It’s easy for people to blame the tough times or other external factors when their website’s not performing. But sometimes, the enemy is not out there.
To help the struggling websites of Australia, we have put together 10 practical tips that are guaranteed to help almost any website improve its performance. Take some time to reflect, and ask yourself the questions that will allow you to find out how well you know your website.
1. Define your website’s purpose.
Will your website provide your sales team with leads, sell products online, advertise a product, provide help and assistance for customers or generate an income from advertising?
Knowing the role your website plays in your business and in your marketing mix helps you determine how your website contributes to your bottom-line and how to improve its performance.
Write down a list of things you want your website to do and then prioritise the most important to the least important.
2. Know who your customers are.
Who are your customers and why do they visit your website?
This may seem obvious but it is important that you “get in your customer’s head” and work out what is important to them.
Talk to your sales team and find out which questions your customers ask most. What drives them to visit your website, your office or shop, or to call? Then write down the steps a customer takes when making a purchase decision: from the time they recognise a need for your product or service, to the time they consider making a purchase, finding a supplier (hopefully you) and using the product or service.
Understanding how a customer behaves when buying your product or service helps you design a website experience that makes customers want to buy from you.
3. Understand what your customers do on your site.
Use your web analytics reports to find out how customers interact with your website.
How many visitors does your website get a month?
Which page within your website gets the highest ‘bounce rate’? The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who visit one page only. This is a good measure of which pages are turning your potential customers away.
How long do your visitors spend on your website? This is a good way of finding out how interested your visitors are in your website.
What countries do your visitors come from? If you only operate in Australia and you have a lot of traffic from the United States, you should either expand your business or exclude these visitors from your reports.
How much traffic do you get from search engines? What are the keywords? Are there any surprises?
If your site generates leads, what percentage of qualified visitors submit a lead? (e.g. an enquiry form) If your site sells products online, what percentage of qualified visitors complete an order?
Use a dedicated phone number to measure how many phone calls your website is generating (e.g. 1300 654 677). This is a great way of segmenting the calls generated by your website from your other marketing vehicles like print ads and your Yellow Pages ad.
The above measures can help you understand what your customers do on your website and where you need to improve.
4. Get feedback from your customers.
What do your customers really think?
Survey your customers and find out how useful your website is to them. Listen to their feedback and look for common issues and address them appropriately.
If you have a high bounce rate, survey the customers leaving your site and ask them why. If someone calls you from your website (using your dedicated website phone number), ask them what they liked and didn’t like about it.
5. Benchmark yourself against your competitors.
Know what your competitors are doing online. Every week, check the website of your top five competitors. What are they doing that could be taking business away from you. Use the strategies you like and learn from the ones you don’t like.
6. Have a place for everything and put everything in its place.
Does your homepage have everything on it? It shouldn’t. Every page is equally important and should be treated as an opportunity to persuade your potential customers to submit a sales enquiry or order online. Your homepage should contain enough of the right information for potential customers to find what they are looking for or for you to show them what they need.
When deciding on the layout of your web pages, think about how you can engage with your potential customers.
7. Don’t fall in love with cool design.
Sometimes it’s easy to fall in love with a really cool design feature. It could be YouTube videos, animated graphics and banners, a large font, a small font or a really nice drop shadow.
Some design features detract from your website’s purpose and turn visitors away. Learn what works and use them. This is the time to listen to a web marketing expert who understands which web design elements help improve your site’s performance.
8. Get a geek who understands your customers and your business.
If you use a web developer, ensure they understand your business. If they dictate to you and ignore your marketing needs and the needs of your customers, get a new geek.
Your web developer or designer works for you and your business.
If your geek is also a web marketing expert with a track record to speak of, then count yourself lucky.
9. Speak your customers’ language.
Do your customers say they want “media reputation management services” or do they simply refer to it as “media relations” or just “PR”?
If it’s a shovel, call it a shovel. Don’t use fancy names customers don’t use or worse, have never heard.
Copy is important! Use short sentences, paragraphs and lists. Don’t give customers a headache by writing long blocks of text. Break it down. If the information is not important, remove it.
Writing on the web is different. Make sure you know how, or pay someone who knows how.
10. Test, test, test, test
Based on your website’s purpose and what you know about how customers behave on your site, come up with a theory that gets your website better results and change your site. Over a few days or weeks, measure whether it has made a difference.
Then write down the results and try something else.
Robelen Bajar is Group Marketing Manager at Melbourne IT, which helps entrepreneurs start, grow and manage their businesses online. Visit www.melbourneit.com.au.