Small businesses – Getting the most out of your website
I regularly work with clients who fail to realise that getting your website online is only the first step to success. To get traffic you need to market your site. To maintain traffic overtime you need good content. To get the most out of your users you need to improve usability and conversion rate.
There are proven ways of improving your site, most notably A/B testing but this comes at a cost. There are also some small inexpensive tweaks you (or your developer) can make right now. This article will focus on the latter.
Use landing pages to improve conversion rates and steer your users
If you’re selling services, or a product or if you’re trying to encourage a user to take a particular action then consider using landing pages. In a nutshell a landing page can be thought of as a standalone page, having a distinct purpose – such as selling a product, or getting the user on the phone. If you like examples, I use a landing page to sell my Laravel development services.
Landing pages help to keep users focused on what you want them to be focused on. They work particularly well when combined with paid advertisement services, such as Google Adwords. You create an advertisement such as ‘Nike trainers for sale’, and link the ad to a relevant landing page. The result being that the user lands on a relevant page encouraging them to buy Nike trainers. Makes perfect sense.
As mentioned earlier, the focus of the article is quick wins. I think landing pages fit firmly into this category since they can be put together within a handful of hours. Bear in mind though, that it may be worth spending a little extra to get detailed performance reporting enabled on your landing page/s. This comes at an extra cost, but it allows you to see which landing pages are working, and more importantly which advertisements are working. It’s possible to retrieve this data from Google analytics and similar services, but it will take your developer a couple of hours to configure (if you’ve not had it configured previously).
PPC advertising, or Pay-per-click advertising is a marketing technique used widely on the web. In a nutshell, you select a bunch of terms and place a bid per-click on these terms. When a user clicks the advertisement you are charged the amount specified by your bid. It’s worth noting that PPC works for some businesses and not for others, so it might be worth a small, measured investment initially.
Getting setup with a Google Adwords account is pain-free, and you can often get £75 free credit to play around with. Again you generally want to setup analytics so that you can see how each term converts, but this will come with development costs. Initially, you could simply invest a small amount and measure any increase in sales against your investment. This strategy is obviously not encouraged long-term, but in the spirit of listing ‘quick wins’ it’s definitely worth a mention.
It’s no big secret that people love convenience. And in my opinion, convenience is even more important online. If you can offer a more convenient service than your competitors then you’re onto a winner.
It’s completely anecdotal, but I was recently shopping around for Conveyancing quotes. I found 3 companies I was interested in, all offering similar rates. The difference? One of the companies offered a seamless online purchase process. On top of that they offered a dashboard whereby I would be regularly updated and where I could upload any proof/documentation required. Nice. Convenient. No points for guessing which service I chose.
Give some thought to some of your customer interaction processes, can they be automated or digitised in any way? If anything comes to mind, get in touch I’d love to offer some advice on what can be done.
Simplify your navigation
Navigation is arguably the most important feature of your website. Without it your users are unable to freely roam your site and as such it’s important to get it right. Rather than waffle on about the ins-and-outs, here’s a little check list to run though.
- Is prominent – strong colours and placement.
- Is well located (generally top of the page, or left hand column for certain layouts).
- Is consistent – displayed in the same place, using the same layout on each page.
- Adjusts for mobile devices.
- Adheres to expectations – selected page is highlighted, cursor changes on hover, item changes on hover.
- Navigation text has a strong contrast with background colours.
- Drop-down menus are not too large, or too small – use common sense here.
- Breadcrumbs included – not necessarily needed, but useful if your site has a complex/deeply nested structure.
These are all fairly straightforward and definitely qualify as quick wins.
It’s important that you have relevant internal links within your content. If you have related pages on your site, consider including relevant organic links between the pages. This helps users navigate your site and it also helps with SEO.
You can see an example of interlinking content on my PHP services page. If you take a quick look, you’ll see links through to the specific service pages where further detail is available. Try to keep these links relevant and natural. Randomly adding links will only serve to annoy your users, and no doubt Google too.
Internal links are most useful for establishing site architecture and spreading link juice (URLs are also essential).
I’ll admit I’m stretching the definition of a quick win with this one since it’s more of an ongoing task, but it should only require a couple of hours per month to achieve the bare minimum. By staying fresh I mean adding new content to your site. You should also audit your site occasionally, making sure all pages and details are current.
It’s important to note that adding low quality content on a regular basis is of little benefit. It needs to be good quality. That’s how you attract and retain users. That’s how you gain internal links and improve your SEO. A regularly updated blog is how most companies stay fresh. Your blog should be relevant – try posting about current and trending topics – and should be updated regularly, a general rule of thumb would be once or twice a month.
If you write the content yourself, I’d advise using services such as BuzzSumo to generate ideas. Simply run a quick search using some keywords relevant to your business and then limit results to the past month. From this you can identify topics/subjects that have been shared most frequently and from that should come content ideas. This is how you stay relevant.
Don’t forget to share your posts on social media too.
Page load speed has an effect on your bounce rate, user retention rates and on your SEO rating. Again, I may be stretching the definition of a quick win since it’s really dependent on your site, the software you use and your hosting package. It’s definitely worth getting in touch with a developer to see what they can do though. In some cases a quick server configuration change, or a minor change to a database table can have a drastic impact on the performance of your website.
With that said, to get things moving, here are a couple of suggestions :
- Use Cloudflare CDN – they offer both premium and free packages.
- Use Pingdom to identify performance issues
- Reduce the number of HTTP requests by merging images into an image sprite.
- Have your developer review MySQL table indexes
- Have your developer run profiling on your application to identify the main issues.
- Enable HTTP caching.
- Compress your images – if you use wordpress check out Smush.
Depending on how technical you are, most if not all of these will require the help of a Developer. The good news is that the majority of the tasks should be minor and definitely qualify as quick fixes.
Image thanks to SEL
It’s 2016. Your website should be mobile friendly by now. Again, I know I’m stretching the ‘quick wins’ definition. But this is too important to leave out. Just look at the stats above. Mobile users are now converting better than traditional PC users. It’s clear that without mobile support your conversion rates and user retention rates are going to suffer. Not to mention your SEO ratings.
Starting April 21, 2015, Google Search will be expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in Google Search results
Given the above, it’s important that Google recognises your site as being mobile friendly. Luckily they do provide a scanner which you can use to determine your sites status. If your site is not mobile friendly, you can find more information here. Or you can always get in touch for some advice.
In terms of quick wins, I think I’ve covered the most important points. If you’re interested in having a more thorough review of your site though, please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.