A decade has passed since a web site became an essential tool for sharing information about your company’s products and services. The next logical step to pursue is customer engagement, building the relationships between individuals using web technology. Disruptive Ventures recommends embracing the second decade of the internet with an eye on seven points of emphasis isolated for their impact on customer engagement.

Store them, print them, tape them to your wall. Download the Seven Points as a handy .pdf file.

  1. Measure Everything
  2. Before investing the first dime in new functionality or promotion to enhance engagement, getting a realistic picture of current site traffic is a must. Site analytics, captured using the free Google Analytics service or a paid package, will yield both raw data about the number of visitors to the site and insights into how those visitors found the site. With an established traffic and lead-generation baseline to work from, only then may measurable improvements be made to your web presence.

  3. Be Search-Engine Friendly
  4. Unless it can be indexed by the most popular search engines, even the most impressive, useful and well-promoted content will never achieve maximum impact. Visitors being directed to the site from search engines often comprise the single most efficient means businesses have for generating new sales. By following the advice of the major search engines, content can be made easier to index. Useful content that is well-indexed leads to increased visibility in organic search results.

    Targeted Meta Keywords and Page Descriptions

    Individual web pages in the site should be customized with keyword and description meta tags that reflect the content of the pages.

    Standards-Adherent Page Design

    Invalid page code can make the job of indexing site content more difficult for search engine spiders. By adhering to web standards, content can also be translated between browsers and platforms more easily, for example if you want to create a “mobile-phone friendly” version of the site for mobile phone users.

    Sitemaps

    Sitemaps inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a sitemap is a specially-formatted file that lists page addresses for a site along with data about each page (including when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site.

    Active Submission

    Using tools provided by the major search engines, site pages can be submitted for indexing.

    A Note about “SEO” - Disruptive Ventures does not advocate “search engine optimization” (SEO) that goes outside the public recommendations of the search providers being targeted. While temporary gains may be achievable using SEO tricks, the long-term risk of being banned from a search engine altogether outweighs any short-term bounce in ranking.

  5. Keep it Fresh
  6. Fresh content gets more response from site visitors. Keeping content fresh has gotten easier in the past 3 years with the widespread deployment of personal publishing tools.

    Blog

    A blog adds personality and a consistently fresh source of content to your home page. Updates from the field can be posted to your blog from your laptop or even via mobile phone. Allowing comments from site users on your blog posts turns a 1-way medium into a conversation.

    Video beyond YouTube

    Internet video enables one-to-many communications with verbal and visual cues that previously only inhabited interpersonal interactions. Your voice and your face are the fundamental currency of trust and engagement.

    Facebook

    Create a facebook page which include a feed of information you want to feature. Online “friends” will have immediate access your latest news.

    User Accounts

    Site visitors should have the option to create an account to manage contact and site preferences.

    E-Mail Newsletter

    A well-managed e-mail newsletter can keep your most valuable users in the loop on new products and services that you offer. Opt for a template that replicates stylistic elements from your site to reiterate branding cues with recipients.

  7. Maximize Availability
  8. An inaccessible site gathers no traffic.

    Staging Site

    After site code is created and tested but before it is made public, we’ll place it on a private staging site for your review and approval.

    Production Site

    Sites produced by Disruptive Ventures can be hosted on our Virtual Private Servers in Missouri, fastidiously maintained by our staff. For the security and privacy of our clients, we will not host un-audited code from other providers on our servers.

    Offsite Backups

    Backups of the site’s underlying source code and production database should be made regularly (at least daily) and stored off the main server, at another physical site for continuity in the event of issues at the main server site.

    Proactive Monitoring

    By proactively monitoring the site using external tools, site issues can be detected and resolved before they impact real-world users.

  9. Accessibility and Usability
  10. Accessibility for the Physically Challenged

    Guidelines for site accessibility for physically challenges users are widely available. Most importantly identify the content of images using the “ALT” tag and don’t over-specify font sizes.

    Platform Independence

    Avoid platform-specific features that alienate users of alternate technologies or browsers - meet users on their turf. Use flash only for video. Site designs should work cleanly on all post-“Internet Explorer 6” browsers (IE 7 & 8, Firefox 2 & 3, Opera 9, etc.) and on PC’s, Macintoshes and Linux-based systems.

    Due to constraints on bandwidth, screen-size and functionality on most mobile platforms, the iPhone is the only mobile environment currently worth targeting with specialized designs or functionality.

    Designing with Usability as a primary goal

    Identify desired user activities and, as necessary, conduct usability testing with live test subjects

  11. Find Proactive Pay-Per-Click Terms
  12. Pay-Per-Click Advertising programs on Google, Yahoo, Microsoft LiveSearch and Facebook must be managed to find efficient bidding combinations to direct qualified users to a web site. Spending must be aggressively monitored and tracked, especially once users are on the site to find out which inbound keywords and referring sites generate actual “in-real-life” prospects. Once effective keywords are identified, spending can be scaled up to increase the number of new users.

  13. Manage User Confidence
  14. Have a Reasonable Domain Name

    For “for profit” ventures, go for a “.com” address even if it means adding an additional descriptive phrase or number to your company name. Stay away from “.info” and “.biz” addresses - they’ve become notorious for attracting spammers and scammers.

    Use an SSL Certificate for Transactions

    If you expect to handle sensitive customer information (such as credit card numbers), make sure and encrypt the information being transmitted using SSL. The latest web browsers check SSL Certificate information closely and help users identify improper configurations to reduce online fraud.

    Publish Testimonials

    Real-world stories of your prowess shared by actual customers (preferably on video) are a knockout.

    Post and Follow a Privacy Policy

    Have a specific and restrictive privacy policy and follow it to the letter.

    Promote Professional Associations and Certifications

    Make note of any that you have.



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Published

07 August 2008

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