How to get traffic to your front door

As I’ve been traveling over the last few weeks, I’ve been amazed with the number of businesses that make it difficult for people to visit them in person.

I’m not talking about online retailers who don’t want customers showing up at their doorsteps. I’m talking about businesses whose very livelihoods depend on getting people in their doors. In the last three weeks, I’ve looked up at least three businesses that have made getting there harder than it needs to be: Massanutten Resort, John’s Restaurant and Markt.

Massanutten didn’t provide an address on their Web site, making it impossible to put it into the GPS on my car. John’s and Markt provide addresses on their front page, but present this key information in images.

Web sites for local business, especially restaurants, are often created by Web designers whose main interest is in wowing the business owners with their flash or graphic design skills, not building a user-friendly Web site.

Not only does it make it hard on users, it can hurt search engine rankings. Markt’s Web site is so poorly designed (everything is an image) that you can’t even find it on the first page of Google search results.

Here are my tips for people designing local Web sites:

  • Make sure that you put your address on your Web site. Many people use online maps sites to get driving directions. You might have written your own eloquent directions, but they don’t start at my door. Provide a link to an online map provider. It’s free. There’s no reason not to. If you know that the directions from Yahoo Maps, Google Maps or Mapquest are wrong, tell me! Monticello does a good job of this.
  • Put your address in plain text on your Web site. I can’t copy-and-paste an image into an SMS or easily email it to friends.
  • Write your directions as bullet points, not big blocks of text. Some people will be printing out your directions page and reading it while they drive. It’s a lot easier to keep track of your place in bullets than in paragraphs.
  • If you’re in an area where mass transit is used heavily, include the nearest subway stops and the lines they are on.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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