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Why Isn't My Website Working?

by Michael Waite, Bonefrog Creative

The answer to that broad question can only be assembled by unearthing the answers to a series of tightly focused sub-questions. But before we identify the first of those, let's examine your perceptions and expectations. The broad and give-me-the-secret nature of the above question reflects the flawed thinking behind it: a website—your website, any website—isn't magic. Customers don't come just because you built it. They won't buy just because they came. You've got to work harder and smarter than that.

First of all, you need to analyze your site statistics and make sense of what's happening with those who have come to your site already. Your website hosting service should have at least rudimentary tracking software in place. Consider adding more robust tracking and reporting services from an outside source, like Google Analytics, and start collecting that valuable site-visitor intelligence data. Good tracking software will tell you what pages people looked at, even how long they stayed and which page they were on when they left your site. It will tell you which websites or search engines they came from when they visited your site. And so on. A wealth of information.

As for how you might use that information to improve a dysfunctional website, consider this example. Say you find that certain pages on your website, pages with what you consider important content, are rarely visited. You can then begin determine why. Are they too hard to find and get to (navigation problems)? Are they poorly headlined? Too densely written, too unattractive to read? Not focused enough on what's in it for the customer? Does the first paragraph communicate quickly the value of the words that follow? Is the page design weak and uninviting or confusing? Is it barking amateur with too many ads or cheesy dancing graphics or poor color choices? Maybe the call to action is missing—they don't know what you want them to do after they finish with the page.

Second, understand that two factors must be in play and making music together for any website to "work." The first is content. Site content must be carefully crafted to lead to conversion. The second is traffic. You've got to bring them into the tent. The key is this: Site content and site marketing (traffic generation) are inseparably connected. They work together or don't work at all. And with an understanding of the symbiotic relationship of content and marketing—and abandoning belief in web magic and secret formulas—you can get to work on making your site work. Rather than simply marketing your website, you begin marketing the valuable, useful, sticky, relevant CONTENT of your site. And if you discover you've got nothing on your site of particular value to market against, then you can go to work generating some.

To build your site around the right content, consider the first of the necessary sub-questions that need to be answered: What specifically did you build your website to do? From there, determine: Who is, specifically, your customer? What do they care about? What do you want to them to do when they get to your site? What's in it for them? How do your goods or services meet their needs? How are they finding your site? And so on. (see Six Key Website Planning Questions for more on these critical questions).

One more piece of advice: study the websites of successful businesses that market to the same customer types that you want to attract—and take notes. Look for commonalities among the different sites. Study the writing and the word choices; the navigation and linking structure. Consider the look and feel. Analyze the conversion process. And so on.

Rebuild your site content and marketing strategies around the answers to those site planning questions, fold in the savvy gleaned from researching the other players in your field, further tweak and target that content and marketing with intelligence gleaned from your site's analytics data (an on-going process), and you'll be well on your way to making your site work.
phone: (208) 776-5210

© Michael Waite • (May be reprinted as long as contact information is included)