By Peter Urs Bender
You can easily spend $20,000 to $50,000 to get a website. You can also spend far less, and have an equally effective one It's similar to buying art for your office lobby. You can purchase a painting from a well known artist and spend a few hundred thousand dollars. Or you can invest in an unknown painter for far less. Both pieces could have the same effect.
If you are in the market for a website, or even for website administration, it's like taking a trip to a foreign country where they speak a foreign tongue. You go there. You hire a translator. Then you ask a native a simple question like, "Where can I get a cold drink?" The translator and the person you asked the question of go into a lengthy discussion with each other in a language you don't understand. You have no idea what's going on.
There's a lot of similarity in talking to a webmaster. They speak a lot of mumbo- jumbo in a language you don't seem to understand. Even though it's English. Sometimes I have the feeling they want to keep us confused. But the basics of a website are simple and straightforward (at least they should be), especially if you keep them constantly in mind.
The objective for any association is to make sure that the basic information about the organization is presented in a way that is of value to your members. And more importantly, of value to prospective members, the general public, and of course, the press.
When you're building a website, think big, not small. Make sure the information you put on your home page has some meat to it. Be generous. Give out as many useful ideas as you can. The objective is to make your members' lives easier.
Try to make yourself what I call "a site of value". Why ? So searchers will come to you. Let me explain.
If you go to the well known search engine www.Google.com and enter the search words "personality analysis", you will find 617.000 sites. However, my site, www.PeterUrsBender.com, is among the first ten on the list. That's not because we spent a lot of money to get that spot. It's because there's so much useful information on my site about personality analysis. Search engines like Google like to list us because we're "a site of value" for browsers seeking hard information.
You hear a lot of bragging about how many hits a website gets. But what does it really mean? First let's explain "hits".
Look at your home page (the first page on your website). Count the icons (pictures) you have. If you look at www.PeterUrsBender.com you will find around 10. That means if I get 80,000 hits, my site gets an average of 8.000 visitors (or User Sessions).
But what is important is where they came from and why. Therefore, have a look at which country they logged on from. In my case, 90% came from outside Canada. That means only 800 Canadians visited my site! That is a far cry from 80.000 hits!
The next thing that's important is to find out how much time the average visitor spends on your site. In my case it's seven to eight minutes over the last three months. That indicates the visitor is reading something and finding it valuable.
Here are some other important factors to watch for.
What is the Entry Page?
This is the first page your visitors come to on your website. Very often it's not your Home Page. Reason: visitors come through a Search Engine. They look up a particular word and end up on your site. As you can imagine, my most entered page is: Personality Analysis Quiz. Therefore be sure you have a lot of interesting links to other parts on that page. Or you miss a lot of opportunities to keep your visitor.
What is the most downloaded page?
You're on to something here. If visitors are downloading the same material on an ongoing basis it shows you have information that is desirable and useful. The more you have, the more people you will attract. Keep it up!
What is the least required page?
Ask yourself how necessary it is. Can it be replaced with something better? The aim is to make as much of your site as possible useful and worthwhile. Make your dollars work for you.
What is the Exit page?
This is the page people are on when they leave your site. It's the last page they'll look at on their visit. Why is it important? It's as useful to know what they left with as what they began with. Often, the last page they hit before they leave your site contains the information they were looking for. If, for instance, 33 of 50 people leave your site on the "Personality Analysis" page, you'll know that's the information most of value. Your downloading figures will confirm that.
How many have visited your site more than once?
This is an important indicator of probable business. If a person visits your site more than once it means he or she finds you a "site of value". It's very possible that visitor will contact you. Make it easy to do so.
Ask your webmaster for a report. Most webmasters are delighted to know their services are appreciated, and are willing to provide detailed information to help you make your site more effective. If the reports show a consistent deficiency in some area, enlist your webmaster's assistance to improve the site. Conversely, if parts of your site are working well and drawing consistent traffic, ask your webmaster if there are ways you can improve even on that.
What are people searching for on the web? You might be surprised. Visit http://50.lycos.com for one answer. This site lists the "Top 50" questions people are asking for information on. It changes with every new issue. Of course, many of the questions are on topical issues, and many sites the questions lead to are pop sites. But taken together they do give a picture of what kind of information attracts visitors, and the sites recommended do provide "hard" information. That alone can give you some ideas on how to structure your association's web pages.
If you're just beginning to think about building a website, don't have a webmaster, or aren't sure who to contact, try calling my own webmaster, Richard Armstrong. I've had an ongoing relationship with Richard since I first hired him as a student in 1997. He is very busy, but he told me he has a lot of student friends who would be happy to work with you. And students are good at this stuff! You can contact him through my website at www.Bender.ca.
Peter Urs Bender is one of Canada’s most dynamic and entertaining business speakers. He lives and works out of Toronto. He is the author of four best-selling business books: Leadership from Within, Secrets of Power Presentations, Secrets of Power Marketing, Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication, and Gutfeeling.
To read excerpts from his books visit www.PeterUrsBender.com.