Have you ever had a website built and been disappointed by its performance? Or maybe you’ve had a website that once performed quite well but is no longer generating any sales?
If your website is not being used as one of the primary drivers of sales for your business you might have fallen into a trap.
Having worked on hundreds of websites and consulted with many business owners over the past 10 years I have noticed that most of the business owners that need help with their website generally fall into one of the following two traps:
1. The Knowledge Trap
In my experience a lot of new business owners lack of the importance of good quality website design and marketing. They often underestimate the power of a professionally-made website, often confusing low price with value and choose the cheapest website designer available.
What many new business owners fail to realize is that not all websites are created equal. Think of it this way: a Ferrari and a Fiat Punto are both cars, but which one is going to perform better? It’s the same with a website.
2. The Stagnation Trap
What worked for your website a couple of years ago will not necessarily work today. As more and more businesses are still just beginning to understand the importance of competing successfully online, the competition for visibility online has become fierce. Those that invest heavily in continually improving their website and digital marketing efforts are reaping the rewards, whilst those that stand still and stagnate are dying.
So whether you’ve had a website built that does nothing for your business, or you’ve noticed a significant drop in the performance of your website, there is hope. Below I’m going to highlight some of the key areas that you need to focus on and improve if necessary.
Everything we do online should be to facilitate Conversion Rate Optimization. Conversion Rate Optimization is how we convert website visitors into buyers, essentially turning a website into a sales machine. To achieve this you need four things, and if you get these right, you’ll notice a big difference in sales;
- a digital strategy
- a high quality website
- high quality traffic
- the ability to analyze data and improve
Here are the four ways to accomplish this in more detail:
1. Digital Strategy
Let’s be honest, when you started your business and had a website built did you have a digital strategy? If the answer is no, that’s okay, many people don’t start out with a digital strategy in place. But, it’s so important for the benefit of your business to really do your homework first.
When you started your business you would have had a business plan that gave you some direction, a roadmap for how you planned to grow your business in the short to medium term. Having a digital strategy is very similar, and it also provides insights into what the competition is like online and what you need to do online to achieve your goals.
The Benefits of Having a Digital Strategy
A good digital strategy will analyze your competitor’s online activity to see what they are doing right, and what they’re doing wrong. It will also provide details on what your customers are searching for online, and the volume of these searches locally.
When you understand what your customers and competition are doing online it makes it much easier to identify opportunities.
For example: let’s say you’re a plumbing company based in Dublin. Your first instinct would be to optimize your website for the keyword “plumber dublin”. However, this is not always the best course of action for two reasons; the first is that the competition for these keywords is extremely competitive and unless you’ve got a very large budget to invest in SEO you won’t stand a chance of getting your website listed. The second reason is that this is not always what your customers are typing into Google. Yes, “plumber dublin” is probably the most searched for keyword, but a lot of that traffic is poor quality, meaning the people searching “plumber dublin” could be looking for anything related to it, such as plumbing jobs etc. It’s just not specific enough, so the keyword intent is low.
On the other hand, if we identify a keyword of “local emergency plumber in Dublin 4” we know that these people are actively searching for a plumber in that area of the city, and have a very high chance of contacting you if they see your website, this means that the keyword intent is high. These type of keywords are known as long tail keywords and are very valuable to your business.
Key Tip: keyword intent is an indication of the intentions of a searcher and how likely they are to take action, ultimately leading to a conversion.
It’s often the case that it’s much easier to rank well on Google for long tail keywords because the competition is often doing it wrong and focusing on high volume keywords rather than keywords with lower volume but high buyer intent. So, by understanding what the valuable keywords are and how your competition is performing for those keywords you can quickly discover gaps in the market and opportunities to pull in some high quality traffic.
Once opportunities have been identified a digital strategy will outline a clear direction for capitalizing on those opportunities. This usually takes the form of a step by step guide in getting ranked for high value keywords and/or building advertising campaigns.
Whether you’re just starting out online or have had a website for years it’s never too late to create a digital strategy.
2. A High Quality Website
If you want a high quality website that actually has a noticeably positive effect on your business then you need to hire a high quality website designer, and they don’t come cheap. A professional website designer simply won’t work for low cost, they don’t need to.
In my own experience in Ireland, it can be difficult to find the right designer for the job and quality can vary. Many of my clients have had to use multiple designers, after bad experiences.
Some Tell-tale Signs of a Low Quality Website:
- High Bounce Rate. By looking at your Google Analytics stats you will notice if there’s a high bounce rate, and this usually means that most visitors to your website are leaving it immediately. (If you don’t have Google Analytics you need to get it set up, more on this later)
- High Cost Per Conversion. If you’re spending a fortune on advertising such as Google Ads and you’re not getting any leads or making sales, then this could be a warning sign that your website has issues.
Features of A High Quality Website
The hallmark of a good website designer is that they are fully focused on your business and will want to know everything about your target market. They will often refuse to build the website exactly the way you want it, because they are designing it for your target market. A high quality website is one that appeals to both your potential customers, as well as search engines. From a technical aspect here are some of the features of a high quality website:
- Responsive Design Your website should look great whether your customer is viewing it on a mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop. Responsive design means that your website adapts to the screen size it’s being viewed on, so that everything from text to graphics are in correct proportion. If your website is not responsive and visitors have to zoom in to read information then they won’t want to hang around, and this will seriously hurt your Google ranking. If you want to check how your website looks on various devices click here to use the Responsinator Tool.
- Easy to Make Contact Your website should have clear CTAs (calls to action). Website visitors should be able to reach you quickly and easily, there should be contact forms, and if they’re on a mobile device there should be Click To Call buttons only visible on mobile.
- Easy to Navigate. Your website should be well structured and easy for browsers to find the information they need quickly.
- Fast Loading. If your website is slow to load in a visitor’s browser, they won’t hang around and Google will punish you in the rankings. Anything more than two seconds is considered slow, and according to Google you should be aiming for half a second. If you want to check your website page speed click here to use the Pingdom Tools speed test tool.
- Unique Content. Your written content should be of the highest quality and be unique. Don’t repeat anything across pages, and never copy and paste from somebody else’s website. REF
- On-site SEO. It’s not just about what you see visually. It’s very important that your website code conforms to Google’s recommendations such as correct text to code ratio, proper tag attribution, and meta tags.
Important: make sure that you have an SSL Certificate installed on your website.
Consider Having Your Website Redesigned
If you suspect your website is letting your business down, then you may want to consider having it redesigned. When a website has either become outdated or was designed badly the best course of action is to scrap the old site and rethink it from scratch.
3. High Quality Traffic
There are many ways of generating high quality traffic to your website, such as Google Ads, SEO, Social Media, but to keep things simple I like to think of traffic as either Paid Traffic or Free (or Organic) Traffic. You can read an overview of the differences here.
I usually recommend advertising as a short-term solution for businesses that have either just launched their website, or are not listed well on Google, because it’s a quick way of getting customers. There are many ways to advertise online such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Pinterest Ads etc., but what platform you choose really depends on the type of business you have and your target market.
For example: let’s say that you run an eCommerce shop that sells shoes globally. It would be much more effective in terms of cost and engagement to run ads on Pinterest rather than Google Ads. Or conversely if you have a services-based business, (like a lawyer), you’ll want to run Google Ads locally.
Free (or Organic) Traffic
Okay, so it might not be completely accurate to say there’s a way of getting 100% Free Traffic, because it’s going to require an initial investment in the form of time or money (which in my experience is often the same thing). However, over the long term – long after you’ve put in the time and money and made your investment back – you’ll find that it keeps on paying off. So in that sense it’s essentially Free Traffic. Finding ways of generating Free Traffic is key to the long term success of your business.
Just like with Paid Traffic, there are many platforms that you can use to pull in Free Traffic, with the main ones being Google and Social Media.
Social Media can be a great way to drive awareness and engagement which can lead to sales but it does require a lot of time and energy to build up a sizable following. I usually recommend clients to create high quality content that’s relevant to their target market, and run ads just to get the ball rolling. Once you’ve built up a couple of thousand followers you should be able to switch your ads off and generate free traffic by continuing to create shareable/engaging content, either in the form of irresistible offers or news/media that resonates with your customers.
Important: you will need to use caution when using Social Media. It’s very important how you communicate your message, remember that you are entering a social space where people don’t want to be sold to. If you come across as a “pushy salesman”, people will see through it and show their displeasure. If you do have any negative interactions or disputes make sure to resolve them promptly and professionally. If you’re unsure about using Social Media, you should consider hiring a Social Media Manager with a strong track record in managing business profiles successfully.
And finally, my personal favorite for generating high quality free traffic; the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). There are two reasons why I like it so much: the first is that Google has the biggest market share, meaning the volume of people using it far outweighs any other platform. The second reason is that people are actively seeking services, or solutions to problems that you can solve.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization or SEO, is about optimizing your website so that it gets listed well on Google for valuable keywords relating to your business. To be considered “listed well” your web page needs to be listed on Page 1 at least, and ideally within the top three results for a given search query.
A good SEO strategy will consist of:
- Keyword Research. As mentioned previously in the Digital Strategy section, you will want to know not only the high volume search terms/keywords, but the high intent keywords. To find this data you will need to use the Google Keyword Tool from within the Google Ads Console.
- Keyword Optimized Content. Once you know what keywords you want your website to rank for, the next step is to create high quality content that indicates to Google that your page is related to those keywords. This can be achieved either through blog posts or on standard pages such as your services pages for example. The key here is relevancy, and quality. The more relevant your page is to the search term, the greater the chance Google will show it in the results; and the higher the quality in comparison to your competitors, the greater the chance you have of outranking them.
- On-site Optimization. Your website should conform to Google best practices by being well coded; that means using the correct mark-up, tags, and metadata throughout.
- Backlinks. Years ago backlinks were a hugely important ranking factor for any website, but in more recent years Google has been focusing on high quality content. After all, Google is where people go to find information and get answers, so if you can provide some well written content you have an excellent chance of bringing in organic traffic. This is great news, because getting high quality backlinks is not easy. Having said that, you should still undertake a link building strategy, but focus on the quality of the backlinks, not on their quantity. LINK
- Competitor Analysis. You should conduct an SEO audit of your top competitors to gain some insight into why they’re listing well on Google. Look at their backlinks to see if there are any websites that you could get some links from. Read their website content and check out their blog to see what they are doing right. By looking at your competitors closely you will find flaws in their SEO, or see that their website has technical errors or their content is average. These are opportunities for you to do better and beat them in the rankings.
4. Analyze and Improve
Without the ability to understand where our customers are coming from and how they are interacting with our website, we are in the dark. It’s not enough to have Google Analytics installed and only know how many visitors we are getting; we need to know where the valuable visitors, or conversions are coming from.
For example: imagine that your website received 20 hits/ visitors yesterday, and three people contacted your business. How do you know what 3 out of those 20 led to a conversion? Let’s say you did find out, and you discovered that 1 channel or keyword was responsible for bringing in 3 paying customers, and the other 17 were useless. You would want to focus on increasing visitors through that channel or keyword and therefore boost sales significantly. This is achieved with the help of tracking technology.
Website tracking technology works best in conjunction with PPC advertising campaigns. In the past Google Analytics used to provide more detailed information so that we could tell what organic keywords were leading to conversions, but unfortunately since 2011 Google has encrypted this data for privacy reasons, making it harder for us to understand how our organic traffic is converting. However, when used in combination with paid advertising we are able to see what ads are working best. This maximizes the effectiveness of our ad campaigns and reduces our ad spend.
Social Media Conversion Tracking
All Social Media advertising accounts like LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook now provide a tracking code, such as the Facebook Pixel. When you place this tracking code into your website code you can set up conversion tracking from within your advertising account. Depending on the platform you use there will be specific instructions provided on how to track specific events such as button clicks, add to cart etc.
Google Ads Conversion Tracking
Tracking conversions in Google Ads is best done by setting up Goals in your Google Analytics account, then finally link your Google Analytics account to your Google Ads account and importing the Goals back into Google Ads. This unifies your tracking between Google Analytics and Google Ads giving you a single source of truth when it comes to conversions.
Key Tip: after about 6 months of advertising you should begin to notice a pattern emerging, for example you might have 2 campaigns running with 5 ads in each campaign. You may find that only 2 of those 10 ads are actually leading to conversions. With this information you are able to make an informed decision and get rid of the ads that are costing you money but not paying off, and reallocate your whole budget on what is actually working. This can have a dramatic effect on sales.
To recap; If your website is not working for your business the key areas to focus on are; digital strategy, a high quality website, high quality traffic, and the ability to analyze data and make improvements. By having a digital strategy, we have a plan in place on how to achieve our goals. With a high quality website, we are ready to collect customers contact details. By driving high quality traffic that’s relevant to our business we have a much higher chance of getting leads and making sales, and by having the ability to understand exactly where that high quality traffic is coming from we can become laser focused on what is actually working best for our business.
Hopefully I’ve given you some helpful tips on what areas to focus on in order to get better results online. Depending on your knowledge of these subjects you may need to do some further research as I’ve only lightly touched on this.