When you’re truly intent on making your site successful, you need to define your terms for success. There’s nothing crazier than running after something when you’re not sure you want it — but since it’s there anyway, why the heck not?– and getting it, then not knowing what you want it for.
What can be crazier is getting it and not knowing what you want to do with it, or where you want to go with it. Action for action’s sake gets you nowhere. You want to be successful, fine. What is success to you?
To flesh out the big picture, first we need the broad strokes to outline the issues.
“Why do you have a website?”
The answer to this determines the intent. A website is a place on the internet, one that establishes your presence on the world-wide web. There are no geographical boundaries, and you are only limited by the language you use. In any case, English being a global medium, even that is a weak barrier to communication.
So, presence. Presence means communication. Presence says, “I AM HERE.” Thus, a burning second question:
“Now that you’re here, what do you have to say?”
To communicate means passing a message on. What’s your message? You want to talk, what do you mostly talk about? What drives you to plunk down on a spot by the information highway and hold up a placard saying, “Hey, will talk for free!”?
Communication is a two-way street. It’s keeping the channel opens, and ensuring that the signal is is clear and so is the reception. You want to make sure you’re being heard, you need to have a way to check that the message is getting across. You need feedback.
Like sonar, which needs an object to bounce off of, you need to have a system in place to ping your audience, you need to be in a place where your audience is, and you need to get their feedback. You have to set up a way to keep in touch, and keeping in touch also means having a place to contact you on the Internet. That’s an answer right there.
“How would you know your message got across?”
A blogger need readers to support him — in terms of recognition (“readership”), if not financially. After all, if you write and hardly anyone is engaged enough to comment, you need to retool your approach, otherwise, you’ll get discouraged at the lack of response at the very least, and not to mention lose momentum.
Narrow your niche, find your audience, or if you’re selling something, find your market. Find a way to let people know about your blog — here’s where publicity, self-promotion and marketing come in– and establish relationships with your peers and readers. Customer service isn’t only for big companies, you know.
Remember the broad strokes mentioned earlier? Now we need to get the fine details in order to complete the picture:
A seller needs a market and a niche to sell to and occupy. Obviously if you’re a seller you’ve already got something to sell. If you’re a writer you’ve got something to say. To define success on your terms, you have to define your terms, and you must be able to measure them in their impact and their coverage.
Impact and coverage
What data do you need or want to look at? The sheer number of comments to an article you wrote? Page-views? Sales and click-rates? The number of times an affiliate gets a sale?
Remember, while you have to define the terms of your success, “success” is different for everyone. Bloggers write out their passions for interested readers; while the superstars of the blogosphere get the green and the recognition, many more get nothing ‘but’ a living connection to their readers, and both kinds of bloggers go over the moon with what they get.
You needs tools to capture data, tools to measure data, and tools to record data for historical purposes and compare/contrast areas of contention and analysis.
You need to know what goes on behind the front-end of the website (cPanel is only the start, but mastering it is a good start.)
A system has to be put in place – whether to capture and measure the number of visitors or identify the most-read articles, or to invite people to comment and share their own experiences. You need to be able to read your web traffic.
And you need to know what happens on the front-end, i.e with the readers or your market.
- How do you know people are visiting your site, or reading your blog?
Aside from the ubiquitous visitor counter, you need a system for capturing comments. The internet is word-of-mouth at the speed of light, and backlinks help a lot.
- How can you use that information to better your site, and make it more user-friendly?
Read the comments and respond to your readers promptly. You also need to be able to let the commenters respond to each other, and enforce the rules: No personal attacks or name-calling, etc.
- How do you know your customers are getting their money’s worth and what they want from you?
Listen to their complaints. Respond in a timely fashion and try to make a connection by seeing the issue from their side of the table.
If no one complains: a) do the Dance of Joy, and go out and ask them what they’d like to see happen with your products, delivery system, etc. b) Just because no one says anything to your face doesn’t mean they’re not complaining to other people about you.
Google your website and your products regularly and check the forums of your niche. On the web, what people say about you can morph into what they believe you to be. Protect your reputation.
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