I realized the other day that I’ve now spent over ten years working with small business web sites. Has the internet even been around 10 years?! Was it really 13 years ago that I was ducking class and hiding in the school’s computer lab so I could “email” the fellow geek sitting at the computer next to me? (Apparently yes, it has been over ten years.)

Over the last decade, I’ve built, rebuilt, optimized, launched, tracked, and torn down some pretty great (and pretty bad) sites. And I’ve learned a thing or two about how to squeezed the most out of a site’s visitor traffic. When business owners are looking to boost the effectiveness of their web sites, I often find that the necessary changes can be quick and painless.

So, in an effort to help business owners squeeze more productivity (and business) out of their sites, I offer the following three quick site updates:

1. Place your contact information on every page.

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The internet has replaced the phone book. Folks no longer drag the large yellow paper directory out of the cramped kitchen drawer to find a telephone number. They instead whip out their iPhone/Blackberry/Mac Book/Droid/etc. and search Google. (Let’s be honest, they’re probably already staring into the thing anyway.) Once those folks navigate to your web site, they click and begin scanning* the page on which they land for the contact information they need. Your phone number, store hours, and location (if applicable) information should be instantly obvious.

Now, let’s look at a different segment of your web site visitor: the casual browsing audience. These folks don’t come to your web site seeking contact information. They have entered your web site to peruse your content, your products, the photos you put up of your company dogs, etc. As they travel through the site, their attention is fragile and precious. It often only takes a slice of your content (a photo, a sentence, a product) to spark the visitor’s urge to contact you. When that spark happens, you must make it as easy as possible for the visitor to find your contact information. If you make the person dig through your site to find it, he or she could very easily get distracted from the impulse to give you their business.

* See #2.

2. Use less text.

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Web sites are not read. They are scanned. Often, they are scanned frantically. This fact is an “old” pearl of wisdom that has been floating around the web development industry for … apparently over ten … years. There are probably long blocks of text on your web site right now that only your mom will read. (Hi Mom!)

  • Replace short paragraphs with bullet points.
  • Keep your descriptions short, and keyword* rich.
  • Visitors should be able to determine the purpose of your page with only a passing glance.

See how easy that was? The information you provide should do one of two things: add evidence that your product/service/widget is right for your visitor, or direct your visitor toward your product/service/widget page.

Now, having said all that, the web DOES provide you with an awesome opportunity to provide massive amounts of information at a very low cost. And, when a visitor DOES land on exactly what he or she is seeking, you should provide the as much information as you can about the product or service. This massive amount of information should only be supplied at the end of the visitor’s trail (i.e. on a product page, on a service description page, etc.). And it should be extremely easy for people to find the end of the trail.

As E.B. White says, “Omit unnecessary words.”

* Keywords are any word or phrase that folks will type into a search engine to find your page. These are not often what you think they are, or what you would like them to be. Google Analytics can help you determine what keywords people are using to find your site.

3. Sign up for (and use) Google Analytics.

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Google Analytics is a free service from the search monster that is relatively easy to install and use and it will tell you more about your web site traffic than you will ever need to know: visitors per day, time spent on the site, entrance points, exit points, pages viewed per visit, browser settings, screen resolutions, referring sites, etc.

It is a colossal amount of data and it can be daunting at first. But the real benefits of Google Analytics is that it answers the question: Is my web site working? And, if you find that your web site isn’t working to drive customers through your door, Google Analytics will tell you where the site is failing and what needs to be done.