Suppose your business is in an industry with little competition. It would stand to reason that your website…. assuming it’s well optimized…..comes up very quickly in search. Page 1. Probably near the top.

Let’s also suppose that your website has been well designed. Smart use of color. Smarter use of white space. Good navigation. Everything clean and clear. A business owner’s dream website.

But there’s one problem. Your website simply isn’t engaging. It looks good, loads fast and seems to work well. But the copy is bland. Even boring. It’s not written to entice the viewer but simply to provide information. So visitors to your site just don’t buy in to what you’re selling. They don’t sign up for your newsletter or your blog. They don’t opt for your special offer. They just leave. And they certainly don’t share your site on social media.

How good is that website now? Not very. If you think that website could be yours, it might be time to rethink your web strategy. Here are 5 easy tips to get you started:

  • Think about the problem your products or services solve. Are you telling visitors to your site how you can help them? Don’t make them guess.
  • Have you defined your target audience? The way you “speak” to Millennials is not the way you should “speak” to Boomers. Your copy style is important.
  • Lose the word “assume”. If you want visitors to your site to do something, tell them. Sign up. Click here. Order now. Call now. Tell your friends. Short little sentences. Easy to write.
  • Make it easy for visitors to absorb your content. Is your product one that can be marketed with humor? Create a short clever video or cartoons to get your point across. Or use images ….like warm fuzzy animal photos….to convey humor. Do you offer services for a serious issue…..for example one that’s health-related? Easy-to-understand charts, infographics, copy with clear steps or bullet points and explainer videos are good ways to share important information.
  • Make it easy for visitors to share your content. If you’ve succeeded in bullet point 4, this should be a piece of cake. People share what they think others in their world will like. Content that’s interesting, amusing, informative, exciting or unusual. But don’t forget to tell your visitors to share your content. Share icons are important but saying “be sure to share this with your friends” is just smart!

    content imageYour website may rank high but if visitors aren’t engaged once they land there, you’ve got a lousy site. Bounce bounce. Make sure your content is clear, well-written and speaks to your audience in language they understand and relate to. If you can’t do it yourself, hire a professional copywriter. It’s well worth the investment.

This morning, I got in my car and, before I even pressed the start button, my phone told me how long it would take to get to my destination. And threw in that traffic was normal.

Really? How did my phone know where I was going? Although it was good to know this information, it was kinda spooky. My phone knows where I’ve been. I’ve traveled this same route for the past eight days. It’s a good assumption. But sometimes, I make a stop along the way and today that was not in my plan. How did “they” know? phone-918928_1280

Thankfully, I’m not currently being stalked. But I’m still a little leery that a device has this amount of information about my comings and goings.

Think about the ramifications of the technology we casually invite into our homes and our lives. Victims of domestic violence can lead their stalkers to their location. Kids with cell phones can be tracked by people you don’t want tracking them. Burglars casing neighborhoods for empty homes can easily discover when you’re away. Pretty terrifying.

I’m thinking we might be a little too careless when we use technology. Sure, it’s incredibly useful and convenient. In countless ways, wifi and passwords and GPS make our lives easier. But being easy isn’t the end all. There’s something to be said for security and peace of mind.

I’m reviewing my sharing and security settings on my devices. You?


By now we assume we can find just about anything we need using Google. Right? Wrong!

Don’t blame Google. It’s not their fault. Google search is efficient, fast and generally awesome. The problem is the companies with really lousy websites that make searching so frustrating. To me, that’s crappy customer care.

What’s got my goat?

I spent 3/4 of an hour this afternoon trying to find something I need today. It’s a healthcare emergency. According to my Google search (and please know that I am not an intenet novice), I found the product I needed from a number of sources. That was the high point of my search. The rest was downhill.

Searching the internet in vain.

Searching the internet in vain.

The top search result was a company that was closed on the weekend. Today is Sunday. The next one looked like it had a decent website, but I couldn’t find the product I wanted, and there was no search option. The third: a nice clean site that offered a chat function. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. To make matters worse, it offered me a follow-up survey to gauge my satisfaction (which was nonexistent).

I doubt that I’m the only person in the Chicagoland area who needs a health-related item ASAP on the weekend. So this certainly looks like a new business opportunity waiting to launch. But since I’m not particularly interested in starting another business, maybe some tips on how companies can make potential customers’ lives easier will suffice.

Here are six:

  1. Make sure your website is easy for people to use. Don’t make them dig around and waste a lot of time.
  2. Put a phone number in a highly visible place on your web page.
  3. Don’t have an 800 number on your site if it’s not manned 24/7.
  4. Offer a chat option — especially if your company deals with products where people will have a lot of questions. Like healthcare products.
  5. Make sure there’s a search option on your site. A searcher in a hurry does not want to scroll through a bunch of images to find what they need.
  6. Don’t infer that a customer can get an item today when that’s not quite true. That’s misleading. Ordering an item and walking out of a store with it are not the same thing.

Believe me, as someone who uses Google multiple times a day, not getting what I needed today is very surprising. If anyone reading this wants to start a new business in a market where there’s a big gap, think about a same-day home healthcare supply company. There’s a whole huge Boomer market that’s going to need it. Very soon.

One last tip. If your company’s website isn’t user-friendly and doesn’t offer visitors the opportunity to find what they are looking for, I’m a partner in a web design firm. We specialize in building great websites that help you increase your business – easy-to-navigate sites where visitors can find what they want (or need) quickly.

Check us out at We understand how people use the internet.

Having trouble reading the screen?

Having trouble reading the screen?

I just clicked on an article title that looked interesting. That was the end of my interest.

When I got to the website that hosted the article, I quickly scanned it to see how long it would take to read (anyone else do that?). My only impression — “there’s so much to read!”

Maybe there wasn’t. But it was laid out in very long paragraphs. The immediate impression was “no way to scan”. Followed by “doesn’t look like it’s worth reading”.

Continue reading

Caveat. Unless you’re a graphic designer.

You may have learned how to code. But that doesn’t mean you have the skills to design a website. Trust us. We’ve seen some of those sites. Actually, we’ve redone some of those sites!

Yes, this is one of those instances when hiring a graphic designer is well worth your while. Even if it looks like something you think you could tackle, there’s more to an effective website than just picking colors.

graphic design

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at Thanks Stuart!

Here are five things a professional graphic designer brings to a website that you probably don’t:  Continue reading

When your business is new, you want all the work you can get. You’re hungry. You want to build your portfolio. So you may be a little less subjective about the work you take on.

Once your business is established, you should be able to be a little more selective. That means understanding that not ever potential project is a fit for you.

Here are four instances where you should turn a project down.

1. You have a nagging feeling that the client will not be a good fit.

Some clients are difficult to work with – overly demanding, not respectful of your time, haggling over fees….you know the drill. These are the clients who make your life miserable. These are the clients you want to avoid. Say no!

2. The project is way out of your area of expertise.

Keyword: WAY. If it’s just a stretch, there’s no reason to turn this work down. You can stretch. A little research. Calling on some colleagues for advice or help. You’ll learn something new and provide the client with some fresh answers.

3. The project time line is totally unrealistic.

Sometimes it’s enticing to say “sure, we can do that” even though the project time line is crazy tight and you know you’ll never be able to deliver on deadline. Why set yourself up for something that’s pretty much guaranteed to fail? Be honest. Say “thanks, but we couldn’t meet your timeline”. Who knows? Maybe the client will be realistic and rethink their deadline.

4. The client is requesting something you know is wrong.

Not wrong in a criminal sense. Wrong in that the end result will not get the client what he needs. These types of projects usually come with a client who is absolutely definite about what he wants and won’t listen to your professional advice. And this is the client who will never be happy with anything you give him.

Save yourself some grief. Eat noodles and cereal for a few more months and keep looking for clients you really want to work with – clients with realistic expectations who will let you do what they hired you for.

On a positive note….

the longer you’re in business, the more solid projects you’ll find. Don’t get frustrated. Get out and network more. Join new groups. Let colleagues and friends know you’re looking for more work. Be proactive and the business will come.

But always, when new business comes your way, listen to your gut. Are you getting bad vibes from a potential client? Pay attention. Look at the numbers. Are you shaking your head wondering how you can possibly make a profit when the margins are so low? You probably won’t.

Remember that you’re in business to make a living. If you won’t be able to do that, move on to the next opportunity.

Well…maybe perfect is the wrong word. How ‘bout damn near close to perfect as you can possibly get when dealing with human beings? Cause that’s what I’ve been fortunate enough to do.

A few years ago, I reconnected with a graphic designer I liked but had never worked with before. We did some projects together and found that our work styles were very simpatico. She brought me in on a few website jobs with a developer she worked with. The two had done a number of websites together that were really terrific. Soon, we fell into a sort of easy threesome – in a good way.

We started pitching jobs together. Steve, the developer who could find a solution to just about anything web-related. Iris, the graphic designer with years of print experience, who’d easily moved over to the Internet. And me, the copywriter and strategist. It was an easy collaboration. So we did more and more projects, subcontracting one another for each job.
It was probably only natural that, at some point, we’d realize it made more sense to work collaboratively rather than as solopreneurs pitching gigs together. Oddly enough, it was right about the time I announced that I was cutting back on work. I envisioned a part-timey situation where I’d carry a reasonable workload…twenty hours a week sounded good to me…..and have enough free time to do all the things I’d been putting off for years.

One day, my teammates and I were conferencing to brainstorm a proposal we were working on. One of us suggested it would really make a lot of sense if we just formalized our working relationship and started a company. Wouldn’t be very tough. Between us, we had the marketing skills and experience to launch quickly. Website in a week? It could happen.

Sure enough, twenty minutes later, we had a name, three domains (just in case we needed them down the road) and were about to pitch our first proposal as a newly formed company.

Fast forward six months. We’re still working happily together. Each of us brings something different to the table in terms of background. But we all share similar values, work styles and goals. And we absolutely agree on how a website should work.

We’re not “yes” people. If we don’t agree with something, we’re very verbal. We also take criticism from one another easily. It’s ok if we’re not right all the time. As long as the end result is one we’re proud to deliver.  This makes our working relationship comfortable, stimulating and fun.

Steve is the mastermind developer. He continues to amaze me with his ability to figure out how to do anything we throw at him. Iris is a wonderful designer who designs with a marketing mindset. Yes, the designs should look fabulous. But beautiful design is meaningless if it doesn’t reflect the brand and support the sales effort. I’m focused on positioning and writing copy. I didn’t exactly cut back a whole lot on work, but I’m doing what I really love….and now work is fun again.

After twenty-two years of being a solopreneur, I’ve found that I missed the brainstorming, problem solving, creative sharing and camaraderie of working with people I like and respect. I think our What A Great Website team is about as good as it gets.

The thought of failing can be intimidating. It can also keep you from trying. And that’s too bad. Because you might be able to conquer those fears if you’d just let them go. And the joy you’ll feel when you DO conquer something you’ve been afraid to try more than makes up for the fear.

Case in point. I’ve been doing yoga for about seventeen months. I love it. It’s changed my life and made me a much calmer person (calm was never a word I’d use to describe myself). I approach yoga somewhat cautiously and am pretty realistic about what I can and can’t do (headstands are not likely)!

However, last week, as my class was working on handstands, I somehow worked through my fear of landing on my head and just decided to try it.


handstand – photo by Athleta

Don’t know what made this day different from the other 100+, but I figured what the hell. Lo and behold, my feet were on the wall and stayed there. 4 times. So it wasn’t a fluke. And the curious thing is that it wasn’t even that difficult. Which made me wonder why I hadn’t attempted it sooner. Fear of dislocating my shoulder? breaking my neck? Maybe. But yoga mats are pretty cushioned and it’s not like I was flinging my legs over my head. I was moving carefully, focusing on what I wanted to do and breathing. I think I just breathed through my fear.

A realization —if I can breathe through something I’m afraid to try in yoga class, I can use that same process in other areas of my life. Tackling a new skill that seems extremely difficult comes to mind.

Rather than being intimidated, I remember what I learned when I started my business 32 years ago. I won’t know if I’ll succeed or fail if I don’t try. Obviously needed a refresher. But that’s ok. Learning something new (or over again) can never be a bad thing.

Can’t wait til my next yoga class.

I hate to see people pay good money for a website only to end up with something they can’t use. But unfortunately, I’ve seen this more than a few times.

Most recently, I had someone call me about his 1-year old website. It didn’t seem to be bringing him any new business.

We talked about pushing traffic to a site via social media, urls in marketing material, on business cards….the usual stuff. I told him I’d evaluate his website and let him know what I thought.

Initially, the site looked alright. Lots of white space. No can-you-make-this-any-harder-to-read reverse type. Looked fairly user friendly. True, I didn’t see any copy talking about their niche or how they helped clients, but that’s a matter of copy rewriting and positioning. Otherwise, I didn’t see anything glaringly horrid.

Then I went through the site. Slowly. Very slowly. Not cause I wanted to but because the pages loaded so slowly I had no choice. It was painful. If I were a visitor to this site rather than evaluating it, I would’ve been long gone. Video links that went nowhere. Contact emails that came back as “undeliverable”. Copy heavy pages without reasonable breaks or subheads to let you quickly scan copy. No clear positioning that told you how this firm could help solve your problems. A blog with posts that were either press releases or articles gleaned from other resources. No original viewpoints or commentaries or anything you couldn’t get somewhere else. A downloadable pdf that didn’t download. And to top it off, the website wasn’t designed to be responsive. So viewing it on a mobile device was a nightmare.

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image source

Now it was easy to see why this website wasn’t converting any business.

Rather than a customized website that was specifically designed and built to convert business, this business owner had purchased a site that was really a template. The contact page had a form with boxes that weren’t at all relevant to his business. Some of the photos made you wonder what the firm did. The overall impression was one of a website that had been thrown together without much thought as to how it should work. Or what kind of user experience a visitor would have.

If you’re going to shell out a substantial sum of money for a custom website, that should be what you get.

So before you hire a firm to develop your website, make sure you do the due diligence you’d do (do…do…do…do!) for any other significant financial commitment. Read testimonials from previous clients. Review sample work to see what types of sites the company has designed for other clients. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting and what you’re paying for.

I once had a client who came to me with a new website that had no copy. True! They had paid for….and gotten….a beautifully-designed website with almost no copy — certainly no positioning statement or anything that set them apart from the competition. They had a shopping cart with no copy and no instructions on how to purchase items, and no idea how to maintain or update the site themselves (no, it wasn’t WordPress). I felt so bad for them. They had paid a lot of money and gotten an unusable (but beautiful) website. They came to me for social media help but I couldn’t do anything with that until I wrote them some web copy. At that point, they had run out of money and abandoned the business. It was very sad.

This is probably the perfect place to throw out a pitch for my new web design and development company. I recently partnered with two of my favorite colleagues to launch What A Great Website. Check us out if you’re thinking about doing a new website. We make sure that all of the issues I’ve brought up in this post do NOT happen to you!

I didn’t want to leave. Honest. I really loved the bag I found on your site. It was the color I’d been looking for for months and a style that always works for me. But I hated your website. Your website made me do it.

Was that a mistake?

Was that a mistake?

Make It Easy

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to have a better, cooler, more desirable product these days. If your potential customer finds it too difficult to purchase from you, you’re going to lose a sale.

The Internet has spoiled us. We expect to find what we’re looking for quickly. Once we find something we like, we expect to be able to buy it easily. If your website doesn’t’ allow that to happen, we’re gone. To the next best product. As long as the e-commerce process is quick and easy, we can be swayed. So much for loyalty.

If you want visitors to your website to stay there long enough to purchase an item or two, you just need to make it easy. It’s not brain surgery. It’s simply good design, clear copy and smart navigation.

That means no guessing as to where a visitor has to go next to view products, ask questions about sizes or returns or anything else…..or make a purchase. Clear, concise copy with easy-to-to read, easy-to-find directions, in highly visible bars or buttons or a different color type, might be just what you need to kick your numbers over last month’s sales high.

If you’re not sure if your website provides an outstanding user experience, go through it as though you’ve never seen it before. Find a product. Compare it to other products offered on the site. Go to checkout and buy it. Fill out the order form info. Make sure it’s smooth, seamless and swift. If it’s not, you need to go back to the drawing board and make some changes in your online selling process. Cause if the purchase process is difficult for you, it will be equally difficult for potential customers.

Professional web designers and developers know what it takes to create websites that keep visitors engaged. Clean, uncluttered pages with appropriate images that draw the eye where you want it to go …..whether it’s to a purchase page, a link to get more information, a place to ask a question, or a button to share what you’ve found with friends or colleagues. Professional copywriters can write clear, compelling copy that grabs visitors’ attention, keeps them interested and guides them through the purchase process.

Make it easy for people to do business with you. They’ll come back. They’ll also tell their friends about their purchases. It’s free advertising. And all you did was develop a website that works.