journalist in the fields of music and hi-fi. He runs his own blog at www.theaudiophileman.com and Facebook Group at www.facebook.com/groups/ theaudiophileman/ Read more like this

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