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5 Components Your Business Web Site Needs

5 Components Your Business Web Site Needs

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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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