Make these changes now to improve online results
Thousands of Web sites built circa 2000-2002 are showing signs of wear and fatigue like a dot com Larry King. Today’s trend is away from flashy, narcissistic pandemics about why YOUR bolt and fastener company is the BEST, and toward obvious, easy-to-use, functional Web sites that respect the time and intelligence of their users.
You may not have the budget (or the moxie) to take your current site out back, pull an Old Yeller, and start fresh. Hence, this set of important changes you can make to eliminate small Web site lines and wrinkles, and return a fresh, healthy glow.
Focus on the User
Nobody comes to a Web site on accident. Each visitor needs something from you. The key to online success is figuring out what those needs are, and answering them as quickly as possible. Think of your site as an extension of your customer service department rather than your marketing department, and you’re on the right track.
How do you know what the needs of your audience are? Ask them. Put together an easy online survey using www.zoomerang.com or a similar tool, and invite visitors to participate. Include a question that requires survey takers to describe (or select from options) precisely why they came to the site. Use that information to reconfigure your site’s organization and content.
Once you have an understanding of what people want from you, determine how best to provide it. Create a chart of all the pages on your Web site. Does this page answer one of the primary five to seven visitor questions? If not, does this page clearly direct the visitor to another page that answers a question? If not, delete the page from your site. Your top seven visitor questions should be answerable in two clicks from the home page.
Have a Clear Home Page
The home page of your site has two purposes. Briefly describe who you are so visitors know they are in the appropriate place, and direct users to an inside page most likely to answer their question.
Do not use your home page to try to tell your whole story, and unless you are managing a Web site for a rock band, porn star, or art gallery do not put a flash introduction on your site. 93% of Internet users click that convenient “skip intro” button, so having your logo burst into flames accompanied by the first seven bars of “We Are the Champions” isn’t exactly money well spent.
Remember that many people will be seeing your site for the very first time, and thus need to evaluate each link on your home page before determining their next action. Ideally, provide 15 or fewer next click options.
Write Copy for the Web
People don’t read online, they skim. Eyeballs jump around a Web page like Tom Cruise on Oprah.
So, don’t repurpose your brochures. Instead, determine what the goal of the Web page will be, and then write it in an inverted, journalistic style. Conclusion first, then more details
Use a lot of subheads and bullet points to give the visitor’s eyes a roadmap to what’s important on the page. Keep sentences short and punchy.
The Internet is the most measurable medium yet devised, and features actual, honest-to-goodness counting of each person that comes to your site. It’s imperative that you use this data to consistently measure the effectiveness of your site, and make changes based on your findings.
Decide what behavior you want your Web site visitors to engage in on your site. Filling out your lead form? Calling your toll-free number? Downloading your white paper? Purchasing your product?
Whichever it is, use a Web analytics program (we recommend Clicktracks and Urchin on Demand (recently bought by Google)) to determine at least monthly how many of your visitors did in fact do what you want them to do on your site, and more importantly, your conversion rate.
To determine your conversion rate, divide the number of desired actions by the number of people who visited your site. If 100,000 people visited your site last month, and 1,000 of them filled out your lead form, your conversion rate is 1%.
This is the magic number online because it tells you how effective your site is at aligning what you want people to do with what they want from you.
If you want your site to generate a larger number of desired actions there are only two ways to do so. You can ignore the shortcomings of your site and get more people to visit – which can be a difficult proposition. Or, you can inject a little botox into your site, make it customer-friendly, and get more results from the people already there.