Spring is here and now is a good time to sweep away the dust balls and cobwebs from your Website. Do some spring cleaning to get your “Website house” in order and make it ready to do more with less.
Before you dive right into it, have a plan because revising or tweaking a company Website is not an easy task. This article discusses the three key components of a site that need your attention first. For more details, download our complimentary report, “Step-by-Step Guide to Website (re)Design.”
Everything is in the details
God, the devil, money and beauty – are all in the details. Paying attention to every detail on your Website does pay great dividends. Michael Metz, director of Web marketing and strategy at Cisco Systems said, “A good salesperson pays close attention and learns about his customer, becomes familiar with them, understands their needs and, over time, develops a relationship with [them]. Today, various capabilities of Web technology allow us to approximate those behaviors.”
Let’s take a closer look at what I believe are the three key parts of a site that require fine-tuning or in some cases, a complete redesign.
Let’s first focus on the content because it plays a key role in buy decisions. Most often, we think of content on a Website as providing relevant information to visitors.
Did you know that content plays a much more active role in moving that visitor along in his/her buy decision? According to Bob Carrigan, CEO of International Data Group, “It [content] fulfills the promise of the Web, which is relationship marketing.”
You can make that key connection with your prospects when you deliver specific content needed in order to make an informed decision. That could be answers to questions like:
What is the solution that is being offered?
How does it solve a particular problem?
Is it faster, better, cheaper than others are?
What guarantees/assurances do you offer?
Do you offer a free sample or a download to test the product?
There are prospects at different stages of their decision making process. You can’t satisfy all of them with one-size-fits all content.
Your content also needs to perform another key function. It must help your customers make the best use of their purchase. After-sales support such FAQs, How-to videos, Troubleshooting guides, User forums are all examples of after-sales content. How well is your content performing for you?
If possible, add pricing information to your site. I understand that it is not always feasible or even possible as in the case of complex, customized solutions. However, add at least price ranges for your prospects to make an initial evaluation. Hoa Loranger, user experience specialist and director, Nielsen Norman Group, says, “Prospects want basic information about the products during initial research, and they can’t get that without knowing the price. In many instances, the exact price is not as important as knowing the price level.”
Now let’s turn our attention to the look and feel of your Website. I am a firm believer of form follows function. Unless you are a mega brand like Google, I don’t think you can make your site memorable with the minimalist approach. Aesthetics and design do matter.
“Even though it doesn’t make sense, b-to-b Web sites get judged as much by their design as b-to-c Web sites do,” says Bill Rice, president of the Web Marketing Association.
I’m not recommending that you add animated graphics or Flash intros to your site. No, but do pay attention to important elements such as your navigation. Put yourself in the visitor’s shoes and ask yourself, is it intuitive from their point of view or does it make sense only to you? Avoid generic labels like products, or services. Use keywords instead that not only help search engines but also make more sense to your site visitors. Try grouping your products by industry or application to make it easier to find the relevant solution with 1 or 2 clicks rather than several sequential clicks.
Videos and Flash can be great assets in demonstrating complex workings of a piece of equipment. For example, a valve manufacturer could use a Flash movie to show all the moving parts and highlight how the valve is specifically designed for in-situ maintenance. An online video demonstration would be far more effective than pages of text.
As the saying goes, you may have the next best thing since sliced bread but it won’t do much for your business if no one knows about it. Of course, every site owner wants to be on the first page of every major search engine. It is not going to happen overnight and without effort, unless you are super lucky.
Start by taking an inventory of the keywords or phrases that you’ve been targeting. Are they still relevant? Are they attracting qualified traffic? You may need to reprioritize your list of keywords. Just moving up to the first page may not do you much good if that increase in traffic converts poorly.
Make good use of free keyword search tools such as Google AdWords: Keyword Tool to do a data-driven search rather than guessing. Once you have your new target list together, start editing and/or rewriting important pages of your site. The new content should have a good keyword density (rule of thumb: 3-6%) built around this list. Don’t just stuff your pages with keywords. It is a balancing act to ensure that your text has a natural flow for human readers while satisfying search engine bots. Here’s an online tool to check your keyword density.
You may need to hire outside search engine optimization (SEO) experts to do a thorough site audit to pinpoint other problems that may not be obvious. Things like code structure, navigation scheme, and external linking all play a major role in optimization.
SEO is not a magic bullet. And yes, it does cost money. If you are going to do a site redesign, then plan to do optimization at the same time. The initial investment will probably be higher than just a redesign but it is far more effective and in the end, cheaper than retrofitting SEO into an existing site.
This article should give you a head start on your Website spring-cleaning or tune-up this year.