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Is your website being as effective as it could at getting you the business you want?

Are you unsure of what to do to improve your site?

This list of 20 key factors of an effective website will help you evaluate your site, so you can identify areas in need of improvement, and then take action to fix them.

Improve them for a better experience for your clients or customers and a better bottom line for you.

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)

BEFORE WE BEGIN

It’s always good to begin with the end in mind. It’s hard to make a website effective if we don’t clearly know what it is that we want people to do. So…

What are your main goals for your website?

Do you have an e-commerce site? Is your main goal sales? You want people to click that buy now button and continue on to complete the purchase?

Perhaps you sell services, and what you really want are leads? You want people to fill out a form, or book a call, or make an appointment on your site.

Maybe you have a brick and mortar business, and your goal is to get more people to your restaurant, salon, or store. You want people to make a reservation, book a haircut, or come to your store and buy cupcakes.

Do you want to get and engage more readers if you are a blogger or some kind of content provider? You want people to find your site for certain topics, come there, stick around a while, and give you their email address.

How effective is your current website at helping you achieve your goals?

These 20 key factors most directly affect your potential customer’s experience of your site, and consequently whether they’ll take the action you want on your website.

Use them to improve your website’s effectiveness so you can achieve your goals faster.

CONTENT

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?

Look at the first few lines of text on your site, which is usually some big header text across the top. What does it say? Is it clear? Does it speak to what the customer needs, not just what you do?

For example, if you are a plumber, your headline might read:

Joe’s Plumbing & Heating.
Family Owned & Operated since 1933.

That’s okay. It’s great your business is family owned and has been around since 1933. But how does that help me with my leaky pipes, which are flooding my kitchen right now?

Joe’s Plumbing & Heating
Leaky Pipes? Broken Toilet?

Emergency Plumbing Repairs 24/7

If I have a leaky pipe, does that speak to my need? Do I feel like Joe understands me and can solve my problem?

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. They’ll just move on to the next option online.

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.

NOT SURE HOW TO FIX THIS?
Consider getting a good copywriter. A good copywriter will help clarify and focus your message on your customer, will know how to tap into their emotions to get them to take action, and are basically worth their weight in gold.

Contact Sparkem Studio to discuss how we can help with making your website’s message clear and customer focused.

2. A Clear Call to Action

Does your home page and your website have a clear call to action (CTA)?

A Call to Action (CTA) is usually a button asking your visitor to do something, like Call Now, or Book an Appointment, or Buy Now. It’s something specific and action oriented that asks them to do the next step to working or purchasing with you.

On this site my CTA is the Get a Quote button. You practically can’t get away from it on the home page. If the urge strikes people to get in touch 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. Don’t make them scroll around to find a contact form or your phone number. Please don’t make them work to find it.

call to action examples

Make your CTA a big button at the top of your website, preferably the top right navigation item in the top menu. This is prime real estate on your web page that the eye is naturally drawn to. Put the important thing there – your CTA.

Also put it in logical places within your text. If you are describing a service you offer on a page, put the CTA button in the text right after you describe the service. Make it easy for your customer to take the next step with you.

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? Are those steps easy for your customer to perform?

If you are an e-commerce business, is the checkout process smooth and seamless? If not, is there any way you can improve it? By making a one-page checkout, for instance? Or placing more Add to Cart buttons throughout your site, rather than only on the shop page?

You may need some development help to work out the kinks, but the easier it is for your customer to navigate your shopping cart, the more likely they are to complete the sale. The more steps in the checkout process, the less likely they are to complete the sale.

If you have an order form, is the form as simple as it can possibly be? The more fields you ask people to fill out, the less likely they are to complete the form. As is pointed out in this article by Venture Harbour, shorter forms usually convert better than longer forms, although there are exceptions.

Try to look at your purchase process objectively, and ask yourself if you would follow through on the process. If you feel it is confusing or consists of too many steps, what can you do to improve it?

You may be limited by the shopping cart you are using and how it works out of the box. But most can be customized, either with extension or plugins, through better design and page layout of your shop pages, or by investing in some custom development to create a smoother experience for your buyer.

It is worth looking into by talking to a designer or developer, or researching yourself what options are available for streamlining your user experience on your platform.

Contact Sparkem Studio if you’d like to discuss how we can help you improve your buyer’s experience on your website.

4. Declutter

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.”

This site is rather fascinating in a retro, overwhelming kind of way. Clutter is the order of the day.

arngren website 

Studies have shown that offering more options to customers reduces sales, as described in this article in the Harvard Business Review:

“On one day, shoppers at an upscale food market saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off any jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. The large display attracted more interest than the small one. But when the time came to purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display.”

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.

Moz.com product page

Are the options on your site clear and easy to navigate? Do you lead people to the solution they want, or do you make them wade through a sea of  options to find what they want? Study other websites for how this is done if you feel your site is cluttered or too busy. Or seek out a designer for layout and content flow ideas.

5. Social Proof

When people aren’t familiar with you or your products or services, they will need reassurance that you are legit and worthwhile before they hand you their money. They want to know others have gone before them and been happy with the result.

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.

Social proof can take the form of:

  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • Positive posts from your social media

Display 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.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have reviews or testimonials yet, your number one job should be to get some. Ask new clients or customers for a review. Offer your services at a discounted rate in exchange for an honest testimonial when the work is complete.

6. Attractive

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. If your website looks like it’s from another era, customers may wonder whether you are keeping up with modern times, or even still in business.

NNetscape Website from 1996

A dated website from 1996, still active. Is your website stuck in the past?

Is your website professional looking? If it looks homemade or amateurish, what does that say to potential customers about how your run your business?

If you don’t have a good design eye, talk to a web designer or developer about ways to spruce up your site. You may not need a redesign, just a once-over by a professional to give your site a facelift. A few hours of a designer’s time may do wonders for your website and your brand.

Contact Sparkem Studio to discuss how we can help with your dated website.

7. Easy to Navigate

Can potential customers easily find what they are looking for?

Are the most prominent items in your main website menu what a prospective customer might be interested in?

Keep the menus at the top of your page simple, and move many of the secondary links that most users may never or rarely visit down to the footer. Try to reduce the choices up top to help people find the important stuff first. If they really want to read your privacy policy, they’ll scroll down to look for it.

Review these common navigation mistakes to improve your website navigation.

ENGAGEMENT

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 an email list and working to grow it you can increase your sales and conversions enormously.

With an email list you can stay in contact with current customers, make them offers, and continue to maintain and grow your relationship with them, so they come back again and again.

With an email list you can woo 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, to entice them to become clients or customers.

What are you doing on your website to try to build your email list? Are you offering a lead magnet in exchange for an email address?

If you have an e-commerce site, the lead magnet could be a coupon code in exchange for an email address.

If you have a services business, it could be valuable information that you have packaged up in some form in exchange for an email address.

If you already have a list building strategy in place, how is it converting? Is it time for something new?

If you haven’t started building an email list of current and prospective customers, now is the time to start. Today.

You can use an email list tool like MailChimp to get started. MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 email list subscribers, so set it up and start learning about building your email list.

Email list building is an ongoing strategy that you should always be focused on. If you don’t have a strategy yet, or its effectiveness has lapsed, talk to a digital marketer about ways to grow your email list, which will improve your business and raise your revenue.

Contact Sparkem Studio if you’d like to discuss how we can help with your email marketing.

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, according to this article in Search Engine Journal:

“The quality of your website and blog content is still crucial for 2019. Content still reigns as king.”

If you want your website to rank well in search engines, quality content added regularly to your website matters.

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 proof for them that your company is active and valid.

If a potential customer takes away something of value from your content, that makes them like and appreciate you, and 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 that shares information of use to your potential customer. If you can’t do it, find a freelance writer or marketing agency who could do it for you.

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:

Social sharing example

 

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. Do you have active links to your social media accounts on your website?

Adding social media feeds to your site can also add interest and activity to a page as well as grow your social networks. It can be a way of making your website feel active and engaged. Your web developer should be able to help you with setting them up.

Facebook feed on a website

Contact Sparkem Studio if you need help setting up social feeds on your website.

TRAFFIC

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.

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 your goal is getting found organically on search engines, you need to start with on-page SEO. That means making sure your web 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).

How do you know if your website has good on-page SEO, properly configured? You can use a tool like SEOptimer.com to run a quick test to see how your site currently measures up.

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.

Or you can hire a marketing agency or SEO specialist to improve your website’s ranking. It will take time and money, but can be well worth it if it results in more traffic that convert to sales or leads for you.

13. Backlinks

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.

What is a backlink? A backlink is when another website puts a link to your website on their website. The more active and well known the site is that links to your website, the higher Google ranks that backlink. So a backlink from stanford.edu is worth more than a backlink from somesmallsite.com. However, all backlinks are valuable, and if ranking well in search engines is important for your business, you should be trying to get backlinks.

If you are just 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. (<-Hey, that’s a backlink for Backlinko.)

If you’re not sure what backlinks you have, you can use the free backlinks checker tool at Ahrefs to do a quick analysis of your site.

And as before, if you don’t want to do this yourself, you can hire a digital marketer or SEO specialist to work on getting you more good quality backlinks to improve your ranking in the search results.

14. Blog Post Promo

If you are writing content for your website regularly, are you promoting it on social media so others can find it? Promote your posts multiple times on social feeds such as Facebook and Twitter to get the most reach for your content.

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.

This post on Social Media Examiner is a good introduction to promoting your posts on social media.

Is it time to start promoting your posts, or promoting them more often? You’ve put the work into the content. Now do all you can to get as many eyes as you can on that content and on your website.

15. Ads/PPC

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)
https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/4362159?hl=en
https://www.theppcmachine.co.uk/google-ads-in-a-nutshell/

Facebook Ads
https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/facebook-ads-basics
https://blog.bufferapp.com/facebook-ads

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:
https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/06/04/the-top-10-tools-for-getting-an-insight-into-your-website-analytics/

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.

If you are unsure how to setup your website tracking, contact Sparkem Studio to find out how we can help.

TECHNICAL

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 a wide 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.

If your website has serious mobile responsiveness issues, it may be time to a website tune-up to get it working as well or better on smartphones as on a desktop computer. According to this report, 52.2% of website visitors are on mobile devices these days. Make sure your site works well on mobile.

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:

https://gtmetrix.com/

Site speed begins with the hosting server you are on, but there are many other aspects of your website that can be tweaked to speed up your site, such as adding a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache to your site, making sure your javascript and css files are compressed and minified, and making sure your images are optimized for the web.

If you need help fixing issues on your site, contact your web developerto see what can be done to speed up your site.

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.

20. SSL

Having your website’s URL start with https:// is now imperative.

https url

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 website hosting server 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 certificate for free, which is all you need in most cases.

You will need to activate the SSL on your website, and if you are using WordPress one of the easiest ways to do that is with the Really Simple SSL plugin.

The Final Factor: 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 you need help with evaluating, strategizing, or implementing any of these 20 Key Factors on your website, contact us at Sparkem Studio and let’s get started improving your website and your business.

Get a quote from Sparkem Studio and improve your website.

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