New book can turn you into a Web pro

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42_rules_web_presencemid.jpgOr at least it gives you some serious tools to work with, on both strategic and tactical levels. It's called 42 Rules for a Web Presence that Wins. It's written by 15-year Web veteran Philippa Gamse (full disclosure: I've been a fan of hers for almost that long), and it's slender size belies the hefty number of info nuggets it packs.

She broke up the 40 rules (the first and last are more introduction and wrapup) into four categories: Management-level issues; things to think about when setting strategy and tactics; how to create content that connects your organization with your site visitors/social media contacts; and how to go about measuring results. Each short chapter (rules are no more than two pages apiece) includes an aforementioned nugget of insight from Philippa and some real-world examples of how that insight plays out for actual people and organizations. She also has scattered throughout the book interviews with all manner of experts, from the meeting industry's own John Foster of Foster, Jensen & Gully LLC, to Rob Siefker, who is the director of the Zappos Customer Loyalty Team.

Just a few of the many aha moments I had in reading this book:

• Beware the Web designer! Their job is to make the site look good, but they don't necessarily know your audience, your goals, and what is and isn't currently working with your site. There's an example in that chapter (Rule 14) of what can happen when designers run amok that'll make your hair curl.

• Create a strategy for every single page of your site (Rule 20). Key quote: "You should always be aware of the paths you'd like visitors to take, and provide appropriate links and clickable calls to action that consistently move them forward." That clickable calls to action thing is so important, and yet so often we forget to give people a hint on how to keep moving through the site to register for the meeting, or book the hotel, or, in our case, read another related article. Then we moan about bounce rates. Doh!

• Sometimes it's OK to have high bounce rates. This is something I've always suspected, but it's good to see it in print. You may have a segment of your audience that is supposed to just be "one and done," and that's just fine. Just be sure to keep Rule 20 in mind for those you want to have stick around, explore, and open their wallets.

• Another thing that really rang for me is similar to the figuring out your why I was pondering this morning. Once you figure that out, or at least what you offer that your audience can't get from anyone but you, let visitors know early and often. Philippa offers a great suggestion from brand strategist Vickie Sullivan on how to formulate that value: "We (the business) combine A with B, so you (the customer) get C. And the more unrelated A and B are, the more compelling the value proposition will be." For example, in Phillipa's case, Sullivan says, "[Philippa] combines strategic advice for a compelling web presence with return on investment, so you get an online brand with emotional appeal that drives revenue, too." Which pretty much sums up the book as well.

I haven't had the chance to watch it, but I hear this free webinar of highlights from the book is pretty good, too. I'm going to keep both handy next time we head into a site redesign.

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