1. Make sure it loads quickly.
Having a slow loading site will not only annoy or chase away your visitors, it can also hurt your chances with search engines. Since 2010, Google has been using site speed as a factor in their search algorithm — which means the slower your site loads, the less chance you will have of being found on Google. You can type in your website url to Google’s PageSpeed tool to analyze your website and see what factors could be contributing to your website loading slowly. This is a helpful tool that gives you prioritized suggestions on what you may want to improve on your site.
2. See how it works on mobile devices.
It is officially official (and has been for a few years now): mobile is here. Pull up your website on a tablet, then on a smartphone. Is the text hard to read? Does it take a very long time to load? Do you have to pinch, zoom, and swipe profusely?Is there interactive content that doesn’t display as it should? If you’re not already catering to your mobile website visitors, you should be. (Update, April 2015: Google now uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor.) In general, there are two approaches to “mobilizing” a website: a separate mobile website, or a responsive website. A separate mobile site is just what it sounds like — a second website that is created for mobile visitors only. This means you can completely customize the experience your mobile visitors have; it also means you will now have two (or more) websites to manage. There are low-cost online tools that you can use to create a mobile version of your website if you are in a pinch, however it is generally better to have a web developer do this for you, particularly for larger or more complicated websites. A responsive website is a single website that adjusts automatically according to the device used to view it, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet, desktop, or SmartTV. While I believe a responsive website is almost mandatory this day and age, the path you take should depend on your business and your strategic goals. Even if you are unable to invest in a mobile site or making your current site responsive today, you need to be planning on how you will address it. And in the meantime, you might want to check out SitePoint’s 10 Ways to Make your Website More Mobile Friendly.
3. Install and analyze Google Analytics data.
This seems like a given, but the single most valuable thing you can do for your online marketing strategy is install Google Analytics on your website. It allows you to capture invaluable data about your website visitors — where they come from, what pages they click on, how long they stay on a page, how many become customers, etc. All of this data gives you insight that allows you to make informed decisions about your website and marketing efforts. It’s as easy as adding a snippet of code to your website, and if you can’t do it, your web developer surely can.
4. Get feedback.
One of the most valued resources for website owners is their visitors, in the form of direct feedback from those who are visiting your site. You can make all the assumptions in the world, and even with all the Google Analytics data in the world, nothing compares to direct verbatim feedback on what was confusion, misleading, annoying, or wonderful about your website. There are a few ways to approach this: Use an online service that provides usability testing, place a prominent “Website Feedback” button on your site, or craft an online survey that your visitors complete before they leave your site. Try a service such as Inspectlet, which allows you to record and playback actual visitor sessions on your site. I am a strong proponent of user testing, so even if you don’t want to use an online usability service, the very least you can do is get five users (that are representative of your target audience) and ask them to perform certain common tasks on your website while you observe. Watch what they do, but don’t guide them in any way. You might be surprised at what you learn about how visitors actually engage with your website as opposed to how you thought they would. Nielsen Norman Group provides further reading on iterative usability tests, if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty.
5. Update your photos and images.
Imagery is so hugely influential to our impressionable little brains. If you have old or dated images on your site, you may be giving off the wrong impression about your business. It is relatively easy to update them and give a fresh new look and feel. You may have old headshots of yourself or your staff, or amateur photos that were taken with a camera phone. Guess what? Time to get new professional pictures taken. If you have old stock photos that are bland and boring, update them, or have a professional photographer shoot something unique. It can make all the difference in the world for visitors to your website.
6. Add testimonials or reviews
If you don’t already ask for reviews, start doing it. In addition to learning what your customers think about your products or services, you get the added benefit of sharing their views with other potential customers. If you are doing this constantly, this is an easy way to have current information on your site, and adds a valuable trust element to your website. You can either do this manually (collecting reviews online or offline and entering them into your website), or automatically with an integrated online review system that your web developer can implement.
7. Create something informative.
People like helpful things. The e-commerce flow chart I created is one of the top hits on my site, and is within the top five Google results for the keyphrase, because it’s addressing a question people have and giving away information for free that can help them. Find a pain point or a question that your target audience has and don’t be afraid to give away helpful information for free. I’m not talking about your deepest darkest trade secrets, but something that can 1) drive traffic to your site for lead generation; 2) show people that you’re an expert in your field; and 3) help them with their problem or show them that YOU can help them with their problem. That could take the form of a white paper, a flow chart, an infographic, an e-book, a PDF guide, a video series, whatever works for you.
8. Re-evaluate the stage your business is in.
Have you grown or changed in ways your website doesn’t reflect? Is everything on your website current? These are questions that you should ask every once in a while. It may be that you just need to update some copy (like removing that coupon that expired three months ago). Maybe you want to add an instructional or promotional video to your homepage to explain your latest product. Maybe you need to add social media integration to your site. Maybe you need to remove social media integration from your site since you only did it because everybody else was doing it but you’ve found it poses no benefit to you. Whatever you do, make sure that your website is a current representation of who you are and what you do.
Some of these things you can handle on your own; others you may need to contact your web developer to implement for you. Either way, the point is that you should constantly be evaluating your website and making improvements. Unlike print design, the beauty of the web is that it is fluid and interactive, so take advantage of it!