One of the surprising things about design in general andÂ websites specifically is how fine a line there is sometimes between good and bad design. All the little details and design choicesÂ incrementally contribute or detractÂ from the quality of a website.Â Equally surprising is how dramaticallyÂ bad design can often be improved with just a few simple tweaks.
With this in mind I’ve put together a list of 6Â ways you canÂ improve your website right now. I’ve tried to focus onÂ tips that just about anyone can accomplish but some of them assume at least a basic level of access to your site content and code.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to overhauling your website, but it should help. Depending on the state of your site, theseÂ tips aren’t automatically going to make it the best website ever, but they will make it less terrible. And being “less terrible” is the first step towards being the best, right? Yes, yes it is. And on that inspiring note, let’s begin.
1. Define Goals
This seems obvious but it’s very easy to overlook or rather, assume. The goals of your site should obviously align with that of your company and be designed to helpÂ achieve them. Goals like selling more of a certain product, being more competitive with a particular service, or reaching a specific type of customer are all things a website can and should be helping you do.
Goals will help define everything from a website’sÂ overall look and feel (What type of customer’s are you trying to attract?), to the layout (What are they looking for?), and the contentÂ and tone of the copy (What’s important to them and how are they persuaded?).Â Defining your audience is a key part of any business strategy and one that should directly effect your site design.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and Content Strategy are great ways to take advantage of your website’s potential to elevate your business. Both require some crafting however and if you haven’t set clearly defined goals your site will most likely be directionless and less effective overall.
Define goalsÂ from a few different perspectives. First make sure you understand your overall business strategy. Consider your audience, your products/services, and your value proposition.Â Make sure your site strategy and design is notÂ only alignedÂ with your marketÂ but is actively contributing to your long and short term goals. Search Engine Watch has a nice overviewÂ onÂ setting website goals.
If you don’tÂ make setting goals for your website a priority your design will likely be based on a series of vague assumptions. Vague assumptions are for amateurs, don’t be an amateur. Define yourÂ goals.
2.Â Update It
This one is short and sweet. The idea here is that in addition to keeping your site current and your customers informed, sites with newer, frequently updated content tend to see improved rankings on search engines. Google in particular, loves fresh content, for a number of reasons.
Updates send signals to Google that your site/brand is alive and kicking for one thing. It indicates that you’re proactive about your company and brand, and that you’re committed to one of the primary platforms people use to find businesses, products and services.
Most sites could use a refresh anyway; new or discontinued products or services, updating contact information, adding a new location, etc. There’s almost always something you can add or revise. Freshen up what you can. Changing almost anything will help, but adding new copy is usually best. The occasionally update is fine but frequently adding new content is really what you should be aiming for. See pointÂ 6 for one of the best ways to do this.
3.Â Fix Your Copy
Good web copywriting is a tough balance. It’s an art form that requires a lot of finesse as it seeks to incorporate (audience appropriate)Â tone andÂ persuasive salesmanshipÂ with interesting but direct information, descriptions, keywords, benefits etc. But don’t be intimidated. Relax, write for your audience and keep a few simple things in mind.
First understand that people don’t read websites. They scan them. Your copy needs to acknowledge not onlyÂ your target audience, but alsoÂ the fact that they’re busy people. Write and structure copy in a way that’s organized, expedient andÂ scannable.
Also, get to the point. That meandering run on paragraph on your homepage welcoming them to your website, inviting them to look around. Lose it.Â They know they’re welcome. Of course they’re going to look around. All copy like that does is come between your audience andÂ what they actually came to the site for. There’s nothing wrong with a friendly tone, but copy needs to balance appeal with utility.
When writing copy consider your customers (what did they come to the site to accomplish?), and your products, services (how to they directly benefit your customers?). Speak to these things. Do some related keyword research (what words and phrases are your customers using to find what you offer on search engines?) and try to incorporate these keywords and phrases into the copy where possible.
Get inside your customers’ head, focus on what matters to them, and try to work in specific references to things they’re searching for. Trim aways the excess and avoid aimless verbiage.
Also, you know…use spell check. Proofread your copy and make sure it sounds professional. This last point should be pretty obvious but you’d be suplised.
This is beyond the scope of thisÂ postÂ but for even more info about how people consume web content and how to make yours more effective, this article by conversion expert Peep LajaÂ is a good read.
4.Â Fine TuneÂ Your SEO
Good SEO is a fairly comprehensive subject.Â There are a few ways though that you can be a little more SEO savvy and fine tune your site’s effectiveness in this area. There’s no substitute for site-wide, professional copywriting but there are a few parts of your site that have a little more SEO weight.
Whether or not they have significantly moreÂ clout or not, page headers and link text have unique SEO value. Page headersÂ have (slightly) increasedÂ power to boost your visibility in SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages). Link text on the other hand can enhance your credibility in the eyes of Google.
Page headers indicate to Google (and your audience) what a particular page is all about. When possible, using keywords in headersÂ is a recommended tactic in addition to using your primary header (the <h1> tag) to convey your value proposition when appropriate. Make sure your headers are optimized for bothÂ Google and your audience.Â As visitorsÂ scanÂ a page, well organized descriptiveÂ headers help partition information into easily searchable chunks. This helps customers find what they’re looking for faster, which makes them happier customers.
Link text is another element that Google pays a little more attention to. There are differing opinions as to how to approach SEO in links (theÂ <a> tags), and I won’t go into detail. It’s a balance and Â bit of an art. But the relevancy of the link text, keywords used, (as well as the credibility of the site being linked to) doÂ matter. You don’t have to overdo it but as you create links, vary the length of the text used, include relevant keywords on occasion, and link to credible resources in a related industry.
5.Â RememberÂ Your Meta
Two key elements that may not directlyÂ increaseÂ your search engine rankings directly but can stillÂ attractÂ more customers to your site are your page URL’s (page names) and your pageÂ Meta Descriptions.
The URL is your domain name plus whatever page you’re on (www.myawesomesite.com/contact-me). Technically not meta, but one of those things that’s similarly easy to overlook. The actual SEO value of URL’s is a bit more complicated than just using keywords, but it’s still important to create goodÂ page names whenever possible.Â The SEO Gurus at MOZ have a great article on URL strategy. Depending on how much control you have over your site, changing page names may not be an option but it’s worth looking into.
The other meta that’s important to know is your page descriptions. This little chunk of information lives in the html <head> tag of your site and does not appear visibly on the page itself. Instead this is what Google will use as the information snippet beneath the page name and address on a search results page. This info matters because it’s essentially your elevator pitch to anyone browsing through a list of results, and potentially the reason they’ll choose you outÂ a page full of competitors.
Descriptions can be unique for every page. They can speak to the needs each section of your site is designed to address and therefore can be customized to deliver more sales clout on SERP’s.
If you don’t manually insert this meta, search engines will usually populate it with the first bit of copy they find on the page. If your copy is solid this is usually okay but the character limit means the description will usually get cut off in the middle of a thought. Also why would you miss a chance to further enhance the customer appeal of each and every page?
If your site is built on WordPress the Yoast SEO plugin provides convenient access to these attributes.
6. Add AÂ Blog
I love blogging and you should to (okay, you don’t have to it’s just a suggestion). Out of all the ways you can use your website to market your business a blog is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful and comparatively inexpensive to harness. The benefits of a blog include increasing your site’sÂ SEO and SERP position, demonstrating your expertise to your audience, and creating a community around your brand.
A blog is a great content marketing platform that you can use to offer tips, resources, share news and updates,Â and otherÂ brand collateral with your readers. Providing helpful resources for your customers is a great way to add value to your brand and increase customer appreciation and loyalty.
We’ve already discussed why updating your site matters. Adding fresh, keyword rich content to your website is valuable in and of itself. In addition to the reasons I mentioned, adding content over time can help boost your search engine rankings for specific keywords and topics people are searching for.
Installing a blog is usually pretty simple with most content management systems, but you’ll need to check withÂ yours. Starting a blog separate from your site is fine if nothing else, but having one built right into it is best.
Although itÂ is a fairlyÂ cheap way to market your website, it’s still an investment. In order to gain the benefits, and cultivateÂ a followingÂ you need to be strategic and consistent. Be prepared to devote either your time to write blogs posts, or your money to pay someone else to.
Let’s Roll Up Our Sleeves
These tips are by no means a comprehensive guide but they should give you some ideas on how you can improve your website. Depending on the state of your site and tech savviness, some may be more doable than others. All of them, however, should hopefully give you a little more insight going forward.
If you need help implementing any of these suggestions, had questions about something mentioned, or want a complete site analysis done, give me a shout. I’m here to help.