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Consistently Perfect Your Site With These 4 Steps
Your website shouldn't be a "set-it-and-forget-it" proposition. From metrics to content, here's how to get the most out of it as your company grows.
Congratulations! You just put up a beautiful website and customers are already finding your business. The first three parts of this series explored how to make the key decisions to develop your site, select a template for it, and ensure you had everything you needed in place on launch day.
But it doesn't end there. A website is a living thing, and the fourth part of this series, developed in partnership with Squarespace, examines the adjustments you should make to grow and perfect your site after the launch. Consider these four questions carefully, because the answers can make your site an even more powerful advocate and sales force for your business.
1. Are you using the right metrics?
If a shopper walks out of a store without buying anything, you don't know whether he didn't find what he wanted or was just killing time before a doctor's appointment. On your website, however, customers and prospects give you critical insight into what they're thinking with every click of their mouse.
Analytics tools can determine if visitors are staying on a particular page for a significant amount of time, or if they're leaving immediately. Some website platforms are integrated with analytics tools, and for more detailed analysis, can easily integrate with Google Analytics as well.
You can learn the geographic locations of your visitors, and the websites that are leading them to yours. The amount of data at your disposal is almost dizzying. However, it's important that you focus on the right metrics, which tie into your site's objectives. For example, some people get caught up in how many "page views" their site is getting, which is important if you're selling advertising. However, if you're a wedding photographer what really matters is the ratio of visits-to-inquiries.
"If a photographer can only handle 30 weddings a year, what he wants is a couple of dozen good leads from local clients," says Jeremy Schwartz, business development manager at Squarespace, a website builder, blogging platform and hosting service. "It's easy to get caught up in the wrong metrics if you lose track of what your site's intended purpose is."
If you use the wrong metrics, you can start making changes that don't benefit your site. But if you see visitors are ignoring important pages, consider if you need to shift your product lineup, add more content, or make the navigation to those pages clearer.
2. Are you testing alternatives?
Because visitors to your website provide so much data, you can take a methodical approach to making changes. A process called A/B testing, which is sometimes called split testing, allows you to compare two different versions of a web page.
Let's say that your bounce rate—which measures how many visitors come to a certain page, and then leave without going to another page—is higher than your industry average. After identifying the issue, you need to consider why this is happening. You look at the page and wonder if it has
too many elements, like an excessive number of outbound links, which are confusing visitors and causing them to give up and go elsewhere.
You can create an A/B test for your hypothesis using a version of the page with fewer links. If visitors stay on the streamlined page longer, you've found the answer. An A/B test can be applied to many different parts of your site—the location of the call to action, the headline, product descriptions, testimonials and more. And the best part is you can always improve your results. Once you find a "winner," that becomes the new standard to test alternatives against, allowing you to make your site more even appealing and engaging. For inspiration on well-designed sites that minimize bounce, check these out.
3. Are you producing targeted content?
If you want customers and prospects to find you through your website, you can benefit from producing an ongoing stream of content, such as blogs and white papers. Having a website that includes a blog platform integrated with your social media accounts can be crucial to your strategy. This can require a good bit of work, and you'll have to determine how much effort you want to put into it and who will create the content—you, employees, or someone you hire. But this content can convince customers of your capabilities, and cause your website to come up higher in search results.
You want to make the content highly relevant to your visitors. Schwartz says the wedding photographer can improved his search results by producing blogs on topics like "What is a fair price for a wedding photographer?" or "How to review a wedding photographer's portfolio?"
At the same time, you want to have varied content. An attorney who does estate planning will likely have a lot of information on his website about trusts. Including other topics—such as the potential issues with beneficiary designations or simple wills—makes the site more trustfully to search engines.
4. Have you eliminated "content creep"?
If you're a home decorator, you likely put up photos of your best work when you launched your site. Over time, you probably added more and more samples. Once a quarter, evaluate if the new images are superior to the initial ones. If so, remove the older stuff, because visitors will only wade through so much content and you want their eyeballs focused on your best work.
In addition, perform a periodic housekeeping and check if the rest of the site's information is still relevant. Your business loses credibility if customers find outdated pricing on your site or an announcement of a sale that ended months ago.
If you have a seasonal business, consider swapping out images and other material that's relevant to what your customers want to buy right now. During the summer months, a sporting goods company doesn't want its site filled with images of skiers and bobsledders. As Schwartz points out: "If you owned a boutique, you'd clean it up after a grand opening—your approach to your website should be no different."
And that's part of the beauty of an online operation. You can't afford to remodel a retail store every week, or change your printed marketed materials each time a new idea comes to you. In contrast, your website can be constantly evaluated, and instantly updated. Keeping it fresh and accurate will enhance your business's credibility and go a long way to attracting more customers, more quickly.
Build Your Site, Your Way
If you're looking to put a unique stamp on your online presence, Squarespace offers creative tools that help you easily create a beautiful website, ecommerce store, or portfolio no matter your experience level, with no coding required. Squarespace's completely inclusive, all-in-one service provides content management, hosting, domains, social integrations, e-commerce, and 24-hour customer support. Use the offer code "Entrepreneur" to receive 10 percent off your first purchase.Read all articles from this four-part series on creating an effective website here.
Brand Spotlight Partner
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur Spotlight partners are their own.
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