by Jonathan Kranz
November 28, 2006

Today, your Web site is more than just a media source where people
find information about your business; it’s the place where many
customer relationships begin. In your prospects’ minds, their
experience of your site is a foreshadowing of their experience with
your company or organization.

Establishing a favorable relationship is quite a challenge. But you
can improve your odds by challenging your site with these 10 important

1. Is your homepage empathetic to your visitors?

Be a good host: Instead of confronting your readers with a barrage
of chest-beating, “about us” messaging, welcome them with a rapport
that demonstrates an understanding of their needs, desires, and

Hint: Try leading your copy with “if you” type statements
such as “If you’re in a competitive retail market with razor-thin
margins…” or “If you appreciate the unique colors and textures of
hand-blown glass…” By doing so, you demonstrate both an understanding
of who the visitors are and an appreciation of their values and

2. Is your site organized on your customer’s terms?

Most navigation structures are organized in ways that seem logical
to the host’s internal audience—by “products,” “services,”
“solutions,” etc. But if your prospect doesn’t already know what your
product or service names mean (“What’s a ‘Data Integrity Analytic’?”),
they’re not likely to find what they need.

Hint: Guide your readers by using rubrics based on customer
challenges, pains, or desires, such as “Planning for Retirement” and
“Reducing Taxes,” for a financial planner, or perhaps “Cold Climate
Lawns” and “Low-Water Landscaping” for a garden site.

3. Are your offers easily accessible?

You have a terrific whitepaper or report that visitors can download
from your Web site. But… they have to complete a 10-question
registration form to get it. And the number of downloads are much lower
than you had expected.

Hint: Yeah, I know you’re trying to capture contact
information as part of a lead-generation effort. You might be better
served, however, by getting your content into more hands, thereby
impressing more potential customers with your expertise and initiating
more relationships. Just two days ago, a client of mine said she had tripled the number of downloads for a whitepaper by removing the onerous registration form. You might want to try the same.

4. Is your content distributed properly?

I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again: Don’t
dump your testimonials, case studies, and whitepapers into subsections
with those labels. Why? Because you’re making your readers do the hard
work of searching for content that should instead fall into their laps.

Hint: Distribute your content on an individual basis to the
most relevant pages. For example, put the great testimonial about the
helpful representative on a “consultation” page, the case study about a
successful interest rate analysis on a “services” page, and the white
paper about sexual harassment on your “HR Litigation Support” page.

5. Do you offer print-friendly pages?

Many people, such as myself, don’t do like to do any in-depth
reading off a flickering monitor; we prefer to print those pages for
easier reading—and for sharing with others. But thanks to the
“magic” of over-zealous designers, many pages are print nightmares with
cut-off margins, odd page breaks, and frustrating multi-page
segregations of copy, illustrations, and navigation devices.

Hint: Design your pages to be print-friendly. If they
simply can’t be, then do what so many online newspapers do—offer
a print-friendly version that visitors can click to and print out

6. Is your contact information complete and easy to find?

We like to know that there are human beings behind the Web sites we
visit. And that, when we have questions, there’s a real person who can
help us. Don’t bury your contact information where it’s difficult (or
impossible) to find.

Hint: Consider putting your snail-mail address, primary
email address, and phone number on the bottom of every page. That way
they’re both easy to find and will “stick” to any page a visitor might
choose to print out.

7. Are you generous with your expertise?

The Web is not an interrupting medium, like a TV commercial or a
magazine ad. People come to our sites of their own free will, actively
looking for something. The more you can satisfy that “something,” the
greater their good feelings toward you. That’s why the “short copy” or
“keep it above the fold” arguments are irrelevant.

Hint: Boasts and promises should indeed be kept short. But
you should be generous with meaningful content, such as relevant news,
how-to instructions, helpful guides, industry reports, etc. Don’t be
afraid of long copy—as long as the copy is genuinely relevant to
your visitors’ interests.

8. Does your homepage have a place for timely announcements or news?

Your latest whitepaper. A great news hit. That new product
announcement. Or your next seminar invitation. Why hide them within the
thickets of your site? These should be readily visible to new and
repeat visitors.

Hint: Create a special area on your homepage where visitors
can expect to find the latest important news—or new offers or new
events—from your company. It need not be long. One or two
descriptive sentences with a hyperlink to further information will do
the trick.

9. Do you have a retention device?

You have put up great content and your visitors are loving it. Now
that you’ve attracted them into your orbit, you need a way to keep them
there—within your sphere of influence.

Hint: Offer a subscription to a regular (I recommend
monthly) e-newsletter. They’re simple and inexpensive, and they’re an
easy way to keep your name and message on your prospects’ radar

10. Do you regularly check your Web stats?

If not, how do you know what people are reading? You need to know
which pages attract and hold visitors, and which are simply not
working. With this info in hand, you know what to dump, what to pump,
and which lines of messaging are connecting to customers.

Hint: Want to know if people are reading, or at least
skimming, important pages? In the middle or bottom of a key page, place
a hyperlink to a new page (perhaps with a testimonial or case study)
that can’t be accessed through any other link placed anywhere else. You
might get a stray hit from a search engine know and again; but, on the
whole, any stats you track for the new page will give you a reasonably
fair indication of how carefully your original source page is being