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When you consider the time value of money, you quickly realize that the time your visitors spend on your site is a substantial investment on their part.

Let’s do some quick math. Say you get 100,000 unique visitors a day, each spending on average 7 minutes per visit. Assuming that each visitor’s time is worth $20 an hour (white collar worker assumptions here), that is $233,333 per day in your visitors’ time spent on your site, or $1,633,333 per week. If you want them to come back again, the “product” (your web site) has to be worth it—it has to fulfill a need they have.

This is why tracking basic statistics like new versus returning visitors is such a critical benchmark and why tracking the upward or downward trend of time spent on your site or number of page views is so key. These can be indicators of whether your site is being perceived as worth further investment as a “product” by your visitors.

Obviously, if you are a content site this is even more critical since your site is, literally, your product. But the best way to think about the role of your web site as a product and whether it’s “time investment-worthy” or not is to come up with all of the possible reasons your visitors would want to visit your site, i.e. their “visit scenarios”.

There are really only three types of business models for organizations’ web sites today: commerce sites, content sites (media sites) and informational sites. The objectives of each type vary from both the organization’s and the visitor’s points of view. The “visit scenarios” of your visitors will be different depending on which type of site (or what combination of the three) you offer.

Visitors could come to your site to:

  • Research product details
  • Register for something – brochures, collateral, newsletters, updates, sweepstakes, etc.
  • Check the status of their online or offline order
  • See when the next versions of your products are coming out
  • Join an online community
  • Purchase your product online
  • Place an order or purchase again
  • Read the “news”
  • Catch up on information for a special niche they follow
  • Check out accessories to something they bought or might buy
  • Get tips and tricks for using a product
  • Troubleshoot a problem they are having
  • Search for customer service

Once you identify which of these scenarios (or the unique scenarios offered by your site) are relevant, you can use path navigation analysis and what’s now being termed “scenario analysis” to track how successfully your site is working to accommodate the scenarios. For the visitor, this represents a mission accomplished; for the business, it’s called visitor conversion. Since the Web is so measurable, every step (or click) of the way can be tracked to see where visitors are failing in their missions. Then, you can take action on your site to make their navigation easier—ultimately increasing conversion and satisfying more visitors.

If your site is like most, it will fail in most scenario conversions because it was likely developed from your internal goals outward, rather than letting your visitors’ goals drive the site design and navigation. The good news is that it’s all fixable. And if you start tracking these critical navigation paths, you will quickly find out what needs to be tackled first.

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