We like to pretend it doesn’t happen, but the truth is, people make instant judgements about books, movies, cars, cell phones – and yes, even other people – based on first impressions alone.
And when a potential client lands on your website, they’ll make an instant judgement about you and your business as well.
Will he or she see you as:
- A professional or an amateur?
- A business or a single mom working from the kitchen table?
- Competent or a not?
- Confident in your skills or timid and unsure?
- Reliable or flighty?
Obviously, you want your prospective customer to know you’re a professional business person who can be relied upon to do great work, right? But is that the message your website is sending?
Design Is Important
I’d love to tell you that your website’s design doesn’t matter, that it’s the content that truly draws people in and makes them feel comfortable. But ask yourself this: How many times have you landed on an ugly, poorly laid out site and not even bothered to stick around long enough to read the content? Plenty, I’m sure, and your clients have, too.
When it comes to your business site…
- Do use WordPress. It will make your life much easier.
- Do choose a modern theme with lots of white space.
- Do make sure it’s responsive, so users on a mobile device have a good experience.
- Don’t use any old free theme out of the repository before you read this.
- Don’t spend money you don’t have on a professional design.
- Don’t spend weeks “tweaking” your theme. Set it up and get it out there.
Spelling Counts (and so Does Grammar)
Just like your teachers always told you: spelling does count. Look, everyone makes a typo now and then. It happens. However, there are ways to minimize the potential for spelling errors:
- Use a good spell check software. Microsoft Word has a good one built in, as do most writing apps. If you prefer to compose in the WordPress editor and your web browser doesn’t have a spell check, you can install a plugin for that.
- Never write and post on the same day. Always let your post sit for 24 hours or more, then give it one more read-through before publishing. You’ll be surprised how many errors you’ll find.
- Hire a proofreader if you can afford it. It’s nearly impossible to catch all the mistakes in your own writing, but someone who’s never seen it before will spot them in an instant.
Your About Page
It’s important. Not only is it one of the most visited pages on your site, but it’s also the one opportunity you have to talk about yourself.
So put a little personality in, but keep it professional as well. Some advice:
- Do use a nice photo. Potential clients will feel more confident and connected with you if they can see you are a real person.
- Don’t get overly personal. Details about how you’re a single mom and you struggle to pay the bills while staying home with your kids, or how you are digging your way out of debt by working from home part-time will not help you land clients.
- Do include your relevant experience. Think of your about page as a mini-resume, just less formal.
- Do include some fun stuff. If you volunteer at the local animal shelter or have spent the past 14 New Years Eves in Times Square, say so. It makes you more human.
It’s not easy to write your own about page, but Anita Hampl has some great tips for you on this post.
So What Do You Do?
That’s the number one question potential clients ask me when we meet in person or by phone for the first time, and by now I have a pretty pat answer for them. But when a prospective customer lands on your website, you want them to be able to know at a glance exactly what you can do for them. A concise services page will give them the answer.
Just be wary of listing too much. I know you don’t want to risk them thinking you can’t do the job they need, but at the same time you don’t want to appear too kitchen sink-y. For example, rather than saying you work with AWeber, Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp, Infusionsoft, and Get Response, simply say you manage mailing lists. It’s more concise, and doesn’t give the impression that you’re a “jane of all trades and master of none.”
Banner and Adsense Ads
Just say no. I know I have them on this site (I saw your eyes flick over there to the sidebar to check!), but the difference here is that this is not my company website.
Here’s why banner ads are a bad idea:
- PPC ads such as Adsense will earn you – at best – a few cents for every person who clicks. That tiny benefit is far outweighed by the fact that that person has now left your website, probably never to return.
- Banner ads pay better – they’re generally connected to an affiliate program – but the person who clicks will have to buy before you earn anything. Plus, once again, they’ve left your site. Besides, wouldn’t you rather they simply hired you instead of buying something through an affiliate link?
That doesn’t mean you can’t earn a little extra cash through affiliate sales, though. In fact, that’s one thing you really should be doing! It will look better and you’ll make more sales, though, if you reserve those links for placement in your posts. For example, if you recommend AWeber to your customers for their mailing list, you could write a review and add your affiliate link.
Do you blog? It’s a good way to bring traffic to your site. I get about one phone call a week asking for a project quote, and at least 7 current clients came to me because of blog posts on All Quality Websites, so I can testify to the power of a blog.
If you’re going to blog, though, be sure you do it with purpose and that you’re clear about who your audience is. For virtual assistants, some great blog post ideas might be:
- How to use a piece of software such as AWeber or Digital Access Pass.
- Reviews of tools, themes, plugins or anything else your potential clients might consider using.
- News that will be of interest to your target audience.
Your Main Message
Who do you work with and what do you do for them? This is the number one thing people landing on your site for the first time will want to know, so make it clear. For example, the tagline of one VA’s site says “Virtual assistant services for small businesses, self-employed, and entrepreneurs.” That makes it very clear what she does and who she does it for. The only way it might be better is if it clarified what services she provides, like this: “Blog and Email management for…” or “Video and audio creation and editing for…”
Tell Visitors What to do Next
You might be surprised to learn that your website visitors don’t intuitively know what’s expected of them. You have to tell them using clear instructions and a strong call to action. Calls to action include:
- A statement such as “Click here to schedule your complementary 15-minute consultation.”
- A buy button. Make sure your services page has them.
- An opt-in form.
Give them something to do next, otherwise they’ll very likely leave your page never to return.
Building a Solid Web Presence Takes Time
Of course, you aren’t expected to have all of this in place before you open your virtual doors, and chances are, your website will always be a bit of a “work in process.” If you ever begin to wonder, though, why your traffic or your conversions are low, take a look at some of these areas and see if your site is lacking.