VSJ – April 2003 – Work in Progress

Those of you who were at last year’s Symposium will remember an entertaining and thought-provoking presentation by Mike Wetton on a marketing perspective for Web sites. So that the rest of you don’t feel left out, we asked Mike, a director of Allery Scotts, to write a piece for VSJ. He’s done better than that. Here’s his article on Internet marketing, together with a really useful questionnaire that he uses to analyse Web sites when optimising their performance in search engines. In addition he’s offering IAP members free access to his search engine logs analysis tool.

In 2000 I wrote an article entitled ‘Can customers find your Web site?’ At the time the Internet was hot news all around the World and the article was eagerly received. Few businessmen and women had much idea how the Internet worked and search engines were regarded by most as a mixture of modern day miracle and black art.

From my view as a marketing consultant, the general understanding seems to have improved little over the last 3 years. Sadly, it seems myth often triumphs over hard facts, with the result that many are still unnecessarily disappointed in the performance of their Web sites. Most have yet to see any commercial return on their on-line presence. This is particularly puzzling because many of those who are ‘Web wise’ are reaping the rewards of those top spots on search engines and building an additional on-line customer base.  I am not just talking here about on-line shopping and e-business, but simple ‘business to business’ brochure Web sites where the need is for a source of ‘hot’ sales leads which can be pursued by personal or telephone selling and the like.

Studying the structure and content of Web sites makes it clear that most designers still have much to learn. Almost daily I am asked to look at sites where extremely visually attractive designs exist in what I can only describe as ‘cyber silence’. I repeatedly see designs where scant consideration has been given to how visitors might find the Web site in the first place and how they might be retained and developed into paying customers thereafter.  Most Web site owners still have no idea about the numbers (or lack of them) that visit their Web sites and even fewer have been advised on how to develop tactics that induce potential customers to show themselves as interested in what the Web site has to offer. Potential customers so often simply visit the Web site and leave without trace.

Most commentators suggest that over 60% of Web sites are found for the first time via search engines. So it’s really important for Web designers to understand how they can be used to bring buyer and seller together. But many don’t. Worse still, they often bamboozle unsuspecting business owners with their half knowledge, with the result that many of their customers are left thinking that the Internet is a dud.

To the non-technical user, search engines frequently represent a complex modern day miracle. But take a closer look and you discover that it can be fairly simple to profit from the huge market they represent.

When I review a Web site, I break my analysis down into four parts and look systematically at each element. My Questionnaire, annotated for ease of understanding, is reproduced below and can also be found at www.searchengineconsultants.co.uk/survey. Clearly, not all elements are equally important to all businesses, but it has served me well as an aid to diagnosing problem areas and focusing a Web site owner towards the critical issues.

The analysis tool is at www.searchengineconsultants.co.uk/corporate. Click on the IAP logo. The IAP password is ‘access’. You can contact Mike at mike@alleryscotts.com or on 01454 851135.

[Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!]

Comments are closed.