In a difficult market where most companies are facing some tough financial decisions, it is more important than ever to make sure your more cost-efficient investments, like your web presence, are working as hard as they can for you. Here are some things to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of your site and its tools.

Are visitors taking the desired action?

What do you want your visitors to do? Fill out a quote form? Buy a product or service? Request information? Contact you? Become a member of your community? Sign up for a newsletter?

There are many different reasons for establishing a web presence, and yes, just being there for the sake of establishing legitimacy is one of them. But beyond that, if you are really using the tools at your disposal effectively, your users should be prompted to do something.

If you are tracking your branding initiatives (as you should be), then you should know what kind of success rate you have in convincing your visitors to take the intended action. If your success rate is low, ask yourself why. Sometimes it is a matter of usability or design. Just because you see your site all the time and know how it works does not mean it is intuitive for your users. Site design and navigation structure should emphasize the important aspects of your site and guide your users to them easily.

Is your site using the tools at your disposal wisely?

For those of you who watch The Office, you may be reminded here last season’s failure of the new Dunder Mifflin website. For those of you who do not, a brief explanation. Dunder Mifflin sells paper. Straightforward, no frills, office paper. They therefore needed a site that made it easy and cost effective for customers to buy paper. Regardless of this simple goal, the new Vice President was trying to build a “hip” social networking site that provided a complete online paper community experience.

This idea, not surprisingly, did not take off. While social networks are popular, one that is focused around office paper is not really exciting or useful.

When looking at your own site, do a little brainstorming on how you can best put to use the technology at your disposal. Would your business be helped if you create a portal for customer interaction and community building? If so, would a simple blog do, or should you invest time in building something more intricate? Online community building tools have become extremely affordable and are one option, but only if they actually add value to the brand/site experience.

You may find that your energy is better focused on perfecting a design that is memorable, functional, easy to navigate and prompts action from your users. Understand your goals and your message first, and make sure you are not wasting money on a site that is not working for you.