Web Traffic building tips

I just read an article on how to build web traffic, and thought I’d make a few comments on it.

Garrett (the author) makes some good points about online traffic building. They boil down to suggestions I’ve been making lately:

1. have good, focused content: Garrett mentions that your audience needs to consist of people who want to read your content. Should be a no-brainer, right? Not always – are you updating a page of links that no one uses? Do you maintain a (to you) very cool, yet little-used database of info? If so, are you focusing on content your users want? Probably not.

2. Update that content frequently: Once you have good content that customers are interested in, keep it going! Update it with new links, new library material purchases, new databases, new “how to find stuff” articles, etc. This will keep customers coming back.

3. Provide a way to keep customers coming back: Offer email and/or RSS updates. This will keep customers updated of changes – but more importantly, this gives customers new info they’d most likely be interested in (ie., new books, videos, etc to check out, new programs and events of interest to them, etc).

Garrett also misses the boat at least once. He states “At the root of it all, there’s really only 2 ways to get traffic. Other sites. And search engines.” Have I missed something here? His own article mentions RSS and email alerts (not other sites or search engines). And in my library world, there’s something called marketing. You know – press releases, mailed out versions of a calendar of events, bookmarks by the service desk, programs (with handouts) given at schools… all mentioning our website. And that’s just for starters.

Yes, links on other websites and search engines do bring in traffic, but only online-generated traffic. For many websites, that’s only one type of customer (the web surfer), and possibly not even the best type of customer. For my library, local customers that can actually come in to the library, get a library card, use our databases, and check out material are very important customers, too. And they usually don’t find us by searching the web. My guess is that other non-library organizations and businesses would fall here, too – local businesses that sell stuff online and in-store, local organizations that rely on the local community, etc.

To be fair, he’s probably thinking about smaller niche websites that get a majority of customers directly from the web (he works at a technology consulting company, for example). But still – even Google or Yahoo! place ads on TV and in print once in awhile.

Website Credibility Equals Pleasing Design?!!?

Ok. I’m probably behind the times here, but I was thinking about how people evaluate website credibility (and more to the point, how I teach it in search engine classes). So I did a search to find some examples of best practices, and came across this amazing study done in 2002. It scared me.

Why did it scare me? I freaked because the number 1 thing people looked at (2,684 in this study) was… VISUAL DESIGN (46.1%)! Not the validity of the information presented on the page, not the accuracy of facts mentioned, but … design. “Nearly half of all consumers in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes” (link to quote page). One participant was even quoted as saying “just looks more credible” (about a website he/she was “evaluating”). My goodness.

You and I both know that the actual information presented on the page, whether that information comes in text, image, sound, etc., is the MOST important part of any website – a pretty website with no content isn’t terribly useful to our customers (well, unless your customer happens to be a web designer hunting for creative visual ideas…). And at the same time, given the same information on two different websites, it just makes sense to go with the better-designed site (easier/faster to download, easy-to-read format, etc.).

But the apparent fact that consumers are judging potential sources of useful information by how visually appealing it is or isn’t IS NOT GOOD! Sounds to me like it’s up to us library-types to continue teaching not only how to search the web, but maybe more importantly – how to evaluate the stuff found while searching the web.

And one other random thought – since our library websites are, in essence, being judged by the clothes they wear – is yours dressed appropriately? Does it have that “I’m useful” look? And what exactly does “I’m useful” look like? Any thoughts/ideas?

Percent Finder Calculator Shareware Program

I’m sitting here, working on an idea for a possible article, and I wanted to know some percentages… unfortunately for me, the Windows calculator is my friend and crutch when it comes to numbers.

Enter Percent Finder Calculator Shareware Program – an awesome little program for those of us who are mathematically challenged.

What’s it do? It calculates the percentage of any number out of any number. That’s all. But that’s a whole lot easier than me having to remember what the formula is for doing the same thing…. :-)

My thoughts on Internet Librarian 2004

First off – I really SHOULD have tried to stay for the whole conference, for a number of reasons… but mainly it looks like I missed some great presentations! I was there for Monday’s presentations.

Alrightie… The Pew dude was cool (Lee Rainie, Director of Pew Internet and American Life Project)! By the way, they have an RSS feed (just subscribed). Here’s some stuff I wrote down during his talk on internet trends:

– Popular internet has only been around for 10 years! I’m amazed that something so new has taken such a major role in … well … everything. 10 years – that’s my whole professional library life (MLS in 1994)!

– He didn’t use these words, but – the Internet pretty much mirrors what’s already in people’s heads. Very interesting thought, if you take ALL the net into consideration.

Anyway… there’s a library concept in there somewhere. What do people like to do at the library? On the library website? What do WE want to put in our customer’s heads? Or how do we facilitate our customers putting stuff into their own heads? And how do we do that using a website? Just something that struck me during the talk.

– Seniors really don’t use the web as much as we think they do. Mr. Rainie said that any small increment in stats for seniors makes it look like a huge growth area. But by and large, seniors aren’t as interested in the web – they “don’t need it and don’t want it.”

– The web is becoming very social. When you’re online nowadays, you tend to join things and share. I’m doing that now.

– Broadband influences people’s use. Definitely.

– The doctor/patient thing – people are starting to see doctors as more of a health care partner, rather than the end-all DOCTOR. That’s because we can look up the basic research on most anything health-related, and we go into the doctor’s visit on a more equal footing than before.

That’s it for Mr. Rainie. Next, I spoke on creating a community resource on the web (seemed to go over well), and then I hung out in the link resolver/openURL/Federated search track for the rest of the day. Cool stuff there, too. The OpenURL concept is awesome! I learned a new term, “Information Silo.” That’s basically any of our individual article databases (ProQuest, EBSCOHost, etc). They’re “silos” because they hold a lot of good info, but our customers don’t know how to use them (if they can even find them), especially when each product has it’s own interface. Our customers want to go to one place and find everything.

And last – I had a great time meeting, hanging out with, and getting to know some of the other speakers. So much better than the usual “meet and greet” times that are provided to speakers and vendors (probably ’cause I’m not much of a schmoozer). It’ll be fun to meet up with them again in DC for Computers in Libraries.