Sorry Field of Dreams fans, build it and they will come doesn’t work. This is especially the case on the Internet. Just creating a website isn’t going to boost your business. And just making an existing site prettier won’t do you any good either. This year (and every year), up and down the UK, millions of pounds are thrown at business websites that simply don’t work. However, your website doesn’t have to be one of them.
Here are 10 things to work on to boost your online performance.
Do you know how many visitors your website has each month? Whatever answer you’ve got, there’s a good chance it’s wrong. 98 per cent of all websites we’re asked to work on don’t have their data collection set up properly. If your Google Analytics view is All Data, then spam and traffic from irrelevant people are included. For example, if you sell exclusively to the UK, what use are website views by people in North America or Japan? They’re not potential customers, just like spam, they’re just clutter.
In addition to a UK only traffic view, you need to be tracking goals, which includes visitors filling out contact forms and clicking on phone numbers. Access to this information will give you a more accurate sense of how many real potential customers are on your website, and how successfully your website converts. And this will help you gauge the impact of the next nine steps on your sales.
Now you know the actual number of relevant visitors to your website, you want more of them. Hoping more people will stumble upon you isn’t a smart strategy. You want to be driving people to your site. Advertising with Google AdWords and Bing adCenter is the fastest way to drive relevant prospects your way. One of the great pluses of using these powerful tools is that you only pay for actual clicks on your ads. But if you’re not careful you can still waste money. Your campaigns need to be carefully targeted to avoid paying for lots of clicks by people who aren’t relevant.
If you don’t have the time to learn how to use these tools, find a good expert agency; they’ll do the set up and on-going management. This won’t be cheap. And if it is, you’re probably with the wrong agency.
3. Long term
The middle ground between merely hoping people find your website and paying to direct them to your site is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This is important because two-thirds of all website visits start at a search engine: how many times have you said or heard, I’ll Google that? SEO should be part of your long-term strategy; you need to bear in mind that it’s not an instant fix.
If you’re employing a web designer and/or a marketing agency, don’t assume that SEO will be included: check. If it’s not included, here are a few simple things you can do to help your SEO. For example:
• Your main headings should include what you want to be found for
• Meta titles and descriptions should be well written and contain phrases representing what you want to be found for
• Avoid generic titles such as Services; use specific titles (so Services becomes What We Do)
• Contact your suppliers and customers and ask them to create links from their website to yours
• Check that your Yell, Thompson and Google Business Pages link to your website
There are many more things you can do, and if you’re taking on SEO yourself, invest in a good book on the subject; this book should have been published recently, no later than 12 months ago.
SEO is very important, and it is not a quick job; Google takes into account hundreds of different factors, and the better your SEO, the better your chances of ranking highly in search engine results. If you don’t have the time to do it properly, or it’s not something you feel you want or are able to do, find a good agency that specialises in this work.
These days, www gets ignored. People are likely to say YourWebsiteName.com rather than plod through reciting three Ws at the start. That’s fair enough, we all know there are three Ws. If you copy a URL into an email or a word document, you’ll see a few more letters before www. Most people ignore these letters too, but you need to pay attention to them, especially if your website is missing an S.
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol; it’s the system for transmitting and receiving information across the Internet. HTTPS is basically the same thing, but it offers an extra layer of security. And since October 2017, Google has been alerting people when a website isn’t over HTTPS. If your website is HTTP, it isn’t any less secure than it was in September, but this Google alert may be putting people off visiting your website.
Additionally, being HTTP rather than HTTPS has an impact on Google search rankings; reducing the impact of your SEO efforts.
If your website is HTTP, organise getting that S as soon as you can. You won’t be able to do this yourself; contact your website developer.
5. Mobile friendly
More than half of all UK website traffic is from mobile; and it’s only going to increase. Check your website using Google’s mobile website checker. Your website functionality must be fit for purpose for mobile users. If it’s not, contact your website developer.
You may have heard the phrase Content is King. At the very least your content should be current. If your website includes a blog or a page/section for news, how recent was the last post? If it’s a couple of months ago, you have a problem.
The reason for having a blog is to give people more reasons to return to your site, and to have new visitors directed to you by search engines picking up on the SEO you’ve done on the blog posts. Not posting regularly means you’re missing out.
Additionally, no recent blogs or news items says you have nothing interesting to offer, and that’s what potential customers may infer about your business as a whole.
A blog or news page that hasn’t been updated in months is worse than not having one at all, but the solution isn’t to remove the page. Organise regular content creation. It doesn’t have to be solely your responsibility. Encourage your staff to be involved; at the very least include time during staff meetings for everyone to contribute to ideas for blogs, but ideally encourage your staff to write the blogs themselves. This fosters a greater sense of investment in the company, which can be particularly useful for sales staff.
If you have separate blog and news pages, consider combining these; and if you only have a news page, consider expanding it to include blog posts. This will make it easier to post regularly.
Don’t think that people only come to your website to buy. Many of your visitors will be there for research and investigation; in other words, they’re just at the start of their buying journey. They’re looking to define requirements, consider alternatives and evaluate options. You need your website to provide information for all stages, making it easier to influence buying decisions.
8. Help don’t sell
Think about how you present the information on your website. Many businesses make the mistake of taking a full-on hard-sell approach. Making your website merely a brochure of corporate messaging won’t provide the engaging experience most visitors are looking for. Answer questions your customers are likely to have, but present it as helpful information. It may seem counter-intuitive, but on your website, the less selling you do, the more you will sell.
9. Calls to action
Although your website content shouldn’t be hard-sell, it should include strategically placed calls to action. These can be at the bottom of pages, or within blog posts. Look at each of your website’s pages and check that there is some form of call to action, that it is in a suitable position, and that it is appropriate to the page content.
Accept that your website will never be finished. In addition to regularly updating your content, you should be regularly assessing the data you have available:
• Where are your visitors coming from?
• What pages they are looking at?
• Which articles/blog posts/news items are being read?
• What forms are being completed?
• What traffic sources convert into leads?
Let this data inform your blog content and call to action choices.
Above all, remember that your website needs attention every week. If you don’t have time for this, call an expert. Your website is too important to live at the bottom of your to-do list.
Tim Butler, founder, Innovation Visual (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/oatawa