You only get one chance to make a first impression: This is particularly true of the web.

If you go into a shop or a cafe and you don't like what you see - the chances are that you will hang around for a few minutes, you've probably caught the eye of the staff and it would look very rude just to turn around and walk out.

So the staff might get a second chance, a chance to engage you in conversation… and maybe win you over.

If you click on a website that you don't like, you simply click away - and no one even knows that you were there. 

If your site does not capture the attention of the visitor you will not get a second chance. So even if you get 1000 visitors a day - if they don't buy from you - all of your hard work has been for nothing.

Grabbing a visitor’s attention is not about fancy graphics, flashy widgets or images – in fact in most cases those are a real turn off.

You capture visitors with the structure and content of your message and your message has to be clear, concise and persuasive.

Like your business, your website will constantly evolve, you will learn what is working for you, and what is not. If it’s not working, you need to change it. So it is important that you give your site a regular health check, much the same way as you give your car an MOT or you get your annual BUPA check – just to make sure that everything is as it should be.

Of course you will be checking your analytics on a regular basis and this will give you a strong clue as to what is working for you and what is not, but on top of that take a step back every now and again and look at your site through your visitors eyes.

If you are too close to it, get someone else to look at if for you, a friend, a relative, a professional, someone who can be objective, who can give you honest feedback and make constructive suggestions.

What makes a website successful will vary depending on your product / service and your target market, however there are some very simple elements which apply in most cases:

• Know your audience, and keep them in mind when you write.

• Your content must be persuasive.

• Keep your pages short and your images small.

• Use Web colours.

• Keep text concise.

• Check spelling and grammar.

• Make sure that your contact information is clearly displayed.

• If you have links keep them current.

Whether you are selling products or services or trying to generate affiliate income it does not matter how many people you drive to your site, if the content is not right, and visitors are not turning into customers, your business will fail. Look after your website and you will reap the rewards.

Carol Burns is a business consultant and founder of evolve small business consulting. She also works as an advisor for a number of small business start up organisations. After a career in the corporate sector she now focuses on working with small and medium sized businesses providing access to knowledge and services without the normal consulting costs.

www.evolvesmallbusinessconsulting.com