Eric Anderson of White Horse, a professional services firm specializing in Web marketing, offers some great tips for improving your website. A summary is provided here with my own commentary.
Implement on-line marketing in cycles of campaign testing, optimization, aggregating, and retesting. Each step improves a single aspect of your site, slowly building into an efficient customer service tool. Constantly do what works for your organization, measure results by profits generated. Always test marketing controls across mediums and against them with new copy periodically.
Concentrate on copy conversion efforts before driving traffic. It doesn't matter how many people visit your website if no one is engaging in commerce. Work first on fulfilling your marketing objectives at some level before sending money on advertising to drive more visitors. You'll develop a better return on investment with some level of conversion.
Have a solid usable platform to make your site easy to follow. Build your site before it goes on-line, layout content in a manner logical to your customers, and include those elements your customers most desire. Model your content and top navigation, as well as aspects of how visitors will use your site. It's better to rough out a simple no-frills site than to have a fancy website no one wants to visit.
Frame language from your customers prospective. Instead of using internal terms, use the language your customer uses to describe the benefits of your product. By using a common language familiar with the buyer, you are more likely to engender trust early in the interaction.
Establish consistent standards for navigation. Just as street signs follow certain standards, so should you website navigation. Navigation should always be located at least on the top and bottom of each page. Site navigation should be consistent across divisions and content contributors.
Clearly articulate the specific role and purpose of your website. This is not only important to focus your site content, but each designer and contributor should be aware of these objectives. This makes for a cohesive site that is easier to measure.
Develop traceable paths for click-stream analysis. Design site navigation to walk visitors through a short but specific process to help them reach their desired goals. Each visitor should be able to find exactly what they came for while fulfilling your marketing goals.