Your Business Website: Whatís the Bottom Line?
Your business website is often the first interaction you have with a potential customer.† If your website is not professional you may be leaving money on the table.† Website strategy expert, Philippa Gamse, will help you identify these issues and fix them.
As well over 90% of people now turn to the Internet as their primary information source, itís crucial to your bottom line to ensure that your Web presence is as effective as possible.
Yet 95% of the more than 5,000 Websites that Iíve reviewed since 1995 were leaving money on the table, sometimes a lot of it - and often in ways that could be easily avoided or rectified.
Many of these issues are caused by one of more of these factors:
* Lack of strategic planning and consideration of the full range of visitor types to the site, their needs, and likely emotional responses.
All of these can cause significant loss of potential revenue, since the failure to engage visitors with your Web presence reduces conversion and referral rates.
This article briefly explores the above issues, showing how they manifest, their impact, and how they can be detected and resolved.†
Lack of Thinking about Visitor Types
Of course, this is far from the truth.† Visitors will have a wide range of needs, levels of literacy and language skills, decision-making processes, and will respond differently to various types of calls to action.† It is very important to consider this for your particular demographic, so that you can create copy and navigational structures that appeal as widely as possible, and to avoid losing visitors and revenue-generating opportunities.
One of the most valuable exercises that you can undertake is to define a set of typical visitor "personas".† Think about all of the different types of individual that you might attract to your Web presence, not just current and prospective customers.† These can include potential investors or partners, bankers, insurers, job seekers, media, and even members of the public who may find your site by chance but who are interested in your content.
In creating these "personas", consider these characteristics:
* Gender / age / language(s) spoken
It's best to do this with input from a wide range of both senior and junior staff, and from all departments and levels of interaction with the public so that you can build as complete and varied a picture as possible.
Once you have this list, try walking through your current or proposed site structure in the shoes of each "persona", seeing it as they would, and trying to interact in the way theyíd prefer.† This will almost certainly be an eye-opening experience!
Lack of Clear Positioning and Navigation
Your home page is where visitors will expect to find this information, even if itís not where they first enter your site.† So itís important to look at the impression that your home page gives:
* What's "above the fold" (i.e. visible in the first screen of content - often visitors wonít scroll past this point on the home page)
Designers love rotating elements.† Theyíll tell you that they allow much more information to be given on the page.† However, relying too heavily on these is dangerous because you canít assume that the visitor will wait until the piece that they really need to see comes up, so they may get the impression that what theyíre looking for isnít available, and leave your site.
Itís also dangerous to use words or phrases on your site which will only have meaning to those who are already familiar with your business.† Other visitors will fail to respond, and they may miss the content which would meet their needs because the navigation labels do not draw them into the appropriate pages.
Lack of Cohesion between your Website and your Social Media Presence
Too often, an organizationís social media messages present a very different image than the website.† There may be a Facebook fan page which is energized and exciting, where the corresponding web information is bland and boring, or filled with legalese, destroying the motivation of the Facebook visitor.
Itís entirely possible that this happens because the social media and web presences are managed by different teams within the organization.† If so, this is a great example of a situation where a higher level overview of the entire Web presence would identify and implement these opportunities for cross-fertilization, with potentially significant impact on response rates.
Lack of Cohesion between Departments
Since this is a "web" and visitors enter and progress through your content in many different ways, itís important to leverage all possible opportunities to cross-link between pages.
Online press releases are often a prime example of this issue.† They attract a lot of traffic because their content is naturally full of keywords, but they fail to link to other pages on the site where the visitor can find more information or buy the products and services that they highlight.
Again, a higher level review of the whole site would identify the instances where they were failing to fully capitalize on their investment or achievements.
Lack of Management Oversight
Many of the issues discussed in this article can be detected by informed analysis of your Web traffic reports, which are generated by Google Analytics and similar programs.
The key word here is "informed".† These reports can contain a huge mass of data, pie charts and graphs, and can certainly appear very daunting to the untrained eye.† Iíve seen many situations where excerpts are distributed to relevant personnel who immediately glaze over.† There is a major temptation to look at the "dashboard" executive summary, and if the number of overall visits is higher than last time, to assume that this is a good sign, and ignore the rest.
The most effective way to gain actionable information from the traffic reports is to look for answers to specific questions.† Examples of these might include:
* Which are the main landing pages for the site (i.e. the first page that a visitor sees)?† Do visitors progress from these pages further into the site, or do they leave immediately?
It can also be helpful to break the reports into relevant sections for each department, rather than expecting staff to look at data that they donít necessarily relate to nor have responsibility for.
However you approach interpreting your analytics, it's important that key personnel are able to see them so that they can perform their tasks around the Website as effectively as possible.
Whoís your "Web Ambassador?"
This person should be a member of the senior management team, ideally reporting directly to the Chief Executive Officer, with sufficient authority within the organization to be a respected voice at the table, and to be heard during budget and spending decision-making discussions.† They should have a complete understanding of the organizationís ongoing strategy, marketing and patient service plans, etc. so that they are always well positioned to advise on how the Web can support, enhance and grow the business goals.†
This understanding and authority will allow them to ensure that traffic reports are appropriately analyzed and acted upon across all departments, and that optimum use is made of cross-linking and other online revenue-generating opportunities.
I also recommend that the Website and social media presence be placed on the management meeting agenda at least every quarter. At this time, the Web Ambassador can report on their evaluation and suggested improvements, with possible costs, projected benefits and appropriate priorities for each one.†
There are many excellent tools and utilities available to help you to maximize your return on your Web and social media investment.† One of the most critical factors in your success will be your willingness at a management level to take a serious and ongoing look at the resources that youíre expending and the results that youíre generating.† This may require some departures from traditional activities and organizational structures, but the ensuing gains are available and potentially significant.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philippa Gamse, CMC is a web strategy pioneer, consultant and speaker who has critiqued over 5,000 websites in North America and Europe. To learn more about how Philippa can improve your website results visit http://www.websitesthatwin.com and while you're there check out her popular web strategy audio guides at http://www.websitesthatwin.com/web-strategy-store.html