By Emma Garton: Client Relations Intern
Research shows 70-80% of people research a company online before visiting a small business or making a purchase with them, which means an outdated website is risky. To combat this, there’s a multitude of items to consider when it comes to your website’s aesthetic appeal and functionality, but it can be hard to know where to start. This article outlines some of the practices you should consider to put your business ahead of the game online. To start, let’s consider user experience through design, speed and security, which will translate into improved online effectiveness in terms of search optimization, Google Analytics, bounce rate reduction and improved calls to action.
We start with user experience because it’s best to have a strategic and refined web presence before you begin driving traffic to your website.
Before smartphones, there was a rule among web designers to keep all the important information “above the fold.” This meant having everything you want a visitor to know front and center on the homepage, without them needing to scroll or click anywhere. But now, smartphones actually encourage the use of scrolling, so this “above the fold” rule is far less important than it used to be. Smartphones also mean having a mobile-friendly site is essential, and several businesses have already shifted towards a mobile-first web design strategy.
Visitors’ attention needs to be grabbed within seconds of their arrival to your website, and this means fast loading speeds. A majority of consumers expect mobile websites to load in three seconds or less, which means if it takes longer, they may abandon a page all together. Not only that, but Google actually rewards sites that load faster with better search results placement. Reducing load times can be done in a number of different ways, but some of the biggest fixes boil down to minimizing HTTP requests, removing unused scripts or files, browser caching and compressing media.
Everything online is inherently at risk of being hacked. If your website is not secure and there are no controls in place to monitor for unauthorized website changes or suspicious activity, you might run the risk of your website being compromised and defaced or loaded with spam content for nefarious purposes. If you keep your on-site security top-notch, your users will have a better experience and will trust working with you online. On-site security involves making sure your website CMS is secure, your server is configured properly for security purposes and your website is using HTTPS to encrypt all traffic for your users.
Once you’ve updated the look and user experience of your website, it’s time to focus on how to attract more users to your site and get them to stay there.
SEO needs to constantly be in the back of your mind if you want to reach the top level of search results and stay there. This is because every time search engines update their algorithms, your website is potentially affected. And due to the fact that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, website content and design reassessments should be catered to search engine expectations on a regular basis. Otherwise you’re risking potential leads and clients. For a more detailed explanation of SEO and how it can help your business, please visit our SEO services page and consider utilizing our free SEO audit to get started.
Google Analytics is a free website analytics service offered by Google that gives you insights into how users find and use your website. Basically, this service can track user activity on your site and tell you what your users are doing on your website. The usefulness of the data Google Analytics compiles comes from your ability to see what is and isn’t working on your site and make adjustments accordingly.
Another useful feature of Google Analytics is the ability to determine bounce rates. Bounce rate is defined as the percentage of visitors who visit your website and navigate away from it after viewing a single page. To measure and assess your bounce rate, you can use Google Analytics to narrow your website users into segmented demographics, such geographic location, browser type, mobile or desktop use and more. Once you’ve accounted for these variables, you can get a clearer picture of which demographics are clicking around your site and which are leaving after seeing just one page. By analyzing this data, you can adjust and re-engineer your website to draw in the people who are clicking away.
One tactic to reduce bounce rates would be implementing calls-to-action (CTA) that prompt an immediate response. In the context of a website, a CTA could be buttons for things like “Subscribe,” “Get Started Now,” “Download on the App Store | Get it on Google Play” and so on. Using effectively-worded and strategically-placed CTAs on your website will encourage users to explore your site in more depth and be actively involved, thereby reducing bounce rates.
In short, the goal of the game is to get online visitors to visit and invest time in your website. If you could use assistance with any of the strategies outlined above, please give us a call at 701-478-1111 and ask to speak with a Marketing Advisor, or take some time to complete our free website audit or website project inquiry forms.