The Quality of Your Site = The Quality of Your Company

 We’ve heard it all before.  Your website is often the first contact a potential customer has with your company.  Here are five studies that confirm the importance of that first encounter and the effect your site’s quality has on your brand.

Perception is Everything

“Testing of our model shows that the most important constructs for increasing initial trust in our experimental context are branding and website quality.”
Journal of Management Information Systems (JMIS), Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 199-224

“Retail brand trust, off-line patronage, clothing involvement and two factors of website quality (usability and information quality, visual appeal and image) were found to significantly influence online apparel shopping intention. ”
Influences of retail brand trust, off-line patronage, clothing involvement and website quality on online apparel shopping intention

“The hypotheses predicted that IT-mediated signals of quality, coupled with expectations and attitude, would affect a consumer’s perception of organizational quality and influence their behavioral intention (i.e., whether or not they would do business with the organization). Results from this study indicate that students expected more from the websites  of IT proficient organizations and were more accepting of websites from organizations with a low IT proficiency. These results further develop signaling theory and have significant implications for IT-proficient organizations that must meet a higher standard when creating a website. Such an organization may unknowingly send a signal of low quality if consumers believe its website does not meet expectations.”
Investigating IT Proficiency and Website Characteristics as Signals of Quality: Guilt by Association?

“A survey of 701 eBay users is conducted which compares the price premiums of two nearly identical online auction businesses, one that has online auction listings with a perceived high quality and the other that has substantially lower perceived quality. Results of this study indicate that website quality can explain 49% of the variation in the trust for eBay sellers. In fact, it shows that sellers with good website quality are all perceived to be equally trustworthy regardless of their eBay reputation; whereas sellers with poor website quality are not perceived to be trustworthy even if they have a high eBay reputation score. The results also show that the trust resulting from increased website quality increases intention to transact and results in price premiums of 12% (on average) for sellers with higher quality listings.”
Journal Electronic Commerce Research Published online: 24 February 2010

“This study concludes that website information quality is the most important factor in enhancing relationship length, while website system quality and service quality contribute a lot to relationship depth and breadth.”
Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, Volume 20, Issue 9 2009 , pages 971 – 988

“Website quality has a direct positive impact on the satisfaction dimension of relationship quality; (2) satisfaction dimension has a direct positive impact on both trust and commitment dimensions”
The Impact of Website and Offline Quality on Relationship Quality

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SEO is Evolving Fast: Basics Are No Longer Enough

One thing is clear, the pace of innovation is increasing and basic SEO building blocks are no longer enough to drive traffic and leads to your website.

Jen Doyle of MarketingSherpa and Nick Stamoulis, President of Brick Marketing and a blogger with the SEO Journal, shared their thoughts on the five key SEO questions we’ve asked several other thought leaders.

Here are a few specific tactics every SMB should employ to get found online.

From HubSpot.com

My Three “R”s of SEO

“The Three ‘R’s” is my basic philosophy on SEO strategy. It’s where I begin when starting any new content or search optimization project.

Reach
Optimize your site for specific key words and phrases that address your specific target demographic. Your key words and phrases should be common and standard terminology in the industry for your product type. They should be words that someone would actually use to search for your product. If you have more than one target demo – like wholesale contractors and homeowners – with two very different information needs, you will have to optimize your site along two distinct paths to reach these two demos effectively. The bottom line here is that your optimization efforts have to focus on reaching the right people.

Relevance
Based on your key words/terms, create content that is relevant and valuable to your target demos. It must address their specific information needs, be differentiated from that of your competition, be considered valuable by your potential customers, and be accessible as they need it. Things like “How Tos” for your home owners and project calculators for your contractors might be examples. Here, the focus is on providing the right people with the right content at the time they need it.

Relationship
You have to build a relationship with your customer. Weather you go the “trusted advisor” approach by consistently adding new and valuable content and making your customers aware of it, or the “community host” approach by actively cultivating a rich online community, the relationship aspect will be integral in establishing your brand over the long term.

What do you think? What’s your philosophy?


SEO – Don’t forget about your collateral

There’s something people often forget about when doing SEO – search engine optimizing printable online collateral such as brochures, datasheets, or PowerPoint presentations.

PDFs and PPT files regularly appear in your Google search results along with web pages. Why? Google crawls PDFs and other file types and indexes them like web pages.

Why should you care?
Any PDF or PowerPoint presentation on your site can potentially effect your overall search results. Additionally, ANY ONE in your organization who produces brochures, documentation, presentations, or any other collateral you post to your site can impact your search results. It’s not just your web content people that have to be knowledgeable about search engine optimized content any more.

Negative Implications?
Depending on the key words used in a search, your competitor’s search optimized Widget instruction manual could come in above your poorly optimized whiz-bang Widget campaign landing page.

Positive Implications
You can really expand your overall search visibility by making sure all of the documents and collateral on your site adhere to basic principles for search engine optimized content. If you look at every document as a potential search result, you’re crazy not to make sure those docs are are optimized for specific key words or phrases.

The Philosophy

The way people find information has dramatically changed over the past two years. We are in a time of right-now information consumption and the search engine is increasingly becoming the only well from which we all drink.

While content has always been king with online marketing, changes in user behavior and search engine algorithms have raised the importance of generating and delivering good, user-centered content even higher.

People are utilizing search engines more as a FIRST step in finding products and info. The days of the portal and publisher sites that feed topical content on a fixed schedule are gone. Those wells have dried up for us marketers. Now, people want good, accessable information that is relevant to their needs at the very instant they need it. And we have to make sure it is our content they find – not our competitors.

Go to Google. Enter your search. Get your info. Drink up.