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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why do companies pay for websites that don’t work? search engine homepage versus homepage. MsDewey, designed by Microsoft, has style, but lacks Google's function.

Summary: Sadly many companies pay good money for bad websites. I know this because I talk with companies daily that have failing websites. These websites may look beautiful, they may have been expensive to build, yet they produce no results. Usually it is because these websites fail to address the customer’s desire to use a website to learn and get answers to specific questions. How can you avoid falling into this snare? The following article will discuss this question.

Why are you reading this article? Probably to learn something. Typically, this is the same reason your customer is looking at your website. Sadly, most companies pay for websites that look pretty, but are not helpful.

You may ask, “Unhelpful in what sense?” Think about Google. Is Google’s website the prettiest search engine on the web? No. Is it the most useful to gather information? Yes. This is why Google is dominating. Do you go to Google because it is the best looking website? Probably not. You use Google because it is a great source of information. Ask yourself, “is my website a great source of information?”

Good websites are informative:

  1. A good website is more than just pretty pictures and colors. It must accomplish your customer’s goals, not just your goals. (Holman, Karen. 2008.
  2. A good website is not a $2,000 business card. Instead, it should educate or, if appropriate, entertain the customer.
  3. A good website is not a one line description of your product with a price. It should explain your product or service in all the detail a customer could ever want.

Consider the graphic at the top of this article. On the left is an image of the homepage of a search engine built by Microsoft Corporation. On the right is an image of has a certain visual appeal, but how many times have you used it to conduct a search? Probably never! As of January 2008, ranks 125,077th out of all websites, while Google ranks 2nd. What do you think, useful or beautiful, which is more important?

This quote from Karen, Holman of Colorado State University hits the nail on the head, “Most web users connect to the web to find information, not to look at twirling logos. Content should be accurate, timely, concise and easy to find.” (Holman, Karen. 2008.

Remember that the customer is on the internet looking for information. Your company’s logo, smiling faces of beautiful people, and even your products and services may not be their highest priority.

Put another way, the problem with most websites is that they:

  1. Do not educate the customer, but merely provide a company’s 30 second sales pitch.
  2. Reflect the goals of the business executive who is desperate for business, and ignore the reason a customer is on your website, that is, to get information.

However, if you educate the customer, if you answer his questions, then you are far more likely to gain his trust and his business.

Again, you can gain the customer’s trust by educating him. Teach him about your industry. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are there any technical terms unique to my industry that I can explain on my website?
  2. Can I write an article helping my customer to learn how my industry can address his needs?
  3. Can I help my customer understand when he does and when he does NOT need my product?
  4. Are there any books being sold on or at a local bookstore that can help my customer as he considers products or services from my industry?

Consider the above suggestions for your website. You can improve your sales greatly by taking the time to provide this type of assistance to your customers.

In review, this is why most companies pay good money for bad websites. Owners desire an attractive marketing tool to generate sales. Customers desire information. Ignore the latter and watch your sales dwindle. Instead, win trust and business by using your website as a tool to teach the customer and not merely to give your company’s 30 second sales pitch. These methods take time, but this is the reliable and cost-intelligent way to improve your website’s effectiveness.


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