Critique Your Website Through the Right Lens

6/29/2009

- Andrew Wetzler, President

In my article last month, May 09, I discussed the fact American Airlines has not made any meaningful improvements in the design or usability of their website in many years and how I believe it reflects poorly on their business and prospects for the future.  Compare American's site www.aa.com to that of www.southwest.com and the differential is astounding.

The purpose of this article is to encourage you to take an objective look at your website to determine whether it is presenting your organization in the proper light today. Unlike any marketing medium that has preceded it, your website is your ideal forum to express to prospects and customers how you want them to perceive you.

With this in mind, there are two aspects of your site that I want you to consider:

  1. Does the site present itself in an intuitive manner and does it work properly?
  2. Does the site incorporate some form(s) of Social Media?

Question One should fall into the "no brainer" category (based on the evolution of the internet), but it doesn't.  While many companies have improved the functionality of their sites, too many websites are still lacking in the basic elements of usability. Does your site showcase your company in an efficient manner or do people have to take unnecessary steps to find what they are looking for? Are there appropriate calls to action? Is there a mechanism for capturing email addresses from people who want to stay in contact with you? Do you consider your site to be on a par with your most important competitors?

Question Two is the more unnerving one today. Social Media is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that very few marketers are feeling comfortable with. Is it reasonable to keep your head in the sand, recruit an intern to throw up a Facebook or LinkedIn profile and call it a day? I don't believe that it is. Furthermore, I think that incorporating elements of Social Media into your website are essential for maintaining a competitive advantage. 

While off-site social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, etc., should be a component of your marketing efforts, there are two on-site tools that should be a high priority for your site. The first is a blog. Incorporating a blog onto your site and keeping it updated with fresh posts (at least once a week) helps to show that you are a thought leader in your industry. A blog will also help generate repeat traffic to your site. Additionally, there are genuine SEO benefits from publishing an on-site blog, as the search engines are keen on indexing fresh and relevant content.

The second is to include video on your site. Web technology has advanced to the point that embedding videos onto a web site is not a big deal to orchestrate. Flash is a technology that is expensive to implement, can be very search engine un-friendly and in many cases a detriment to the user experience on a site. Video has largely the opposite affects. Although still in its early stages, companies are using video to communicate their messages in ways that make their websites increasingly dynamic and engaging. Just like a blog, there are SEO benefits from posting videos, and videos enhance visitors' perceptions that a company is forward thinking.

Your website should be your most effective business-development and client-management tool. The ways to facilitate this are as diverse as the internet itself. That being said, every website visitor is left with a perception of your company based on their experience with your site. The ability exists to make the impression as favorable as possible and that is an opportunity that ought to be seized upon.

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