Is your website as effective as it should be? Is your website an asset and works for your brand or does it work against? Does your website create the right impression on your target audience or does it turn them off? What can you improve about your website that will enhance your brand value and convert customers?
These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself about your business website. Any business that has a website should make sure that it works in favor of the brand and not against it.
In this article, we explore the various areas of your website to audit it for effectiveness. After evaluating our current site’s effectiveness in areas such as its design, navigation, content quality, search engine optimization, role in digital marketing campaigns, reporting, content management and functionality, we’ll have a clear understanding of our website’s effectiveness and if required make changes or modifications to improve the website.
After reading this article you will be empowered to make your website a powerful and dynamic brand asset!
We will address the following questions about your business website:
Does your website play a part in your marketing?
Does your website look professional and match your brand?
Does your website have the right kind of content?
Is your website modern and standards-compliant?
Is your website found in search engines?
Does your website have the right navigation?
Can you easily manage your website and update it frequently?
Does your website play a part in your marketing?
A well-designed website with rich content can become a marketing vehicle and generate leads and help convert them into customers. Even if you are not selling your products or services directly on your website, you have to consider your website a part of your marketing efforts.
We start with this question even before the design or content issues because every website should be created to support a marketing strategy. The effective components of a website that support effective marketing campaigns are:
This is the cornerstone of any online marketing strategy. Building an email list should be one of the fundamental objectives of your website. Evaluate your website to see if you have an effective system to capture email address of your website visitors. Do you have a robust email newsletter marketing campaign? Just make sure that you do not abuse your permission based email list.
Building an email list if not just for potential sales down the line. It is also for propagating your brand an spreading the word about your products, services and your brand culture.
Organic Search Marketing
Of the 10 ways you can pull traffic to your website, organic search is the most efficient and rewarding way. Using search engines such as Google to get a steady stream of traffic is another pillar of an awesome marketing strategy and your website should be capable and ready to market your business online.
Evaluate your traffic from your Google Analytics to understand where your website visitors are coming from and what keywords they are searching for before arriving at your site. Keyword analysis is fundamental to optimizing your website and increasing your Google rankings. Evaluate your keywords density and work towards having a healthy balance of keywords in your website content.
Evaluate your overall navigation and page architecture. Are your pages linked optimally? Are all important pages reachable with in two clicks? Check your page titles. Are they descriptive? Do they have the keywords that are important to your brand and your business? Of course, do be careful not to be overzealous and step into the dark realm of black hat SEO. Be sure to read the horror stories of how websites get penalized due to using black hat techniques.
Getting tons of traffic from Google is not only possible but also cost way less than generating traffic from paid advertising. Of course if you have the budget then you can also make paid search work for you. Organic search traffic is cheaper in terms of investment but of course it takes time and effort to build a healthy stream of visitors to your website.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is a fantastic way of promoting your brand and build a loyal community of audience. While I will not go into the details of how to build your social media strategy campaigns (there are plenty of such articles on our blog), I will enumerate the list of items you need to evaluate to ensure your website is ready for social media marketing and to take advantage of the power of social media channels.
While your social media channels should be branded consistently, your website should also align out your social media channels. Make sure your pages and posts have share icons and buttons to make it easy for your website visitors to help promote your website. Include plenty of social proof on your pages. Every social media element of your website should help strengthen your brand.
Also, ensure that you create targeted and dedicated landing pages for each of the social media channels. Do not send all your visitors to the home page. Instead, create separate landing pages for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and so on. Craft your messages on these pages to relate to the kind of visitors coming from each of these channels and speak to them directly. You will have a better chance of converting your traffic and create brand loyalty.
Does your website look professional and match your brand?
A poorly planned and executed design can kill your website. Lack of creative direction cues, too nay call to action buttons, too many images and or videos, usage of too many colors and fonts and other factors can make your website ineffective in your marketing endeavors and fail to attract and convert your target audience.
Wether you are creating a website from scratch or using a template, make sure you are not making these top 10 website design mistakes:
- Having poor branding – a great logo design placed perfectly on your website is the starting point. Your corporate colors used judiciously is the next step. Having a clean and usable design is the foundation for a successful website.
- Having poor navigation – great navigation will make important content on your website available and accessible. Poor navigation will confuse your site visitors and hide content from search engines.
- Lack of white space – do not feel compelled to cram information, text, images or call to actions into every nook and cranny of your website. Let your website breathe with plenty of white space.
- Use of flash, bling and gimmicks – a lot of websites have unnecessary flash intros, flashing buttons, gimmicky scroll effects and other fancy stuff that make for poor usability. Such things also effect the website speed and may have a negative effective on your search engine rankings.
- Use of jargon – focus on delivering a clear message to your website audience. Always remember that they may not know all the industry jargon and tech talk.
- Too long page URLs – having great page titles is good. But this does not mean your page URLs should also have all the words of your page title making them too long. They not make for a messy look when you are sharing links but also may appear spammy to search engines.
- Too much advertising – having too many adverts (both internal and external) should be avoided. Even if you are depending on ad revenue from our website, limit the number not only for visitor usability but also for search engines (Google does not rank well pages with too many adverts in top fold)
- Too many stock photos – resist the temptation to use too many stock photos that look generic and end up looking the same as other websites. For instance, instead of using a photo of shaking hands to represent partnership, go for an unique photo of a man playing a violin to represent the partnership between the man and his instrument.
- Using frames – that is so old fashioned. Frames do not work on mobile devices and mobile apps and the impression your site visitors get is one of staleness and that you don’t care about your brand.
- Confusing contact information – resist the temptation to have a fancy contact page with a map that does not scale well or does not work well on a mobile device. Keep it simple and easy to use.
- Confusing call to actions – try to minimize your call to actions on any give page. Especially on the home page and any landing pages you may have. Try to keep your call to action to 1 or 2. You do not want your visitor to see or so a lot of things on your website. Plan your website strategy to have a funnel with one or two call to actions.
Does your website have the right kind of content?
Content Marketing is a strategy that is at the core of Inbound Marketing and Brand Immersion Marketing methodologies. It lays the foundation for attracting visitors to your website, nurture them into leads and ultimately convert them into customers.
If your website does not have the right kind of content then all your marketing efforts to drive traffic got your website will be in vain. It would be well worth the time invested in creating an content marketing strategy even before you start getting your website designed and developed. Your content could be the most important factor that your site visitors are not converting.
Here are the main components of a robust content marketing strategy:
Your blog is the foundation of a robust content marketing strategy. It not only gives you a platform to showcase your authority in your field, but also keeps your website fresh which keeps Google coming back to your website and ranking you higher.
The key to a powerful blog is the motto “quality over quantity”. Although it would help greatly to posting fresh content on a regular basis (perhaps 2-3 times a week), you mist ensure that the content you do post is of high quality and useful to your readers. Do not fall into the trap of posting articles on your blog just for the sake of posting. You will find many blogs with article upon article of poor content written by freelancers who charge a few bucks for a 500 word post.
eBooks & Literature
One of the best ways to build your authority in your industry is to create ebooks and let your site visitors download them in exchange for an email address. This would help greatly towards building your email list. eBooks are generally simple PDF files that contain useful information that help your target audience solve a problem.
They are not sales brochures and should not be used to promote your products or services. Instead, they should be packaged full of useful information. This helps build a deeper relationship with your site visitors and help build brand loyalty.
For example, on our SpellBrand website, we offer an eBook titled “The Ultimate Guide To Successful Branding In The Inbound Age” which is chock full of ideas and tips on building a robust brand.
Just make sure that you invest in the design of the ebook cover as well as how the information is presented inside the ebook.
Podcasts & Audio Content
Podcasts are a fantastic way to build an audience around your brand and to promote your business. Again as with eBooks, they are not sales tools and should not be used purely to promote your products or services.
Audio is an easy way to create a personal connection with your site visitors. You can also reach a wider audience by placing your podcasts on 3rd party platforms such as iTunes, Speaker and so on. Plan our a podcast series related to topics that your potential customers may find useful or interesting. Write a simple script and then record an audio of yourself or one of your company team members reading that script. As you gain more experience you can actually freestyle.
You do not need to spend a ton on audio recording equipment. You can use a simple headphone set connected to your computer and record using a free recording software (Google to find a ton of free recording software). Post the audio file on your website and also upload to the popular podcast platforms.
One of the most effective content tools out there is video content. Youtube is the second larges search engine and you can drive a boatload of traffic from Youtube to your website through instructional, informational or entertaining videos. Depending on your industry and market segment, you can create videos that teach and explain. You can create videos that showcase your brand’s personality.
As with podcasts, you do not need expensive equipment to record your videos. Most smartphones have pretty good HD cameras in them. Start off with your phone. Just make sure you have plenty of lighting and you are presentable. Record your videos, analyze them, find ways to improve and then record more. Rinse and repeat and before long you will have videos that not only look professional but also connect with your audience.
You can drive a lot of traffic to your videos by following a few simple rules of video SEO. Here is a link to a beginners guide to making videos.
Is your website modern and standards compliant?
To help search engines rank your website highly and to convert your site visitors, your website should be modern and created with standards compliant code. Pay particular attention to high converting landing pages and ensure that you keep these pages highly optimized and well coded.
Here are 10 ways to optimize your website:
- Get rid of unnecessary code
- Use HTML code wherever possible
- Avoid Flash and Ajax
- Link your internal pages well
- Rewrite URLs to be short, friendly and memorable
- Use user friendly link text
- Do not use tables in the code – use DIVs
- Reconsider your keywords (and do not stuff)
- Do not cannibalise your content
- Update your content regularly
Create Websites for scanning
With so much information available in the Internet and so little time, it is understandable that many people do not thoroughly read the contents of our websites. We simply skim and click once we find the keywords or phrases that we’re looking for.
Except for content-based websites like news, thesis or product specifications, this idea holds true. There are many eye-tracking studies to support this claim and the most famous one is the F-shaped pattern of reading.
There are many reasons why we skim websites. Of course, time is a strong factor. The Internet is founded on the idea of getting information faster to save time. In most cases, we visit websites because we’re interested in some part of a page. It can be a phone number, business address, items on sale or perhaps the buy button. Besides, we are all natural scanners as we tend to do them in almost everything we read like brochures, magazines, and books.
Knowing how the mind works give the advantage to develop a more effective web layout for our target market. Since it’s our natural tendency to skim, it is but logical to develop a site that will encourage us to do that. Here’s a clear example of what I’m talking about.
The front page is not too wordy and we used large icons to capture the attention of every visitor. All the users have to do is point and click. No need to muddle through various links and pages. The simplicity of choices will help increase conversion and minimize confusion. This web design doesn’t let the customers think too much for everything is laid out for them.
Of course, web layouts vary from business to business depending on the needs and wants of the clients. But the essence of creating something simple yet effective is evident across our portfolios.
Are You Killing Your Website with Bad Design?
When designing your small business website, what looks pretty isn’t always what will convert the best. Here are some common ways you could easily kill your website with bad design without even realizing it:
Don’t use any directional cues.
Myth #1: Directional cues don’t really work – they are something designers and marketers made up to sound smart.
That would be incorrect. Directional cues, things like body language, eye direction, and arrows, all help guide the visitor’s eye around a webpage. Use them to point your visitors to the most important elements on your page (a video, your call to action button, a contact form and so on.)
Include a lot of competing call-to-action buttons.
Myth #2: You want your visitors to take action on your site. The best way to do this is to make sure you have a lot of different calls-to-action on each page, right? After all, not everyone will be interested in the same thing, so variety must be the key to increased conversions.
It’s true that not every call-to-action will be strong and compelling to the majority of your visitors. However, you should not include competing for calls-to-action on a page. Instead you should a/b test your calls-to-action to find out what the highest converting one is.
Including competing calls-to-action will only confuse your visitors and decrease your conversion rate. Visitors need to be focused in on one thing. By placing two (or more) different offers on the same page you include the opportunity for hesitation and lost conversions.
Add in many pictures and videos.
Myth #3: Pictures and videos play important roles on a website; however, the key is balance. Including too many pictures and videos can be distracting and remove focus from your call-to-action.
Pictures and videos should reinforce the call-to-action and never detract from it. Make sure all visuals on your site are relevant and serve a purpose (remember: eye gaze and body language in images work as directional cues).
Purposeful pictures and videos include testimonials, product demonstrations, a tour of facilities and so on. They all work to encourage conversion.
Use a lot of different colors.
Myth #4: This isn’t the 1940s, right? So why should everything be in black and white? It shouldn’t, but the use of color should serve a purpose. Use color to point out specific areas of your site that will help convert visitors.
For example, making your call to action button a color (like bright orange) helps it stand out (unless your site uses a lot of orange colors). The use of headlines in an eye-catching color pulls readers into the important copy.
The user of color all over your site with no purpose is only a distraction. This particularly happens when the project team members have conflicting ideas about the use of color.
I wouldn’t exactly say use color sparingly, but I would say use it where appropriate.
Leave a lot of space for copy.
Myth #5: Words, words, words. You need them to describe your product or service, so your website should be full of copy. Wrong.
Just like with pictures and videos you want to have a nice balance and use copy with purpose. Say what you need to say with as little words as possible.
And follow advertising genius, David Olgivy’s advice, and favor clarity over creativity. If your visitors don’t know what you’re trying to say with your fancy and fun words they won’t convert.
Give it to ‘em straight.
What design rules do you follow when designing or evaluating websites? Leave a comment below!
Your website user experience is a critical part of your marketing strategy and as such a lot of thought and effort should go into making sure it is at its best. Your website should not only attract the right kind of visitors but also convert them to be your brand followers. If you are selling your products or services through your website then your website should convert the site visitors into customers – conversion rate should be the sole purpose of your website.
This article is one of the lessons from my Ultimate Brand Builder Course. By completing the course you will have built a robust and stunning brand that will be poised to attract your target audience and dominate your market space.