by Tom Snyder on Oct 05, 2006


There's an old saying: "Success is optional... ask any failure." Our sincere hope for you is that your Web presence is successful. But the devil's in the details, and defining success depends on how you measure that success. Unfortunately, ninety-nine out of a hundred Web site owners don't have any idea about either. Their Web presence is just a gray cloud, and the "safe" answer is simply: "It probably could be doing better, but I guess it's doing OK."

The sad truth is that, while most sites could be doing better, if they used actual, widely accepted standards as the gage, the vast majority of them are NOT doing OK.

Here's a checklist for you to see how yours is doing.

Mechanics

1.) Are the elements, content and functionality of your site driven by sound market research? If not, how do you know if it's full of stuff that individuals or departments in your company think should be in it, but your market doesn't give a hoot about (or even worse may actually be hurting you by being there)?

2.) Now that a huge percentage of the Web population is surfing at 3-4 times T-1 speed, are you comparing the load and process times of your site and its included functionality to that of your competitors? If not, how are you making sure that lag and slowness aren't resulting in lost revenue?

3.) Are you hosting your site with a company with industry-leading uptimes? If not, are the sales you're losing due to frequent outages, bottlenecks, downtimes and re-boots worth the little bit you're saving on monthly hosting charges?

4.) Do you have a proper SSL certificate, a current Privacy Policy and a complete Terms of Use Statement on your site? If not how are you protecting yourself against legal liability or providing your visitors the confidence they need to do business with you?

5.) Is the email marketing component of your site running on a closed loop, double opt-in/single click opt-out system? If not, how many people are choosing not to sign up for your mailing list, how many of your emails are being blocked by ISP's because you're blacklisted by them as a spammer, and how long will it be before someone reports you to the Federal Trade Commission because you're in violation of the Can Spam Act?

Appearance:

1.) Is your site laid out using current navigational best practices to take advantage of conscious and subconscious expectations that an increasingly Web savvy browsing public have when they arrive? If it's not, how many people are landing on your home page, but leaving because they can't find what they came there looking for where they expected to find it?

2.) Does your site take into account the most popular current user desktop sizes? If not how are you making sure your most important content is "above the fold," and doesn't force the visitor to scroll from side to side?

3.) Does your site have Flash elements in it? If so, is the usage done so that it doesn't hurt your rankings in the search engines? Is it embedded with the proper new controls that allow it to work the new EOLAS copyright compliant version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser? What displays in its place when someone without the Flash Plug-in visits your site? Metrics

1.) Are you tracking the traffic to your site...not just the hits, or even unique visits...but where they're coming from? If not, how do you know which of your site promotion initiatives are driving the most traffic to your site so you're expending resources only on the most effective methods.

2.) Are you tracking the traffic through your site? If not, how do you know if the most traveled navigational paths are driving people to your desired transactions, or getting them lost and sending them away without buying?

3.) Are you tracking your site's "conversion rate?" If not, how are you evaluating how many of your visitors are turning into sales, whether your rate is going up or down, and which promotional methods are resulting in the highest conversion rates?

Search Engine Optimization

1.) Does your site occupy the top organic positions in all major search engines for the keywords that qualified prospects are using to find what your business offers? If not, are you at least using a strategy that uses secondary keywords and phrases that are less competitive, but will still drive significant traffic to your site? If neither, are you using a sensible, ROI-based PPC strategy? If none of the above, how many people will never know your site exists?

2.) Are you regularly evaluating your site's placement in the Search Engines? If not, how are you tracking your position changes, or comparing your position with your competitors?

3.) Are you familiar enough with the search engine algorithms to know how your site's use of meta-tags, file names, Flash, text, images, navigational structure, architecture and landing pages are actually hurting your position? If not, can your site afford to continue to drop or be de-listed from the search engines entirely?

4.) Are you frequently entering your company and/or product name in the Search Engines to see if any sites that publicly criticize you have made their way to a top position? If not, how are you making sure that individuals, organizations or just segments of the population aren't undermining all your promotional efforts with accusations and criticisms... fair or unfair?

Bonus Question

1.) Are you trusting your success to a Web development company with a long track record of service, quality and integrity...one with the necessary combination of the marketing, business, design, programming and legal experience necessary to cover all your bases? If not, how do you ever expect to compete, much less succeed?

This list is by no means complete, but is a good start to see if you're really serious about your success.

So how did you do? Now that you've filled out your Web checklist, you're probably still thinking that you could be doing better. But do you still think your site is doing OK?

-Tom Snyder