Four keys to improving any web site

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What have you done lately to improve your blog or web site? (Photo by ilco at stock.xchng - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1198416)

When I look at this blog or almost any other web site, I always see things that could be done better. And I know that there are things that could be improved that I’m not seeing, because I’m simply not aware of all the shortcomings of a particular web site.

Since you can’t do everything at once, you might try tweaking and improving your web site one area at a time. Here are some ideas to help you do that:

1. Analytics.

Web analytics can help you understand who’s coming to your site, how often and how they’re using your site. Fortunately, this need not be expensive. Google Analytics is a powerful, robust tool that’s completely free. And it’s getting better all the time.

Analytics bonus tip: It’s not just what people are doing on your site, but what links they’re clicking on that take them off your site. Google Analytics can help you do that.

2. Conversion.

In case you’re not a marketer, conversion is basically what you want somebody to do on your site. In the context of your blog or another web site, conversion could mean buying something, but it could also be the number of people who sign up for your email newsletter, who subscribe to your RSS feed, who click to other pages on your site or who download a white paper. Figure out what conversion means to you, and then start tracking it. (And yes, once again Google Analytics can help and some of Big G’s other tools, such as Website Optimizer.

Conversion bonus tip: If you’re wondering why people aren’t clicking on your buttons or signingup for your newsletter, take a look at this cool tool from Google. Browser Size allows you to see how much content on your site readers see in their browser window. It may be that you’ve got a lot of readers who simple don’t see all your shiny buttons and enticing graphics at first glance.

3. Stickiness.

One of the things your analytics package (Google’s or something else) should be able to tell you is the bounce rate. That’s the percentage of visitors to your site who leave after viewing just one page. Generally the lower this number the better. Chances are that in order to engage people, and certainly in order to convert them, you need people to visit other pages on your site.

The more pages people typically visit on your site, than the “stickier” your web site is. How do you increase stickiness? One way is to make sure that links to your best content (your most popular blog posts, articles, photos or whatever) are clearly visible on every page of your site. That’s why I hae the “Popular Posts” navigation menu on the right hand side of this page. The WordPress plugin Yet Another Related Post Plugin, which I run here, gives you a list of other posts that should have be related in topic to this one.

To increase stickiness, make sure readers see your best stuff, no matter what page they’re on.

4. Speed.

The slower your web site, the more likely it is that people will get tired of waiting for it to finish loading and then leave (and your chances of achieving any conversion goals you might have will go to zero). So what do you do about it? Figure out how fast (or slow) your site is, diagnose the speed bottlenecks and then fix them. Here’s a couple tools that can help.

This free web site optimization tool allows you to plug in any site address and see how long the site will load at various speeds. It will also give you all sorts of tips on how on how to speed up your site.

Google also has a free browser plugin, Page Speed, that can help you diagnose and fix your web site speed problems.

Caution: Some of this information is technical, so if you’re not sure what a CSS file, you might be better off leaving this kind of optimization to a professional web developer.

Work on these four things and I can practically guarantee you will get more of the results you want out of your web site.

Do you have some tips on how to improve a web site? Please share them in the comments below.

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