Online-Forms-that-EngageTo your website visitors, online forms are like optional extra credit in school. If they are already passing a class, most people don’t want to spend time completing extra work. That extra credit only becomes attractive when they need the points to pass the class. Your visitors won’t look at your forms with interest unless it promises to help them achieve something of value to them. If they can find the information they need through your blog or the products they need through your store, they have little incentive to spend time filling out an optional form.

The solution is not to give up on forms altogether but to create engaging online forms that have value to your visitors. You start by being upfront about what they will receive in exchange for the information asked for in the form.

For instance, you may tell visitors that they can obtain more in-depth information not featured on your blog or website content if they sign up for your newsletter or that they can get discounts on future purchases by signing up for occasional email messages. Think about what benefit a visitor may gain from a specific form, and make sure they understand that benefit. Then place the form in a convenient location on your website and follow these additional tips:

1. Only ask for the information you really need.
The more information a visitor must provide, the less likely they are to fill out an online form. Forms with a lot of fields look complicated and require a larger investment of time. Simplerforms are faster to fill out, so your visitors are more likely to consider the time investment worth the payoff they receive at the end.

2. Use terms that everyone can understand.
If your website is dedicated to a specific industry, don’t use industry lingo. You want to ensure that everyone inclined to fill out your form will understand what information you are requesting. When something is unclear, visitors will abandon the form before it is complete.

3. Design your forms to limit frustration over errors.
Have you ever gotten to the end of a long form only to be presented with a message that there were errors on the page? Going back to fix the error can double the time it takes to complete the form. This is often caused by not using dashes or other small mistakes. If you simplify your forms by accepting data in whatever manner your visitors want to enter it, you can eliminate this frustration and ensure your visitors stick around long enough to fully complete the process.

4. Customize your online forms to your user.
Use your analytics to determine what country most of your visitors come from, and then put that country at the top of your location dropdown list. Small things like that can simplify the form process so that more of your visitors make it to the end of the form.

Notice that these tips are aimed at making your online forms fast and easy to complete. The promise of something valuable on the other end will get many to start the form, but these tips are what will ensure they finish the form.

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Behind the Scenes
Web design and development is an art and a science. The art comes into play of course on the areas of the site that you can see and that are part of the overall look and feel of the site.

While search engine algorithms have changed dramatically over the years and can see and interpret a great deal, they are still limited in the way in which they crawl over the site and the data that it contains.

Your website doesn’t look the same to the search engine as it does to you. While the mantra lately is that it must be a good experience for the user and that the only thing that counts is the user experience, believe us when we tell you that isn’t the case at all. Web design and development requires a level of skill in algorithms and in proper coding methodology in order to ensure that the search engines can see what they need to see to allow your site to be crawled by search engines fully.

One perfect example in point is this– a website that was one of the top wiki websites online was having a lot of trouble ranking in Google. A well rounded site designer, who also did SEO, reviewed the site and used a spider simulator on it. He and found that the code was incorrectly executed and that the search engines could not read the header information on any of the pages, although they displayed correctly to the user. In this case the user experience was a good one, but the website could not get their pages well crawled or showing in search because of a code error.

The website design that you use must be well structured and reasonably well coded without errors. It’s an invisible portion of the site that has to be right in order to ensure that what the human visitor sees is pleasing to the eye and directs them to the places that are important. That same website design however, must also send the search engines to the right areas. The code, the alt tags, the descriptions must all be in order so that the search engines can see what is most important about the site. Both elements are a necessity for the site to be crawled and ranked for the website owner.

Another unseen element of website design are the alt tags. Using images without alt text can be a problem for the search engines too, in that they cannot read what the picture is. This means that the great photo or diagram that you have on your page is invisible in search.

Many websites have real problems with being seen. The content isn’t really indexed and the writing isn’t really designed for the search engines to peruse. A good example is a whole front page done in flash. It looks lovely in many cases, but it’s not readable or usable by the search engines. This means that your lovely site and all of your beautiful sales content isn’t going to be visible to the search engines or able to rank well.

A great coding job, careful attention to details, the right alt text and the right image labeling can make your site far more visible in search, yet it is not part of the visible content of the site. When it comes to website design and development, what you don’t see is often far more important than that which you do see.

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As important as it is to attract visitors your website, keeping them there long enough to make a purchase or subscribe is the ultimate goal. This is where a site’s bounce rate comes in. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who go past the first page of your site to investigate further. The longer a guest is at your site and the deeper into the site they go, the more likely a sale will be made.

Decreasing your bounce rate from the average of 40 – 60% to a lower more profitable level can be accomplished by solving a few design flaws that may be present at your site. To reduce bounce rates be certain your site is designed to answer the following questions:

Where am I – Visitors come to a site with a purpose in mind. They read a teaser and want to read the rest of an article or they are looking for a specific product, service or information on a particular subject. Once they have arrived, they want access to what they came for. Be upfront with what your site is about, and don’t make your guests search for what they came for.  All tho your goal may be to reduce your bounce rate and keep visitors on the site longer, you don’t want to make them hunt for something.

What’s over there – Assuming your guests have come with a purpose and found what they are looking for, the next step is to guide them to explore the rest of the site. A cluttered site will turn people away. Your customers shouldn’t have to work to find the way. Keep it simple and easy to maneuver if you want prospective customers to hang around.

Who’s place is this – Be sure to include an about me page with a picture of yourself. People feel more secure doing business with someone they know. Reading a short bio and a few words about your present life will engender their trust.

Where is everybody – Make it easy for you guests to connect with other by adding plugins to social media sites such as the following:

  • Diggit
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter

These plugins reduce your bounce rate by making your guests feel at home and by not making them leave to connect with their friends. They also provide a handy way for your guests to invite (promote) others over for a visit.

How can I learn more – At the bottom of your site provide related content links to enable your guests to put what they have found at your site in context. Below are three of the most popular.

  • LinkWithin – The most low key of these three
  • Nreate – Simplest for site users to work with
  • Outbrain – Presently more popular than the other two

Remember, once visitors arrive, the emphasis switches to keeping them there as long as possible, encouraging them to look around and make them want to come back and recommend that they friends come too.

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