Save Your Website’s Life With START Triage
I've been taking a CERT training class at City Hall for the last month or so, learning about how to help in an emergency when the professionals haven't yet arrived or are overwhelmed.
We've learned about emergency preparation, handling small fires (including a live exercise that would have been more fun if the fire had been bigger :-), organizing disaster medical treatment operations, basic first aid, search and rescue, disaster psychology, and more.
Next week, we'll be having our final exercise -- a mock disaster at the Stuhr Museum's Railroad Town. I don't imagine they'll be lighting anything on fire for us. Instead, a big part of the exercise will involve searching buildings for victims and doing triage.
The triage system we use is called START, which stands for "Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment". The idea is to do the do the most good for the most people in the shortest time -- to prioritize the victims according to the seriousness of their injuries, and keep as many people alive as possible until they can get professional treatment.
One of the main tools of START triage, and the one I want to talk about today, is called RPM. For most marketers, RPM stands for "revenue per minute", or for those with entrepreneurial ADHD, "revenue per millisecond" (if you check your PayPal balance or AdSense earnings multiple times a day, you're affilicted! :-)
In START triage, RPM stands for respiration, perfusion, and mental status. Let's talk about how to triage your website's RPM to identify and treat the most serious problems.
If you're site's not breathing, it's either dead, or it's going to be very, very soon. So this is what you need to check and treat first.
Aside from obvious problems like server crashes, things to make sure are "breathing" are your autoresponder signup form, your shopping cart and checkout system, the links from your PPC ads, etc. Run through the process you want your visitors to take, and if you find anything that's broken, fix it before you do anything else.
If you use Google's Webmaster Tools, check the "Diagnostics" section for errors and fix any that you can. If there are 404 errors (page not found) because somebody else is linking to the wrong place and you can't fix the link, you might put up a page that redirects from there to an appropriate page on your site. If that's not possible, at least make sure you have a 404 error page that displays a helpful message.
Perfusion is the flow of blood throughout the body. When someone's bleeding heavily, that's an obvious problem. Also, when an injured person goes into shock, their body may slow circulation to vital organs. It's less obvious than a big red puddle, but can be just as deadly.
The standard test for perfusion is to check capillary refill. If you squeeze a finger tip and it takes more than 2 seconds for the color to come back into it, there's a problem (if it's cold, I'd imagine this test may not work so well).
How's the perfusion on your website? If you squeezed all the traffic out, how long would it take to refill? If it's too slow, you may need to focus on traffic building activities: content creation, linking, advertising, SEO, etc.
Once the traffic gets to your website, does it flow around and around, or flow right back out? If your visitors take one glance at your site and click the "back" button, or if they're only clicking external links, how can you engage them more? Think about where you want the traffic to flow -- back into the heart of your site, and then out to the extremities.
Do you need to improve your autoresponder signup form, move it somewhere more visible, or add one at the point where visitors will be most likely to respond?
Do you need to add "related articles" links to your blog posts?
Do you need to strengthen your call to action to get sales page visitors to flow into your checkout system?
When an injury victim suffers from shock, one way to treat them is to keep them warm. What about your website may be leaving your visitors cold, and how can you keep them warmer? Do you need to respond to blog comments more? Do you need to offer more value? Do you need to make your writing less formal and more personal? Do you need to mail your list more often?
Once we've checked respiration and perfusion, we verify mental status. A quick and easy way to do this is to give a simple instruction and see whether the person can follow it. For example, hold their hand and ask if they can squeeze it.
One cause of mental status issues is shock, since it slows circulation to the brain. If visitors to your website are mentally disengaged, what's putting them in shock?
Are slimy marketing tactics damaging your credibility?
Are you using the default WordPress template?
Is your content boring, or just like content they've seen on a million other sites?
Do you only think they're disengaged because you're not giving them simple instructions? Is unclear navigation or lack of calls to action confusing them and leaving them not knowing what to do next?
Give your site a good work over to make sure that it's clear, engaging, and there's nothing that's going to turn members of your target market off.
Join a CERT Team
If we don't goof up too badly in the final exercise next week, those of us who've taken the class will have the chance to join a CERT team. We'll be issued a gear bag, have ongoing training, and if there's a disaster, we'll work together to help our community.
Once you've triaged your website and fixed any problems, the odds of your being able to join a team (get JVs and affiliates, attract guest bloggers or get guest blogging opportunities, etc.) will go way up. Between treating your site's RPM issues and the benefits of working with others once you have, triage just may save your website's life.