Getting People to come (and STAY) at your website

(Not sure where to post this?!) :-/

I’ve been working on a website for a local company offering professional services who is on a shoe-string budget.

The website looks good and while there isn’t tons of content, what is there comes across as professional.

The company has been promoting itself by word-of-mouth, business cards, and getting involved on local web-forums.

The problem?

No one is visiting the website!!!

Bigger problem?

Traffic plummeted from maybe 10 visitors a day to ZERO for the past four days?! :frowning:

Most of the traffic came from discussions started in local online forums, but after those conversations tapered off, there went the traffic?! (And it makes the company look like a spammer to keep self-promoting on the same sites.)

Minus a million-dollar TV budget, bimbos in bikinis, etc…

How in the world do you get people to visit your website and then get those same people to return with their friends?!

All promotions for the business have been direct contact with potential customers in online forums or face-to-face, so you’d think that would lead to decent results…

(This is not an SEO issue.)

It feels like telling 300 people there is a great new ice cream shop on the corner of 17th and Pine Street and nobody shows up…

I need HELP helping my client figure out what is wrong?!

Debbie

So he had traffic… small or moderate and now he doesn’t have any. That means no one is going back for seconds, no one is recommending the site to their friends or other contacts, no one is “sharing” it on FB or any of the Social Media. Two reasons come to mind: He either doesn’t have what people who are looking at estate planning are planning or he isn’t presenting it well.

I didn’t ask you to post code or content. I suggested that it is okay to post a link to the site. You know, the same link that someone mind find on a Search Engine if they were looking. Or is the site private? If it is, then it is understandable that no one is visiting.

Not quite sure what you mean by “high-level”. There are a whole lot of sites that start out with something like “Welcome to my site. My site can do this for you. My business has this much experience. My business has state-of-the art equipment. My business is better than all the rest.”

It’s all about the business and not about what the business can do for the customer. There is little effort to understand the customer’s needs or real desires. In simple terms, “People don’t care what you have, what you can do, or what you know except that in how it will benefit them.” Before it became politically incorrect, that was called “salesmanship”. You show people how they will derive genuine benefits from a product or service, that it will fulfill their needs and desires and they will not only want it for themselves, they will recommend it to others.

Ask your client, “What are the five questions that your customer’s ask you when you meet for the first time?” Does his content address those questions in terms that anyone looking for financial planning can understand? That’s what it needs to do. At least that is the tip of the iceberg.

Does he stay away from over used words like “innovative” and “state-of-the-art?” Those words, meant to build credibility only really show that he has added them to his vocabulary along with half the rest of the web.

So, a few more chips off the iceberg. And really, calling it an iceberg isn’t too much of a cliche since apparently his content is leaving people cold.

No, he doesn’t have to strip things down or resort to gimmicks. People recognize those as easily as they do the words of someone flaunting their education with big words. He needs to talk to his visitors in the same way and with the same professionalism that he would use with any prospective client he might meet… with the difference that in “talking” on a website, it’s a monologue and he won’t be able to see the response until he looks at his visitor stats.

Unless my client runs out of $$$ and hits Skid Row!! :lol:

It takes time to build a buzz.

Let’s talk about “buzz”…

What exactly is that?

How do you create it?

And how do you know when you have it?

Sounds like the client is doing some good things to promote his site and his business.

My client is new to the area and really doesn’t have much of a network.

He is an accountant by profession and trying to expand and help people with financial planning (e.g. estates, trusts, real estate, tax planning, etc.)

Like lots of people in the U.S., it sounds like he’s one paycheck away from real financial trouble.

I helped him build a modest website that promotes his new business venture. It talks about how most people need more than just an “H&R Block” or accountant once a year. (Being financially successful requires someone who sticks with you over life changes.)

The plan was to have content that gets people thinking about things like: College-Savings Plans, Estate Plans, Wills, Living Trusts, Refinancing Your Home, etc. and then come to his office to get financial advice and help. (I think he would also like to do workshops.)

He has some articles posted on his website, a listing of common “Financial Myths” and “Financial No-No’s”, Cases Studies, Office Hours, and even dates for “Financial Planning Workshops”…

You’d think people would LEAP for free tips on such things, but the response has been abysmal!! (Maybe it is since people distrust Wall Street or because he is new in town…)

Does he have the money for advertising? Local radio ads are often dirt cheap, and very productive; newspaper ads cost more, but are good, also. Posting flyers in local stores can help. Trying for link swaps with other local sites, perhaps. Putting his kid on a sidewalk in a sandwich board, even.

All good ideas, but I think he’s broke… :frowning:

What I don’t get is why people aren’t at least visiting his website…

It sounds like he has been talking to people in the community (i.e. at the store, getting gas, in the park, approaching local groups, etc) and they seem interested at the time, but apparently they aren’t using his business cards and flyers when they get home to visit his site?!

(My client is a younger guy, seems really smart, and looks very professional in his demeanor. I’ve met his wife and they have the sweetest little girl, too. He seems like definite “Financial Planner Material” to me, at least?!)

I feel really guilty :frowning: :frowning: :frowning: because I went and inflated how I could build a super website that would attract lots of new clients and catch him up with the 21st century.

Looks like I don’t know squat?! (And I thought CSS was hard…)

In 1996, you could have poorly written HTML and any content, and you had a “buzz”.

To be successful today, do you have to be Amazon.com or Yahoo! or TMZ or BBC News before people will notice you?! :confused:

Sincerely,

Debbie

You can’t look at a four-day period of time as significant. It takes time to build a buzz. Sounds like the client is doing some good things to promote his site and his business. Does he have the money for advertising? Local radio ads are often dirt cheap, and very productive; newspaper ads cost more, but are good, also. Posting flyers in local stores can help. Trying for link swaps with other local sites, perhaps. Putting his kid on a sidewalk in a sandwich board, even.

The problem?

No one is visiting the website!!!

Why would we visit the web site? This is an important question. What is there to do there? This client of yours is a professional? What do they do? What does their web site have to say? Why would this professional’s clients or potential clients go to the web site?

If this professional has clients/customers already, then they are contacting via other means (mail, telephone, email? personal?). Are these means deficient? If not, a web site isn’t going to replace them.

You can also try a nice intro usability test: sit someone down behind a computer, and ask them to look at the main page of the site. They can scroll wherever, but ask them not to click on anything.
Give them a (quick) moment to look at the site. Ask them what they think the site is for. What does it do. What could they do there. You can also ask them to speak their thoughts out loud from the moment they first set eyes on the site as well (tell them you didn’t build the site, so that they are brutally honest and aren’t afraid of insulting you if they think they would).

Use regular people and if you want, try someone who’s possibly this professional’s target group. But grandma should ideally have an immediate and clear idea what the site does, who it’s for, and why it’s there.

This could should a possible major flaw in the site: maybe it’s not clear in some important way.

Generally we ask you to request a review of a website in the Content Reviews forum, but I understand that this is a client’s site and not your own. Please feel free to post a link to it here and we’ll see what we can do to help. It’s hard to know why the content isn’t pulling in visitors if we can’t see the content.

Sounds to me like no one is interested in what the this guy is selling. In that case you could have the best web presence in the world and still wouldn’t matter. A web site is a very small part of marketing. The problem your client is facing does not sound technical, it just sounds like there needs to be more marketing or really… the product(s) flat out suck. If the people selling product are not doing a good job than no one is going to visit the site, that simple.

The website looks good and while there isn’t tons of content, what is there comes across as professional.

No offense, but what looks good to you may not look good to many.

I’m just saying.

The company has been promoting itself by word-of-mouth, business cards, and getting involved on local web-forums.

Message boards are one of if not THE worst way to promote yourself.

I tell my clients to not even think about doing that.

In most if not practically all cases, word of mouth doesn’t work unless the product or service is really cool, really fun, really interesting.

Business cards do not work for most if not practically all businesses in the way they would hope for.

Yes, “Sam” can get sales from his cards, but how many did he have to hand out, and how long did it take him before getting that sale?

If your client handed out, say, less than 1,000 cards, I’m sorry, but the odds are that less than 100 probably went to their site.

And if the cards are crap to begin with…

How good is their visitor tracking system, anyway???

Maybe it isn’t working right, and they have more going to their site than they think…

Even Google’s system has messed up in the past.

Traffic plummeted from maybe 10 visitors a day to ZERO for the past four days?!

That means nothing. Even some of the best sites cannot get a decent return rate from first-time visitors - and you are basing it on just 10?!

Can’t tell ya anymore unless you show the site’s url.

How in the world do you get people to visit your website and then get those same people to return with their friends?!

Sorry, but in practically every single case, a business owner has to advertise/promote (mostly advertise).

Word of mouth comes in second.

Craig Newmark (CraigsList.org) had to advertise/promote at first before word of mouth took over.

(This is not an SEO issue.)

Well, SEO is highly overrated, so we don’t even need to go there anyway.

I think organic seo (i.e time) and the advice already mentioned is the best option to gain hits when your on a low budget. Unfortunately you will have to wait.

<snip/>

Hmmm…

What I don’t get is why people aren’t at least visiting his website…

People are busy.

See my response to BlackMax. That should answer your questions.

You can also try a nice intro usability test: sit someone down behind a computer, and ask them to look at the main page of the site. They can scroll wherever, but ask them not to click on anything.

Give them a (quick) moment to look at the site. Ask them what they think the site is for. What does it do. What could they do there. You can also ask them to speak their thoughts out loud from the moment they first set eyes on the site as well (tell them you didn’t build the site, so that they are brutally honest and aren’t afraid of insulting you if they think they would).

Use regular people and if you want, try someone who’s possibly this professional’s target group. But grandma should ideally have an immediate and clear idea what the site does, who it’s for, and why it’s there.

This could should a possible major flaw in the site: maybe it’s not clear in some important way.

Hmmm…

That’s an interesting angle…

Debbie

I’d have to ask for permission first.

Obviously seeing the site would help, but let’s say I can’t get his okay and so we have a “black box”…

I think my response to BlackMax gives enough of a gist of the website to help us problem-solve…

Honestly, I don’t think this is an issue with my web development skills, or his writing skills.

I think we are missing something much much simpler…

For me, one thing I am probably missing is that I read LOTS every day. I spend at least 2 hours every night over supper pouring over the NY Times, Wall Street Journal BBC News, Time, LA Times, etc. I also read lots of books.

So for me, I just assume every one - with any hopes in life - reads to educate and better themselves. (Don’t mean to sound like a snob, but most people I work with and associate with are avid readers and always trying to learn new things.)

Has the Internet and the average American’s brain rotted to the point that only “Dancing With The Stars” and Twitter stimulates their brains?!

Debbie

[Quote]Originally Posted by DoubleDee
he’s one paycheck away from real financial trouble. … I think he’s broke … He seems like definite “Financial Planner Material” to me

Hmmm…[/quote]

I didn’t word my last message too well, now did I, Ralph?! :smiley:

All I’m saying is that while he was successful as an accountant, he is having a hard time expanding his business to becoming a financial planner - especially in these hard financial times and with a new move and a new child in his life…

He is a small business owner, but I believe he knows his stuff even if he isn’t a billionaire like Donald Trump.

[Quote]
What I don’t get is why people aren’t at least visiting his website…

People are busy.[/Quote]

But how do you get people to follow through?!

(People waste 1/4 of their lives every night online watching dogs that say “I love you” and watching “Jersey Shore”. Wouldn’t you think learning how to better plan for your retirement or your kids’ college education would out-rank that?!)

Debbie

I am quite surprised that you have to “get permission” to leave a link somewhere to his website.

Over the last 10 years, I have helped many business people with their website content. Many of them knew their business backwards and forwards. What they didn’t know was how to present their content on the web.

Your client may have wonderful writing skills when it comes to print media, such as a brochure or a newspaper advertisement. However, web content is written much differently than content for other media. It is my guess that it isn’t that he doesn’t know what to say; most likely is that he doesn’t know how to say it effectively on the web.

These two links may help you understand what the problem may be:

http://www.kerryr.net/webwriting/guide_web-vs-print.htm
http://www.useit.com/alertbox/print-vs-online-content.html

I disagree. I know of two businesses who get quite a bit of business via word-of-mouth (and in fact, the mobile phone I bought came from word-of-mouth).

Those free tips are everywhere: your client is competing with content mills, where people are paid pennies an hour (or maybe just free pr0n) to write out keyword-heavy pseudo-content with an eye out for google rather than real human beings.

His competition is doing the same thing (offering free financial tips). Take a look at Edward Jones (the company… and yeah I’m biased, I really like that company). Oh, Jack32 there’s another company who does a lot of business via word-of-mouth. It’s a company but each financial representative has their own office, usually one per small town and in larger cities there’ll be one per large neighbourhood. So each rep has his/her own office and must build his own network of contacts and clients. The company doesn’t do it for him/her.

Anyway from your description of him, assuming the web site does have decent content etc, he’s only going to get traffic after he starts building his personal network.

He’s got some hard times up ahead. If he gets past them, though, and he’s competent and trustworthy, he’ll do ok.

His web site isn’t going to bring in customers. His (potential) customers are going to check out his web site. It will need to reassure them that he’s as good as they thought he seemed to be in person. Has to compliment him. But I don’t see it as a place where it will find clients for him who later meet him.

My opinion anyway. Again, I say this without knowing the content/layout/presentation of your site, but I’m thinking the current lack of traffic isn’t a fault of the web site right now.

DoubleDee, he didn’t approach enough people to make a dent. It’s as simple as that.

Also, doing word of mouth and boards, just makes it worse for him from a psychological standpoint.

Everybody is thinking: Jeez - we are handing out cards, telling folks about the site (word of mouth), we are going to boards - yet very few are going…!

See what I mean?

Then you throw in boring accounting stuff…

No offense, but what were you expecting?

He has to spice his site up, perhaps make it more about what he does, put a spin on what he does…

Two to three times a week, put in edgy, innovative, entertaining tips, pictures, links to other sources. Among the more serious articles, write fun and interesting ones also, put in trivia, quizzes…

If he has a personality and a sense of humour, have him put it in there.

It sells!

Example: accounting funny - Google Search

Of course not overdoing any of this.

If you feel that his url name is boring and typical, suggest he find a more jazzed up domain name. Make it SOUND like his site is interesting.

TheBeanCounter is taken, but is just an example.

But if he really likes that name, or a name that is already taken by the COM and NET extensions, have him see if the FM extension is taken.

Having a COM or NET extension is not that big of a deal anyway, while at the same time the FM draws in more attention, curiosity.

You also have BIZ.

He could say on his card and ads: Making & Saving More Money for Your BIZ

Just a thought.

But, even then, you cannot rely on word of mouth, message boards, social networks… There is no way around advertising.

I’m afraid that is the bottom line.

Then there’s your answer. Produce a video of a dog saying “I love [insert name] Financial Services”. The dog could go on to say how he was helped: he started in a damp, flea-ridden kennel and now lives in 5-star condo kennel. This would go viral on YouTube, and there’d be a tempter that if you visit the site, you’ll find more cute videos (if you look hard enough) and find out how to acquire your own luxury kennel dream home.

That is, if you can be bothered pandering to the masses and what they apparently like. :x

Ralph, were you being serious or mega-sarcastic?? :-/

Debbie

Most larger clients I have had would fire you on the spot if you started posting code or content on some user group online!!!

And since the business, website, and content are not my property, I don’t think its appropriate for me to be posting my client’s name, business, or website online unless he is okay with it… (Especially since it isn’t common knowledge yet like Forbes.com)

Over the last 10 years, I have helped many business people with their website content. Many of them knew their business backwards and forwards. What they didn’t know was how to present their content on the web.

Well, that sounds like the situation he is in. (Or more like the situation I’m in.)

Your client may have wonderful writing skills when it comes to print media, such as a brochure or a newspaper advertisement. However, web content is written much differently than content for other media. It is my guess that it isn’t that he doesn’t know what to say; most likely is that he doesn’t know how to say it effectively on the web.

So can you give me a high-level summary of what you mean?

This is a new concept to me. (Again, I am used to spending my life pouring over think computer books and manuals and in-depth, 15 page exposés in magazines like The New Yorker or Slate.)

What, does he have to strip things down to your average viral talking “I love you” dog level?!

OMG! LOL ROFL Ur my BFF. Oops! GTG. :rolleyes:

These two links may help you understand what the problem may be:

Web Writing vs Print Writing
Writing Style for Print vs. Web (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)

Oh, great, I’ll check those out right now!!

By the way, while you may be onto something here, remember that the problem in my OP is that people aren’t even visiting the website…

Your advice might help with people not staying or not surfing around or not returning, but it doesn’t explain why people won’t even go to the URL. :confused:

Debbie

She listens so well, doesn’t she?