What goals do you have? Do you have an effective website that is helping you reach those goals?
Do you have an e-commerce site? Is your main goal sales?
Perhaps you sell services, and what you really want are leads?
Maybe you have a brick and mortar business, and your goal is to get more people to your restaurant, salon, or store.
Do you want to engage readers if you are a blogger or some kind of content provider?
Is your website effective at helping you achieve that goal?
This list of 20 factors for an effective website will help you evaluate your site for areas of improvement, so that you can get the results you want from your website and your online presence.
A website is a composite of many elements, but these 20 key factors most directly affect your potential customer’s experience of your site and your organization. Use them to improve your website’s effectiveness and improve your business or organization.
I divided these factors into four broad categories:
- Content (the message and ideas you convey on your website)
- Engagement (how you hope to interact with people on your site)
- Traffic (how you get people to your site)
- Technical (how your website’s engine is working)
Content is the heart of your website, the raison d’être for its existence.
Sure, your bottom line might be how many people click that Buy Now button and complete their order, but content is what got them there.
Your content and your message is what gets, or loses, your customer. Content includes text, images, buttons, all the elements that make up your pages.
1. A Clear Message
Let’s start with your home page. Is your message to your potential customer immediately clear? When visitors come to your home page, can they tell right off the bat what you offer and how it will help them? Is your overall message clear and customer focused throughout your website?
If you are unsure about your website’s message, or perhaps are worried that it may not be on point, I suggest reading Building Your StoryBrand by Donald Miller.
In Building Your StoryBrand, Miller emphasizes that in today’s content saturated, message saturated world, your website’s message needs to be crystal clear to cut through the deluge of messages most of us experience every day.
If people have to work to figure out what you offer and how you can make their lives better, they probably won’t engage with you and your offering. Why should they? You’re making them use extra brain power to figure out what you do and how you can help them.
Look critically at your homepage and your website pages.
How does your message read?
Is your message about you?
Or is it about your customer?
Are you clearly telling your potential customers how they will benefit from your product, service or site?
We have all visited websites and had a hard time deciphering what the company is about. Vague or catchy phrases sometimes substitute for clarity. Don’t try to be clever. Be clear.
Make sure your message is about your customer, not you. Let them know clearly how you are going to help them.
2. A Clear Call to Action
Does your home page and your website have a clear call to action (CTA)?
On this site my CTA is the Book a Call button. You practically can’t get away from it on the home page. If the urge strikes people to book a call with me, I want that button available. I don’t want them to have to search around for it.
Does your site have a clear call to action?
If not, think through what you most want people to do. What is it that you want someone to do to work with you? GET A QUOTE or BUY NOW or ORDER A CAKE or BOOK AN APPOINTMENT – you get the idea – are clear CTAs.
It’s amazing how many sites don’t have one. Don’t assume your potential customer knows what to do. And please don’t make them work to find it.
3. Make It Easy to Buy
Think about the steps your potential customer needs to take on your website to do business with you. Is it clear to them what those steps are and are those steps easy for them to perform?
If you are an e-commerce business, is the checkout process smooth and seamless?
If you have an order form, is the form as simple as it can possibly be?
As is pointed out in this article by Venture Harbour, shorter forms usually convert better than longer forms, although there are exceptions.
This is the one that perhaps most of us mess up at some time or another. We try to throw everything at our potential customer right away, to let them know that we offer this, and that, and that other thing too just in case they might need it. We don’t want them to miss out! We want them to see all the amazing things we offer.
But how does your potential customer feel about that? Thrilled they have so many choices? Or confused, wondering how this mishmash of stuff will help solve their problem?
According to Hick’s Law,
“the time it takes for a person to make a decision as a result of the possible choices he or she has: increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time logarithmically.”
Aim to reduce the clutter and simplify what your potential customer is confronted with, so they aren’t paralyzed with indecision over too many options.
This can be challenging if you have a lot of products or services you offer. One way to handle this is to focus on your main sellers, and give them options to explore further.
Filter them to different areas of your site, then offer options for that area there.
Walk them through simple choices.
Moz.com, for example, walks you into their two main product territories on their products page, rather than tossing an array of choices at you. It’s clean and helps me understand what they offer and where I need to go next.
5. Social Proof
Make sure you share proof of positive results from your work to reassure new customers that you are valid and do good work or provide a great product.
Show product reviews, case studies, or testimonials from your customers. This article from ConversionXL describes the why and how of adding social proof to your site.
Your website doesn’t have to win design awards, but it should be attractive and professional if you are running a business.
Look at your website critically. Compare it to your competitors.
Is your website very dated looking? That might not reflect well on your business and whether you are keeping up with modern times.
Is your website professional looking? Are you proud of it? If it looks homemade or amateurish, what does that say to potential customers about how your run your business?
7. Easy to Navigate
Can potential customers easily find what they are looking for?
Are the most prominent items in your menu what a prospective customer might be interested in?
Review these common navigation mistakes to improve your website navigation.
How do you engage with potential customers to get them to interact with you and get to know you better?
8. List Building
If you are not trying to build an email list of potential customers who come to your website, you should be. By creating a list and working to grow it you can increase your sales and conversions enormously.
With a list you can stay in contact with current and potential customers, engage with them so they know who you are, remember you, and perhaps buy from you at some point. You can make offers to them as well with your email list. Here are a few more reasons why from Melyssa Griffin.
If you are building a list, are you using a lead magnet or some other way of enticing people to sign up? Is it converting? Is it time for something new?
9. Regular Content Updates
Is there content of value to your customer that is regularly added to your website? Content is the most important factor for search engines.
Think about it from your potential customers POV as well. If you are actively updating your site regularly with content that might be of use for them, it shows your customer that your company is vibrant and active. That is another good reassurance for them that you are valid.
If they take away something of value from your content, that makes them like you, it will incline them more towards doing business with you.
Review your content updates. If you aren’t doing any, try to get on a regular schedule of adding a post or article to your site. If you can’t do it, try to find a copywriter or marketing agency who could do it for you.
Then monitor the results over time to see if your efforts are paying off.
10. Social Sharing
Do you have social sharing setup on your website? If not, you should add it. It’s easy and usually free.
What is social sharing? Once you’ve got that content engine rolling, you want as many people as possible to read your content. So you want to make it easy for someone who visits your site to share a page or post with their social networks. If they like it, they’ll often share. It’s a super simple way to spread your reach and costs nothing.
You add links like this to your pages or posts:
If you are using WordPress just add a plugin like Social Warfare to your site. These plugins are easy to install and use.
11. Social Links
Make sure you have links to your social media accounts on your site, so people can engage with you there if they like. Adding social media feeds to your site can also add interest and activity to a page as well as grow your social networks.
There are many strategies available to you for getting traffic to your website. You can use SEO techniques to try to rank well for certain keywords on search engines, and work to get organic traffic that way, the ‘free’ traffic. It’s not really free because it takes a lot of effort and time to get that ‘free’ traffic, but if you do it yourself you are not out the cash.
There are paid ad strategies, such as using Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, or boosting posts and content (a form of paid advertising) to get traffic to to your website. And another strategy is to get people to your website from other sources, like backlinks, which also help with SEO.
If you are not getting enough traffic to your website, you should consider which avenues of traffic generation you are using and how they could be improved.
12. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you are interested in getting found organically on search engines, you need to start with on-page SEO. That means making sure your page content is structured correctly for search engines (h1, h2, etc tags, schema markup, and meta tags properly setup and a keyword focus for each page).
SEO is a big and complex endeavor but you can start with the basics on your website. If you are new to the subject, I suggest starting with Moz.com’s Beginner’s guide to SEO.
If you are using WordPress, you can add a plugin like Yoast SEO to your site . Yoast has a very good tutorial video on configuring your SEO and adding meta tags and keywords to your site. You will find it after you install the plugin in the right column.
Do you have backlinks to your website from other sites? Do you have a plan for getting some if you don’t have any now
Backlinks are essential if you want good organic ranking on search engines. Backlinks are when another site, preferably an active well known site, puts a link to your website on their site.
The more of these quality backlinks you have, the better, in Google’s eyes.
If you are getting started with backlinks to improve your SEO and site stats, Brian Dean offers many tips and tricks on how to do it on his site at Backlinko.
14. Blog Post Promo
If you are writing content for your website regularly, are you promoting it so others can find it? You can promote it on your social feeds such as Facebook and Twitter.
Promoting it will help you to get social likes and shares, and build your email list if you offer a compelling lead magnet when visitors read your post.
Reviewing how you promote your posts is a good idea to see if you are getting as much bang for your buck as possible with your content.
Are you running any ads on Facebook, Google, Bing, or elsewhere? How are they performing? You will want to review your ad strategy regularly, and I am sure you do, because ads can be costly.
If you have never run ads on Google, Bing, or Facebook, you may want to give it a try. It’s an easy way to get targeted traffic to your site quickly. Just make sure you set your budget and watch it – costs can add up rapidly if you are not careful and you want to make sure your ads are bringing you a solid ROI before you rack up a big bill.
Here are some good articles to get you started if you are new:
Google Ads (formerly known as Adwords)
16. Visitor Tracking
Are you checking your website traffic statistics regularly so you know how many visitors are coming to your website? Do you have a tracking system in place?
Google analytics is free and easily installed on any website. It provides a wealth of information on who is coming to your site, from where, and what they do when they get there. If you are trying to optimize your site for more sales or conversions, you need this information.
Other tools are available as well:
The most important thing is that you review your stats regularly so you can tell how your site is doing, if any changes you make are improving or hurting your stats, and continue to try to make them better.
The nitty gritty of how your website performs can affect your customer’s experience. If your website’s performance is dismal, visitors to your site may go elsewhere for a better experience.
17. Responsive on Mobile
Check your site and your pages on your smartphone and a tablet too if you can. How does your website perform? Is it a pleasant experience? Or frustrating?
Websites typically need to be optimized for mobile. Sometimes content that works well on a desktop computer or large screen just doesn’t translate well on mobile devices. Or some content may need to be rearranged so it makes sense in a primarily vertical flow rather than horizontal space.
Tweaking and rearranging for mobile usually isn’t a huge project for your web maintenance person, although it does take some time and effort.
If your website isn’t responsive at all on mobile – if your website on your smartphone looks like a miniature version of your desktop site – that is a serious issue because a big chunk of your website visitors are most likely coming to your site from mobile devices. You can check your Visitor statistics to see; Analytics provides you with very detailed information on the technology visitors are using when they are on your website.
18. Fast Loading
How long does it take for your website to load in a browser? It is very worthwhile to try to get the load time to as low as possible for two reasons.
One reason, as Google tests described here detail, is that slower speeds mean fewer people using and staying on your page:
“Our experiments demonstrate that slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user of -0.2% to -0.6% (averaged over four or six weeks depending on the experiment). That’s 0.2% to 0.6% fewer searches for changes under half a second!”
Google added less than a second of delay, and that resulted in a drop in searches by those users. Imagine the impact of many seconds of delay for a site to load. It makes intuitive sense; we’ve all been on pages that take forever to load and if it’s too long we bail and go somewhere else. We are all busy.
The other reason you want a fast loading page is that page speed is a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. If you site is slow, its ranking in the search engines will be dinged.
GTMetrix has an awesome free tool on their site to check your page speed. It also offers solutions for how to fix any problems your site may have:
19. Website Security
If you have ever had your website hacked, you know the importance of website security. Having your website down for hours or days is a very bad user experience. And it doesn’t do much for your health and well-being either.
Do you have strong passwords for your website? Do not underestimate the value of strong passwords. If you think bots and hackers are not trying to break into your site all the time, you would be wrong.
Do you have a security plugin or extension or system in place for your site? If you are using WordPress, you can install the free version of either Sucuri or WordFence to help secure your site.
Is your website backed up regularly? If you’re not sure, check with your web hosting company and ask. Or your web developer if they do maintenance for you. Don’t assume they are doing this for you. If you ever are hacked, having a viable backup can be the difference between a short amount of time just restoring a backup, or days or more to rebuild your site. And that’s costly as well.
Having your website’s URL start with https:// is now imperative.
Without the SSL certificate turned on and activated on your website, Google’s Chrome browser will mark your site as “not safe”.
And it does add extra security to your website to protect your website visitors. (If you want more details on how, check out this video from Google on why SSL is important for every site.
Having the https:// header is also a ranking signal for Google’s search algorithm, so without it, you will end up lower in search results.
You need to install an SSL certificate on your site to use the https:// header. If you don’t have one, contact your website hosting provider for how to get one. Most hosts will offer a basic SSL for free, which is all you need in most cases.
Without the SSL certificate turned on and activated on your website, Google’s Chrome browser will mark your site as “not safe”.
Review Your Website Regularly
A website is never completely ‘done’. It may be launched, it may be out in the world, and that is a milestone, but it is an ongoing expression of your business or organization. And like your business or organization, it can’t remain static. It needs to be updated, improved, reviewed, and evaluated regularly to see how it can better serve you, just like other aspects of your business.
I hope this list of 20 Factors will help you improve your website and your business. If I can be of any help in evaluating your site or helping you craft a strategy for improvement, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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