So, how do you make sure your qualified prospect will actually bother to read your carefully crafted message? You can’t allow your website to baffle or annoy your prospect or the search engines. In order to be a productive website, it must conform to the preferences of these two masters, so to speak. To see how your home page measures up, test it using the 100-point checklist we use here, at Corbett Research Group, to evaluate client websites for relevance, transparency, and search engine compliance:
1. Does it tell your prospect W.I.I.F.M. (“What’s In It For Me”)? If not, what is the big secret? Give your ready prospect a reason to stick around. Do the first three or four sentences (or less), sum up your unique proposition and benefits? Do these sentences use the basic keywords that the search engines need in order to refer qualified prospects? Can your visitor see all or most of this without having to move the scroll bar? Tell me “W.I.I.F.M.” and take 20 points.
2. Does your website encourage your ready prospect to take action? Does it suggest specific action (order a catalog, make a phone call, submit information) and does it immediately provide the means to do it (phone number, order form, email etc.)? Call to action, take 8 points.
3. Does your website list complete contact information at the top of every page? That makes it easy and efficient for your visitor, if that is all that she or he came for. Easy access to contact information, take 6 points.
4. Are the pages most important to your ready prospect directly accessible from the top of the home page? If not, why hide them? A home page link also makes your subsidiary pages more important to the search engines. Can your prospect see links to important pages without moving the scroll bar? Access to important page links, take 10 points.
5. Is the visitor’s access to your home page interrupted by an “introductory” splash page? If so, why is it necessary to make your ready prospect jump through an extra hoop to see your website? What does your home page lack that the splash page is providing? Screw the splash page and take 4 points.
6. Does your website use a clean, open, easy-to-read design? Does it avoid hard-to-see text/background combinations such as text over images, over patterns, or over similar hued backgrounds? Staring at crowded and complicated web pages on a computer monitor is stressful. Graceful, relaxed page design can help your message stand out easily for your ready prospect. Easy to read, take 8 points.
7. Does your visitor have to disable or mentally block out hyperkinetic visual distractions in order to get your message? Motion features (flash programs, animated gifs or fast cycling slide shows) may be clever, but many visitors find them annoying, so use them carefully. They can waste the visitor’s time and make it difficult to concentrate on your message. Consider leaving them off, giving visitors the option to see them run, if they have the time and inclination. No distractions, no motion, easy to look at, take 4 points.
8. Is your website message available in text, coded entirely in pure, wholesome, unframed HTML? Go ahead and ask your webmaster. If it is framed, or in flash, or if the text is presented as an image, then the search engines may not be able to read it in full, or to refer your prospect to your website. These formats may look nice, but are they worth sacrificing search engine referrals for? Is a beautiful website still beautiful if nobody sees it? All search engine compliant text formats, take 20 points.
9. Is your website “tagged” for the search engines? Does it have the “tags” and other content required by the search engines to make your website relevant for your ready prospect’s keyword request? By “tags”, we do NOT mean hidden “metatags”. We specifically do mean the well-established although uncodified and ever-changing set of rules that specify how keywords should be used in text — you can find more about tags here. Complete and correct Search Engine tags, take 20 points.
If you scored over 100 (with bonus points), congratulations! If your website scored under 100, the good news is that there is room for improvement. Make these changes and your website will produce more qualified leads. Building a productive website is not necessarily more work and expense than building an unproductive one. Money is often wasted when expensive coding and fancy design are used to little or to negative effect. The difference can just be a matter of asking the right questions.