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Last week I talked about why a strong web site is crucial to your business. Today I’m going to talk about five components your web site needs and why you need them. Bear in mind, however, that these five aren’t the only components you need. At the end of the article, I’ll mention a couple of other things you may want to include. Now, you can’t just slap these components on a web site and have something great. You’ll still need some solid graphic design, good usability and ease of navigation, plus you definitely want to make sure your design, copy, and code are developed using principles of search engine optimization. With those cautionary notes aside, let’s dive in to the five components you need for a successful web site.

1. Opt-In Box

If you’re not capturing your visitor’s details with an opt-in box, you’re missing one of the greatest marketing tools available online today. An opt-in box is a place where people enter their name and e-mail address (or just their e-mail address, but I’ve found it’s useful to have more information), and then they subscribe to your e-mail newsletter or e-zine (pronounced “EE-zeen”). You can start building a relationship with your subscribers with regular, useful contact (defining “regular, useful contact” is a separate article in and of itself).

2. Who you are

Generally speaking, if you’re selling either a product or a service, you’ll want your customers or clients to trust you. Part of building trust is sharing a bit about you and how your company got started.

3. What you do

Obviously, if you want to sell your products or services, you’ll need to talk about them. This is where good marketing copywriting comes in handy. If you’re not good at writing marketing copy that converts visitors into buyers, hire someone who knows how to do it well. Investing in good copywriting can make all the difference.

4. Sticky content

Sticky content refers to any content on your web site that attracts people and keeps them there, kind of like flypaper. Consider your blog, articles, audio and videos, and other resources, to be the flypaper that keeps visitors “stuck” to your site. The longer they stay at your site, the more likely they are to convert into buyers. There is, however, a point where your content will hit critical mass and can be too sticky. If you give too much away, your potential buyers won’t need to buy. They’ll settle for the freebies and never convert into sales.

5. Contact Information

Potential clients and customers will want to know how to contact you for several reasons. If they can contact you, they can buy from you with the assurance that if they experience any troubles with the product, they’ll be able to ask questions or process returns easily. Also, they can ask you questions before they buy. There’s a long list of other reasons customers and clients may want to contact you, and they’ll feel safer buying if they can contact you easily. So provide at least phone and e-mail, and if you can, provide a physical address as well. If you work from home, don’t post your home address. Instead, get a P.O. box or a box at the UPS Store and post that instead.

If you’re selling products or services online, in addition to these five components, you’ll do well to invest in a shopping cart system and a payment processing system. Forcing potential buyers to contact you to get purchasing information ensures that those buyers will go elsewhere most of the time. We live in a high-demand, instant gratification world. If someone is shopping in the middle of the night or on a Sunday and they want what you have to offer but they can’t get it when they want it, they’ll buy it from someone else who can deliver instantaneously. Don’t give your potential buyers a reason not to buy from you.

So how do you implement all this stuff? How do you get a web site with these components, plus good design, good usability, and strong SEO? Next week, I’ll talk about how to hire a web firm to design your site. I’ll tell you how to educate yourself so you know enough to ask the right questions and know when you’re getting the right answers, how to balance value and price, and what red flags to watch out for.

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