Thursday, November 29, 2007

Building Credibility and Maintaining it

Finally, make sure that you build trust and credibility for your business. We discussed earlier the importance of credibility. Credibility is a key ingredient for any successful business venture. Building and enhancing the credibility of the products and services you offer is an ongoing and full-time effort.why not make sure the website you use works as hard as you do to establish credibility? Let's look at elements that can be built into a well-designed website to enhance credibility in the eyes of your potential customers.

Offer a Guarantee

Nothing beats a solid, believable guarantee for building credibility online. It may be hard to believe, but buying via the Internet is still unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory for many people. It is up to you, the business owner, to put their minds at ease. One way to do this would be to offer an unconditional, 100% money back guarantee.

By assuming all of the risk, you will earn instant credibility points with most potential customers.

Provide Contact Information

Even the best guarantee won't help establish credibility if the potential customer cannot contact you. Post accurate contact information on your website and make it easy to find. Provide as many methods of contact as possible; do not simply post a link to an email address. For maximum credibility, post the complete mailing address, phone number (preferably a toll free number), and email addresses for customers to use if they feel the need to contact you.

Provide a Brief Bio

Familiarity is one of the most effective tools for building credibility on the Internet. How do you establish familiarity in a faceless, impersonal medium like the Internet? Simple, tell people about yourself. Post a page that provides a thumbnail sketch that describes who you are. Be sure to include personal data as well as professional credentials. Place your photo on the page so people can put a face with your name. Creating familiarity will impart another level of credibility for you and, by extension, for the product you represent. In this chapter, we looked at how to build your website and explained many of the elements your website must contain to be effective. We discussed web hosting and domain names and even talked about how to use expiring domain names to get free traffic flowing to your website. And we’re only getting started! In the next chapter, we’re going to look more closely at some of the more popular and successful Internet business ideas.

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Tracking Your Sales

Like any business, it is absolutely vital to track and maintain your sales records. You should have a clear understanding of your income and expenditures.

There are many ways to keep track of your sales. Using orthodox methods such as keeping a paper journal is time consuming. Simple spreadsheet programs as well as basic accounting software are available at minimum or no cost. However, it is advisable to install advanced accounting software such as QuickBooks, Quicken, or Microsoft Money to keep track of your accounting. Such advanced programs save you time by sorting your register transactions by date, transaction amount, document number (e.g. check number), order entered, or cleared status. The tracking feature included in such software tracks, by user, changes made to each transaction. Daily, weekly, monthly as well as yearly sales reports can be generated with a few clicks. These reports help you analyze the sales of each and every product. Logs and reports can be generated to keep track of all your customers.

NOTE: Affiliate marketing solves many of the aforementioned tracking problems for you automatically. When you become an affiliate and resell other company’s products for a profit, the company you are affiliated with keeps track of your traffic and sales automatically and presents all this information to you in easy to read charts and graphs. Click here to learn about a turn-key affiliate marketing system that you can use to earn multiple streams of income on the Internet.

Monitoring and Tracking

Understanding what your visitors do on your site is crucial information, not to mention interesting. If a large majority of your visitors who proceed to purchase a product leave the site when they get to a specific page in the order process, you need to know about it. It could be that the page in question is confusing or hard to use. Fixing it could increase your sales exponentially. In fact, it is not uncommon for small website changes in headlines and order processes to result in a 200%-300% increase in sales. This is just an example; there are many reasons why you want a detailed analysis of your site visitors. Most website hosting services offer a stats package that you can study. If you're not sure where this is, call up your hosting service and ask them. Statistics are a vital part of tracking your marketing progress. If you don't have access to website statistics get a package that can help you in this area. Do not get a counter that just shows how many visitors you've had. You'll be missing out on vital information that can help strengthen weaknesses in your site. A good website hosting service would offer traffic logs that provide an invaluable insight into the traffic being referred to a web site from various sources such as search engines, directories and other links.

Unfortunately, traffic tracking provided by web hosting services is often in the form of raw traffic log files or other hard-to-comprehend, cryptic formats. These log files are basically text files that describe actions on the site. It is literally impossible to use the raw log files to understand what your visitors are doing. If you do not have the patience to go through these huge traffic logs, opting for a trafficlogging package would be a good idea.

Basically two options are available to you and these are: using a log analysis package or subscribing to a remotely hosted trafficlogging service. A remotely hosted traffic logging service may be easy to use and is generally the cheaper option of the two. In fact, you can get a powerful free tracking tool at: Other reliable tracking programs include and These services do not use your log files. Typically a small section of code is placed on any page you want to track. When the page is viewed, information is stored on the remote server and available in real time to view in charts and tables form. A good traffic logging service provides detailed statistics pertaining to the following:

.. How many people visit your site?
.. Where are they from?
.. How are visitors finding your site?
.. What traffic is coming from search engines, links from other
sites, and other sources?
.. What keyword search phrases are they using to find your
.. What pages are frequented the most - what information are
visitors most interested in?
.. How do visitors navigate within your web site?

Knowing the answers to these and other fundamental questions is essential for making informed decisions that maximize the return on investment (ROI) of your website investment.

The most important aspect of tracking visitors to your website is analyzing all the statistics you get from your tracking software. The three main statistics that will show your overall progress are hits, visitors and page views. Hits are tracked when any picture or page loads from your server on to a visitor’s browser. Hits, however, can be very misleading. It is quite an irrelevant statistic for your website. The statistic that is probably the most important for a website is Page Views/Visitors. This gives you a good indication of two things. First, how many people are coming to your site, and secondly how long are they staying on your site. If you have 250 visitors and 300 page views you can figure that most visitors view one page on your site and then leave. Generally, if you're not getting 2 page views per visitor then you should consider upgrading your site's content so your visitors will stay around longer.

If you see the number of visitors you have increasing as well as the number of page views per visitor increasing then keep up the good work! Always look for this stat as an overall barometer of how your site design is going and if your marketing campaigns are taking hold. Also, a good stat to look for is unique visitors. Once a person visits your site they will not be added to the unique visitors category if they visit again. This is a good way to track new visitors to your website.

Page views are a good indication of how "sticky" your website is. A good statistic to keep is Page Views divided by the number of Visitors you have. This statistic will give you a good idea if your content is interesting and if your visitors are staying on your site for a long time and surfing. Some people are intimidated by web traffic statistics (mostly because of the sheer volume of data available), but they shouldn't be. While there are many highly specialized statistics that can be used for more in-depth web traffic analysis, the above areas alone can provide invaluable information on your visitors and your website performance. Remember, this data is available for a reason. It's up to you to use it.

Testing and Performance

You have designed a very usable website, you have hosted it using a very reliable web hosting company, and you have integrated a safe and trusted payment processing system with your website. However, all these can prove to be useless until you know your site is actually working and accessible. If you want to create an accessible website, you will need to test, test and test again. A recent Forrester Research report reported that failure to ensure website quality will cost the average small or mid-size company thousands of dollars in wasted expenditures on website redesigns, forfeited revenue, and lost customers. Testing a website is a long and tedious task, but it's perhaps the most important task of all. There are numerous stages to testing, all of which are very important. Ranging from browser testing to content testing, none should be excluded.

Visual Acceptance Testing

Visual Acceptance Testing is the first port-of-call for all webmasters. This type of testing generally ensures that the site looks as it is intended to. This includes checking the graphic integration, and simply confirming that the site looks good. In this stage you should assess every page carefully to ensure that each looks the same. The site should be tested under different screen resolutions and color depths.

Functionality Testing

Functionality testing is perhaps the most vital area of testing, and one which should never be missed. Functionality testing involves an assessment of every aspect of the site where scripting or code is involved, from searching for dead links, to testing forms and scripts. You should also test your payment processing system completely and thoroughly. After all, you wouldn’t want a potential customer to get stuck at the last stage and eventually leave the site just because there is something wrong with payment processing.

Content Proofing

This stage of testing removes any errors in your content, and ensures that your site has a professional appearance. In this phase, you should reread each page on your site, and check for spelling and grammatical errors.

System and Browser Compatibility Testing

This test phase is completed in order to ensure that your website renders correctly on a user's screen. To begin with, you should test several pages from your site on different browsers such as Internet Explorer 4, 5, 6, Netscape 4 and 6, and Opera. This can be extremely important - if your site does not work properly with the Netscape browser, Netscape users will end up annoyed, and they'll go elsewhere.

The Host

Let’s start where the Internet starts: with a host. A host is a server that provides a home for your website on the World Wide Web. Just as your computer contains all your files, so a host contains all the files needed to run your website. Why can’t you just keep all those files on your own computer? Because that would mean visitors would have to connect directly to your computer to see your website and that’s not a good idea. It wouldn’t be secure and it would make your machine run like a tired snail. With a host, you can simply upload everything you need to the server and your users can then connect there to see your site. It lets the site run faster and allows it to have all the security and extras it needs.

Selecting a host is the first important step towards building your Internet business.

Hosting services and companies vary from totally free, shared servers to large-scale dedicated machines. You’ll have to decide which is right for you and your business.

Your choice of server will depend on how much money you have available at the beginning and how much you plan to grow in the future. In my opinion, for commercial sites, free hosting is a waste of time. Your users are going to get blasted with annoying pop-ups every time they surf to your page, it’s going to be impossible to get a decent position in a search engine, and you don’t even get a real business URL. No one’s going to remember your web address if they have to type: However, it is possible to choose a cheaper host at the beginning and move up as your business begins to bring in money.

NOTE: One of the most important factors in choosing a website host is the customer service you receive once you’ve signed up. There are many technical issues that can come up once you have your own website, and if you don’t have a truly dedicated hosting company to support you and help you resolve these issues when necessary, you could, quite simply, lose your business. Trust me, I’ve seen many thriving online businesses fall apart because they chose the wrong hosting company. When hosting is cheap, there is a reason for it. With website hosting, you get exactly what you pay for and you should never compromise when it comes to who to host your website with. Click here to learn about my service and the website hosting company I highly recommend to everyone who does business online.

Using Expired Domains to Skyrocket Your Traffic

Domain names provide a great opportunity to make easy money. I’m not talking about Internet real estate, where you buy up good names and sell them on for a profit. If you didn’t get positioned in that market early on, you can forget about it. The bottom’s fallen out of the market and the best domains are long gone. I’m talking about expiring domains.

Thousands of webmasters invest time, effort and money to promote their site and build up traffic. Many of them then lose interest and move on, leaving their site active. That means that although they still own the domain, they’re not actively promoting it. But they don’t need to. All the automatic marketing systems they’ve put in place are still bringing in traffic. The site runs itself.

Now, at some point the ownership of those domains is going to expire. If you snap up those domains once they come back onto the market, you’ve got a pre-built stream of customers. You can either rebuild the site, or redirect the traffic to your domain. It’s that easy. In fact, websites like actually do all the legwork and let you reap all the rewards.

Do be careful when using other sites though. There are some swindlers out there that will sell you subscriptions, provide you with outdated lists, take your money and keep the good domains for themselves. It happens, and there’s little point in taking a risk with other companies when does such a great job.

Choosing a Domain Name

In the physical world, you can distinguish a business because of its structure, window displays, or signs. You can tell that a bank is a bank, or a clothing store is indeed a clothing store. In the Internet, however, it is an entirely different story altogether. Your domain name is the only clue to your online business.

You do not have visual clues: no location, no look, and no store design. Instead, users have to type in a word or a set of words to reach your site. Your prospective visitor has no way of knowing what your site is all about until she finds it and reads its contents. Who can ever tell that sells books? Or that Excite is a search engine?

Your domain name can spell your success on the Internet. A good domain name is the best asset you can ever have. It can make your business stand out in the crowd, or just float aimlessly in space. The need to provide immediate clues to an online business led to the prevalence of generic domain names. Generic names instantly provide the user with an idea of what a business is all about, what to expect and look for in a site. For instance, is a toy store. The temptation of the generic name has been so powerful; that some companies even paid ridiculously high prices to get the name they want. The domains and were both bought for $3 million each. was acquired for $1.75 million, while sold for $1.1 million.

However, generic names do not necessarily create the “buzz” that you’d like surrounding your website. Branding has always been about proper names: McDonald's did not name their store Hamburger. Hertz is not called Car Rental. FedEx is not Mail Carrier. Kodak is not Photographs. Google is not Search Engine. Microsoft is not Computer Software.

For better branding results, your domain name should stand out and be easy to remember. Consider the following tips when creating a domain name:

.. The domain name should be short
.. The domain name should be simple
.. It should be suggestive of your business category
.. It should be unique
.. It should be easy to interpret and pronounce
.. It should be personalized
.. It should not be difficult to spell
.. It should not be difficult to remember
Domain names can be registered through many different companies (known as "registrars") - a listing of these companies is available at You can register for domain names from 1 to 10 years in advance and prices can vary anywhere from $8 to $30 per

year for each registered domain. Most website hosting companies, as explained later, will handle the registration process for you, but make sure that you are properly listed as the owner of the domain when it is registered. If you have registered a domain name for a specific period, make sure you renew it in time. You’d be surprised at the number of cases, where website owners have lost their domain name to a competitor by not renewing it in time.

Web Copy

Your website content should convince visitors that your service is either unique or superior to that of your competitors in terms of quality, and is competitively priced. It should show your potential clients that you can provide the solution they are seeking. Your product or service will solve their problems, answer a dream, enrich their lives, and/or improve their businesses. You are the dependable expert that they want and need!

Your website copy plays a major role in establishing and growing your customer base. Website copy creates the “voice” of a company, just as the look and feel of a site put a “face” on the company and on otherwise intangible products and services. On an ecommerce site, the copy plays a key role in closing sales as well as in up-selling and crossselling products and services. Good website copy delights first-time visitors, encourages return visits and propels both customer acquisition and retention.

People read a web page differently than they do a brochure or a newspaper. They scan, scroll, click, hit the back button, and hit the forward button. “Reading” is about moving around and being in control. You have one chance to make a first impression – to quickly convey the benefit of staying on your website. I can’t overstate the importance of first impressions, which in web-time are measured in milliseconds. The layout, functionality, message and overall look and feel of your web page determine who stays – and who clicks away. Your story should be clear and to the point. The goal of any web page should be to get the visitor to DO something: to move on to the next step in a purchase sequence or to click for more information about a product or service. Without readable, compelling copy and clearly organized hypertext links, visitors are much less likely to complete a transaction – and return to your site again. Writing for your web page should always start from your visitor’s perspective. What is your websitvisitor looking for? Why is she here? How can you make her visit as quick and efficient and positive as possible? You should take the time to clarify the goal of each page before starting to write. If the page is part of a transaction sequence, identify what may be hindering the buying process. Be sure instructions are clear and easy to read.

If you are selling a service on your website, your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is your service’s most powerful benefit, in combination with a strong, unique feature of your business. It answers that most difficult question:

Why should someone do business with you?

Tell your customers what service you are selling and explain what your service provides. What is the key benefit(s) to your customers? What pain does it cure, what solution does it provide? Compare your service with that of your competitors and highlight what makes you stand out from the competition? Keep working on this until you can clearly separate yourself from the field. As stated earlier there must be a convincing reason for doing business with you, instead of your competitor.

Summarize the above into one tight, powerful, motivating phrase that will persuade your customer to do business with you and to trade their money for the benefits delivered by your service. As you start to work through the above four steps, you may find this to be a lot harder than it looks. Don’t blow it off and give up! You must have a USP. If it was easy, everyone would have a great USP! Come up with a tight, sharp USP that sells your service to your customer.

Write tight, get right to the point, be keenly aware of the audience for the page, and don’t use a three-syllable word when a one or two-syllable word will do. Use call-to-action language and be interesting. The page should be so clearly organized that, in seconds, visitors can understand and get convinced to buy your product and be able to anticipate where a hypertext link – or a “Continue” button – will take them. Studies show that “ease of use” is the winning factor on an ecommerce site.

If you’re going to promote your service and expand your customer base using your website, potential clients have to be able to trust you. Their confidence in you and your products has to be boosted. Endorsements on your website from a valued friend or colleague, or a referral from a strategic partner are the types of “leads” that boost your credibility. You and your service must be perceived as being trust-worthy before your visitor will be confident enough to contact you or even buy your product.

Show prospects that you have their best interests at heart and that you can adapt or customize your service to meet their individual needs. Foster an ongoing relationship that steadily increases their trust levels and cements a view that you are an “authority” in your field. Another important aspect of convincing prospective customers is to keep abreast of recent developments in your field. Check on what your competitors are writing about, and watch for new trends. This will keep your website current, razor-sharp and unique. By keeping your eyes open, you will be able to grab an angle or niche that hasn’t been well covered yet by your competitors. Portray this angle or niche on your website.

Finally, be wary of broadening the theme of your site too much. Try not to dilute your product or service’s targeted niche simply to expand your base of merchant partners. Remember; focus on your selling your service. That’s where the “meat and potatoes” of your business will come from.

Building Interactivity and Personalization

Make your website interactive. Add feedback forms as well as email forms that allow your prospective customers to ask you any questions they might have pertaining to a product. Personalization of your website is another key element that can build a visitor’s trust and increase your sales. Personalization technology provides you the analytic tools to facilitate cross-selling and up-selling when the customer is buying online.

Personalization tries to restore to the online business the magic of personalized attention which is one of the chief reasons why many people still prefer in-store purchase. You can use personalization to match your customer with the right products through either rulesbased or customer analytics-based processing. Thus as your software stores customer information and preferences, it can help categorize them into groups. At the same time, observations over time can suggest products to cross-sell and up-sell. Thus when a person buys a subscription to a fitness site, exercise equipment is also offered. Amazon pioneered personalization on the net – when you a buy a book, it shows you other books in the similar genre saying “people who bought this book also bought these”, inducing you to buy more. A consumer survey from the Personalization Consortium found that 56 percent of respondents say they are more likely to purchase from a site that allows personalization, and 63 percent are more likely to register at a site allows it.

Designing pages

Cleanly Designed Pages

Cleanly designed pages are pleasant to look at and easy to read. It is almost impossible to make a site with an image shown as a tiled background usable - the whole thing is too distracting and confusing. It takes no great design skills to create clean pages; it just requires thought and adherence to the principle that when it comes to design, less usually is more.

Download Status

Most paid membership websites are limited to online access and information download rather than selling products. There should be clear download instructions provided. Your website should also state the size of the file in kilobytes and the estimated time of download for a user having a 56K modem, DSL, Cable and so on.

Usability Problems

While for large commercial sites investment in full-scale usability studies may be essential, few small sites can afford such luxuries. However, identifying problems with usability for your site need be no more complicated than asking a few (honest) friends to act as guinea pigs on your site and, if possible, watching them silently as they do this. Watching users try to find information at your site can be both instructive and quite surprising.

Remember that if at any stage you feel the urge to intervene and explain, then you have identified a usability problem. List of the Most Common Usability Problems .. The site does not state its purpose clearly .. Java applets, huge images, banner ads or flashy elements slow down loading; 10 seconds is about as long as the average user will wait for a page.

The site requires specific software to be used. Have you ever actually changed browsers or downloaded a piece of software just to see a site?

Poor navigation, too little navigation, too much navigation and, not uncommonly, no navigation at all .. Bad design leading to poor readability

Discomfort due to ugly design or inconsistent design. Almost always because a designer overestimated their skills.

Irrelevance of content - for example the business site that includes biographies and photos of each of the board members. Happy egos on the board; bored website visitors!

Complexity or excessive originality of design, which requires users to learn how it works in order to use it.

Inaccessibility because the site cannot be used by browsers for people with disabilities.

Ease of Access to Information

Good navigation, precise location indicators, secondary navigation, clear linked text and a well-organized structure all contribute to making information easy to find for a wide range of different users.

Bearing in mind that many users are inexperienced, it may be necessary to include explanations of things you consider selfexplanatory.

For example, an inexperienced user may need an explanation of how to use a drop down menu. Remember, make it as easy as possible for people to use your website.

Quick Access to Information

This is the aim of the majority of web users. It can be broken into two important aspects:
Speed of Page Loading
This requires, in particular, attention to images to ensure they are properly optimized and do not excessively delay load time. It may also mean breaking up long articles and ensuring that important content is at the top of the page where it will load first.

Speed of Access to Content

This is where the 3-click rule comes in - no important content should be more than 3 clicks from the home page. Some standards even say that it should be no more than two clicks. One helpful way to speed access to content is to consider each type of user, select the content that they are most likely to be interested in and create links from the home page to one piece of content for each group. This will get them quickly to the appropriate part of the site.

Defining a Usable Site

A usable site will:
.. Help users achieve a goal, usually to find something, such
as information, or obtain something, such as a book.
.. Make it easy for them to achieve that goal
.. Make it possible to achieve the goal quickly
.. Make achieving that goal a pleasant experience
A site will be generally usable if:
.. The content is good and relevant
.. The content is easy to find
.. The content can be found quickly
.. The page is pleasant to look at and cleanly designed

Good Content is Critical

A site with good content, regardless of its subject, is one that provides products or information that is useful or beneficial to users. A good usable site will make it clear what information or content is available and at what price AND what is not available. A good usable site should define clearly all subscription packages offered.

Good Website Navigation

The aim of a website's navigation is simply to allow users to get to the content they require. For sites that have a large number of sections and web pages (and information sites can be one of these) the navigation plan has to be properly researched and designed. You have to consider different types of visitors and simulate the most common steps they would take to find what they want on your site, and the navigation plan has to optimize this movement. For example, the steps required from searching a catalog of items, selecting from the catalog, adding them to a shopping cart, proceeding to check out, to entering the payment particulars is a specific sequence that should be facilitated by the navigation system. If the sequence is haphazard, it could lead to frustration or the user may miss an important step and you would have an aborted sale.

To find their way about, users need to know two things:

- Where they are now

- How to go elsewhere

Navigation does not exist in isolation; good site organization is a prerequisite for a coherent navigation system.

Objectives of a Navigation System

Navigation can be broken into two primary types:

Location Indicators and Navigation Controls.

Location Indicators

Location indicators let users know where they are in the site at the moment. You need to keep in mind that users coming from outside your site can enter at any page, not necessarily on a main page. They need to be able to orientate themselves quickly. Equally, it is important that users navigating around your site have a clear idea of where they are both in absolute terms and in relation to other content.

Location information should appear on every page of the site, in the same place and in the same style. Location indicators should tell the user precisely where they are and this should be clear even to a user who has entered the site at an internal page. The location indicator should be identifiable for what it is and make sense in the context of other navigation.

In simple sites a page banner - text or graphic - naming the page will be sufficient. For this to work the page name should also appear in the main navigation so that it is relevant within the overall structure of the site.

Color can be used. For example a different color background, contrast color or sidebar in each part of the site. To be really effective the color change should be reflected in the navigation. Using “breadcrumbs” on every page is a good idea. Breadcrumbs how you a series of hierarchical links that you have used to go from page to page within a section. Using breadcrumbs is like leaving a trail of the path you have followed. The breadcrumbs appear at the top of the content section, just below the main navigation template. Each element in the breadcrumb is a link to that section or subsection. This helps in avoiding a series of back buttons allowing the user to directly go back to the main section page or another sub section. More importantly, it always shows the context of the page that is being viewed and how it belongs to a section or sub-section.

Navigation Controls

Navigation controls are the main navigation links; they allow users to move around the site. Whether they comprise images or text they should be predictably located in the same place, and with the same appearance, on each page.

These have several purposes

To allow users to move about within the site

To tell users what information is available at the link

To work with location indicators to orientate users

A good navigation control:

Is clear: it looks like navigation

Leads to obvious content - users have a good idea what they will find if they click

Is consistent with other navigation controls

Is predictable in its style and location on the page

There is no mystery to usability. It simply involves creating a site, which is accessible to the majority of people, is easy to use and get around and delivers on its promises. You can have a site that meets the most important standards of usability by planning it well and always keeping the end user in mind. Remember that websites should not be designed for their owners - they should be designed for their users.

Problems with usability could be said to stem from just two sources: the site itself and the user. In fact, the site is always at fault if a visitor (however experienced or inexperienced) has problems navigating, getting information or understanding the site. While websites have become far more complex, web users have become less experienced because more and more new people go online every day. It is a mistake to think that the majority of users will be web or even computer savvy and will understand subtle clues about content. Many won’t, so make your site as easy to use as possible.

Creating your website

The first step towards creating an online business is building a website. Now, that isn’t as complicated as it sounds. When I built my first website, I thought Java was a type of coffee and HTML the name of a robot in Star Wars. That’s why I didn’t do it. I paid someone else to do it for me. It cost me just a few hundred bucks, but I earned it back soon enough. This chapter discusses how to begin the process of creating your first website, and where you can find someone to build your site if you don’t want to do it yourself.

Making Your Website Attractive, Interesting, Engaging and Interactive

To succeed at your online business (whether you are selling your own product/service or are selling for other merchants as an affiliate), you need a website created just for that - a simple, focused site. Your website should be easy to build, maintenance-free, low cost, credible, and a powerful traffic-builder and customer-converter. Having the right tool and the right product alone won’t ensure the success of your website. There are many factors to be considered while designing a site. Unfortunately, most of these are often ignored by Internet business owners.

Build It for Speed

It's a fact of modern life - people are in a hurry. This means that you have between 10 and 30 seconds to capture your potential customer's attention. To minimize your load time, keep graphics small. Compress them where possible. Use flashy technology (JavaScript, Flash, Streaming Audio/Video, animation) sparingly and only if it is important to your presentation.

Target your Market

Know who your market is and make certain that your site caters to their needs. It is critical that your site reflect the values of your potential customers. Is your market mostly business professionals? If so, the site must be clean and professional. Is your product aimed mostly a teenagers and young adults? Then your site could be more informal and relaxed. The key here is to know your market and build the site to their preferences.

Focus the Site

Make certain your website is focused on a primary goal: selling your product or service. A site offering many unrelated products is not necessarily unfocused, but this is often the case. If your business does offer many products, dedicate a unique page for each instead of trying to sell them all from one page.

Credibility Is Crucial

The most professionally designed website won't sell if your customers don't believe in you. A clear privacy statement is one way to build your credibility. Provide a prominent link to your privacy statement from every page on the site as well as from any location that you are asking your visitors for personal information. Provide legitimate contact information online.

Navigation should be simple

Make site navigation easy and intuitive. Simple and smooth navigation adds to the convenience of the visitors. Add powerful search and catalog features. Visitors usually don’t have the patience to navigate through the whole website to find what they are looking for.

Consistency is the key

Make sure the site is consistent in look, feel and design. Nothing is more jarring and disturbing to a customer than feeling as if they have just gone to another site. Keep colors and themes constant throughout your website.

Make your website interactive and personalized

Add feedback forms as well as email forms that allow your prospective customers to ask you any questions they might have pertaining to a product. Personalization of your

website is another key element that can build your visitor’s trust and increase your sales. Personalization technology provides you the analytic tools to facilitate cross-selling and up-selling when the customer is buying online. It would give you an idea of what products to cross-sell and up-sell. For xample, when a person buys a CD player, a disc cleaner can also be offered.

Content is King - Good content sells a product. Ask yourself the following questions. Does your copy convey the message you wish to get across to your visitors? Is it compelling? Does it lead your visitor through the sales process? Have others review, critique and edit your copy to insure it is delivering the intended message. Always double check your spelling and grammar.