It’s the end of the year – a perfect time to spruce up your website! Here are a handful of things that you can knock out, ordered from simple to more complex:
1. Analyze your analytics
If you don’t have any analytics on your site, get them on there NOW. Google Analytics is free, and while it’s not immediately intuitive, it will tell you what you need to know. Pay close attention to what pages are being viewed, how long people are looking at them, where they are bailing out and take a gander at how much mobile traffic your site is getting.
Difficulty: easy-peasy. You might need a geek to add the tracking code to the site and someone to help you understand the reports, but once you get the hang of it you’ll wonder how you lived without it. Easily the most overlooked website tool.
2. Google Webmaster
Web and SEO geeks everywhere are all aflutter because Google stopped providing the phrases people are using to find your site. You can still get some of this info (at least, you can as I write this) by using Google Webmaster. You can also find out all sorts of other fun things about your site as seen through Google’s eyes. The geek level is high, but hey, it’s free.
Difficulty: monkey simple. Like Google Analytics, you might need some help to get the code on your site and some explanation of what you are seeing, but it’s worth it.
3. Claim your local listings
Want to increase your local presence? Claim as many local directory listings as you can. They will help not only for the people that use these directories, but also because the search engines love to see links to your site. It builds credibility in their eyes. Here’s a link to the top 50 local business directories, courtesy of our friends at Hubspot. One caveat: do not pay for any listings or any upgrades. Take the free listings.
Difficulty: can be time-consuming, but easy to do. You’ll need a good, brief company overview, which is probably the hardest part for most people (brevity is a lost art).
4. Ask your users!
Too many times, website owners are a “focus group of one”. Everything on the site is what they personally believe should be there, with no input from the actual people using the site. There are easy solutions for this (but keep in mind they all start with a short, easy to understand survey):
- Simply ask your top clients, and ask them to be completely open.
- Use SurveyMonkey and raffle off an iPad Mini to get people to respond. Best $300 ever.
- Use a web based service (like Criticue) to get feedback.
Be prepared for blunt, sometimes harsh feedback. If you have an emotional attachment to your site, don’t do this – it will probably be painful.
Difficulty: easy as pie, except dealing with the responses.
5. Remove your slider
We’ve built many websites with sliders (rotating home page images). What a great way to get multiple messages into that all-important “above the fold” spot, right? Turns out…not so much. Studies are now showing that most users never see anything other than the first message, and some users consider them to be a distraction.
At the very least, remove the automatic image rotation and let users manually click through the additional messages if they choose to (they won’t). Better yet, choose only the most important message and use that to capture attention.
Oh, and if you’re using stock imagery on your homepage, rethink that immediately. Hire a photographer, use screenshots – use anything other than the smiling lady with the headset.
Difficulty: you’ll almost certainly need a geek for an hour or two. The good news is it’s easier to strip out all that slider code than it is to put in!
6. Create a call to action
The best part about websites is that you can encourage users to actually do something (which you can track using #1!). The funny part is the vast majority of websites don’t take advantage of this opportunity.
It can be something as simple as “Contact Us” (blah – you can do better) or you can encourage people to sign up for newsletters, your blog, free trials, etc. Our favorite is to trade a bit of “insider knowledge” for an email address (Download “The Top Ten Mistakes People Make” Now!).
Difficulty: judging from the massive number of sites without any call to action whatsoever, people must think it’s ridiculously difficult. It really isn’t hard; plan on 3-4 hours for a geek to add a button and a form to your site.
So here’s something you can’t do with that fancy new brochure: test versions of it to see how it performs. But you can with your website.
A must-do for eCommerce sites, testing is a great way to maximize the call to action you created in #6. Put simply, what happens is that you create two (or more) versions of a page, use software to alternate the different versions, and then track the results. You wind up with valuable data on which version converts best. You can do this for free using Google Experiments or, for a few bucks, use a service like Optimizely.
Difficulty: we’re getting a little more involved here. You’ll probably need a geek to install the software, and of course, to fully implement your findings.
8. Add content
If you have some geek in you (you know who you are) you’ve heard about the changes Google has made to search results. SEO is getting tougher, and it puts even more emphasis on filling websites with fresh, relevant content.
Don’t have a blog? Add one. Not sure what to write? Here’s an idea generator. Can’t write anything worth reading? There’s a million content writing specialists (including us). Out of excuses? We thought so.
Difficulty: if you already have a blog, it’s a snap.
9. Reduce confusion
Speaking of content, take a good look at your homepage. Most homepages suffer from “design by committee”, which happens when departments heads jockey for real estate. Others can’t decide which message they want to deliver, so they present everything. Many interior pages suffer the same sad fates.
Review your content – keep anything that answers the question of what you can do for the user OR makes them click, and get rid of anything else. Simple is in.
Difficulty: extremely difficult for those that can’t let go. Otherwise, just a few hours of geek time.
10. Check it in mobile
At the very least, pick up a few mobile devices and check to see how your site looks. If this makes you want to apologize to your users, do something about it.
Difficulty: if you haven’t addressed mobile yet, this one will be an investment. But when you consider that more than half of all web traffic is via mobile devices, it’s a no-brainer.