The February 2008 issue of Inc. Magazine had a nice feature section (fourteen brisk pages) on “The New Basics of Marketing.”
You’d be mad, of course, to even think about abandoning traditional advertising channels. But there’s no doubt that viral videos, mobile Web apps, blogs, e-mail newsletters, and those freakish animated avatars have become standard marketing procedure for many companies.
Even so, a lot of site owners update their site only infrequently, making superficial changes once a quarter or even less often.
Clients who understand the Web spend time on their site
Clients who understand the Web spend time on their site. They put in the hours, building and tweaking their content in an effort to increase memberships or drive revenue.
The following from Inc.’s report struck me as being both savvy and timeless.
How are you tracking your visitors?
You can spend thousands a month on the likes of Omniture and WebTrends but Google Analytics is free and pretty darn decent. Tracking where people come from is one thing (organic search? links on other sites?) but seeing how users actually move through your site is manna from the Cloud.
With Google Analytics, you can see where people enter your site, where they leave, and the pages they visit in between. One key metric: your bounce rate, the percentage of people who leave your site after seeing just one page (i.e. they don’t click even one link). If your bounce rate is high, your site needs an attitude adjustment.
What are your competitors doing?
First, take a long hard look at their information architecture and overall design. Second, compare your traffic with theirs using sites like Alexa.com, Compete.com, Quantcast.com. Third, keep track of your competitors’ sites, making note of when they introduce new features—then recheck their traffic to see if it goes up or down.
Who’s the boss?
Don’t pawn off your Web site on the twenty-something in accounts who “good with computers” or the marketing guy with the patch of fuzz on his upper lip. A Content Management System allows anyone to add, edit and delete content from your site—no tech skills needed.
For content it’s best to get someone from the C-suite involved—your CEO, CIO, COO—somebody with a big picture view of things who can lead the editorial. The best run sites have somebody dedicated to the task.
Search your soul
For certain kinds of sites, search is crucial. But not all. Maybe not even most. That’s because people who search are often not really looking to buy; they’re just browsing. So a well-planned on-line ad campaign may convert more sales than a first page ranking. When it comes to SEO and SEM, turbulent waters run shallow. Look for consultants who use only white-hat practices, the best techniques and advice that won’t eventually get your site demoted on or banned from Google’s ranking.
Functional is beautiful
Drop that splash screen. 1) They’re terrible for your search engine ranking because the search engines give scads of weight to text content of your home page. 2) Users hate splash screens, and hate is not an emotion you want to prompt when saying your first hello to somebody. If I came up to you to say hello and started break dancing, pulling doves out of a top hat, and telling you I was going to change your life forever because I’m just so awesome, would you be impressed or would you want to punch me in the face?
Next, make sure your site is easy to navigate, easy to read, and loads fast. In other words, get out of the way—users comin’ through.
Less waffle, please
Nobody will ever read your mission statement. Ever. And nobody gives a foo-ninny about your corporate vision. Deal with it. Just because MegaGlobalCorp has their cranium in their colon doesn’t mean you have to follow along. The more you try to be profound, the more you’ll sound like an idiot. Keep things clean and clear and short. Give people what they want, not what you want them to want.
100 million blogs and counting. But there’s a reason; two, actually. First, this is just how it’s going to be. Avoiding blogs in the 2000s would be like avoiding the printing press in the 1400s. Second, Google loves blogs and favors Web sites that are updated frequently and are linked to by other Web pages.
All you need is good content on a regular basis and those in-bound links will happen naturally. What makes content good? It’s personal, it’s unconventional and quirky, it’s an expert talking in his own voice. It’s not press releases.