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Return Traffic - What's In It For Me?

By Marc Bissonnette

Though this topic has been touched on indirectly in several articles, it's worth going into much more specific detail now.

Now that the Internet, as a form of popular media, has left its infancy and entered its toddler years, there is a lot more competition out there for user's time, attention and eventually, dollars. As traditional advertising agencies finally clue in and realize that this is an *absolute neccessity* for their portfolio of services (And yes, this is a topic for a whole *series* of articles), there are more and more resources being brought to bear on client site development.

The problem, as has been pointed out by so many, is that Web sites are being developed by developers for developers, albeit on a subconscious level. Without getting into the specifics of technologies, cgi's and levels of interaction (well, in this article, anyway), there is one important question being asked these days, and that is "What's in it for me?" If you think you or the clients are asking this question, you're in the wrong industry, since the answer to that from the site owner or developer's point of view should be obvious (though my next article will be on "Pitching a Web solution"). No, the question is being asked by the *users*.

One of my favorite points to bring up whenever I'm speaking at a conference or convention is the fact that there is *nothing* you cannot find on the Internet. This means you can find everything from detailed plans on building thermo-nuclear weapons to 101 variations on recipes for chocolate chip cookies (for curiosities sake, I also searched for recipes using Spam and even found several dozen of those!) This fact should mean one important thing for you: Whatever you are offering your viewers on the web, the chances are that someone else is offering the same category of information, but only better. Now, "better" could mean more variety, volume, better presentation, better frequency, or any number of improvements.

This knowledge, in turn, should be urging you to spend several afternoons, on a regular basis (spread out, of course), checking out not only your direct competition, but those sites that seem to be attracting a lot of attention.

Far too many are the web sites, and even worse, web site developers, who seem to think the site they deliver exists in a cocoon. They pay no attention to what and how the rest of the net is delivering information and fail to implement similar strategies themselves.

Admittedly, this failure is often a failure on the client's side to dedicate either the time or the budget for ongoing development and market research. It is up to you, the developer (or your sales reps) to educate the clients on this need. (As I said, next article is on pitching a Web site and this will be covered). In the meantime, take a good look at the site you've just finished developing, or paid to have developed, and ask yourself this; What's in it for the user? If you think that gobs and gobs of information about your products or your services is exactly what they want, you've just wasted a ton of money and time on a site people will read once and forget. Try to think about it this way; When you get a brochure in the mail, or any other form of junk mail, how long do you keep it? Do you read it again and again? Will you display it on your coffee table for your guests to enjoy? No, you won't. This is because it is information on one, narrow topic and is only of limited use.

Think, now, on magazines; You do keep these around for a while, you'll show it to a friend or a colleague and it may even occupy space on your coffee table! Why is this? When you think of it, a magazine is essentially one big marketing vehicle. The reason, however, that you read it is that it covers a range of topics within your area of interest. The same principle should be applied to a web site; After all, it's relatively easy to get someone to read something (or at least glance at it) once. Your focus, however, should be to get them to keep coming back for more.

Marc Bissonnette is the proprietor of CanadianISP, Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider search and comparison site.

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