Improve your website: 10 tips for a better website
There is a lot of talk about pivoting online in our Oxford based business community. These tips arise out of 20 years experience working on the web. I wanted to share that knowledge to help anyone trying to pivot or improve. Each tip is a jumping off point to improve the way your website works for you. Its obviously a general list but I think if you follow the guidance here, you’ll end up with an improved website whatever kind of site you’re running. Each tip is followed by an explanation giving some more detail. They follow a broadly chronological approach from the start of a web project to its ongoing operation; these sites are never finished! Lets get cracking.
1. Before you start building or improving a website
What are your objectives (e.g. transactional, brochure, recruitment, etc)?
How does the website fit into your marketing mix -is a website even the right thing for your business/organisation?
These first two are actually quite tricky to do on your own. Try to find someone who will listen, challenge and give advice. This is a part of the project that we really enjoy here. We listen first and then get under the skin of our customer’s requirements with careful questioning. Together we can come up with new approaches that are hard to spot on your own.
Start thinking about which keywords your site will be found under.
Competitor analysis is a good idea, what do you think works and what doesn’t?
Resist the temptation to start building, planning now will save a lot of time later. If your site has ecommerce you’ll need to think about products, pricing, stock, shipping, payments and sales tax. There are other methods of marketing your business, if a website fits in with your strategy and proposition then you need to start thinking about how visitors will find you. That doesn’t have to be via search engines. Other parts of the marketing mix may direct people to your site. How will you measure success? Define this at the start of your project.
2. Audience: whatever you think there are three
You may have a number of sector specific market segments or audiences that you want to reach and thats fine. Realise however, that you always have three audiences:
- a machine (Google and other search engines),
- people who read,
- people who won’t read.
Google has its own requirements, we’ll come on to them a little later. People who read are pretty easy to deal with. Understand that many people just won’t read your content. This is where great layout, use of colour, headings, video, audio, animation and break out boxes come in. In short great design.
3. Homepage essential ingredients
- An image to build empathy, ideally with depth perspective.
- 18 words to explain your proposition.
An image on your site isn’t just eye candy. Its there to reduce the so-called bounce-rate, where visitors come to your site and quickly decide its not what they thought it was from the search results. The web is a a 2D medium, so images with perspective add some much-needed depth. Most people can read eighteen words in two seconds and two seconds is all they will give you.
4. Write great, original content that others will want to link to
Read your website and challenge yourself to answer this question honestly. “Does my website answer the questions that my average customer asks in a way that is interesting, relative and trustworthy?”
If your website isn’t answering questions and solving problems for people then why should anyone visit? You might answer that you sell the best widgets and when people come to the site, they know what widget they want and they just get on and buy. This might be true of a percenatge of your potential customers – and they need an easy to find, easy to navigate, functional experience.
There are others though. The ones that don’t know if your widgets are better than your competitor’s. The ones who aren’t sure exactly which widget they need or if your widget is compatible with other things they own. What about the ones who’ve heard of widgets but don’t know if they need one?
Start by typing some questions about widgets into Google and see what comes up in the suggestions. Also, scroll down the page to look at suggested search terms. This gives you a great selection of phrases people use about widgets, related to widgets or related to alternatives to widgets.
Answer these questions and you will naturally begin writing content that people want to read.
5. Build genuine links from authoritative sites to yours
Building links can be time-consuming but good content will attract links if you tell people about it. See if you have any opportunities to get links from “high trust” websites like government, NHS, academic institutions or local organisations if you operate in a specific region. You should search for yourself and your products from time to time and ask people who mention you to link to you. You can gather press links by making contacts and establishing yourself as an expert – or by sponsoring an event or organisation. You should make sure you are listed on any industry directories that carry authority. It’s also important to keep these links to your website up to date so be sure to check them from time to time.
6. Ask yourself, why does my site deserve to rank?
Those last three are the foundations of good SEO. Google counts links to your site as votes of confidence. Links from sites with more authority have a greater value. It will take time to get rankings and they need to be maintained, its not something you can do once and forget about.
7. Performance: Gtmetrix and Page Speed Insights
Check out www.gtmetrix.com and Google’s own Page Speed Insights. Enter your URL, run the tool and work through the recommendations for an improved website. This part can be time-consuming and you have a business to run. We are making these changes to numerous websites and know what is cost-effective and what isn’t.
9. Quality hosting, uptimes (99.99%) & Pingdom.
If your website is down its not working for you. There are lots of reasons this could happen and cheap hosting is certainly one of them. Services like Pingdom will alert you if your site goes offline.
10. Monitor: Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Contrary to popular opinion, Google actually wants to help you build a successful website and it wants to be able to tell you if things go wrong. When you set up Google Analytics you unlock a world of information that you can use to understand what people are doing when they visit your website. This tells you which pages are popular, how long people spending reading and, with a small amount of effort, you can begin to track the activities that matter (add to cart, download brochure, viewing 5+ pages etc).
Adopt Google Search Console and then you can build further on the insights from Google Analytics. Google may be able to tell you if your site gets hacked or if it has changed its standards and your site fails any of its tests. Google Search Console is Google’s way of helping us spot opportunities to make our sites the best they can possibly be.
If you need help improving your website call us on 0800 018 1985 or email firstname.lastname@example.org