Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Webmasters Assistant

There are many tools available to a webmaster to analyse website traffic allowing them to monitor the number of visitors, see what pages have been accessed and even the length of time each visitors spends accessing the website.

However, despite the considerable data available what is missing is anything to tell the webmaster what the visitor was thinking. Did they like or dislike the site? Was the layout easy to understand or just plain confusing? Did they find it easy to navigate and maybe the most important thing, did they find the information they wanted?

A website may be generating sales but why are some people that visit the website not buying anything?

Was it because they didn't like what was being offered or they couldn't find what they wanted?

Website surveys provide webmasters with an excellent and accurate method of answering these types of questions.

Direct feedback from the website visitors cuts to the chase, no need to guess, just ask the visitors themselves how they found the site and if they found what they were looking for.

With an online survey webmasters can find out:-

  • How often do people visit the website?

  • How did they arrive at the website?

  • Are they accessing the website for business or pleasure?

  • Did they find the information they were looking for?

  • How easy did they find navigating the website?

  • Would they recommend the website to others?

A good website survey will be brief and will gather information that once analysed will provide valuable information to help improve the website.

Another alternative to a traditional survey is to embed one or two survey questions within the website after specific procedures. For example at the end of the registration process the visitor can be asked if they found the procedure quick and easy; after ordering an item they could be asked if they found the ordering procedure and payment methods to their liking. To ensure that the questions don't become repetitive to regular visitors the website can be programmed so that the questions are only asked once per registered user.

Website surveys take the mystery out of working out what visitors think of a website and using online survey websites such as they are quick and easy to design and once implemented will really become the webmaster's assistant.

To see a sample website survey please follow this link:-

Martin Day is a director of Survey Galaxy Ltd a website that allows anyone with basic computer skills the ability to create and design online surveys and then publish them on the Internet. Fast, easy and cost effective for more information please visit

7 Questions to Ask A Potential Internet Merchant Account Provider - Ecommerce

Recently I went looking for an online merchant account, with disastrous results. I made the mistake of taking information at face value and relying on the ecommerce merchant account provider's good reputation in other areas.

Fortunately, you can avoid the same experience I had by asking the right questions of a potential ecommerce ecommerce merchant account provider.

Merchant Account Provider Questions

Understanding the answers to these questions before signing an application or agreement will help make for a solid partnership between you and your merchant account vendor:

1. As a merchant, can I accept credit cards both online and offline?

Do I need to get separate authorizations or permissions when setting up my ecommerce merchant account for different types of transaction (Internet, retail, phone orders, etc.)?

What other merchant fees are involved if I accept both online and offline credit card charges?

2. Can I accept ecommerce payments using methods other than Mastercard and Visa (Discover, American Express, Diner's Club, online checks, debit cards, etc.)?

If so, what are the fees and do I need to do anything to "activate" those ecommerce payment methods?

3. What are the different discount rates and fees for different types of ecommerce and other charges through the merchant account (Internet, in person, telephone, mail, etc.)?

4. What are the other fees related to this ecommerce merchant account - yearly, set-up, application, monthly minimum, statement, support, cancellation, discount, per-transaction, gateway access fees, card reject fee?

Are these subject to change?

Are there any other fees involved in order to get my ecommerce merchant account functional?

5. Do I process ecommerce charges manually or automatically?

If manually, is it possible to get automatic merchant account processing?

If so, do you provide a secure online payment gateway for my ecommerce merchant account?

How do I get up and running and what extra charges will I pay to do so?

6. What other software and services do I need to become fully ecommerce enabled online (such as secure gateway provider, etc.)?

Do you have a list of these additional ecommerce providers that are compatible with my ecommerce merchant account?

7. Do I need additional hardware or software not previously mentioned?

If so, what is the cost and how do I get this equipment?

Many of these questions are different ways of getting at the same issue -- you want to know every component, every function, every fee, and every charge association with making your ecommerce merchant account work effectively for your business.

If you ask these questions while establishing a mutually comfortable relationship with your ecommerce merchant account provider from the start, you can avoid "traps" and lay the groundwork for a long, solid partnership.

About the Author

Bobette Kyle draws upon 12+ years of Marketing/Executive experience, Marketing MBA, and online marketing research in her writing. Bobette is proprietor of the Web Site Marketing Plan Network ( ). Http://, one of the network sites, explains different aspects of ecommerce.

ฉ 2003-2004 Bobette Kyle. All Rights Reserved.

Complementary-Relational Linking and How It Could Save Your Internet Business - Ecommerce

The concept of linking is that sites with common interests
should link to drive more traffic to each other's businesses
and to increase their "popularity." Search engines, such as
Google, give much higher ranking to sites with high
popularity. They feel that when many sites are linking to
yours, it's a sign of ranking value.

The standard linking philosophy of most websites is to have
a "links page" that piles all the link partners into one
common pool, without any indexing. That type of link will
only help you with SE ranking but not sales.

Next up the ladder is the links page that's indexed, making
your website easier to find. A much better solution if you
must have a links page.

Of course, the best link in the world is when your partner
puts you on his home page. I tell you, it's enough to make
any Net Marketer go into involuntary spasms! However, the
chances of that scenario are slim to none!

That's not to say there isn't a middle ground between the
above strategies. There is a better option:

Complementary/relational linking! As an example:

Let's say your website sells only pencils and you link up with a
partner that sells paper; that's complementary!

Relational linking then assigns a merit value to all the
linking proposals, using these facts:

Page ranking: Is it more or less equal?

Search Engine Ranking: Do both partners have good positions?

Traffic: Is the traffic swap equal?

As can be seen, some of the above quantities are
interchangeable but shouldn't get in the way of judging the
merit value of each offer. Depending on each circumstance,
the varied partners will have a merit value that will give
them more or less prominence on your website.

The ideal circumstance is when you find a linking partner
with the complementary/relational approach built into his
sales program and the layout structure of his website.
Meaning: Location, location, location!

Without the above approach, many possibilities to garner
extra income from your Net venture will not take flight!
The above paragraph should have even more meaning when you
consider the fast-approaching age of general broadband use.
It is coming sooner than what anybody imagines; spelling out
the end of many text only websites.

For all good reasons you should strive to create
complementary/relational linking with as many partners as
merited. Build your website to give them as much exposure as
you can. All the bells and whistles! Provide ample space and
graphics for them, trade full page articles and resources!
Very important: Have them do the same for your business!

In closing I will exhort you to embrace multimedia and the
broadband revolution as a principle of self preservation.
The folks that take all their resources and put them in a
text only links page, will suffer the twists and turns of the
not-so-kind near future!

Francisco Aloy, the author of "Yes, I Want to Start My Internet Business Without Being SCAMMED!." Has an online business catering to the needs of the Newbie Net Entrepreneur.

Visit his site to see more of Mr. Aloy's articles.

(C)2004 Francisco Aloy

Chinas Online Shopping May Be Booming In The Next Few Years - Ecommerce

Data from China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) shows that till June 2004 Chinese online user has reached 87 million, of which, 7.3% has experience of online shopping.

CNNIC also expects that the percentage will reach 58% in the next 2005 year.

Two factors may limit China's e-business growth.

1. The low investment on the Internet infrastructure and related soft environment.

2. The shortage of online products

Chinese young man, a SEO, Internet marketing expert.

The Essential Christmas Web-store Makeover - Ecommerce

Ten great tips to turn online holiday shoppers into eager
buyers - and satisfied customers.

When meeting potential clients, you wouldn't dream of
showing up late in a mismatched outfit, hair disheveled,
with food on your tie and no business card, would you? And
if they asked for testimonials or explanations about your
company policies you'd hardly say, "Sorry, I don't give out
that information."

So why do it on your website?

Just like in person, Internet shoppers look for clues
(consciously or not) that suggest you are credible and
professional - and they make that judgment call inside of a
minute or two. That means you have a small window of time
to impress would-be buyers and gain their trust. Unlike in
person, however (where you can apologize for tardiness or
charm customers with funny tales about how that mustard
landed on your lapel) you have zero opportunity to redeem
yourself online. One click and they're gone for good.

But fear not. As Web-goers gear up for their Christmas
shopping sprees, there are things you can do quickly and
easily to inspire confidence. Here are some surefire ways
to turn browsers into buyers and buyers into regular

1. Put on your best Web-suit. You don't need to hire
Armani to redesign your site, but make sure it's clean,
organized and error-free. Check for typos, broken links,
inconsistencies in graphics, repetition, cluttered
appearance and the like (think of it as good grooming
habits). Such lack of attention to detail sends a message,
however untrue, that you will be equally careless in your
business dealings.

2. Put your best logo forward. Provide familiar visual
clues on your site, such as well-known brand names and
logos. Also, list any other trusted brands, including
suppliers, business partners and customers - and always
display their logos to make a stronger impression. When
shoppers see recognizable names, it increases their
confidence level in your store. They'll be more inclined
to buy your goods knowing FedEx was shipping their
Christmas gifts instead of Joe X.

3. Proudly wear your credentials. If you have attained a
standard of excellence or have met minimum certification
requirements, such as for service or security, let
customers know about it. Credible trust marks* displayed on
your home page will instill confidence in shoppers so
they'll stay on your site and discover all you have to
offer. (* has a nifty utility for measuring
the trustworthiness of your website. Simply type in your
URL and get instant results. By filling out their form,
you can improve your score - and build credibility with
customers. Subscribing to certain trust marks is also an
easy way to increase your TrustGauge score.)

4. Pass out your virtual business card. Make sure your
contact information is visible and indicate all the ways
that you may be reached - including your physical business
address. Besides being convenient for the customer, it
helps assuage fears that you will take their money and run
into cyberspace, never to be found again.

5. Don't be a Grinch. Offer freebies (such as trial
software, free advice, money-back guarantees, etc?). This
allows customers to experience doing business with you
before they actually buy anything. Similarly, if your
website is easy to navigate (again, see tip #1), it tells
customers they can expect their buying experience to be
just as pleasant.

6. Insure - and assure - customers. The single most
effective thing you can do to build customer confidence in
the short-term and transform reluctant shoppers into
spenders is to provide a third-party insurance policy.
Payment services such as PayPal provide Buyer Protection
programs that assure your customers they are protected from
loss or damage caused by shopping on your site.

7. Deal with privacy matters. Shoppers now know that
inappropriate use of their personal information can be
devastating. Address privacy issues explicitly whenever you
are asking for any information. Tell customers why you are
collecting the information, how you will use it and how you
protect it. Use clear, concise statements. Legal wording
and fine print make people think you're trying to hide

For those customers expecting compliance with specific
privacy laws and regulations, explain why you are in
compliance and back it up with relevant third- party
assurance. A well-recognized privacy seal, such as from, assures them you are taking care to protect
and respect their privacy.

8. Be transparent. Online fraud is growing at an alarming
rate and people are becoming increasingly sensitive to the
threat. Unlike when shopping in a store, online shoppers
have no way of witnessing what's really going on and often
feel vulnerable. Your website should include easily
accessible information on why your store is a safe place to
shop. Tell customers how you protect them with safe
shopper policies. Consider joining the Safe
Shopping program.

9. Hold the customer's hand. Once the customer is ready
to buy, walk them through each step of the online
purchasing process. Assure them at each prompt that you
are sensitive to their concerns and deal with each concern
or issue as it comes up. Provide a clear link to your
mission statement, customer service policies and other
aspects of your business that may need explaining. Even
better, follow tip #10. The objective is to eliminate
those moments of hesitation - especially in the final
stages of the sale.

10. Offer a personal touch. One way to instantly endear
your customers is by having a real person assist them prior
to and during their purchase. Use today's Internet
technologies that provide a variety of communication
channels ranging from IP telephone to instant chat. For
higher value transactions, provide a 24- hour toll-free
telephone number - with prompt, friendly service. It's
often the last touch that sways hesitant holiday shoppers
to buy.

At the end of the day, it's all about building trust.
Following these tips will definitely improve your online
credibility and create more satisfied shoppers at your
site. It will also prepare you for the next critical step
in the trust process of winning clients over the long-term,
which will yield even higher returns for many seasons to

Let me know about your experiences implementing each of
these recommendations. I'm confident you'll see a

Happy e-tailing this holiday season!


A Christmas bonus

Five easy ways to please your online holiday shoppers

1. Add a touch of holiday spirit to your site. Don't be
excessive. Just add a few colorful graphics to let shoppers
know you have Christmas gifts to offer.

2. Categorize products to make shopping for gifts easier:
Use catchy phrases like "For Her", "For Him", "Gifts under
$50" and "Holiday Specials."

3. Alleviate clients' worries by communicating well with
them - online, by phone and/or e-mail - and assuring them
their gifts will arrive on time.

4. Be clear about shipping fees and return policies. The
last thing you want is to surprise clients with unexpected
fees and conditions regarding your return policy.

5. Flash a Smile. Tell a joke. Last but not least, have
fun with your customers whenever you get a chance,
especially at Christmas. Clients may not see you smiling
but they can certainly feel it. And they'll remember you
for it too.

Alex Todd is president and founder of Trust Enabling Strategies,
a management consulting firm that helps organizations to excel
by codifying trust as a critical success factor. Comparative
Trust Enablement Assessments help online businesses to improve
their competitive advantage and increase sales by identifying
processes that boost customers' confidence throughout the online
transaction lifecycle. For more information visit


Trust Enablement Incorporated

Alex Todd

Tel. 416-487-1497

Fax. 866-271-5372

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Tell Them Whats in The Can! - Ecommerce

What does 'the can' mean? Well, its literal meaning relates to canned goods on supermarket shelves. If your can is up there among thousands of others, the label had better state pretty clearly exactly what's in the can.

Sliced peaches? Peas? Coffee?

Really, it would be unthinkable for a can label designer to feel that any job was more important than simply describing the can's contents.

So here's the question...if your Web site were up on a shelf among tens of thousands of others (it is!), do you tell people what's in the can?

How quickly can a first-time visitor find out exactly what's in your 'can'?

In general, I think most Web sites do a horrible job in this regard. If a Web group were given the job of designing the label for a can of chili, it would probably read something like this:

"Family Meal Solution"

And if they were sent away to improve on this, they'd come back two weeks later with something like:

"Robust Family Meal Solution"

It seems as if we go to extraordinary efforts to disguise what can be found in our sites. It's almost like we turn all our cans around, so they are facing away from the aisle. We fill that first screen with the contents, the ingredients and other non-critical information... But we fail to achieve the most important task of all - telling our visitors what it is we do and offer. We don't tell them what's in the can.

Here's a quick example.

I recently went to a site called The name and tagline that jumps out off the screen at you is this:


So Beautiful. So Easy. So Plaid.TM

Do you have any idea what they offer through their site, based on those words? Neither did I.

So here, drawing on my many years of copywriting experience and a sock-drawer filled with awards, is my suggested alternative:


We Sell Craft Supplies.

And no, it doesn't take any great copywriting talent to write a simple line like that. In fact, the temptation to 'copywrite' can often get in the way of clarity at a time like this.

Remember, visitors come to your site with the hope of being able to achieve a specific goal. They want to do something. They want to get a task completed. Whatever the dominant tagline or copy block on your home page may be, it needs to be written with a view to helping your reader get started towards achieving her task.

Don't think of your home page as 'ad space'. Think of it as one can, on a long shelf, in an aisle in a huge supermarket that stocks millions of cans.

Don't assume that everyone knows what it is you do. They don't.

Don't assume that every visitor will take the time to dig deeper and work out for themselves what you offer. They won't.

The responsibility to describe the contents of your site is yours alone - and you need to achieve that within the first two seconds.

Job one is to tell people what's in the can.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Art of Being Human - Ecommerce

This isn't the first time I have written about the benefits of inserting a human voice or presence into your online communications. And I make no excuse for writing about this again.

Site visitors crave the sense that someone is there, within and behind your Web pages, your emails and newsletters.

Dealing with the bare technology of online interactions is a cold experience for many, or even most of us. It makes us feel anxious. Technology isn't warm. It has no heart. It neither understands us, nor cares for us.

For many Web sites, whether for businesses or organizations, we simply plug in and play the bare technology - the super-duper means of information delivery. All the site visitor sees and feels is the design, the interface, the links and the clicks. The experience is about as warm and human as banking with an ATM machine.

And then we sit in our expensive offices and wonder why it is that we get such terrible conversion rates on our sites, why so few people continue to open our emails or read our newsletters.

Well, perhaps it's because we're bringing an 'ATM' style to the most interactive, vibrant, networked, warm and essentially human communications space imaginable.

But what if you enabled your visitors to catch just a faint scent of humanity in your site? What if you did a few small things to show that your business is more than just a cold room, filled with servers? What if you showed that the heart of your business is about people, and not technology?

Would that be such a bad thing?

In fact, it would be a very good thing. Your readers, prospects and customers will feel relief, they will smile, feel reassured. And they are more likely to sign up, to register, to buy and come back.

Can I prove this? No, not with certified, verified figures, charts and signed affidavits. But I have corresponded with and listened to so many business people who know very well how 'being there' and 'being human' has helped them online. They have seen how conversion rates, sales and levels of customer loyalty can rise and fall in response to the level of 'humanity' expressed through their sites.

Here are a few, very simple examples of how different businesses have sneaked a little humanity into their sites and emails.

- A second level page at features a photo of the CEO Jim McCann, and a personal message to his customers. (You might consider this to be an unoriginal and mundane idea. Well, do you have an equivalent page on your site? Would it harm you to give it a try?)

- At you can see how they have included images of and short messages from a variety of hosts and experts. (Are you too cynical to believe that visitors can really relate to paid 'hosts'?)

- At they use simple words and phrases that tell you right away that a 'real' person wrote that content. Have a look at the text for their Customer Service Pledge. See how the word 'leap' and the phrase 'burning questions' transforms this from corporate-speak to something very human and a lot more credible.

It's not hard to take a few steps that will add a sense of humanity to your sites, emails and newsletters. You can do this with images, a few carefully chosen words or a combination of the two.

And if that works for you, take an audit of all your online communications. Take a look at all the places where you could add a more human voice.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Web Users Crave Familiarity - Ecommerce

The sad truth is, general Web users would love it if all our sites looked like

They'd immediately be familiar with the interface, they would know how to find what they wanted, and they'd find it a breeze to check out and complete the purchase.

Or, if your site is crammed full of thousands of pages of content, make it look like Yahoo!. That's what has done.

The trouble is, the creative spirit hates to copy the work of others. We want to make out own mark, do something different, be original. And the more creative we are as individuals, the greater that compulsion becomes. As a result, we build flash homepages, with unfamiliar scroll bars and use strange icons in place of familiar words like 'Home' and 'About'.

Or designers make a compromise and build a traditional homepage, but with a different look. They'll move the navigation links from the left side to the right side - anything to look different!

And writers are no better. We'll look for other ways to say familiar things in a different way.

Some writers say 'Entry Page' instead of 'Home', or 'Go to Checkout' instead of 'Buy Now'. Is this a problem? I don't have figures to prove my point, but my guess is that conversion rates drop off whenever you give a reader reason to pause. And when you say "Entry Page' you are giving your readers pause for at least as long as it takes for them to wonder to themselves, "I wonder if that means the homepage?"

But the issue of familiarity goes beyond the words we have come to expect on the Web. We should also keep in mind the many words and phrases that our prospects have grown to recognize from the offline world.

If you sell directly from your site - and that includes selling newsletter sign-ups and registrations - spend some time looking at the junk mail you receive each day.

Also, take a look at those small cards that drop out of the magazines you receive. Check out the language.

Limited Time Offer. Save. FREE. Reply now. Special Offer. Call 1-800-000-0000. Offer expires May 22. Free Gift. Trial Offer. Guaranteed. 30-Day money back guarantee. Subscribe.

And so on.

While you may not see all of these words and phrases in abundance online right now, you might want to try a few.

A sense of familiarity can cross boundaries between media. All of the terms above are also use successfully on TV and radio. So why not on the Web?

Learn from the hard-won experience of others and use terms and words that your consumers are familiar with, whatever the source.

When you do that, you speed up the decision-making process, you remove all those pauses when your prospects are figuring out what exactly it is that you really mean.

This is true for the look of your site, the navigation of your site and the copy you use to try and engage attention and close sales.

As much as we may hate to accept it, originality is usually the enemy of a smooth customer experience.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Tell Site Visitors What To Do - Ecommerce

Your site visitors make all the choices when it comes to browsing the Web.

No other medium gives users, readers or customers such control over their own experience. TV, radio and print present information in a very linear, controlled way. But on the Web, there is no telling how your next visitor will experience your site.

Where will they click? Which pages will they visit? It's hard to tell.

Being sensitive to the fact that the user is in control, many sites simply present as many options as possible on their home pages. The thinking apparently being that the more choices you show on page one, the more likely you are to present something that connects with as many visitors as possible.

Perhaps this was the strategy behind

While a considerable improvement on how it looked a little while ago, the Ford homepage still offers almost forty links to other pages on the site.

In addition, no particular priority is given to any one individual or group of links. The choice is left to the user.

No emphasis or priority is offered. Ford is sitting back and saying, "You decide."

The trouble is, when they take that position, they are asking the visitor to do all the work. The visitor is now required to scan those forty links and try to figure out what to do next.

Does anyone smell conversion drop-off?

Now look at a site that takes a very different approach. Take a peek at

They offer a variety of different ways into the site. But they also present some clear preferences.

Dead center on the page they say...

* Refinance, Home Equity, and more...

* Pay virtually ALL your bills online

* Organize all your online accounts

* Consolidate debt, auto loans, and more...

Four simple choices, three of which open with an active verb. In short, they tell you what to do.

Click on that first link. You're taken to another page, with a variety of options. However, once again, they show a preference and tell you what to do.

* Refinance your existing mortgage

* Consolidate your debt

* Home Equity financing

* Purchase a home

For another example, visit

Again, you'll see clear directions on what to do.

* Search for Hotels

* Search for Cars

* Search for Flights

* Stay Drive Fly

These sites support their users by offering clear instructions on what to do.

Does this preclude someone from taking his or her own path through the site? Not at all.

But for many users, particularly those who are there for the first time, finding these simple instructions comes as a huge relief.

Here is the heart of it. Just because your visitors enjoy an unprecedented level of control over their experience at your site, doesn't mean that they don't want some help.

Don't simply give them numerous, passive options. Don't leave them to do all the work.

Help them out. Express a preference. Tell them what to do.

You're not being pushy when you do that. You're being helpful.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.