Creating A Winning Website
The Web is the world’s most competitive marketplace. Why? Geographic location is not an issue. Each website must stand up to competitors’ sites whether the competitors are a Fortune 500 international company or a Ma and Pa shop based any place in the world.
There are several keys that you can use to evaluate where your website stands and thereby decide whether you need to budget an immediate overhaul, a touch-up, or submit your site for a best of its class award.
10 areas to look at:
- If the client is trying to communicate with more than one major audience, is there a separate website for each major audience? If not, is there a clear path from the main site to the section(s) that address the needs of each major audience group? We recommend separate sites in many cases because it facilitates marketing on and off the Web.
- Is the contact information clearly organized for each target audience or do investors, vendors, job seekers and customers all write to you at the same email address?
- Have you tested your site from the perspective of each of your target audiences? Pretend you’re a job seeker, potential customer, vendor, potential investor, etc. and try to find information that each person would logically expect to find on your site. Test all of your forms. Are they easy to fill out? Try entering bad information. For example, put a letter in the middle of a phone number to check whether your programmers designated that field for numbers only. The goal is to eliminate flaws that can result in lost business or a blemish on your reputation.
- If you are marketing to non-English speaking audiences, do you have sufficient content in each language? Do you have local contact information or at least links to people in your office who are literate in each language?
- If your audiences are in different time zones, do you take that into account on your contact pages…identifying your office hours by time zone for example?
- Are you using "smart" forms to take interactivity to the next level? In other words, do you ask different questions depending on what the inquirer is looking for? One way to do that is to start with a qualifying question, such as whether the visitor is looking at your products for personal or business use. The next series of questions depends on how the first is answered, etc.
- Have you carefully evaluated your competition? You should visit your competitors’ sites three or four times a year, looking for changes. Evaluate the quality of information they are providing. Test their order forms. Subscribe to their e-mail newsletters.
- Have you searched on all of the key words and phrases that apply to your industry in all of the major search engines – Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, MSN, AOL, etc? Again this should be done systematically four times a year at minimum! Two possible benefits: (1) you may find competitors you didn’t know about and (2) you may find marketing opportunities – keywords where few of your competitors have a presence.
- Test your site for obvious technical problems: (a) test for bad links, (b) optimize all images for the web, (c) make sure all of the page titles match the content of the page, and (d) make sure the meta tags are customized for individual sections and pages.
- Analyze your traffic reports for the past year: (a) Are your overall numbers rising? (b) Are there sections/pages of your site that are getting more traffic than you would have expected? If so, are you getting as much business from that traffic as you should? (c) Are there sections/pages that are getting less traffic than you would have expected? If so, does that mean you have a problem that needs to be addressed, such as changing your navigation to give those sections/pages more prominence? (d) What do the referrer statistics tell you about your site’s visibility on the Web?
A successful Web site is the product of good planning – clear objectives and priorities. It is also a combination of art and science, where the design and impression conveyed by the site can be as important as the content. Fortunately, unlike the early days of the Web today it is possible to measure the contribution one’s website is making to your bottom line. If your site is not producing, don’t despair. It’s not as if you have 10,000 brochures with last year’s prices in your closet. You’re only a phone call away from the solution.
MASET, LLC P. O. Box 11663 Chandler, AZ 85248
Phone: 602-721-3680 Fax 480-802-4710