15 ways to improve your website
Do you look at your website and wonder if the design could be improved? Refining your site to get the most from it can be hard work, but the effort can really pay off!
Once you’ve done the hard work, you should have a good source of new leads and brand awareness for a fairly long period, without too much more work.
The problem is that getting your website to deliver good results is about far more than the design! You need to get a good handle on the strategy behind a productive website (which won’t necessarily be the best looking), the behaviours and thoughts of the people who are likely to use it and focus on their experience rather than what you want. All of these factors add up.
We’ve put together 15 suggestions that might help you to improve your website:
1. Put your customers first
One of the biggest traps businesses fall into when setting up a new website or updating an existing one is that they focus on their own personal likes and dislikes. The problem is that your website users won’t have the same opinions and experiences as you!
The overall design of your website should be based around your target market. Before you do anything around the design or build of your site, you must have a clear idea of who your ideal customer is, or who they are, if you have more than one.
You may specialise in helping small, local charities, or large, national corporations, or even stay at home mums with young children. Each site would look and feel very different. Each would be likely to need very different information about you and how you can help them. The different audiences have different questions and needs, so it makes sense that the sites to suit each would differ dramatically.
Knowing who your website users and audience are can impact any of the following, and probably lots more areas too!
- Type and number of pages
- Choice of images
- Navigation structure
- Tone of voice
- Design & Branding.
2. Design & Branding
This is more about how a website makes us feel more than anything, so it’s tricky to articulate, especially as every website needs to look professional.
If you think about the website of the big brands, they each have a very clear style and brand. For example, you wouldn’t confuse the Sainsbury’s website with the Tesco or Aldi sites, yet they are selling very similar products. Each has its own design, branding and feel.
Font styles, colours and images all work together to create a clear style of website that is targeted to a specific audience. The design also echoes any offline materials or collateral too, such as leaflets or brochures.
Bear in mind that your site needs to do the same job, and show your target market what your business is like. That may be bright and youthful, or more corporate and reliable, or a mix of the two. It may be cutting edge, modern and design led, or traditional, which might suggest reassurance and experience.
Check your website design. Do the colours, fonts and images all create a feeling that would resonate with the right audience?
3. Set your objective
A website should be one of your most valuable marketing tools, and to get it working well for you won’t be cheap, but it can be easy to want it to do everything for you. Too long a wishlist can mean that users don’t really know what they’re supposed to do when they get there, or where they’re supposed to go.
Do you want to prioritise more sales, new leads, providing support and information to existing clients, raising brand awareness, or something else entirely? Get clear on your priority and then start to work out how your website can deliver it.
Make sure your objective matches your business goals or marketing strategy.
As an example, our website is designed to cultivate and maintain relationships with our clients and contacts.
Yes, we talk about our services, so those people can find the many and various ways we can help them, but we don’t have pop-ups all over the site asking them to add email addresses so we can send them information. That would be a distraction.
Instead, we have our Info Centre for them to learn about lots of different areas of the accounts and tax world, and our News feed where they can stay up to date on the latest developments, then get in touch with us to find out how those apply to them in particular.
4. Have a clear call to action
A website needs a clear call to action which matches your primary objective. If you want a visitor to your site to order, tell them! Or ask them to Subscribe, or download…
Be sure to track the call to action over time using a tool such as Google Analytics, and tweak it if you’re getting less response from the number of visitors to the site than you’d like.
5.Make it obvious what you do
It takes websites users less than a second to make a judgement when they arrive on a site, so make sure what you do is immediately clear.
People look at the top left of a page first, so where your logo may be. They then look at the main menu bar, and from there the next biggest text on the screen. Make sure these work for you!
6. Use clear, concise language
People don’t spend very long on a website, so you have to make the time count! You need to be brief and to the point with the information you share.
Landing page content on your website needs to show that you understand the visitor’s problems and can solve them in text that can ideally be read and understood in less than 45 seconds.
7. Think about your text
Visitors to websites don’t read every word they contain. Instead, they scan read the content.
They’ll only read certain bits of content and see features that stand out or catch their eye. It’s important then to format the text on your website to aid scan reading.
- Avoid long paragraphs. Keep them to one, two or three sentences.
- Utilise bullet point lists to break up walls of text.
- Add key words and phrases to the beginning of sentences.
- Have multiple headings and sub-headings to help draw the eye .
8. Avoid stock images where you can
When looking for images for your website it can be tempting to use stock photos. They’re easy to find, look professional and avoid you having to be seen on your site. They’re also cheaper than using a photographer, at least in terms of the upfront cost.
The problem is, they rarely fit with your brand or values, and don’t add credibility. It’s much better to have images of your office or workshop, your team and even your family dog.
All of them tell your potential customers about you, your business and who they’d be working with.
9. Build it to be responsive
Visitors to your site could be using a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet or a mobile phone. Each screen is a different size, so you need to be sure your site will adjust and look good on any of them. This is what is known as ‘a responsive website’, that will look good regardless of the device that’s used.
Your web designer needs to take into account how different screen sizes will impact the design and alter the design of the pages accordingly.
If they aren’t suggesting this to you, you must find another supplier, as this will reduce your credibility, sales and visitor numbers dramatically now and will only become more and more important.
10. Update your content regularly
Once your site is finished, it needs to be regularly updated and a key part of your digital marketing strategy. Some of the updates are simple, such as the copyright date, but you also need to keep any blog or news section updated.
This shows you’re current, and still there for your customers!
This doesn’t mean posting multiple blogs every week but choose a programme of content updates you think you can manage and be consistent. Once a month is fine but try to be topical.
Use an external copywriter if you need help in creating content, but this is vital to keep your customers coming back, maintain your credibility and will help your rankings if Google sees you adding content regularly.
11. Keeping your audience engaged
It can be a challenge to keep users on the website when they visit. The longer someone is on a website, the more any relationship is reinforced, and the greater the chance that they will convert to become a customer.
What can you add to your site to keep visitors interested? Video makes a big difference, and suggesting related articles in an Information Centre can do the same. Calendars of key dates and customer portals or testimonials help too.
Provide valuable information and you’ll see people stay longer.
12. Include social proof
People like to use businesses that other people use and trust, which is why we all look at reviews online before we book a new restaurant!
Potential clients are more and more likely to research you before they make contact so make sure you have reviews that will encourage them to contact you.
Third-party review platforms can be seen as more independent, such as Google Reviews or Trustpilot. Ask your web designer to link these to your website. Because these are independent, people are less likely to assume they are fake, and therefore more likely to trust them.
Don’t worry about negative reviews!
There are two reasons why you shouldn’t worry about less favourable reviews:
- People are more likely to trust a business who has a star rating between 4.5 to 4.9 than they are with a business that has all five-star reviews. This is because we’re naturally cynical and can question how a business can manage to have all five-star reviews; a little humanity can go a long way!
- When people see bad reviews, they’re most interested in how the business responds to the criticism than they are about the review itself, particularly if the circumstances don’t apply to them. They want to know how they will be treated should they have a complaint. As long as you react promptly and positively to negative reviews, they shouldn’t, within reason, be too damaging.
13. Work on the SEO
SEO (search engine optimisation) is trying to get your website to rank higher on search engines so more people see you.
For many businesses, concentrating on Local SEO, and appearing more in local searches, can make a big difference, so it can be the best place to focus.
What you need to do is aim to increase the number of signals on your website that show you belong to a local area. For example, you could:
- Sponsor local charities
- Do a joint project with another local business
- Host local events
- Provide press releases to local news papers
- Team up with local educational providers (schools, colleges, universities)
The goal is to get backwards links from their websites to yours.
Finally, keep your Google My Business set up correctly and fully complete, with regular updates to keep it current.
By working with local business and filling out relevant business profiles on search engines other than Google, you can create SEO ‘flags’ that you’re a local business.
14. Make it faster!
A slow website is increasingly annoying! No-one has time to wait for a page to load, or pictures to appear, and instead they’ll go elsewhere, so your site needs to be fast!
Ideally your website will need to load in at least two seconds, or faster if possible.
You can check the speed of your website by visiting Google’s Page Insights. This is a tool that tests how fast your website page loads and highlights which areas can be fixed. Once you’ve tested your site, that report needs to go to your Web Developer for them to solve any issues that you may have found, though they should be coming to you with suggestions!
What slows down a website?
The most common causes for website to be slow to load are:
- Large image file sizes
- Over-complicated code
- Slow server speed
A quicker website will also help improve your rankings, and from there, you’re traffic to the site. Google, for instance, prefers faster websites. If yours is really slow, Google won’t show it to people searching, even if you have the perfect service or product.
15 Find and review your data
The best websites are reviewed consistently and tweaked over time to ensure it’s up to date and meeting the needs and goals of the business.
This doesn’t need to be expensive or particularly time consuming!
Three must-have pieces of technology that can help improve your website are completely free. These are:
- Google Analytics – This provides details about your users and how they’re using your site. You can see what they’re doing, where they came from and how long they stayed.
- HotJar (free version) – Allows you to anonymously record user sessions on the website and create heatmaps. These can allow you to see how individual users interact with your website design.
- Google Tag Manager – whilst this may require guidance from your Web Developer, Google Tag Manager can help you track user behaviour in more detail. For example, which buttons are clicked, which form fields are completed, how far users scroll down a page.
Once you’ve got your data, you might want to look at:
- Which pages are people visiting?
- Which landing page is getting the most attention?
- How long people are spending on your webpages?
- How are people arriving on your website (social media, SEO, email, etc.)?
- What is the split of your users between new and returning visitors?
Understanding all the information available from these tools will help you make decisions on how to make your website work better against your goals.
The best website for your small business is more than just creating something that you think is an excellent design. It needs to have a purpose that it fulfills.
Our advice would be to spend some time looking at the above, then book some time with your web developer to discuss your findings and thoughts and to ask their advice.
They should be proactively making suggestions anyway, but if not, when you go to them, they should be happy to make time to discuss improvements with you, particularly if you have some budget to make changes! If they’re not, unless you have unrealistic expectations for the return on your spend, you may need to find a new supplier; your website is too important to your business for it to fall behind and not reflect your business as well as it could.
If you’ve make any changes to your site and see a positive return on the investment of time and money, do let us know!
We send regular updates that keep clients aware of changes and suggestions on a wide range of subjects; if you’d like to receive those too, just add your details below and we’ll do the rest! We promise not to bombard you and you can unsubscribe at any time.