Before we get into this, let’s get something straight: your website, is not your website.
Sure, you or your company paid for it. You may have even built it, but it still isn’t yours.
What you call your website is actually your customers’ – as they are the ones using it the most.
If it helps, think of it as a gift from you to them. Every change on a website should be for the customer’s benefit (as well as the company's). The more you help them or make their lives easier, the more likely they are to come back and become customers.
So to improve a website you need to make it customer-centric. At a basic level, customers need a website that provides:
- easy to find information
- a simple user journey
- an easy buying process
- a method of communication.
Now, that’s easy to say, but there’s a lot to each of those points. Let’s break each one down a bit.
1. Make your website easy to find
No matter how good a website is, if people can’t find it then it’s useless.
There are many ways that people will find you online, but here are the main ones:
- Typing in the website address
This is where it pays to have a simple and memorable domain name. It may also be worth purchasing common misspellings of it and forwarding them to the main website domain to catch more visitors.
Be aware that navigational search (where someone types a company name into a search engine) is an increasingly popular way for users to get to a website. This means you need to be easily found online by searches for your company name – more on search below.
- Clicking on a link
Sounds simple enough, but what this means for you is that you have to make sure all links to and on your site work. This includes links from your social media channels and posts, other websites, emails you send etc.
Keep an eye on your 404/error pages to see how much traffic they get. High traffic to these pages suggests there is a problem.
- Searching for you, a product or service that you offer, or information that is relevant to your offering
With over 85% of the search market share, Google is king here. There are many ways to increase your visibility on Google, from paid ads to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), content marketing or listing your business on Google and more.
Paid ads can be expensive, although sponsoring your brand name shouldn’t be – as long as it is unique.
SEO is a topic in its own right but you should at least ensure that all page title tags, URLs, meta descriptions and content are appropriate to the topic. Content marketing can be a significant undertaking but with the right focus, it can yield significant results and sustainable ROI. What company doesn’t want that?
You also need to consider other search engines, social media platforms and online directories relevant to your sector. Ensure you have an appropriate presence there too, especially if your competitors do.
If you’re not sure where to start, or which is right for your business, then a review of the website, your online competition and existing digital marketing efforts is what the digital marketing doctor prescribes.
2. Make your website simple to browse
Getting people to a website is one thing; next you have to make it easy for the visitor to find what they’re looking for.
Simplicity is key for websites. That’s not to say they can’t be complex – more that they need to be designed carefully and built to appear simple for the visitor to use.
Apple is great at designing powerful tech that can do all sorts of things but what a lot of people love about it is how easy its products are to use. The same can often be said for successful websites.
Here are some areas we look at when reviewing a website:
By this we mean how the pages and sub-pages are mapped out. Is the most crucial content segmented appropriately by topic or target audience and is it easy it to follow?
Content should be where visitors expect to find it and should link to complementary information. Don’t try to display everything at once.
Website structure is important for visitors and search engine crawlers alike.
The right type of content is key. It is likely that you’ll have more than one type of customer persona and each will have a different job that it is trying to achieve. The content that is relevant to them, along with the messaging that encourages action, will vary depending on this job.
For example, if I’m buying a piece of software for my own use, I’ll have different hopes, questions and concerns than someone looking to buy 100+ licences for their employees.
Careful consideration must also be given to the words you use too. It is crucial that your language matches that of your intended audience so they understand and engage with the content.
That means losing industry jargon and writing at the appropriate level – not everyone has a great vocabulary. This will also help your performance in the search engines.
You can use language to deter audiences that aren’t a good fit for your business. If you write content with terms that only your ideal customers understand then you’ll deter other people who may be a bad fit. Take care with this though, it’s very easy to deter more people than intended.
Here are some other tips to help make your content more effective:
- Use the inverted pyramid style of writing. People are often time poor and attention spans seem to be getting shorter, so get to the point straight away.
- Break up your content with headings that concisely summarise the section. This helps search engines understand what your page is about, but more importantly helps readers find the content they’re looking for when scanning a page.
- Use concise bullet lists where possible for the same reason. (Don’t go over the top though!)
- Offer access to further content only if required. This prevents you showing all of your content on a topic to everyone and allows a visitor to read more about what means the most to them.
Let’s also consider the look of a website. Striking a balance between form and function is vital. There’s no point having something that looks great but can’t be used by your customers, as it won’t help your business.
Again, I like to go for simplicity here. When proposing design changes I often take an existing design and strip away elements that aren’t essential (like a spring clean for your website) or start from scratch, only adding what is needed. This ensures that what is there is adds value and is easy to find.
Websites also need to work on mobiles as well as (if not better) than on desktops. Mobile usage has been on the increase for years and overtook desktop usage some time ago.
Don’t think that you can ignore this if you’re a B2B company. Email marketing is essential for every B2B company’s marketing strategy. Business emails are frequently checked on smartphones, which means links from them will drive mobile traffic.
Just because your customers most frequently submit enquiries or make purchases while on a desktop, it doesn’t mean they didn’t first evaluate potential suppliers by browsing sites on their phone. Maybe they did and you didn’t make the grade.
Is that a risk you’re willing to take?
As we all know, technology moves at an ever-increasing rate in today’s world. Many websites launched over a year or two ago are already out-of-date. The latest web tech and design trends can make websites more attractive, relevant and easy to use for their target audience. When was the last time you reviewed your site to ensure you’re not leaving money on the table?
I get it, it’s hard to keep up, especially if you’re running a business or are up to your eyeballs in product launches and marketing campaigns. New designs can also be expensive, but not if you know exactly what to change. That’s where a website audit can pay for itself, by telling you exactly what improvements could be made – along with the potential gains.
3. Don’t beat around the bush
It’s safe to assume that you have a purpose in mind for the website you bought/built. And, that you haven’t achieved that goal yet, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post.
Your customers have a goal too. They go to websites for a reason, whether it’s to find out more about a topic or buy an item.
The magic starts to happen when you align what you want customers to do with what they want to achieve, especially in today’s buyer’s market.
Two common ways to boost the effect of this alignment are conversion rate optimisation and user experience.
Conversion rate optimisation
In simple terms this is tweaking a website to get more visitors to take a desired action.
For a brochure site, that may be to view a certain page number of pages or to stay on the site for longer. If your business is driven by leads, then your goal will be to increase enquiries, appointment bookings or similar. It could be making a purchase or increasing the average order value on an e-commerce site.
Whatever the goal, the important thing to remember here is that it is an ongoing process. You can always get more page views/leads/orders from the traffic to a website.
Some examples of changes you could make are:
- making common actions (e.g. contact us/checkout) accessible from every page
- changing the colour/shape/size of a call-to-action button, its position or the space around it
- reinforcing calls-to-action buttons with links to the same destination in the text
- improving your messaging
- making delivery prices/hidden charges more obvious
- asking for less information on contact forms
- displaying social proof, such as reviews or testimonials, to the website
- allowing visitors on a mobile device to find your phone number easily and call it by clicking
- enabling customers to check out as a guest and sign up later, if they want to
- testing short and sweet copy against longer form text
- trying different imagery or video
- experimenting with live chat or a bot chat facility that helps to answer FAQs.
The list goes on. Whatever you decide to try, make sure you establish a baseline to compare your results with your baseline. It’s important to test changes and analyse the results. What works on one website won’t necessarily work on another. This way you’ll make decisions based on data, not opinion. Just be careful that you have enough data before you draw your conclusions – a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Improving the user experience
While usability and user experience are subjects in their own right, below are a few suggestions to help you provide a better user experience for your website:
- Ensure your logo always links to the home page (except on the home page and landing pages).
- Try to avoid drop down menus – instead stick to making the top-level pages clickable or adopt a mega menu.
- Fix broken links, no one likes seeing an error page!
- Put important information above the fold.
- Keep movement on the page and popups to a minimum so that visitors aren’t distracted and so they have impact when used.
- Try to avoid carousels where possible – users frequently ignore them or miss key messages.
- Help visitors feel at ease by adopting conventions – put your logo, menu, links to T&Cs and contact/business information where people are used to finding them on a website.
- Make the action you want people to take on each page obvious.
- Reduce the number of options available on each page to minimise cognitive load.
- Ensure it’s easy for someone to contact you if they get stuck or need help.
- Keep it consistent.
- Maximise site speed by using appropriately sized images.
- Minimise downtime by employing reliable website hosting to ensure a smooth experience.
One of my mantras for website work is from the name of a book on making websites more usable: Don’t Make Me Think. If you bear this in mind when using any website, it’s surprising how many issues you’ll find – try it!
If you can, ask three – five people who do not work at your company (and are preferably similar to your target audience) if you can watch them carry out a few tasks on a website. It can provide invaluable insight – especially if you ask them to think out loud whilst they do it.
What we’ve gone through here is just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless things you can do to improve your website, but I hope this should give you some food for thought.
A great place to start is looking at your competition’s websites and digital marketing. It can give you a window of insight into the issues their users face and how you can improve your website to sweep up the leads they miss out on!
Let us strip your competitors naked to reveal opportunities for your own website!