No doubt, you’ve visited plenty of Web sites that have proven to be a waste of your valuable time. If you’re like many business and marketing professionals, you secretly hope that your site meets the needs of your prospects, customers and internal users. But you’re not really sure, are you …?
You can create a roadmap to greater Web site effectiveness by taking the following advice. You’ll find that the investment in time and money—to convert your site to a successful measurable marketing tool—well spent.
Here are several tips that promise both increased qualified traffic to your sites and enhanced visitor usability:
1. Develop a marketing plan for your Web site. It’s not complicated, really! Focus your plan on your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, both online and off. Define your business, sales, marketing and online objectives. Create a detailed profile of your various Web site users. And, include the methods you’ll use to track and monitor the use and effectiveness of your site.
2. While developing your Web site marketing plan, ask yourself “What is the purpose of my Web site?” Does it need to generate sales leads or requests for information? Is it an image-making tool? Or, rather, a customer service tool? Do your sales people use it to “sell” prospects on your capabilities? Once you’re really sure what it is you want your site to do, you can apply design and usability strategies to achieve specific objectives.
3. Understand the users of your site. Your organization may need to communicate to a few different target markets and audiences. The more you know about each type of user (whether it’s an employee, customer or prospect), the better you can effectively communicate with him/her via your site.
4. Make sure the strategy behind your Web site design comes from someone qualified. Often, businesses cut budget corners by asking the IT department to develop the site. Make sure your strategy and design efforts are in the hands of someone who understands the importance of usability. The investment now will eliminate the need for you to re-do your website again in the very near future.
5. Don’t try something new because it looks “cool.” If you want to use multi-media or animation, ask yourself the reason why. What purpose will it serve? Will it help you to meet your goals? For example, if you’re making people sit through a flash program before they reach your home page, you may decide to scrap it! Businesspeople and consumers alike are pressed for time. Help them get the information they need quickly.
6. Drive traffic to your site! Your site can and should be THE place you want people to go to get deeply involved with your company and to get to know your products and services. Make sure your URL is on your business cards, collateral material, your e-mail communications, and your advertisements. Simple, basic search engine optimization on your home page will help ensure qualified Internet users find your website through engines like Google, Yahoo and Ask. Basic search engine optimization can be achieved by incorporating well-written, search word-rich metatag title, description and keywords/phrases.
7. Is your content fresh, or is it the same material you put up there when your site was first created? Give your visitors a reason to come back again and again.
8. Monitor and measure your site. Proof and update content, make sure incoming e-mail is routed and answered promptly and test links and user tools (like your search function). Subscribe to a traffic analytics tool like Google Analytics, LiveStats or WebTrends. A traffic analytic tool will tell you how many visitors your site receives, where they are clicking within your site, how they found your site, what operating system and browser they are using, and much, much more. Use this valuable information to improve your site.
A successful Web site drives visitors to respond. Offers, surveys, e-newsletters, free white papers and other high value tactics encourage visitors to interact with the site. When developed with a strategic focus on direct response, Web sites and microsites will not only drive sales, but also gather information about customers and prospects, providing qualified leads for further sales and marketing efforts.
Of course, Web site design MUST revolve around the end user. Consider the needs of your customers, prospects, employees, the media and anyone else who might visit your site, in addition to your organizations business and marketing objectives. This approach is called “usability design” and it is necessary when creating intuitive navigation, easy-to-find content and useful response mechanisms.
Denise B. Hearden (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the e-marketing director of Johnson Direct.