I've heard this a lot lately: "I need more traffic. I need more traffic. I need more traffic. "
And I listen to the people who are saying it to me and I think, "No, you don't. Your website and/or product and/or process sucks. Why tell more people about that? So they can have a craptastic experience and tell all of their friends? Right. Let's fix the experience first, THEN tell people."
And then I find a nice way to actually SAY that out loud to them.
I've been thinking about this ever since I attended the CMA's From Mass to Grass WOM (Word of Mouth) Conference back in June. Pretty much every speaker said something to the effect of "Focusing on making your product superior will drive WOM tactics." or "If your product & service are great, it evokes WOM."
Note ... my apologies to the uncredited quotes above. The first was from someone on the Inside the Rainmaker's Studio panel and the second was from either Mike McDerment of Freshbooks or Scott Brooks of ConceptShare.
Here, think WOM = traffic.
So I think it's time we all sent our websites or products to summer school.
Have you ever been to summer school? I went once. The only way I could fit physics into my high school curricula was to spend 2 months in summer school. Now sometimes, people take summer school to fit something in or get ahead. But other times, summer school is used to reinforce something you may not have done too well in during the school year. An intense course in getting back to basics. And that's where everyone should send their websites this summer.
Let's get back to basics.
What about your website drives your customers crazy?
- Too many clicks to drill down to the info they are looking for?
- Poor search functionality?
- Forcing them to register just to SEE your products let alone order them?
- Defying basic web conventions like linking your logo to your home page?
Seth Godin has a post about this some of these - fixing low-hanging fruit using "web podiatrists", someone who can come up with a check list of 50 or so things and make recommendations on basic changes to adhere to web conventions. Joy Boyson offers her take on some basic logical changes to make to your website, specifically in regards to online forms.
In doing a quick search for "basic website usability", I found this actual checklist from Richard Waller. It's a great place to start. And it leads from just doing some basic no-brainer things like "link the logo to the homepage" to doing things that enable your site to be found by and rank well in the search engines. It amazes me that regular SEO is not part of every web shop's (internal and external) basic skill set. Mitch Joel mentions the need for paying attention to these basic skills in his recent post about Bryan Eisenberg's keynote at Search Engine Strategies Toronto.
It all started with the website, and now it seems to all end there too... and yet we are spending less and less time optimizing our pages for search, findability, usability and functionality. We're intensely focused on driving traffic and clicks and deftly terrible at understanding what is happening once they arrive and why. We have robust web analytics tools and amazing web research applications - all available either for free or fee (but readily available) - and yet bounce rates continue to suck and I'm not seeing a much better conversion on both e-commerce and non-transactional sites.
Optimizing for search doesn't have to be this crazy, painful, expensive process. Heck - even just starting with putting "alt" tags on all your images is a good place to start. Vijay Shinde has a list of 10 Basic SEO Tips that is very helpful - a real summer school kind of post that includes basics like what to put in your <title> tag and how to submit a sitemap. Added bonus, Alexa Clark liveblogged Day 1 and Day 2 of SES Toronto over at One Degree - some great nuggets and links in there too.
And the textbook I would recommend for this summer school class? Douglas Rushkoff's current book, Get Back in the Box. He spoke at the aforementioned M2G conference and shared a few highlights from Get Back in the Box . As you might be able to surmise, a key theme is that marketers need to get back to basics - to the core of what their product or service is all about. It's an excellent read - incredibly thought-provoking; I found myself nodding violently in agreement and making lots of little stars in the margins.
So grab your book bag and your 10-speed and get on down to summer school. These website fundamentals are going to do a lot for your traffic in both the short and long term. THEN once these are addressed, we'll start to worry about how to get you up and running on Twitter.
Photo Credit: dystopos