Focus on User Experience 1st & Design 2nd
Over the last two plus years we have audited over 400 websites. These audits have been performed for prospects who have different things in mind:
- They need SEO help
- They're interested in our inbound marketing services
- They may be contemplating a website redesign
Whatever their reasons, they don't believe their business website is performing to their expectations. Through most of these audits we find three glaring errors that are very common. These common website errors lead to poor results. I am going to share these with you today and how to correct them.
Before you scroll down to the 3 Mistakes You Might Be Making, I would highly recommend that you truly understand what your goals are for your website.
What is the end game that is going to drive
more profitable revenue for your business?
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR BUSINESS WEBSITE?
Most people just want more phone calls or to have more people to show up at their business location to buy a particular product. There is a problem with this mentality though, and that is an old way of doing business.
Today's website visitors want information and they want it quickly. They are comparing your information to that of your competitors. Many times this happens before they even look at your pricing.
So, if you are looking to improve your website think about this:
- How can you turn a website visitor - a stranger - who is not ready to purchase into a lead?
- Further, how do you get that lead into your sales funnel so you can convert them to a customer at a later date?.
This is the new way of thinking and a competitive advantage especially if your in an atiquated industry. Do you have a sales funnel? Do you even consider your website visitors to be leads?
DESIGN AND BRAND STANDARDS
Mistake #1: Putting Design First
This is usually the first and only step that a buisness owner thinks about when they are contemplating a website redesign or a site for their new business. Rightfully so. A company's brand is very important, but it is our job as marketers to understand there is more to a website than just design.
Before you start down the path of creating a new website you first must layout your branding standards. Also think forward to the conversion pathway, as you will need to design CTA's (call to action buttons), landing pages and thank you pages in order to nurture your leads through the sales funnel.
The design choices should be left up to the graphic designer or the business owner. All parties involved should conduct research with existing customers, the sales team, and a marketing agency to obtain feedback. The decisions you make about your design and branding standards now will spill over from your website:
- Into your marketing and collateral materials,
- Onto your sales team,
- In your company culture, and
- Most importantly these choices will affect your existing customers and prospects.
As an example we have done quite a few website redesigns and audits for limousine companies over the last couple of years. The vast majority of them have a black background with white or gray text. Even though the limousine industry utilizes black cars and their chauffeurs dress in all black suits, we would not recommend using a black background because this makes it very difficult to read the text on the site and therefore increases your bounce rate.
You could easily use black as a secondary or accent color and use a light gray as the background color with a back Arial or Serif font to make the text easy to read for the visitor.
This is exactly why you need to let data and your customers assist you through the design process.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Mistake #2: Relying on Your Web Designer for SEO
What's the point of having a website if no one can find it?
Most web designers will tell you that your site is designed for SEO. They might think that it i. However, it usually isn't and that is why your rankings are suffering. It's not the designer's fault, so please don't hold it against them. They just aren't focused on the area of search engine optimization which requires constant education.
Your designer wants the website to look awesome. That's why you hired them right?
Well, what happens when the images they have used on your website are not compressed and your page load speed is slow? Your bounce rate increases because visitors don't want to wait for 4-5 seconds. Google also takes notice of pages with slow load speeds.
Here is a list of basic SEO items to address with your site, but keep in mind this is basic...
- Image size - As mentioned above your page load speed is very important to the user experience. The majority of your images should be less than 100kb which means they need to be compressed before they are uploaded to your file manager. This can be done via Yahoo's smushit.com for free.
- Clean URLs - Your URL structure needs to be clean and designed not to duplicate. Many designers like to use a structure like www.abc.com/php/home. This is not a clean URL. It should be www.abc.com/home. Secondly be sure to use - and not _ for your longer URL extensions. Lastly, if at all posible, use your pages primary keyword in the URL for each page, just be sure to keep it relevant to the on-page copy and, once again, don't duplicate.
- Duplicate Content - This is a big issue in Wordpress. Many designers are using the built in tagging system for each page and not just for blog articles. Here is an example of how duplicate content is created by a bad URL structure - www.abc.com/news/i-love-abc. The www.abc.com/news is hosting the content on a page and the www.abc.com/news/i-love-abc is also hosting the same content on another page creating duplicate content. Duplicate content is not good and needs to be removed. It weighs down your website and Google frowns not only upon heavy websites, but duplicate content as well.
- On-Page SEO - I am going to put all of this under one heading because this is very basic stuff that every designer should know. It all starts with your URL and then migrates to your Title tag, and then onto your Header tags. Ideally, your website should have one (1) H1 tag per page using a keyword phrase. Then, you should have up to six (6) H2 tags per page using a keyword phrase. Every image on your website needs to have ALT Text so search engine bots crawling your site can see the image and also provide SEO for Google image searches. All of these items factor into the keyword density for each page. keep your keywords below 5% of the total word count per page so you don't get slammed for keyword stuffing.
- Meta Description - Even though there is little to no SEO benefit to meta descriptions any longer these are crtical to "sell" the person conducting a search to click on your link. This is your "elevator pitch" for each page so be sure they are powerful and unique to entice a visitor to click.
- Schema Markup - Schema is critical for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to better understand the content on your website. It is relatively new for designers, but experienced marketer's and SEO's know exactly how to implement a schema map.
- Name, Address, Placement - Referred to as NAP by SEO's, include your local address, local phone number, and a link to your local address on Google Maps on each page of your website. This can easily be added to the footer of your website. It's also a good idea NOT to use an 800 number or add a company that builds duplicate landing pages from your site for lead generation. Different phone numbers and company names will not only confuse your search results, but your visitors.
- Local Links - If you're trying to rank locally then be sure to create links to local businesses that have a high page authority. This will help with your local placement as the search engines will see these local citations.
Mistake #3: Not focusing on the User Experience and Conversion Path
The most important page on your website is not the homepage, but the 2nd page that a visitor clicks to. This is why optimizing the conversion path is extremely important to a well designed website. Keep in mind in the design process that you only have 5-8 seconds to convince a visitor to click a link to take the next step. So make it as clear as possible.
Optimizing the conversion should really start when you layout your site map prior to starting wireframes. This can be done in a spreadsheet or graphically. The key to success it determining your most important pages and making sure they can be reached within one click. These could be landing pages, product pages, squeeze pages, or even informtational pages.
There is no right or wrong selections for your "2nd page conversions", but there is better or worse.
This is where your sales model comes into play. If you have a sales team or the ability to nurture your leads then you may want tp focus on landing page conversions. If your an ecommerce company then driving visitors to highest margin or most popular products would be a good choice.
With our site, we use our blog pretty heavily to send visitors to landing pages. (Notice above we have included two CTA's to landing pages.) We have tested both long format and short form landing pages over the years and our metrics dictate that we have an average conversion rate of 32% on short form versus 19% on long form, so we now try to consistently use a short form for all of our landing pages, unless we are running an A/B test with a new landing page.
Focusing on the user experience should be the first step then you can focus on design to surround this path.
Things to think about...
- Where will your primary CTA be placed?
- Will a CTA be placed in the header or will we be using Hello Bar?
- What are your top 5 entry pages to the site? Do you have CTA's on these pages? If not, where should they go?
- How many pages can a visitor access from the top entry pages?
- Is your primary navigation easy to use and understand for customers?
- What are your top 5 exit pages and how can you optimize them better for the user?