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Growing a business

10 ways to make your website better

If your new year’s resolution is to build your business in 2019, an excellent place to start is improving your website’s content and functionality. Here are 10 proven elements that will boost your website—and your visibility—to help you win more business.

1. Focus on the goal of your website

“Start by really identifying who your customers are and why they would use your site…the problem they trying to solve when they visit you,” says Tish Gance, who helps small businesses improve their online presence.

That helps you drill down to the purpose of your site: Are customers meeting you first, then validating your business by visiting the site, or are they discovering you exclusively through Google? Are they visiting to make a purchase versus primarily to find background and educational materials? “Sites will be structured differently depending on your visitors’ main needs,” Gance says.

To make sure you’re hitting the mark, consider a tool like Google Analytics, which can provide fruitful data about how users currently navigate your website, suggests Will Craig, managing director of LeaseFetcher. “Examining metrics like bounce rate and session duration will demonstrate whether users find the content of value or the site structure easy to follow, and help you pinpoint areas for attention and improvement.”

2. Treat your website design as a reflection of you

Websites have to look good…it’s simple, but true, says Michael Wagner, web designer at Markon Brands. “Users who find websites to be visually appealing associate that aesthetic quality with professionalism, usability and trustworthiness,” he says, advocating for clean, structured page layouts.

Rely on plenty of white space, instead of a flashy design that distracts from the message, suggests Keri Lindenmuth, marketing manager at web technology firm KDG.

Then extend the “less is more” aesthetic to smart organisation through simple, easy-to-use site navigation. Make sure there is a logical organisation so that visitors intuitively know what to click to find what they are looking for. Lindenmuth recommends four or five top-level pages, with supporting pages under those as needed.

Finally choose a website design tool that is easy to maintain, suggests Ruta Puistomaa of LiquidBlox. “Hiring a web developer for every little change you need to make will cost you both time and money,” she points out, which means you might put off important updates to your website.

3. Show some personality

Many businesses have a vague “About” page full of marketing speak, says John Locke, SEO consultant and founder of Lockedown Design & SEO. But people want to do business with people. A great place to start building a connection is by sharing a compelling story about the origin of your business. And then can the stock photos and use personal shots of your actual team and the office. “Showing who is behind the business will inspire more trust in your future customers,” Locke says.

4. Add plenty of content

A description of your product or services and team introduction are just the beginning. Today’s successful websites also typically include information that can help customers learn more, whether through blog posts, case studies, video tutorials, infographics or FAQs.

They come to your site to learn more so make it easy for them to get informed. For example, if you sell spare car parts and have a page on wheel nuts, you can list all of the different wheel nuts you supply, and then create a video to show people how they can fit wheel nuts as well as a section discussing the problems people may run into when fitting them or how to choose the right ones, suggests Darren Kingman, a freelancer focusing on SEO.

5. Add “social proof”

The right content also helps you appear more credible since customers landing on your website from search engines are often discovering you for the first time, points out Earl White, co-founder of House Heroes LLC. “To convert the person browsing your website to a lead, you need to make them feel comfortable about giving you a call, sharing their contact information or making a purchase.”

He finds that one of the best ways to build credibility is social proof, including client reviews and testimonials. Whether you create a video testimonial yourself, display positive reviews from Facebook, Yelp and GoogleMyBusiness or share industry awards and recognition specific to your niche, make it easy for potential clients to see themselves doing business with you.

6. Get discovered with SEO

Of course, all of this content also helps with search engine optimisation, provided you are using the right keywords, which is the way a search engine decides what sites to return when someone searches a word or phrase, explains Chris Williams, digital marketing strategist and founder of Clock In Marketing. “Using high-volume and industry-relevant keywords and phrases allows you to pop up when people are searching for the product or service you offer,” he says. A keyword research tool like Wordtracker can help you decide which ones to focus on.

But while SEO once meant stuffing your site full of keywords, that strategy doesn’t work anymore, and might even get you dinged by the major engines. Instead, make sure you are using the keywords organically through quality content. “SEO is constantly evolving—think of the new importance of local SEO and voice search—so brush up on current methods or enlist help in optimising your site,” says digital marketing consultant Mike Khorev.

7. Make sure your internal site search is on point

Many companies pay so much attention to SEO that they never consider whether their internal search is easy to use. But overlooking that can cost you sales. Jordan Harling, multimedia manager at Interior Goods Limited, says the company recently improved the customer experience—and increased their sales—by making it quicker and easier to find the product they were looking for.

After doing a deep dive into their website data, Harling said he found customers were navigating through the site manually, using filters to refine the products on each page, rather than deploying the search bar. The team discovered that the search function was only returning products that had the keyword in their title or description, rather than the including other attributes that the design team had tagged. Tweaking the search engine was a simple task that produced immediate results, he says, with a greater percentage of people using the search bar and increased conversions.

8. Speed it up

Speed rules when it comes to webpage design. In fact, the probability of a customer abandoning your page increases 90 percent when page load time goes from one second to five seconds, according to Google research. (You can check your own page’s speed by running a Google Speed Test.)

The No. 1 way to speed up your page is by eliminating unnecessary JavaScript, the primary culprit of slow-loading pages, says Chris Love, who runs web consulting company, Love2Dev. He recommends WebPageTest, which provides insight into a wide variety of metrics and can be originated from a number of locations around the world using different phones and computers. “Audit your pages against an average phone, like a Nexus 5 over a 3G connection, to get a true feel for performance issues,” he says.

Another key way to optimise site speed is by compressing overly large media files, says Khorev. “Using smaller-sized imagery can make a big difference in page speed, especially for mobile users.”

9. Make sure your website is optimised for mobile

Most people look for information today through mobile searches, Khorev points out. The Google Mobile Friendly Test can help you determine if your site loads and displays well on mobile devices so you can make the necessary adjustments.

10. Make it easy for visitors to interact with you

Finally, you want to engage with your visitor, so don’t overlook clear calls to action so your visitor knows what to do next—whether that’s downloading a resource, completing a transaction or using live chat for more information.

For best results don’t just use a web form on the contact page, recommends Locke. “Also include your physical address, phone number, and personal email.” If you do use a contact form as well, try the process yourself to make sure it works and delivers email to your inbox.

After all, the entire goal of the website is to start a conversation with your potential future customer, so make sure it’s easy and inviting for them to do so.

While improving your website can seem daunting, it’s one of the most worthwhile projects you can tackle. After all, a well-designed website is a gift that keeps on giving, selling you and your company to potential customers you don’t even know are looking.

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