I am woman enough to admit it: making sure our Library website works well, draws visitors, is easy to navigate, and makes life better for our cardholders is hard. I bet you can relate. Library websites are notoriously clunky and hard to use. Very few libraries do it well. This is a shame, considering how many of our cardholders use our websites to search the catalog, place holds, find programs, and do research.

But there are things we can do to improve the experience for cardholders. I learned some great tips this past September at Content  Marketing World, where I heard Andy Crestodina speak. Andy has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. He’s the co-founder and strategic director for Orbit Media in Chicago, and an evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing. I highly recommend you bookmark his company’s blog for lots of tips on how to make your website work better and stand out.

Andy says a lot of little design decisions made by libraries cause analytics problems. Many of those decisions can affect your future ability to measure. Marketers need to combine the analytical process and the creative process to create a great website. That means your website should be a combination of art and science.

To often, we fail to do that–mainly because we really don’t know how. We focus on the look and feel of the website, and not on the data. The best marketers use a lot of data to drive their decisions. So ask yourself–does your website work with or against your analytics? Here are Andy’s tips.

Have a domain strategy. When you create a page or a sub page for your website, do you have a strategy for the domain name? This simple step is very important. Many of us are tempted to create separate domains for our separate pieces of content, but Andy says you should never do that… never, not at all. A good URL structure is short, with one or two slashes, and includes a target phrase. For example, our library has created a page for our summer reading program, This URL makes analysis easy and ensures that our site is search engine friendly.

Don’t use dates on your blog. Andy says the analytics shows there is value in refraining from dating all your blog material. Unless you are a news organization, avoid dates. Don’t even put a date in title. It gives readers the impression that your content is old. Readers may say they prefer a date–but analytics show us otherwise.

Stop posting press releases on your website. Andy says press releases are a lazy, insensible way to post content. The content isn’t trusted by the consumer. By all means, send the release to the media but then rewrite your release as a customer-friendly blog post, without the industry jargon, and post the information on your blog. And not as a PDF. Andy calls PDF’s “the rust of the internet.”

Get rid of all your dead-end pages. Have a call to action on every page. Make sure there are no dead-ends… that every page leads to an action that takes a cardholder to another page. This increases conversions. Andy also suggests getting rid of email links. They aren’t trackable and they attract spam. Instead, create contact forms so your cardholders can be funneled to the right person.

Make a page for each of your services.  If you do it right, people will click in from Google. Andy says your homepage is an after thought. Many visitors will not see your home page. It’s not the most important and that shouldn’t worry you. Also remember, as you name each page for products and services, to use words that your cardholders would use. Avoid industry jargon like “solutions.”

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