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why websites fail

Why the Majority of Websites Fail

Gone are the days where businesses can rely solely on “pretty” websites. In today’s digital marketing landscape, a website must be an optimized, revenue-generating platform.

I’ll just get right to it: The reason so many websites fail is because businesses take a design-driven approach from the beginning as opposed to developing a website from the ground up with SEO in mind. Without SEO your coding and design efforts will all be for nothing.

A brief look at the web design industry

I hear the same complaint from entrepreneurs time and time again: They’ll get a referral, hire a friend, or search online to find a web designer based on style and price. Sound familiar?

When this happens, more often than not, businesses realize upon site completion that their brand new fancy website isn’t optimized for search. The new site launches and search rankings don’t change at all (some even plummet). But hey, at least the website looks good.

It’s never a fun day when you have to tell an entrepreneur that they likely need a complete site redesign in order to achieve their SEO and business goals.

Because I’ve heard this story so many times, it is now my mission to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-web designer, and I do think first impressions and a good-looking site are important, I just want the web design industry to embrace SEO as well and make it a natural part of the web development process. It’s a win-win for everybody!

Why web design is like building a house

A web designer or design agency are often chosen because of the look of their portfolio. It can be easy to judge a book by its cover when it comes to hiring a designer, as they are digital artists with distinct tastes that either don’t match or do match the direction you’d like to take your brand aesthetically. While web designers are generally very good at their craft, the majority of them are not marketers or SEO consultants.

The issue lies with business owners searching “web design” when looking to hire somebody to do their website, so it’s no wonder a design team would pop up. Rarely do people search “inbound marketing platforms” (which is what they should be typing in) when looking to build their website as the phrase isn’t as commonly used as “web design.”

So, where does the whole “building a house” analogy come into play? If a house were built by an interior designer, it would likely collapse, right? Most people wouldn’t allow an interior designer to build their house, and the same can be said for the website development process. To attract and convert visitors into sales, you need an entirely different skillset than design.

In order to disrupt this traditional way of thinking, web designers need to embrace marketing and SEO, and business owners need to treat the website as a true investment that will help them reach their business goals.

Where content and SEO come in

As we established in the previous sections, when it comes to building a website, looks matter but not nearly as much as the marketing strategy that goes into your website. Your website needs to make a good first impression, but it has to do so much more than that. A good website helps you to sell time and time again. I like to call this the SEO-content balance – SEO brings people to the site, and content converts them.

If a website has a great SEO structure, but terrible content, your process will likely breakdown. The same is true the other way around. If you have great content, but a terrible SEO strategy, people will never see it! You need to have a perfect balance between the two to have optimal success.

Your website’s ranking potential

To be competitive online, you need to invest in a custom website built with SEO in mind as it’s being developed. Your website should not be built with a templated theme (like so many of them are). It should be developed around your business’s needs and marketing goals.

Your website is an investment, not an expense. It takes time, effort, and talent to build it right, but trust me, it’ll all be worth it in the end.

If I haven’t made it clear by now, let me reiterate that your website is one of your company’s most important assets. All of your sales, marketing, and advertising efforts lead back to your website (or at least they should), so you need to make sure it’s modern, updated, and functions properly. There’s nothing worse than driving people to your site only for them to be disappointed that the site is clearly dated. It shows you don’t care enough about your company to leave a lasting impression on your audience.

At the end of the day, your website needs to get your phone ringing, not just serve as a piece of eye-candy, so make sure you’re spending the time and money to get it right.

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services. For more tips on website design, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

6 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Trust Your Website

Portrait of a young angry man on bright concrete background

Let’s face it, most of us are skeptical when we visit a business website for the first time.

We inherently distrust information on the Internet – unless it comes from trusted sources. It’s just the way it is.

This is why it is essential for your small business website to convince new visitors that you are trustworthy and why you are the company they should choose.

On the other hand, your ideal clients are less likely to trust you if:

You don’t have a detailed About Us Page

The About Us page is one of the most sought out pages of a website. When consumers arrive at your site, they want to know who you are and get to know your business’s “story.” This is your opportunity to introduce yourself, your business and your team while letting your customer know why they can’t live without your product or service. Jeff Haden provides some great tips on how to improve your About Us page.

You don’t have a Head Shot or Team Photos

Posting a photo of your actual team develops a sense of confidence that will encourage a customer to buy from you. Without these kinds of photos, consumers may lose confidence in a website. Your goal is to create a Know Like Trust website, and including yours and your team’s headshots will greatly improve the trust factor of your site.

You don’t have a Telephone Number Listed

When you display a phone number on your website it means you are accessible. When no telephone number is present, on the other hand, it can look like you are hiding something.  And who do I call if there is a problem with the purchase? For local businesses, having a local area code (as opposed to an 800 number) adds trust as well.

You don’t have a Physical Contact Address Listed

As with your phone number, a physical address adds many layers of trust to your website.   People want to know you are a real, physical entity and displaying a physical address appears way more trustworthy than an anonymous contact form. Furthermore, a physical address is both an on-page and off-page SEO ranking factor. Google likes to see a physical address clearly listed on your website, preferably in the footer of each web page. Your address is also an off-page local SEO ranking factor.

You don’t have any Certifications, Association or Trust Badges

Adding trust badges, association badges and certifications to your website provide reassurance for potential customers that you are a credible business. There are countless badge options to consider, from payment and security to membership associations. The more you have present (which are only available if you meet specific standards) the more trustworthy your website will become.

Some organizations to think about using include business association sites like the BBB and your local chambers, charity and volunteer sites your business is associated with, as well as website security badges that come along with services from TRUSTe, McAfee, VeriSign.

You don’t have any Testimonials or Reviews

The power of a testimonial is found in its objectivity. This means that someone outside of the brand is doing the talking, so the credibility is MUCH higher. A 2013 study by Dimensional Research concluded that 90% of customers are influenced by online reviews – that is pretty much all of us. You should make it a priority to include customer reviews on your website and research more on how to get clients to leave a Google maps review to improve your local SEO visibility.

You don’t provide any Client, Portfolio or Case Study Information

You need to prove that you can deliver on the promises you are making. In addition to publishing testimonials from clients, show off your portfolio and publish a case study. Each of these components will prove that you can back up the claims you are making to offer superior products or services. This provides a consumer with tangible proof.

You don’t Blog

According to BlogHer, 81% of U.S. consumers trust advice and information that is published on blogs. Also, when you blog regularly, customers will see that you know the business and that you are providing valuable and actionable information they can use. Blogging makes you an authority and people trust authorities.

If you have yet to create any content that shows you are an authority, it can be hard to convince consumers you are a trustworthy source of information. Publish blog content, create an eBook, produce podcasts and show people what you know to build your own creditability.  Blogging is also an important SEO ranking factor. John Jantsch provides a great list of the 7 most important SEO factors for bloggers.

You don’t Participate in Social Media

Being able to maintain an active presence on social media is essential. This means that you are engaging with the fans and followers who like or share your content. Social media is considered a two-way street and if you don’t participate in the conversation, then it can cause customers to lose trust in what you do and offer. They may even begin to believe you don’t care about their input or feedback.

You don’t have a Decent, Mobile Friendly Web Design

According to a Stanford University study, 80% of people judge the credibility of a company by its website design. Whoa! Something to really think about if you have a cheap WordPress theme, a GoDaddy web-builder website or something that was slapped together by your nephew. Most businesses take their websites for granted and have unknowingly lost a lot of business, especially lost referral business.

With over 50% of Internet searches made on mobile devices, you simply must have a mobile friendly website. Your website looks SUPER dated if users have to pinch and zoom to view content on your site. Pound for pound, the condition and quality of your website is probably the most important website trust factor.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

phil-singleton.jpgPhil Singleton is a self-described ‘SEO grunt’ obsessed with tweaking websites for search engine optimization and conversions, and creating WordPress SEO & PPC plugins. He owns & operates Kansas City Web Design and Kansas City SEO. Phil is co-author author of the Amazon best-seller The Small Business Owner’s Guide To Local Lead Generation (2015), and author of the Amazon best-selling Kindle eBook How To Hire A Web Designer: And Not Get Burned By Another Agency (2015).  Visit his latest website at https://digitalprowebdesign.com or connect with Phil Singleton on LinkedIn.

 

4 What is Structured Data & Schema for Websites & SEO?

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 9.24.08 AMFor business owners and even for many marketing consultants, search engine optimization can seem like a headache – especially when it comes to any level of technical SEO.

The good news is that a professional marketing strategy that is powered by a search engine friendly website and consistent content marketing, many small business websites can achieve at least some level of search engine visibility without getting too deep into the SEO weeds.

Yet, in more competitive local niches, and certainly at the national level, there is a more complex world of technical SEO that needs to be addressed in order for your site to have a fighting chance.

Schema is a topic that many in SEO service providers find to be complicated and difficult.  In fact, the previous head of Bing Search, Duane Forrester, said at an SMX conference that most people get schema wrong.  In fact, I often hear many experienced web designers and SEO specialists that either don’t use schema or have difficulty implementing this newer type of SEO website code – and this is understandable once you start browsing through the thousands of pages at Schema.org.

Let’s Clear Up Come Confusion

In the world of SEO website code, you will hear terms like Structured Data, Schema and Rich Snippets.  Most people have no idea what these are or they (incorrectly) use them interchangeably:

  • Structured Data:  Structured data is a way for digital content publishers to highlight or “tag” content on their web pages to help search engines know exactly what certain content relates to.  In other words, structured data gives search engines another dimension of context for web page content.
  • Schema:  Schema is a shared markup vocabulary listed at Schema.org that is recognized by search engines to help with structured data efforts.  In other words, Schema represents the building blocks of Structured Data.
  • Rich Snippets:  If your Structured Data coding is implemented correctly, the search engines will use the Structured Data on your website to display key information right into the search results page.  This bonus search engine “bling” is often referred to as rich snippets.

What does Structured Data do?

In a nutshell, structured data is a detailed set of website code that is “under the hood” of your website.  If you know some SEO basics, you are probably familiar with the meta page title and meta description on your web pages – these are usually the blue linked text and black description text that appear in on the search results page.  Just like your page title and meta description, Schema is extra code that gives context to the search engines in a standard format that they understand.   With structured data, you can clearly define to the search engines the content on your web pages.

When Google accesses this code on your site and deems it valuable to the searcher, they might add extra information right into the results via a rich snippet.

A common (and highly coveted) example of a rich snippet is when you see a star rating review or aggregate rating review show up right on the Google search results page.  A review on your website is a great example of content that will not be shown in search results unless you add the right schema code into your website in the right place.  

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Here are some examples where you see structured data on the SERPs:

  • Knowledge Graph: the upper right box that shows up in search results for company name searches or brand searches
  • Aggregate Star Review Ratings in search results
  • Product ratings in Search results
  • Event details that appear in search results
  • Search box for your site that shows up in search results
  • Video thumbnails’ that show up in search results

Schema Helps SEO, Big Time

There is no doubt that schema has a big impact on your rankings. Although right now, this is primarily an indirect effect.  How so?  Rich snippets (schema-triggered data in SERPs) have a HUGE impact on organic click through rate (CTR), and it’s well known that CTR is an organic ranking factor.   Think about it.  When you see event data or review data within a search result, aren’t you more compelled to click those results?  

But wait, there’s more.

Like the mobile friendly ranking update that was launched in 2014, Google is now starting to give some pretty strong hint that schema will become a direct ranking factor.

The Three Schema Formats

  1. MicroData, as defined by Wikipedia, is a WHATWG HTML specification used to nest metadata within existing content on web pages. Search engines, web crawlers, and browsers can extract and process Microdata from a web page and use it to provide a richer browsing experience for users.
  2. RFDa or Resource Description Framework in Attributes is another format that adds a set of attribute-level extensions to HTML, XHTML and various XML-based document types for embedding rich metadata within web pages.
  3. JSON-LD is the latest and greatest Schema format and my personal favorite because of the ease of implementation (and I think it’s Google’s favorite too):   In Google’s own words:  JSON-LD is the newest and simplest markup format: it lets you embed a block of JSON data inside a script tag anywhere in the HTML. Since the data does not have to be interleaved with the user-visible text, it’s much easier to express nested data items (say, the Country of a PostalAddress of a MusicVenue of an Event). Also, Google can read JSON-LD data even when it is dynamically injected into the page’s contents, such as by Javascript code or embedded “widgets.”

Google Has Made It A Little Easier

Google know schema and website code, in general, is very difficult for most users to implement. Yet, they desperately want you to use schema because it makes their search engine more accurate and enables them to show more useful information in search results.

They have made some tools for you to generate this code.  The first is Google’s structured data markup helper. This online wizard will help you generate schema code for your web page.  Once generated, you will have to install on your website.  This tool is awesome because it takes the guesswork out of what schema to use and guides you how to “tag” the element on your site.  You simply paste in the webpage URL that you want to tag and follow the guide.

The downside is that once the code is generated, you have to install it on your site.  This is where some of the pain comes in for business owners and even marketers that tend to lose confidence once they have to make changes to a WordPress site (for example) where you get out of the CMS admin environment.

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Another tool is the Structured Data Highlighter in Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).  This tool enables you to highlight and tag structured data with your GSC account.  This is a nice feature, but it does not include all the data tags and the tagging you do in this account does not reside on your website.  This tool is not really a replacement for adding structured data to your website, but it does help “teach” Google about data patterns on your website.

One More Tool

As an Internet marketing strategist that handle dozens of SEO campaigns for companies of all sizes, my team was spending too much time trying to add and optimize structured data on our clients’ WordPress websites.  There are a ton of structured data plugins for WordPress out there, but many are either difficult to use or only provide markup for something specific, such as ratings.   I found no comprehensive, easy-to-use structured data plugins for small business websites or for local search engine optimization.

Further, very few schema plugins support JSON-LD, the latest and greatest in structured data code.  This is really important because with JSON-LD you don’t have to mess with shortcode or HTML, which makes it easier for a developer like myself to create a very user-friendly plugin that is also “less invasive” to existing website code.  

So recently I released my own free WordPress plugin that enables you to set up structured data on your website, modeled exactly after the way Google guidelines on Structured Data.

Except with my plugin, you never have to mess with any code or with the Google structured data tools, nor log into Google Search Console to tag data through your (or your client’s accounts).  Be sure to download my SEO Structured Data WordPress plugin (available February 2016) and give it a try!

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If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

phil-singleton.jpgPhil Singleton is a self-described ‘SEO grunt’ obsessed with tweaking websites for search engine optimization and conversions, and creating WordPress SEO & PPC plugins.  He owns & operates Kansas City Web Design®, a top Kansas City web design agency, and Kansas City SEO®. Phil is co-author author of the Amazon best-seller The Small Business Owner’s Guide To Local Lead Generation (2015), and author of the Amazon best-selling Kindle eBook How To Hire A Web Designer: And Not Get Burned By Another Agency (2015).   Visit his websites at http://kcwebdesigner.com and http://kcseopro.com, or connect with Phil Singleton on LinkedIn.

13 Point Checklist for the Perfect Website Redesign

Website redesign

I rarely encounter a business that simply doesn’t yet have a website. Regardless of the bizarre reports that still contend 50% of all small business owners don’t have a website. (See Inc)

Now, what I do encounter most of the time is a small business that needs a total site makeover or redesign. It’s not that they were just awful in the first place, (well, some were) it’s that every site, just like every business, needs to evolve. That means if your current site design is around two years old it needs some attention.

But, before you rush out and give a designer the keys to your site, take steps to ensure you don’t unknowingly undue all the good you’ve accomplished with your previous site.

Eager designers don’t mean harm when they create a new design, they just need more information, and that’s where you come in. Before you even visit a WordPress theme designer arm yourself with some information that can help them make good decisions about what stays and what goes in your current configuration or take the risk of losing all that hard earned search traffic.

Now, I’m not suggesting you simply hang on to SEO gains over things like better navigation, visitor usability, and conversion, but don’t throw everything out just for something that looks more modern.

Use this checklist as you embark on a site redesign as a way to capture all existing elements and consider content needs, edits and issues before the project starts.

  1. Do you have access to Google Analytics? – I know, weird question, but you might be surprised how many sites have analytics installed the owners have no idea how to access the data.
  2. Do you have access to Google Search Console (formerly webmaster tools) – I frequently find site owners who have never bothered to connect their sites here and use this invaluable resource
  3. Have you evaluated domain suitability and value and checked expiration? – Carefully and I mean carefully consider if your current domain is even right for your business. Certainly this is a good time to check and make sure your desired domain isn’t set to expire anytime soon. (Quick check WhoIS)
  4. Have you cataloged all pages and current issues? – Use Screaming Frog to create a spreadsheet of all of your pages and any currently broken links or crawl errors.
  5. Have you added Google Analytics data for pageviews, bounce rate and time on page to a spreadsheet to help make assessment on content to keep? By adding this kind of data to your spreadsheet you might learn about some pages that are receiving a surprising amount of traffic or links.
  6. Have you ranked your spreadsheet content? A= keep no edit, B=keep edits needed, C= drastic rewrite or dump? This step involves your overall business and marketing strategy so you’ll need to consider how you want to position your business and your editorial calendar moving forward to make some of this decisions.
  7. Have you audited any lead capture/landing pages/forms? If you’re capturing email addresses for a newsletter, ebook or webinar series you’ll want to make sure you take note of these for the redesign. It’s easy to lose track of landing pages because they are often buried away from the main navigation.
  8. Have you audited SEO for ranking pages? Screaming Frog can give you information about pages that already rank for desired terms. If these terms are still relevant, you’ll want to think long and hard about how to keeps these pages intact.
  9. Have you audited permalink structure? A site redesign might be the time to analyze whether you want those ugly numbered URLs for your blog posts or the default date added. Most sites today are moving to keyword-rich URLs for all content (Don’t worry, I’m headed there in a month or two myself.)
  10. Have you analyzed current backlinks? Use a tool like ahrefs to see if any sites are sending significant traffic to pages. You’ll want to use some of this information to make determinations about leaving pages as is or even permanently redirecting the pages to eliminate creating too many broken links. (You might also consider some links that need pruning too.)
  11. Have you designed a 301 permanent redirect strategy if needed? If you’re making any dramatic URL changes, you’ll want to tell the search engines that your blog posts still exist they’re just at a new address. Make sure you work this through and test it thoroughly before you launch. The Yoast SEO Plugin can help with 301s
  12. Have you evaluated current plugins for use? A redesign is a great time to reconsider your current plugin use. Plugins are a big resource drag and a security hole – less is better.
  13. Have you evaluated needed integrations (CRM, ESP, Shopping cart, etc.) Finally, if you currently have some integration with other 3rd party tools or client portals, you’ll want to note the need for these and make sure you can share this information with your designer.

The steps above may seem like a lot of work, but it will save you a ton of work, worry, and headache in the end. In fact, if you start working with a designer and they don’t ask you for this information up front, you should be concerned.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

4 A Visual Guide to Local SEO for Small Business Websites

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Justin Sturges – Enjoy!

How to Build a Perfectly Optimized Local Website by Following the Google Guidelines!

Building a winning local website is no simple task. We need content about our business, a blog, location pages, photos and galleries, contact pages and more! All this can quickly overwhelm budgets and plans.

So in order to help, we’ve built an infographic which attempts to help small business owners, consultants, web designers and local marketers get a better plan.

Anyone a fan of the A-Team? Remember Hannibal Smith, big cigar in his mouth, saying “I love it when a plan comes together”? I loved that.

And the goal here is to help your plan “come together”.

In the process of creating this post, we first attempted to write it in s standard blog text format… we tried hard, but it was B-O-R-I-N-G. Really, boring. Then we got the idea to make it into an infograhic.

We think it worked, it’s a big one, but hopefully you’ll agree it’s the best approach. We hope you’ll save it and use it to guide the development of your website and get the clarity you need as you go.

We’ve combined our experience with extensive research across the local space online. At the bottom of the infographic we site the sources we used in developing the blueprint.

At the bottom of this post we provide a PDF link and embed links at a couple sizes as well.

Here you go:

Local-SEO-Template-Blueprint-Infographic3

This graphic and the systems we use ourselves in-house to build sites following these guidelines are always evolving. If you have questions or further ideas from the trenches we’d love to hear from you.

Share this Image On Your Site

Wrapping up:
The key take aways here are to please read the Google SEO Guidelines, you will be a step ahead if you do. Use the Google guidelines together with this infographic and you will be far ahead of 99% of the folks out there.

Get the PDF version:
Visual-Guide-To-On-Page-Local-SEO.pdf

Justin is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Systemadik Marketing where he and his team work with local businesses to build better online marketing systems.  Justin has been working online since 1994, he is currently working on launching the Systemadik LMS (Local Marketing System) which is a custom WordPress SEO and content solution for local businesses.  He is a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and employs the DTM system to provide strategic support and leading marketing tools to his clients. Justin is a father and husband and enjoys exploring the cenotes and coral reefs of the Yucatan Peninsula with his family.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

4 5 Landing Page Mistakes That Erode Trust

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Kristen Gramigna  – Enjoy!

The 5 Content Mistakes That Make You Seem UntrustworthyWhen someone clicks an online ad or banner, he or she usually comes to a customized landing page — a webpage specially designed to move him or her to action. But the way things are said on that landing page — i.e., the content that is used — can make all the difference between whether a visitor becomes a customer or whether he or she clicks away. Have you thought about some of the most common content mistakes that can harm credibility and, by extension, results?

Below are a few easy mistakes copywriters can fall into, without even realizing it, when crafting content for landing pages:

  1. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords: Sure, keywords are important for online content, but they are never more important than creating content that makes sense. When your writing is so hyper-stuffed with keywords that your readers get lost, you’re making a classic content mistake. Instead, to make your content powerful, stop stuffing keywords haphazardly and focus on writing content that is legitimately useful and valuable. Keep in mind that a well-written landing page should include keywords in a way that isn’t obvious. Ask yourself: Will it be obvious to my readers what keywords I’m pushing here? If so, you need to rework the page.
  2. Not Delivering: It’s popular nowadays to write headlines to be clickable and easy to notice — but even if your content gets a lot of hits, those hits mean nothing if readers are frustrated once they arrive. Just as important as getting visitors to your landing page is keeping them there. That’s why your content must deliver on what your headline promises. Ask yourself: Is my landing page appropriate for my headline? Are visitors getting what I’m promising when they click over to the site? If not, rework your content.
  3. Writing to the Wrong Level of Consumer: A good tip to keep in mind with all copywriting is that good content is targeted content. If you’re writing a basic cake recipe for beginner home cooks, you’re on the right track. If you’re writing a basic cake recipe for master chefs with culinary degrees, you’re not. Likewise, a lot of companies make the mistake of writing to the wrong level of consumer, whether that means beginners (when they should be writing to intermediate) or intermediate (when they should be writing to beginners). Ask yourself: Who is my audience? Who am I targeting? Then, make sure your content lines up with those answers.
  4. Me, Me, Me: Your landing pages is not about you; it’s about your prospective customer. Rather than waxing eloquent about your company and its history and its products, tell the reader what you offer him or her. Ask yourself: Why should my readers care about this? Then find a way to focus on what’s in it for them.
  5. Treating Content Like Ad Space: Advertising might drive readers to your landing page, but it won’t keep them there. Your landing page is not a place to be flashy and salesy; it’s a place to show the reader why they want what you offer. Ask yourself: Does my landing page sound like an advertisement? If so, rewrite it.

Your Thoughts

After going through the above list, what do you think? Are your landing pages helpful and relevant, or are they keyword-stuffed and dull? Do you speak to the reader’s desires, or are you just talking about yourself? Think about your landing pages strategically, and you’ll see better conversion rates over time.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

Kristen GramignaKristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm, and also serves on its Board of Directors. She has more than 15 years of experience in in direct sales, sales management, and marketing.

 

 

28 Ideal Visitor Optimization Is the New Website Design

I am going through the process of reconfiguring my website. Note that I did not say redesign. While there will be an incredible design element provided by the fine folks at Studio Press and Copyblogger Media, my real focus is on configuration around something I’m going to call “Ideal Visitor Optimized Goals.”

Before I explain what it is I think I mean by that, let me talk about the past.

qf8 via Flickr CC

Like many marketers over the last decade or so, a great deal of my web strategy has revolved around producing content that draws links and eventually eyeballs. While that strategy has been effective by many measures, such as traffic, page rank and authority, it falls short in today’s information overloaded landscape.

The website of today and moving forward must begin with conversion in mind. But, first you must expand your view of conversion. Conversion doesn’t have to mean a sale or lead capture, conversion is simply the act of intentionally leading a visitor through your content in a way that allows them to get exactly what they need.

A conversion mindset makes it obvious at every turn what you want me the visitor to do next.

To be the most effective, web content must start with that goal rather than measure and track from an existing predefined framework.

The most important design and configuration focus must be on key visitor actions – What is it you want a visitor to do from every vantage point? What must they get from their visit in order to move to the next step? What constitutes a successful visit? How can you site build trust? How can your site collaborate with a visitor to perform the initial functions of a sales funnel?

These are the new fundamental design and configuration questions that have to be addressed at a strategic mapping kind of level in order to create the most useful visitor experience.

The framework isn’t a revolutionary idea; it simply needs to be used in a way that informs every element.

  • Who is the ideal visitor you’re configuring for?
  • What are their needs, wants and problems?
  • What is the core message of difference that attracts?
  • What keywords, topics and chapters of content need to be included?
  • What are the 2-3 ideal visitor actions that are desired?
  • What is the conversion path that must be walked and measured?

From this framework you can begin to set goals for meaningful interactions and from there you start the real work of building your Ideal Visitor Optimized Goals.

Ideal Visitor Optimized Goals are a set of goals for specific actions that can be measured using the expanded goals function in Google Analytics and optimized using the new Content Experiments function of Google Analytics that recently replaced Google Website Optimizer.

There can be side trips and branches to every path, but everything must serve the purpose of personalizing and optimizing the visitor experience and everything must be measured in order to do that.

Starting from your 2-3 ideal visitor actions you can create a set of measurable events, such as newsletter subscriptions, video views or social shares and peg these goals to next steps and even assign values to every action. When you add the A/B testing element of Content Experiments, you can also start the continual process of improving goal performance with almost real-time data.

In this framework a conversion is many, many things that are simply milestones leading a visitor to getting exactly what they came for.

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