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Every time a year reaches its end, we make New Year’s Resolutions to improve ourselves in the coming year. But why limit these resolutions to ourselves?

Why not come up with New Year’s Resolutions for your online store to boost your sales?

We have come up with four great New Year’s resolutions, which will help improve your online store’s visibility, usability, credibility and conversion rate.

Best of all, these resolutions are easy to implement.

Resolution 1: Review your homepage

When you go to a job interview, you try to put your best foot forward. Is your website doing the same?

Do yourself a favour and browse a number of websites to see how quickly and instantly you dismiss some sites, purely based on the design of their home page and the information provided.

Does it look professional? Does it tell you what the site is about? Chances are, you make up your mind most of the time within seconds.

So do your potential customers, when they see your website for the first time.

If all you have are few seconds, shouldn’t you make every single one of those seconds count? Even on top performing eCommerce sites you will always find some room for improvement. We are not talking radical surgery here (although for some websites that might be the only option). We are talking about simple changes, which you can easily implement.

Make every second count

Will a first time visitor see immediately who you are and what you sell — without having to scroll or browse?

How long does it take a friend who hasn’t seen your website to figure out what it is all about?

Are your images of a good quality, does the text clearly spell out what you do? Does it talk to your customers or is it designed for someone who would never buy from you, anyway?

Use images, text and video to get your message across quickly to your customers. If your average customer is a male between 25 and 40, then of course your site has to communicate differently to a website targeted at teenagers.

Websites such as www.fotalia.com and www.istockphoto.com give you quick access to quality photos for next to nothing, and professional eCommerce software such as ShopFactory makes integrating these images easy. Or ask your suppliers for multi-media materials for use on your website.

Have a look at printedclothing.com or ioda.com.au to see how quickly you can tell a customer what you have to offer.

Resolution 2: Guide the customer through your site

Once your improved design has hooked potential customers, do you know what you want them to do next?

Of course you want them to buy from you.

But are you leading them through your site to ensure they will buy or do you just hope they will find your products while browsing your site? Are you trying to get their email address, so you can contact them, or do you want to lead them to the product information?

If you are not sure what your customers should do as the first step after arriving at your website, chances are they don’t know either. If you leave your customers to themselves, they may move on, finding your site to hard to explore.

Your resolution should be to define a call to action for your home page which lures your visitors deeper into your site. Or, into your marketing funnel. Then integrate this action call into your web site.

Don’t think too complex though. A simple banner with a clear link to your shop, some products on your home page for immediate inspection or a big phone number for customers to call you can do wonders. Have another look at http://www.printedclothing.com/ to see that you don’t have to make big changes to achieve this.

After all, what’s the point of leading people to your website, if you lose them once they have arrived?

While you are at it, take another look at your navigation. Do you provide easy access to pages which promote the benefits and added value you are offering?

If in doubt, try asking a friend or customer who is unfamiliar with your website to find a product and to order it. Watch them carefully, as this can help you come up with some simple changes to improve your online store.

Resolution 3: Tell a better story

Believe it or not, the page "About us" is one of the most important pages of your website. Today people want to identify with what they buy and who they buy it from. They want it to extend their own personality.

If you can provide a personality that matches their view of the world, they are more likely to buy from you and to return to your site.

So review your "About us" page. Tell the story of your business, talk about the great people making up your team. Highlight your company history your credentials, and, if possible add photos. Make the "About Us" page the voice of your values.

A simple picture of your team may look like a small improvement. But it can help your customers identify with you. And that can make all the difference, when it comes to making the decision who they want to buy from.

Studies at Stanford University have shown that highlighting real people and their area of expertise on this page provides one of the most fundamental Internet trust factors. Visitors will only become your customers, if they understand, appreciate and trust you.

Make it your resolution to ensure that your About Us page sows trust among your visitors, so that you can reap the rewards.

Resolution 4 — Make sure more people find you

Search engines continue to be the most important method people use to search for products and information. So your 4th resolution should be to make sure that more people find your website and store.

Think of new expressions and search terms potential customers could use to search for the products you want to sell to them! Add those search terms to your website, to improve your visibility for these terms in the search engines. There are many ways in which you can do this.

  • Rework the page titles and integrate possible search terms. There is nothing wrong with creating a new page focussing on a specific search term, provided the page also provides value to the visitor. Don’t cram to many search terms into the same title though — they will steal each other’s thunder and none will rank well.
  • Meta tags. Each page of your online store can have an individual search engine title and a description (Meta description). Make sure all pages include individual search engine terms, which are also human readable. Many search engines display this information in their search results. So you should make sure that the text doesn’t just contain keywords but also makes users want to click on them, when they are displayed. Limit the length of your title to 75 characters and the description to no more than 150 characters.
  • Create links within your own website which are based on your search terms. For example link from page A to page B using the search term you want to promote on page B. So instead of “Click here” use the search “Organic products for babies" as the link.
  • List you address with Google (http://www.google.com/lbc) free of charge. More and more Internet users look for online business which are located in their region. If your business address is listed with Google, you are more likely to be found in local searches.

Resolution 5: Stop being "antisocial"

Start integrating with social media more strongly. This is one of the most profitable ways to increase your credibility, your reputation and the power of your core business values.

Consider Facebook as an extension of your online store and website to communicate your values and to create more contact points with your business.

Blogs are a great way to bring your site closer to ultra relevant content. Twitter is simply a shortened form of blog (and tweets now pop up in Google).

Facebook allows you to create conversations and communities. Remember that Linked-in is a great interactive address book for storing contacts. Take the time to update and complete your profiles to communicate about your products effectively.

Today the Internet has become splintered into more channels — learning how to benefit from this will be to your advantage.

Resolution 6: Don’t stress

Here is a bonus resolution at the end: Don’t stress. You don’t have to complete every resolution in the first month: you have all year to act on them. Address one resolution after the other, and you should see results without losing your hair.

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