Imagine that half the people who called your sales team hung up within 10 seconds. And these weren't prospects who were being cold-called, either—but interested people themselves calling your sales team.

Right, heads would roll. At the very least, you'd want to know why so many people were disengaging.

Well, chances are it's happening to you right now, every day. Your sales team isn't the problem; the real problem is your most visible and active company representative—the Web site.

There's an easy-to-measure but often overlooked number that can tell you a great deal about the effectiveness of your Web site: the "short visit rate," which is the percentage of visitors that leaves your site within 10 seconds.

The percentage itself is not really important. Every Web site, every audience, and every industry is different. Even the most sophisticated Web sites can easily have 50% of visitors bail early.

What is important is what you're doing to reduce this number. Why? Because there is no cheaper way to repair the spout that feeds your pipeline. While it may take months to test and correct your sales process, telemarketing, or direct mail efforts, the Web allows rapid and cost-effective testing. You can positively change your short visit rate in a few days, even a few hours.

The Impact

If visitors to your site don't stick around, they can't request more information, take the demo, sign up for the newsletter, or do any of the things the site was designed to make them do.

It took considerable time and money to bring these visitors to your site—each time one leaves, you're squandering your general marketing and advertising efforts and dollars. Worse, those visitors leaving are likely seeking information or a solution elsewhere on the Web. You're helping create demand for your competition.

The Cause

Short visits are usually a combination of two things—the wrong people coming, and your site's inability to engage the visitor. This is particularly true when it comes to traffic from search engines. Because these visitors are looking for something specific (and usually in a hurry), it's only logical that they would quickly bail if the site doesn't satisfy their needs.

What to Do About It

Luckily, we're dealing with the Web, where the data is rich and the adjustments are easy. The first step is to see where you are. Ask your webmaster to report on the percentage of both all visitors and search visitors that are leaving within 10 seconds. If they can't get this information for you, enlist some help or get a simple Web traffic analysis tool, as this is basic data every company should capture.

Once you get these numbers, don't flip out. It's just a baseline, a starting point from which to improve. Ask yourself, "What might be causing these people to leave?"

Visit your site in your prospect's shoes. Might it be the non-differentiating or overly technical message? Maybe the site just doesn't look very professional. Perhaps the majority of your prospects simply don't like the color red. Most likely, it's the lack of any compelling reason to stay. If you don't have something to grab visitors' attention and get them clicking for more, you can continue to expect poor retention rates.

Look at this problem from a traditional point of view. What if this were a tradeshow booth? How could we get people to stay at the booth longer?

The key here is to work together within sales and marketing (notice that we left the IT department out) to brainstorm and come to a consensus about what you suspect the biggest problem might be. Once you decide, have your webmaster make the necessary changes and measure the difference.

If you don't get a whole lot of visits, it may take a long time to come to a conclusion. This is where doing a quick pay-per-click advertising campaign can come in real handy, if for nothing else than to get some inexpensive market research.

Nothing to Lose Except Business

It's easy to dismiss this entire problem; after all, you probably didn't know you had a problem. And you can always add more sales reps and send out more mailers.

But the "problem" could actually be an opportunity in disguise—if you take these first steps. You may be surprised how enthusiastic your Web team and senior management are about wanting to improve in this area.

It is fun, challenging, and, unlike many other aspects of business, an effort that provides rapid and rich feedback. Hold contests! Give the person or team that comes up with the most dramatic improvement the corner office! He or she just made your company more efficient and profitable.

Short-visit syndrome is something most executives don't like to mention, let alone talk about. Fortunately, confronting the issue head on and doing things to remedy it are far less painful than you think. And the results are well worth the effort.

Sign up for free to read the full article. Enter your email address to keep reading ...


Todd Miechiels is a B2B Internet marketing consultant who specializes in search engine marketing and Web site visitor conversion. Reach him via