While Laura Schneider's advice is spot on, the About.com website that host her is horribly designed. I cringe every time I have to visit About.com for the following reasons,
Too many advertisements. It seems About.com is about advertising more than it is about providing useful content to visitors or even featuring authors materials. What is the real purpose of their website?
Annoying Pop-ups. A pop-up should be reserved for something very important, not an advertisement on every page. No body likes pop-ups unless they enhance the customers experience.
Cluttered Content. Only a little strip down the center of the page is reserved for the content that attracted me to the site, even that is hard to read because it's wedged between piles of advertising.
Jumbled search results. When someone uses the search feature on your website they expect to get back something useful, not more advertising. It seems the first screen of search results are paid advertisements.
If you are operating a portal to serve your industry, or even as an exchange for business partners learn from About.com's waste of Internet space. I'm not usually this harsh, and in this case they may be pursuing a low-end consumer market -- but About.com's web design actually deters visitors from quality content.
How would I redesign About.com (from a visitors prospective)?
Segment the content by desired audience. By separating the consumer content from the business content About.com could better serve each audience. Right now it is all jumbled together. Make it clear who your site serves.
Change the content-to-advertisement ratio. Right now 80% of a page is advertising and 20% is content, by changing this ratio the site will attract more visitors interested in returning and the pages would be less cluttered.
Feature the author, not the advertiser. Focus on the value to your visitor, not the visitors value to your check book. If you want to build a customer relationship, you have to give something first.
Topically focus adverting by target audience. When I visit a page about marketing, I might like advertisements that pertain to the topic of the page. Googles AdWords program presents an example of great contextual advertising methods.
Drop advertisers who use jittering advertisements. Nothing irritates a visitor more as to see an advertisement that jumps all around the screen like it's shaking. This distraction makes me want to go to another page.