Website Diagnosis: What you should do to improve your site's marketing potential

Website Self-Diagnosis


Introduction
When we tell business owners, “Your website needs a facelift,” one of two things happens: either they nod or they get offended.
The ones who get offended probably think we are trying to create work for ourselves. They are right, of course. Bright Newt is always looking for ways to help people improve their businesses through marketing, especially web marketing. We also want to pay our bills and eat.

Those two aims inspired us to develop this website self-diagnosis. We want to demystify the web design and online marketing process for you and help you decide for yourself whether your website is an effective marketing tool or whether it is, in a word, broken.

Great website are great for a reason. They share common features and functions. Your own experience should tell you that if a company’s website is mediocre, it is hurting that company more than helping it. When was the last time you bought something from a site that was difficult to use? If a company’s contact form malfunctions, do you usually give it a second try?

People want to do business with companies whose sites have fresh, unique, relevant content and easy, intuitive navigation. The primary function of a great website is to create a pleasurable, informative experience for your visitors. People are looking for more than just fancy graphics and animations. They want substance. They want to learn something new.

You have complete control over your site. Choose to stand out by building a professional online presence and providing the information that people need.

I. General Appearance and Usability
· Website design. Do people compliment your site and ask, “Who is your designer?” Invest in the best design that you can afford. Outstanding design communicates professionalism and value. Pictures speak louder than words.
· Download time. How long do people have to wait for your site to download? Graphics and sounds add time. Use them sparingly. Don't make visitors wait too long, or they will bounce, never to return.

· Browser compatibility. Does everything on your website display properly with the most popular browsers? Browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, AOL, Firefox, and Safari, have different appearances on a screen.

II. Navigation
· Intuitive navigation. Is your site difficult to use? Have you ever asked anyone outside your company for an honest opinion? Visitors should be able to find the information they are looking for without frustration. Navigation buttons should be grouped together. Provide both image links and text links for people who have images turned off on their browsers or an older browser.

· Broken links. Make sure that links on all your pages are working, whether they are links to pages within your site or external links. “Under Construction” pages are a waste of time to visitors. Don’t post pages unless you can fill them with content.

· Placement of “About Us” tab. Where is your “About Us” tab on your navigation list? It should be at the bottom. People are more interested in themselves than you, and they visit this page the least.

III. Pages
· “Our Clients” page. Do you show an awareness of your clients’ challenges and needs? They want to know that you understand who they are. Remember, they are more interested in themselves than you.

· “Our Services” page. Do you answer all the questions a prospect might have about your products or services? You have to educate them. A bullet-pointed list is much less effective than short, descriptive write-ups of your products and services.

· “Case Studies” page. Do you have a page of credible, persuasive case studies to illustrate your success with clients? These are more convincing than what you say about yourself. Show, don’t tell.

· “Free Stuff” page. What kind of valuable content can you offer? People love getting something for free. Give them something, even if it’s helpful links.

· E-newsletter, blog, or e-zine. Do you have a way to capture the names and e-mail address of visitors? Give visitors a taste of your knowledge and expertise. They need an incentive to return to your site.

· “Connect with Us” page. Do you have only a phone number or e-mail address? Visitors are more likely to fill out a form than call or e-mail you, unless they have a specific question. Explain to visitors what happens when they contact you and how you start to work with clients. Give them something for free in exchange for their contact information. Make getting in touch with you safe and hassle-free.

IV. Content
· Compelling message. Does your homepage offer people landing on your site a client-focused value proposition? List your benefits. Give people a clear understanding of what they can expect when they work with you. Also, tell them what they can expect to find on your site.

· Regular updates. Do you refresh your content? If people know that you regularly update your material, they are more likely to return to your site. Post articles and internet-only promotions or discounts or provide links. All these things encourage visitors to bookmark your site as a reference tool.

· Clarity. Does your web copy get to the point? Research suggests that people do not like to read computer screens. Clear, concise, and informative content gives them a reason to stay.

· Readability. Do you use background colors or images? If so, the text on top of the background should be a color that is easy to read. Use a complementary color scheme that is pleasing to the eye. White space between images and sections of text make a page easier to view.

· Optional music. If you play music on your website, do you give your visitors the option to turn it off? Some people may dislike your taste. Giving them the choice to turn it off keeps them on your site.

· Call to action. Do you tell your visitors what you want them to do? You should. Your website should be more than a digital brochure. It should be a virtual tour of who you are and what you do. Visitors want to know the next step, so you must provide regular prompts. This is the way to optimize your website’s marketing potential.

V. Additional Resources
· Seth Godin, “Things to ask before you redo your website”
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/09/things-to-ask-befor...

· Seth Godin, “How to create a great website:
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/10/how-to-create-1.html

· Action Plan Marketing, “Rate your website”
http://actionplan.blogs.com/weblog/2009/02/mc-blog-rate-your-web-site.html



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