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If you have a small business, you probably have a website. How much of your business is driven by your website is another matter entirely. If you polled small business owners, you would find that a great many of them would like to see their website performing better; after all who doesn't want more customers calling, clicking, or emailing them. Many business owners have put time and resources into building a site only to be disappointed by the outcomes. To many it may seem like a mystery why some sites generate a lot of business, and while others may be completely ineffective.
While there are many very specific reasons why a website could be underperforming, it really boils down to one of a few major problems. These problems can be difficult to detect because we are too close to our websites, and may find it difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of a perspective customer. It might help to ask friends or family to look critically at your site to see how you’re doing in these areas.
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it stands to reason that a site that has little traffic will consistently underperform. “If you build it, he will come” may have worked in ‘Field of Dreams’, but it doesn't really apply in everyday life. We can’t just build a site, and hope that because of the enormity of the internet, a lot of people will stumble across your website, and your business will skyrocket.
Google are the gatekeepers of the digital universe, or at leas so it seems. Google processes more than 3 billion search requests every day. Most of us use google as part of our everyday lives, whether we’re looking for a new dentist, or we’re looking for directions to that new Thai restaurant, or if we’re just looking for stupid cat videos. The question is whether people using Google to search for a product or service your provide will every land on your page.
When small businesses build websites, they are usually trying to do so on a limited budget. If you are trying to get a website built for bottom dollar, SEO would be an easy thing to reprioritize. We tend to focus on the aesthetics of our sites, and on features that will make for a great user experience for our visitors. SEO is one of those things that can cost a lot of money, and doesn't make a visible difference to the site. If you depend on your website to draw in business, SEO is worth the investment. With millions and millions of websites out there, you have to make sure that yours doesn't just fade into the background.
Less common than poor (or non-existent) SEO, but still a problem for some is their security. If I do a search on Google, and a result has a warning saying that Google suspects that the site may have been hacked, and that malicious malware may be running on the site, I’m skipping that search result, and moving down the list.
If I am paying for a product or service, and am providing my personal or financial information, I may be looking to see that a site is using an encrypted connection to ensure that my data doesn't fall into the hands of cyber-criminals. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connections are important for any site that collects user or financial data. When you click on your address, do you see the green lock icon, or the letters https:// before the address. Consider getting encryption for your site. Even if you don’t need it, it could be good to have, and there are services such as “Let’s Encrypt” which will allow you to get certificates for free.
Good things come to those who wait…. It’s a statement that hold truth, but not, it seems, with websites. People expect sites to load quickly. Bargain basement hosting and bloated image files can kill the performance of your site, and keep people from ever seeing your site. If a page takes more than a few seconds to load, that back button starts to look very interesting, especially to a generation who seems to have the collective attention span of a gold fish. Make sure that your site can load in a reasonable amount of time.
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It may surprise you to find out that studies tell us that website visitors place a higher premium on being able to find information than on how a site looks. I suppose that makes sense, since your really go on a site to find information, rather than to be wowed by a web designer’s mad design skills, but historically websites have placed a high value on aesthetics, at the expense of ease of use. That’s not to say that we should make our sites ugly, or nondescript, but that we want to make sure that we consider how the visitor consumes content.
Put an emphasis on creating an easy path on your pages, and in your navigation. A walk along a path is more pleasant than one through a maze. White spaces are important. If a site is too dense a visitor may just tune the whole thing out. having a logical flow to the site’s navigation will also make it easier for people to find what they are looking for. I hate it when I visit a site, and to find what I am looking for I have to go through several levels of sub navigation, using fly-out menus. You move the cursor off the menu, and you have to retrace your steps. Put some thought into what your sales funnel looks like; does your site make it easy for someone to land on your page, find the product or service that is right for them, sign up or purchase?
If your site is not mobile friendly, it should be. More and more traffic is going mobile, and we need to adapt or be left behind. If someone lands on your site from their phone, and they still getting a great user experience, optimized for their device’s screen size? If text is too small to read, or links are too small to click on without a lot of pinching and scrolling, then you’re throwing away an ever-increasing segment of your potential market. A website that isn’t responsive is very hard to navigate, and visitors will likely abandon your site for one that is more accessible.
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So what if traffic is getting to your site, and they are able to find what they are looking for. Are they going to keep coming back and become repeat business?
We want people to come back to our site over and over again. Our website, like our business is a living thing, not a monument to what our business was last month, or last year. Many business owners would love to build a site, and then not touch a thing for 3-5 years. Other business owners understand the value of having people visit their site on a regular basis.
In the old days, keep a website up to date was a major task. If even a minor change had to be made, a web designer would have to delve into the code, make a change, go to an FTP client, and remove and replace the old files. Today, many sites are based on Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress. CMS based websites allow a website to be much more dynamic in nature. Content can be added easily, and pages can change automatically to display the newest content. Features like blogs allow business owners to create content that delivers value to visitors, and can help draw potential customers to your site.
The importance of social media in today’s digital marketplace could be a post unto itself (or a book), but it is important to say that your customers are on social media. Your business should leverage platforms like Facebook, twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest to sell your products and engage with your target audience. Facebook posts and tweets are a great way to link to your site, providing special offers or useful content. YouTube is a great way to demo your products or services. The more of a community you can create around your brand, the more people will be engaged. Customers who are engaged with your company will provide repeat business, and word-of-mouth advertising.
Have you ever been on a website, and you’re considering buying, or signing up, but there is no clear way to do so? It makes no sense, but it happens more than you thought. Imagine a sales man making a sales call to a potential customer. He or she lays out all the products and services that his or her company can provide, and then runs out the door, without asking the customer if they would like to buy anything. It’s crazy, right? Websites need clear calls to action. We can ask ourselves what the next step that we want the customer to take is. It may not be a sale, but it may be providing information via a landing page, or an email opt-in. We want visitors to understand the next step, so they can take it if they are ready, rather than having to look around to try and find it.
I’ll give you an example. I use a Macintosh computer. If I go to Apple’s website and look at the new MacBook Pro, I can see all the specs, and the features. Right at the top is a “Buy” button. I don’t have to leave the page and go into the store and find the product there in order to purchase it. I can see it, make a decision that I want to buy it, and within a click I’m adding it to my cart.
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We all want to see a better return on investment from our websites and digital marketing efforts. Hopefully by considering some of the points in this post you can try and come up with a stagey to help you make your site and your business more successful. If you want some help implementing the strategies discussed in this article, feel free to give contact us, and let us know how we can help you.
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If you've got a website for your business, or need a website, and we can be of assistance, please contact us and let us know how we can help your business succeed.
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