Most marketers only review their websites when they make an update or there is a problem, but that is a surefire way to overlook critical issues that affect the well-being of the site and the overall business. In this article, we’ll review the steps marketers should take to ensure their websites are in tip-top shape.
Step 1: Marketer, Know Thyself
Assessing your own website is one of the first and most important steps to ensuring your site is optimized. This process involves understanding the content, goals and overall user experience of the website. Focusing on established goals and objectives as a means for optimization will almost always yield the greatest return on your efforts.
For example, if your goal is to drive more leads, reviewing your site through that lens will allow you to identify where users may be falling off prior to conversion. Maybe your product/solution pages aren’t intuitive, maybe your ads are misleading, or maybe you’re focused on the wrong audience. Whatever the case may be, having a clear picture of what you’re trying to accomplish on your site is foundational.
Comparing your findings to the competitive research outlined in the following sections will start you on the path to continuous improvement grounded in both quantitative and qualitative data.
Step 2: Always Be Reporting
Do you know where your leads are coming from? What marketing initiatives are moving the needle? If you don’t have reporting in place, you probably don’t. However, not all reporting is created equal; if you’re just reporting the weather, you’re missing the point.
Who Are Your Customers and What Do They Do?
The best way to gauge success of your optimizing efforts is to continuously monitor and analyze site performance. When set up correctly, reporting provides insight into which pages, products, and solutions are performing and keeps you apprised of user engagement and interests. Most of all, good reporting tells you what is and is not working.
What Are Your Objectives?
Defining your key performance indicators (e.g., form submissions, visits, calls) and measuring your performance against them is critical to success. That lead generation campaign may be driving traffic, but is that traffic converting to leads? What good are 100,000 site visits if none of them convert to leads as part of your lead generation campaign? Understanding the who, what, when, where and why of your website will make optimizing that much easier.
Step 3: Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Your Competitors’ Websites Closer
Competitive research provides insight into how your website stacks up against your competitors’ sites. And by understanding how you compare, you can begin to understand where you’re winning, where you’re losing and what needs to be accomplished.
While it varies by industry, it usually helps to begin by identifying three to five competitors your company normally goes head-to-head with. This can be from both a sales perspective, as well as a general search visibility perspective (e.g., you both run paid ads on the same keywords or usually appear in the same organic SERPs). Once you’ve identified these competitors, your research should be focused on answering the following questions:
- What are my competitors doing better?
- What are we doing better? (Hint: Refer to your site analysis mentioned at the beginning.)
- Where are opportunities to improve?
These questions can be answered in many ways, covering anything from user experience to search optimization and even just interesting and useful content. For example, if your industry has a more professional personality, your content and overall tone probably shouldn’t be targeted towards a hip, Millennial audience.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can use this information to understand opportunities and hurdles your website faces and establish a roadmap focused on continuous optimization.
Step 4: Let’s Get Technical, Technical
As I’ve said before, this is the most basic stuff. If you don’t do this, you’re probably wasting your time reading this blog post. So many marketers today focus so heavily on the user-facing side of their site that they forget the backend even exists. And that’s sad.
Webmaster (Sitemaps, Indexation, Robots.txt, etc.)
These are the basics, folks. As long as you’ve submitted a sitemap and checked the indexation of your pages (both of which you can conveniently accomplish via Google Search Console), you should be set. Ensuring your sitemap is up-to-date and structured in a manner that is aligned to your goals will make for easier ongoing optimization as your site continues to grow.
You never get a second chance at a first impression; that’s why load time is so important. It’s low-hanging fruit and yet so many marketers don’t test it on a regular basis.
Given search engine emphasis on mobile and onsite engagement, you need to ensure your tech specs are as optimized as possible. Sure your site looks nice, but that doesn’t matter if the resource-intensive header video background and the uncompressed stock photography of generic business people makes your page take 10 minutes to load. I don't know about you, but it takes me a split second to bounce; don’t even get me started on websites that don’t employ browser caching.
This one’s a gimme. Google Analytics even recommends optimization opportunities directly within the platform.
Minification is focused on removing unnecessary characters from code, including white space, new lines and comments. This makes your page smaller and allows it to load faster, which provides a better experience for your visitors and can yield better results over time.
Conclusion: Never Stop Optimizing
Bear in mind, this is not an exhaustive list — just a foundation you can use to begin optimizing your website. There are always new opportunities to optimize that you can subsequently incorporate into your process and every new opportunity begets a new step in the optimization process. It’s like your own perpetual motion machine! However, I feel confident that if you follow the steps outlined above, you’ll have the data needed to understand and continually optimize your site.
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