05 Oct 5 Essential Focus Areas for Your Website
Like it or not, your business website has to be part of your content marketing strategy. Make it original and populate it with high-quality content, and all you have to do is wait for the clicks and then the money will start rolling in.
That might work for a week or two, but in today’s digital world, things move quickly. Your competitors are continuously improving their websites to try to outrank you in the search engine results pages. So the obvious answer is…you have to improve too.
We won‘t bore you with the stuff you already know. In 2016, websites must be responsive, load pages quickly, feature original content of varying lengths, contain all the appropriate tags, be subject to periodic SEO – you’ve heard all of this before. But what’s really keeping visitors interested these days?
We’re glad you asked – please read on.
Focus on Visuals
Statistics show that people still want long content when seeking information, but save your keystrokes for specific internal web pages. For homepages or anywhere else visitors might land, think visuals. One of the coolest trends so far in 2016 is full video backgrounds. This is a great showcase for products like watches, clothing, automobiles, anything outdoors, and anything related to sports (cue the hang gliding video!) With a little more creativity you can set the proper mood to sell financial services, home improvement, repair contracts – you name it. Marketers know people are visual, so don’t be bashful about giving them a total visual experience to remember.
If your product or service isn’t conducive to displaying on video, you can still provide images, just blow them up! Wall to wall images stretch the entire width of a visitor’s screen, and can be mind-blowingly effective in stopping a visitor in their tracks. These wide strip images also serve a functional purpose – they create separate, natural blocks on your site where you can nest specific sections of content. So besides being easy on the eyes, this technique also makes sense from a site layout perspective.
Improve the User Experience
With all the blog chatter about video backgrounds and wall to wall images, it may be surprising that one of the biggest website trends today is flat design. It has been described as the desire to simplify the user interface by eliminating clutter and unnecessary design gimmicks, but there is another explanation. Flat design has functional benefits – by reducing page complexity, load speed is increased, and less scrolling on the part of visitors is generally required. Even Google is on board – they recently tweaked their logo (making it sans serif), cutting the size of their logo file by more than half. By reducing distractions, visitors can more easily focus on your content.
During Internet 1.0, I’m sure there was much cheering and high-fiving the first time a developer figured out how to make something appear to be on fire. As programming skills increased, the effects became more and more elaborate. Now we’ve come full circle – subtle animation is in. From a company perspective, it’s a way to stand out by being just a little different, while engaging with your audience. Also, why not give viewers something clever and unique to watch for a second while their page loads? Of course, “clever and unique” are important concepts here – a spinning circle is a one-way ticket to the back arrow.
Ghost buttons sound mysterious but serve the same purpose as drawers in a cabinet that are so finely crafted they almost disappear. Usually transparent or semi-transparent so they blend into the background, ghost buttons are used to conceal the (often ugly and always boring) navigation bar that would otherwise appear at the top of the page. Because these are designed to be partially hidden, the image is usually a little larger and can be placed more prominently on a page. Keep in mind that ghost buttons may not be suitable for all sites – if there are already numerous sections and icons on your page a ghost button could get lost. And you don’t want potential customers to be lost.
Have you noticed that as you scroll down the pages of some sites the background moves at a different speed? This is called parallax scrolling, and while it can become gimmicky if used indiscriminately, it is visually arresting and gives visitors a sense of 3D – for a great example of how to use this technique effectively, check out this site. There is another, equally compelling reason to use parallax scrolling. Data show that it reduces bounce rates, which will ultimately improve your search rankings.
Refine Your CTAs
Like all the pages on your website, CTAs need to be tested and reviewed for effectiveness. And we’re not just referring to your clever copy – everything related to the CTAs needs to be tracked, analyzed, and tweaked. Of course, you need to consider if your copy and tag lines are still getting the job done, but don’t forget:
Forms – These can be back button bait if not optimized for your audience. Look at your data. Are submission rates steady, increasing, or decreasing? Maybe you are asking for too much information, or one of your fields is too small. Do you have multiple forms on your site? Figure out which one is the most successful and why, then make the necessary changes to all. It also doesn’t hurt to see what your competitors are doing.
Click to Call Button – Simply put, be sure you have this, and be 100% sure it works. This is essential for visitors who have found you through a local search because they are ready to buy.
Your Search Bar Focus Group
Yes, it’s true. Your search bar is basically an ongoing focus group for your website, and it can be a treasure trove of information. Just like Google learns everything about everyone when they type a search string, you obtain the same information when visitors search on your site. What do visitors want the most from your site? You may think you know, but check the data to be sure and then ask questions like:
- Is this page complete and up to date?
- Are there any features, offers, or extra information on this page that others don’t have?
- Are all the images, tags, etc. for my other pages similarly optimized?
- Are the essential elements on this page used throughout the site via SEO?
- Do you use all of the most popular search strings during SEO?
Pay close attention to your searches, then serve up content based on what people want. The concept is pretty simple but it does take work, testing, and periodic revision.
You must use Google Analytics. This is probably the single most important investment in time you can make online, and while it’s not visitor-facing, it helps you provide what visitors want. Your traffic data is a gold mine of information, as long as you have it. It will tell you the following:
- Total Traffic
This report details your website visitors over specific periods of time. You can drill down to determine how they get to your site. It is critical to determine whether your visitors are organic (the result of SEO efforts), referrals from social media, website referrals, or if they are being generated from a specific marketing campaign.
- Website Conversions
This does take a little up-front effort, but the information is invaluable. Once your conversion events are set up in Google Analytics, you can track the actions of specific prospects (how they got to your site, what marketing campaign brought them, etc.) Of equal importance, you will see what is not working in real time so you can make and test adjustments.
- Page Behavior
Of course, this refers to how visitors behave on your site. Where do they usually land, where do they travel, how long do they stay on each page, and when (and from what page) do they depart? Again, learning about your site from its users will help you improve it.
Website design is certainly evolving, and it’s fascinating to see how what used to be cool and edgy is now seen as clunky and cluttered. However, notice that of the five areas we discuss, none actually adds content to a site. On the contrary, these all either help you improve your existing content or identify text that is ineffective or unnecessary. You want your message to take the spotlight.
And when it comes to growing sales, it’s all about your message.