For some of you the thought of planning your website might be a foreign concept. Please don’t let that statment get you upset, it is simply a reality. Most companies put very little thought into the structure and flow of their website and the results reflect that lack of thought very clearly. If you are a company that has taken the time to think through the structure and flow of your website … CONGRATS! I am sure you are seeing excellent results. Even if you have, this post might help you improve those results.

The best way to tell if you have an effective website structure and the flow of your site is working is by looking at the analytics of your site. If you don’t currently have some type of analytics program on your website, DO IT NOW! You can get a Google Analytics account set up for free and have it installed on your site within minutes. I understand that looking at your website statistics can be an overwhelming task since you will be presented with such a vast amount of information. Don’t worry. We’ll make it easier for you by pointing out what is the most important information to focus on.

What is your Bounce Rate?

A bounce rate is a term used in website traffic analysis. It essentially represents the average percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site. Basically, if your bounce rate is 65% for example, that means that 65% of the people who arrive at your website are leaving your site without making even one click deeper into your website. If you had a store and knew that high of a percentage of people that stepped into your store left without looking at anything beyond the first display they saw, you’d do something about it IMMEDIATELY! Why wouldn’t you do the same thing with your website?

Each Page Must Have a Purpose

When you’re planning your website and developing the site map , it is extremely important to spend time thinking about each individual page of your site and ask yourself the question, “What is the purpose of this page?” When a visitor arrives at your website they have a goal in mind and know what it is they are looking for. If they immediately get the sense that it is going to be challenging to locate that information, they will leave. If you’ve taken the time in the planning phase to clearly identify what the purpose of that page is going to be and you’ve created content which will answer the questions the visitor is looking for, they are far more likely to dig deeper into your site to find more information. That is if you’ve made it easy for them to dig by having a clear navigation path.

Logically Lead Your Visitor to Take the Next Step

When you are creating content its important to keep in mind “What’s Next” in the mind of your visitor. If, for example, you have an organization that is focused on spreading an idea and gaining further awareness of a particular social issue. The content on the page should cover as many angles of this issue as possible and give a clear, compelling explanation as to why your organization feels the way it feels.

This is where you can take the opportunity to provide a clear path to the next steps. If your visitor wants to get involved in your cause you should provide a clear link within the content to a page on your site that allows them to view and sign up to volunteer for upcoming events. If your visitor is a potential donor, you’ll want to provide an easy way for them to click a link within your content that leads them to a page which has the purpose of providing them with all the benefits they’ll receive by becoming a donor. If your visitor is analytical and would like deeper information on something which you have found to be a fairly confusing part of the issue, you should provide a link in the content to another page which gives much deeper information on that aspect of the issue.

I am sure this makes logical sense but the challenge is it also takes time and thought to accomplish. Well, it’s worth it! Unless you are happy with 65% (or much worse in some cases) of your visitors leaving your site without looking at even one more page of your site, then you need to take the time and effort to work through this process.

I’d love to get some feedback from you on this issue. If you’ve already taken the time to plan your website in this fashion … Please share your results with us. If you have questions, please feel free to leave those as comments as well. We’ll follow up with a blog post that addresses your question.