Social media and paid search advertising are the sexy pieces to digital marketing. It’s where we get instant marketing gratification. We love it when someone ‘hearts’ our Facebook post and we can see it in real time. So we’re led to believe that that’s where we should be focusing our digital marketing efforts. As a result, we often overlook what’s going on with our website. Is our website serving its purpose of connecting with our audience? Is it creating more business for us? If not, we need to take a step back and determine what’s working and what’s not working on our website.
Put the Basic Tools in Your Toolbox First
Here’s the deal. It’s not the best use of your resources to spend time and money on social media and pay-per-click advertising, which drive traffic back to your website, until you have your website streamlined to get your visitors from entrance to conversion. You certainly don’t want to send people to a website where they are going to have a miserable experience and not find the information they are looking for.
So what can you do to ensure your website is working to get people through this process?
Determine Website Goals
Let’s think about what you’re trying to do with your website. Your website should be accomplishing at least one of three things for you:
- Generating traffic: Are you getting enough of the right kind of people to your website? The more traffic you get to your site, the more opportunity you have to woo your audience, create a lead and hopefully, convert a sale. Don’t forget to set goals for the quality of traffic as well. More people on your pages doesn’t always mean better. If you get 100 people to your website, but 100 of them are not in your target audience, that traffic is not going to result in a meaningful connection with that audience and, therefore, fewer sales.
- Generating conversions: Are your website visitors downloading your content, making purchases, completing lead generation forms, creating accounts or joining you on social media? Determine what actions you want people to take once they get to your website so you can measure whether or not your website is generating the number of conversions you need to be successful.
- Generating revenue: Not all websites are designed to directly generate revenue, but for those that are, you need to figure out if you are getting a return on your website investment. Otherwise, why bother?
In order to establish website goals, you may need to take a look at your current website analytics data. The idea here is to have a benchmark for where you are now with your website so you can set a realistic goal for where you want to be with your website moving forward.
The key to making your analytics review as efficient and meaningful as possible is to focus on just the specific key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with your goals. Additional analytics data can certainly be interesting, but will be a waste of your time if reviewing them doesn’t help you accomplish your goals.
Don’t forget that once your website is built, your website optimization efforts are far from done. You’ll want to continuously improve aspects of your website in order to create the best user experience possible. It’s always good to review your goals monthly, quarterly, biannually or annually to see if you are meeting your goals. Then find areas for improvement on your website and set new goals for the next reporting period.
Understand Your Audience
Part of your website analysis should be gaining some understanding of your audience. What are their demographics? What information are they looking for? What questions do they have? Where are they in their decision-making process? What challenges do they have? What delights them?
Among many other things, understanding your audience helps you organize the structure of your website in a way that is tailored to them. This will enable your users to quickly find what they are looking for. It helps you create content that answers their questions and lets them know that you have the solution to their problem.
Does an audience analysis sound daunting?
Start with identifying a few key audience personas. An audience persona is a description of an existing type of customer that can help you focus your marketing efforts. It is typically built using some market research and your experiences with your ideal customer base. Most companies usually have between three to six personas, depending on the type and size of the company. These personas can guide all of the decisions you make about your website and its content.
For example, if you own a shoe store, you might have a persona for long-distance runners. You might call this persona, “Melissa Marathoner.” When you’re struggling with a decision about how to organize your website or what kind of content to write, take a look at your persona profile for Melissa Marathoner and ask yourself, “What would Melissa think about this? Is this easy for her to find? Would she find value in this content?”
Create your first persona profile by interviewing your sales staff. Who are the types of customers they speak to most frequently? What kind of questions do they get most frequently from these people? Also, take a look at your analytics data again to see if you can find any common themes there.
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking your set of persona profiles needs to capture every potential type of customer. These are general descriptions of the most common types of customers you want to reach.
Create Relevant, Helpful, and Compelling Content
If design is the haute couture a website, content is the guts behind that masterpiece. Content is the reason people visit your website. They are looking for something specific to answer a question or provide a solution to a problem. Content can take many forms, from a page of helpful information, to blog posts, to infographics and videos and more. The point is that content is the substance people are looking for.
According to a 2016 report from Demand Gen, “Forty-seven percent of buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.”
Your content should be purposeful and must be user-centric. In other words, don’t just copy and paste a bunch of words from your company brochures. (Although, this can be a good place to start.) Does this piece of content answer a question for the user? Does it help them see that you have the solution to their problem? If not, considering strategically placing that content in your digital recycling bin.
Not sure where to start with your content? Here are some tips:
- Talk to your sales reps. They are often on the front line of hearing what challenges and problems your customers are having. If you can help answer common questions, you’ll be seen as a knowledgeable and trusted resource.
- Look at your analytics data. Do you see any common themes of keywords that people use in your on-site search? This is a great way to directly answer the questions that users most commonly have about your product or service.
- Browse LinkedIn Groups related to your product or service. What topics seem to be getting the most engagement? These are things that people want to know more about. If they are taking time out of their already busy schedules to read, like, comment or share something on social media, it’s an indication that they find value in this kind of content. These are road flares signaling that there is a need for information that you can potentially help fill. Make sure you do a quick review of the information that’s already available, though, and expand on it. What do you have to add to the mix that creates additional value for your users?
- See what’s trending. Is there anything currently trending on social media that relates to what you’re offering? If so, is it worth adding it to the content pipeline? (Just be careful with what’s trending on social. These trends can be short-lived, so you’ll have to be agile with this content.) Use resources like Google Trends, Hashtagify.com or Trendsmap.com to find out what’s popular.
Once you’ve figured out your content plan, make sure that you produce content that is compelling. People tend not to remember facts. They remember stories. Consider how you are telling your story. Does your content keep your audience engaged? Is it memorable? Find some more quick tips on storytelling.
Incorporate Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the amount of quality traffic to your website in order to improve your organic search rankings on search engines such as Google and Bing.
Again, the more exposure to your website from quality traffic, the more likely it is you will connect with a potential buyer and make a sale. According to Search Engine Journal, “SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.”
While nobody except those who work at Google know exactly what’s in Google’s search algorithm, it is believed there are well over 150 factors that go into how Google compares and ranks results in their search engine results page (SERP).
What this means is that you need to examine and update a number of elements on your website in order to ensure your pages rank at the top of the results list. Here are just a few of the places you’ll need to start with your SEO efforts.
- Keyword research: Utilize tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, SEMrush or Moz.com to find keyword phrases that people search for the most. You then need to incorporate these into targeted places on your website. Find out more about The Importance of Keyword Optimization.
- Domain/page authority and backlinking: How long your website domain has been around and the number of quality websites that link back to you has an impact on your search rankings. You’ll want to develop a plan for finding quality websites that you can contact to link back to your site to give you this authority.
- Site performance: Making sure your site loads quickly and correctly on both a desktop computer and mobile devices is another factor that is getting a lot of attention from search engines. More people are spending their time browsing the web on their mobile phones, so creating a good experience on mobile sends signals to search engines that you can deliver the content they need quickly and efficiently.
- Business listings: Claiming and fully completing your business listings with Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and other reputable directories and review sites is a signal to search engines that you are in fact who you say you are. This info, such as location and hours of operation, are some of the important tidbits people are often searching for. If you make it easier for the search engines to give this information to users, they will reward you for it.
Keep in mind that SEO is like chasing a moving target. As search patterns around the world evolve over time, so should your SEO efforts. You’ll need to maintain a list of up-to-date keyword phrases for which you can be consistently creating new content. You’ll also need to monitor your other SEO efforts to ensure your information is accurate and consistent as technology evolves.
Having these foundational website elements in place is a great first step to ensuring your website visitors have a good experience that you can build a long-term relationship around. Want to learn more? Attend one of our free Stellar Blue Workshops or contact us to help you get more traffic to your website and drive conversions.