Traffic one key to site success

Doing business in the online economy requires an effective website. However, building a great website is only the first step. For a commercial website to be successful it must attract users, or in web-parlance, traffic. Without traffic, there will be no one to view and purchase company products or services.

The old saying of “build it and they will come” is not true in the case of websites. There are millions of websites on the Internet and persuading people to visit a website requires a serious and carefully crafted strategy.

For some sites, traffic is not an issue. We call these ‘trophy sites’. Typically, they have lots of flashy gimmicks but little real content. Attracting traffic is not a critical success factor for these sites – they are designed to be shown off at conferences or board meetings.

Studies have shown that the number of transactions or enquiries websites generate is directly proportional to the level of traffic the site attracts. If the credo of the real estate agent is “position, position, position”, then for the owner of a commercial website it should be “traffic, traffic, traffic”.

There are some fundamentals for the successful marketing of a website.

A site full of graphics and animations may look good but it will take an eternity to load. Research shows that users generally don’t wait more than seven seconds for information to start appearing before they give up and try somewhere else.

The front page should load quickly and this can be achieved by keeping the whole page below fifty to seventy kilobytes in size. Large graphics or animations should be saved for pages further inside the site.

Offer multiple pathways to the same information – don’t rely on users going through every menu item. Make sure important areas are flagged in multiple sections of the site.

The website should be updated as frequently as possible. Product news, special offers, competitions – whatever. If it doesn’t change, people don’t have a reason to revisit it.

The content of a website should be compelling. Simply re-hashing a printed brochure is probably the most frequent error when constructing websites.

For people to use or visit a website they must be able to find it. It is vital that the web address or URL be treated with the same importance as the company’s phone number. It should be on everything that includes an organisation’s contact details.

Ensure the site is promoted as having a unique selling point, whether it be the provision of vital product information not available elsewhere, a detailed help and support section or something else that gives a reason to visit the site.

Make sure that everyone in the organisation is not only aware of the website but is very familiar with the URL and the form and function of the site. It should be clear to all members of the organisation, including the CEO, why there is a website and how it fits into your customer service strategy. It is a painful truth that all too often the receptionist is unable to readily provide the company’s URL.

Staff are then in a position to promote the website in conversations with clients and to handle feedback appropriately and generate ideas for site/service improvement.

This is part of re-orientating the organization’s culture to one that embraces the use of online technologies and participation in the global economy.

Encouraging repeat visitors to the website is also important to improve relationship building with clients and to develop a community of interest around the company’s product or service.

One option is a forum which allows customers to discuss issues or topics with the product as the focus. While feedback may not always be palatable, customers will appreciate the company’s desire to address their needs.

l Mal Bryce is a former WA Deputy Premier and Minister of Technology.

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