SmartGuy.comYour website should be a valuable employee…a 24-7 extension of who you are and what you represent to the world. Take a good, hard look at your employee and see if it’s a valuable asset or perhaps in need of some “retraining”. Ask yourself if your website is prepared for the job? Does your website clearly contain the content your visitors are seeking? If you are in the business of selling “Doodads”, does your website clearly express what kind of doodads you sell on your “Home” page. If selling “Gardening Doodads”, make sure the content is relevant. Your first page is your first impression, and if the relevance is not there, visitors will likely move on.

Save the “About Me” stuff for the “About Me” page. Much like a boss might discourage personal chatter on company time, ask yourself if the information on the front page is relevant to your mission. As much as people might want to know all about you – who you are, what inspires you, or your astrological sign – keep it off the front page (and in most cases, reserve it for social sites). There are some exceptions, of course. If you are a life coach, or a therapist, perhaps some glimpse into what makes you tick is important up front.

1) Is my website answering when people call?

Your first job with a new website is to make sure it is submitted to the search engines. Think of this as installing the phone lines. Perhaps this is something your web designer does as part of the service (should be!). And once those phone lines are installed, make sure you have a relevant listing, so people can “call”.

Your website should contain keywords that express what you want the world to know about you and your business, so when someone is “calling” – or doing an online search – your website will be seen. Did you see the plural there? Keywords. The world is full of all kinds of people who look at things in all kinds of ways. If your web page’s keyword meta tag contains only “doodad”, you might be missing someone looking for “tool for gardening” or “gardening tool” (going with the gardening doodads analogy earlier). Flesh it out, don’t be shy…but don’t stuff the keywords either. So often I hear from a potential client who is frustrated because their site is not being seen online. When I look at their keywords, they have one or two per page. That’s a sure sign of a website that is not really working for you! Google has a fabulous keyword search tool which is a great place to start.

Make sure those keywords express what is on that specific page. And make sure each page is different. The Googlebot is one hungry visitor, but he’ll spit out things he feels don’t taste like the page they are on.

2) Has my website filed my pages and lost the key?

Your website should have its pages neatly organized and easy to follow so your visitors are not lost. Links to other pages should be clearly identifiable. And just as the site should be accessible to humans, make sure Googlebot and his friends can find your other pages! Fancy flash links might look snazzy, but flash is completely invisible to search engines. A link that cannot be indexed in a search engine might as well not exist! Be wary of flash templates. They might look “hip”, but they will do little for your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts! Be wary, too, of some javascript menus. To see how well your pages can be followed, try using an online website spider tool.

Be consistent, too, from page to page. Your links should be in the same place on each page. If not, your visitors will get very confused, very quickly. And a confused customer is a leaving customer.

Make sure, too, that none of your relevant information is locked in the back room. Frames cannot be indexed by search engines, so if critical information for your page is within a frame (scrolling bars inside a page are a dead giveaway), that information is not being gobbled up by the Googlebot – another sign your web page is not working for you.

3) Is my website “Dressed for Success”?

Although “eye candy” may not be essential for search engine ranking, a professional, clean and easy-to-follow website is critical to your success. Just as you are better received when you “dress for success”, your website will be, too! Aim for pleasing color schemes and clean design. If you are not personally creative, hire a designer! Your website – and your success – will be worth the price! Be wary of templates, too, that lock you into a mold and can actually prohibit you from growth, expansion and even visibility on the web. A good designer does not rely on pre-designed templates (though will likely design a special template for you and you alone).

Be wary, too, of “free” websites. What you give up in price is a true reflection of what you think of your business. And think of this, if you arrived at a party and someone else was wearing your dress, would you be embarrassed? If you use a free service with free templates, someone else is likely to show up at the party dressed just like you!

4) Are my website’s communication skills good?

Is your business contact information clear and visible on your website? A contact form is so important, but so is a phone number. Don’t hide them. I wish I could teach this to big corporations! Your customers want to ask questions. Don’t make them jump through hoops. And if you have a vanity number, spell it out. 1-800-DOO-DADS might be cute and easy to remember, but not so much fun to dial! Be sure to add the alternate nearby, spelling the number out.

If your website is not a valuable employee, nip those bad habits in the bud! This may be one of the most valuable employees you have, train ’em right!

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