Sunday, October 29, 2006

Too Many Leaks

We have one of the coolest gadgets, in my estimation, in our house. Everyday, like clockwork, a gizmo called an iRobot backs out of its dock and proceeds to vacuum-sweep the kitchen and most of the living room.

Along with the Roomba, as it's affectionately called, comes two virtual walls. This keeps the robot confined to one area of the house. Without them, the Roomba tries its best to clean the entire house. It has a two-hour battery life and is programmed to do four passes over the surface it's cleaning.

Needless to say, without the walls, in any sizable home, you're going to find your iRobot sitting in a corner out of power if you let it roam the house without the "walls".

Those walls help it get the job done right.

Recently one of my students had me analyze his site. He was getting dismal click-through rates on the ads on his pages. Now, sometimes this happens because of the structure of the site. It just looks crummy and people click back before they do anything else. But this site looked professional. Looked like something you would want to spend some time investigating.

But soon I saw a fatal flaw that happens mainly after the site has been online for a few months. People wonder why their click-through rate has dropped through the basement and yet, they keep tweaking and tweaking.

That's the error. They don't understand why the click-through rate is good, and when they go to improve it, they actually "take away a wall".

When Roomba wanders without the walls, the job does not get done. The robot eventually runs out of power and dies. Two bad things.

What are "walls" when we are referring to website design? Walls are simply keeping your visitor on your site and not allowing him or her to click off your site without it benefiting you. In the case of the student, there were simply too many links from the main page that allowed the visitor to wander off on a rabbit chase. What happens next is that the visitor will get lost in the site and eventually lose interest.

So the solution was to use "walls" and keep the visitor in the site. Make fewer deep links to other pages within the site - at least very obvious ones. The obvious should be your contextual ad links (ad themselves). Yes, content is very important - and the visitor should read that, see the pictures, but then the next option should be to click an ad. Something on the same theme. Maybe even more focused.

Look over your sites and see if you need to put up any walls so that the job can be done better. Too many outbound links can be considered "leaks" and should be patched up.

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