Small business website redesign: A complete guide
Turn your small business website into a business development machine. The rules of marketing have fundamentally changed, making your small business website the most valuable marketing asset you have. In the past, people depended on ads, brochures, and sales reps for information related to services and products. Now, people flock to search engines and visit websites seeking information to educate themselves and inform their purchases. Needless to say, being found by people looking for what you do or sell and turning those website visitors into clients is one of today’s top marketing priorities for any business.
Your website is the face of your business
Often the first—and sometimes only— impression you’ll make on a potential customer (or job candidate) is your website. It’s the front door of your business and it’s always open. In a split second, it conveys something about your organization.
- Is it attracting visitors and making the right first impression?
- Is it organized and easy to navigate?
- And, most importantly, does it help you convert visitors into leads and leads into customers?
Your website is the hub of your online marketing
All of your other marketing activities, whether inbound or outbound, point people to your website. So it should be more than just an online brochure. It’s an extension of your small business and a virtual member of your sales and business development team.
This guide will help you understand the important considerations and steps to take to redesign your small business website into a marketing-focused website for maximum impact.
1. Determine if a redesign is necessary
A website redesign involves the investment of time, resources, budget, and energy. And, like any marketing investment, it shouldn’t be decided on a whim—what are your marketing objectives, and what is the bottom-line impact you are hoping to achieve?
Some questions to consider:
- When visitors land on your website, what impression does it make?
- What message does it convey to prospects and clients?
- Does it look and feel outdated?
- Is it generic or is it memorable?
- Does it tell a story about your company and the compelling reasons why someone should do business with you?
- Does it differentiate your firm from your competitors?
- Is it dynamic and engaging or copy-heavy and like a brochure?
- Is it visually appealing with engaging images of your people, your product, and your offerings?
Here are the top 10 reasons why you should redesign your website
1. Your website is confusing
If the messaging on your website takes more than 4 seconds to explain what you do, it will be difficult to hold the attention of your visitors. Make it crystal clear to your audience what you do.
2. Your website doesn't show up in search results
When you search for words related to your business, you should see your website on search engine results pages. If your website is not ranking well on Google, and people are not finding it, it is a serious sign, you need to redesign your website.
3. Your website doesn't look good on mobile devices
If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re missing out on more than 50% of potential customers. Optimizing your website for mobile devices is very crucial.
4. Your branding is changed and your website doesn’t align with your current brand and business
Over a period of time, your business evolves or you change the line of business. This makes your website misaligned with your current branding and business.
5. You are not able to update content
Adding and updating content on a website is an absolute necessity. If you don’t have a Content Management System (CMS), you are missing out on improving your website SEO. Adding new content will help you to rank higher on search engines.
6. Your website doesn't load within 5 seconds
If your website is slow and doesn’t load within 5 seconds, a majority of people will abandon it and you lose the opportunity to convert them into leads. Slow loading will hurt your website reputation and SEO ranking as well.
7. You have traffic on the website but it is not converting into leads
Congrats! You have traffic on your website. However, if it is not turning into leads, then something is wrong with your website. Website user flow should be easy and well defined to motivate them to make a purchase decision.
8. Your marketing goals are not aligned with your website
If your website is not helping you to achieve your marketing goals, make the necessary changes to make sure it does. For example, your Facebook ads should be linked to a proper landing page showing the product in the ads.
9. It is more than 3 years old
It is not a hard rule but over a period of 3 to 4 years, technology updates, new design trends are available and Google also prefers the sites which have the latest technology and designs.
10. Your business is growing
This is a good problem to have. With the growing business, you need to reorganize your website and make updates in site navigation for users. Transition your business into the future with a website that drives your growth.
If your small business website is showing any of these signs then it’s time to plan a redesign of your website.
If you’ve determined that your firm needs a new website, it’s important for you to take the time to thoroughly evaluate, plan and execute your website redesign project. When done correctly you can save valuable time and money. But more importantly, you can realize a positive return on your investment.
2. Plan for Success
Redesigning a website requires a lot more time and planning than many anticipate, especially to do it right and get results. So it’s essential that your firm commits the time and resources needed to ensure that every aspect of your website is strategically and meticulously planned and executed.
Evaluate your current website analytics
Before you even begin to think about redesigning your website, it’s necessary to spend some time evaluating your current website’s traffic and analytics history. In fact, your analytics should drive many decisions about your website as you move forward. Some of the metrics you should analyze include:
- Average session duration
- Bounce rate
- Most visited pages
- Traffic sources
- Current SEO rankings for important keywords
- Form submissions and downloads (if applicable)
- Number of leads
- Conversion rate
Assess your competition
You don’t need to be obsessive about your competition, but you should spend some time reviewing their websites. What do you like about their websites? What could you do better or differently?
Set specific goals for your website
Your website serves a purpose—to attract prospects and drive new business. Part of your goal setting should involve incorporating effective lead generation components throughout your website and putting conversion goals in place. Here are a few questions to consider:
- What does success look like?
- What problems or issues are you trying to fix with a new site?
- What do you want visitors to know about the company?
- What do you want visitors to do when they visit the site?
- How can you attract visitors and convert them into leads?
- What can the website do to help shorten the sales cycle?
- What can the website do to help you attract qualified job candidates?
Clarify design preferences
One of the worst things you can do going into a redesign project is to begin without having a clear preference for design styles and aesthetics. Do a thorough review of websites both inside and outside your industry, taking note of what you like and don’t like in regards to colors, styles, fonts, navigation, features, etc. Ultimately, you’re probably going to look to your web design partner to make design recommendations, but try to establish at least a basic vision of what you would like your new website to look like (or not look like) before starting the process.
Establish an accurate budget
Making sure the website that you want to buy and the website that you can afford are aligned is a critical part of the planning process. No one wants to find out late in the process that their website project is way beyond the budget available. To help prevent this, compile a list of all the pages, features, and any other important aspects that you want your website to have BEFORE hiring a design firm.
A solid plan can ensure you get the website you want in the timeframe and budget parameters you define.
3. Choose the Right Agency
Selecting the right agency partner for your small business website redesign project is one of the most crucial steps in the entire process. It’s not an overstatement to say that success depends on it. If you think about it, the development of a website is a unique marketing initiative that spans many functions: strategy, planning, content, design, copywriting, photography, development, programming, SEO, video, and possibly more. In other words, a website is more than just design and code—its purpose is to be a tool for marketing and business development.
A strategic process and approach
Web design and development is a complex task. When considering a web design agency, be sure they have a strong, tried, and tested process from start to finish. Ideally, it is one that has been refined by many years of “lessons learned” and continuously augmented for emerging best practices.
An impressive portfolio of custom web experience
You’ll want to take a hard look at the portfolio of every potential web agency. Spend some time browsing websites they have produced. It starts with looking at style and design. But don’t just look at the design; you’ll also want to consider other aspects such as user experience, functionality, mobile responsiveness, lead generation, and site performance. An impressive portfolio will make sure you will be in good hands.
They practice what they preach
Web design and development is a constantly changing practice, and therefore involves staying ahead of the curve and up to date on the latest trends, best practices, technology, and approaches. You’ll certainly want to work with an agency that’s a subject-matter expert and thought leader in their space. It’s also important that they practice what they preach so take a hard look at their website and content.
Another consideration for a web redesign partner is in-house development. It is important to hire an agency that also has development expertise and capabilities in-house. There are a lot of marketing agencies that design websites and simply outsource the “coding” to a 3rd party development shop. Today’s websites are increasingly complex and the nature of things like responsive design and content management systems require a collaborative and more agile process.
Good team chemistry
A website redesign project is an iterative process that will involve a significant amount of collaboration and communication between your team and the web design agency. During the interview process, be sure to consider the personalities, styles, and approaches of the people involved. You will be spending months alongside these people so a healthy working relationship is essential.
Finally, it’s important to speak with other clients who have worked with the agency to hear their perceptions. Do their experiences align with what you have ascertained in your own due diligence? Are they easy and enjoyable to work with? Would they work with them again? Would they recommend the agency? Is there anything you should look out for? No agency is perfect and no website redesign will occur without at least one or two hiccups. However, it’s important to hear from past clients that the agency delivered.
Ask these questions to your web design agency
Asking the right questions can provide you with the insight needed to better inform your selection decision.
14 questions to ask a potential redesign partner
- How do you approach user experience?
- What is your web design and development process?
- How will you optimize the website for search engines?
- How will you optimize the website for mobile users? Do you practice responsive web design?
- Will the website be fully custom or a “customized” theme?
- What aspects of the project will be performed in-house vs. outsourced?
- What content management system(s) (CMS) do you recommend and why?
- Can you show a demonstration of one of your websites/CMS?
- What kind of testing and quality control checks do you perform prior to the launch of a new website?
- How do you address website security?
- How long will the project (realistically) take?
- What will be required of our firm throughout the project?
- What’s included/not included in your price?
- Can you provide client references?
It’s vitally important to choose the right partner—an agency that has the expertise and capabilities to do the work, and an agency that your team will enjoy working with.
4. Apply Content Strategy
It’s not an overstatement to say that the only reason people visit your website is the content. While design can and should support the content and lead to a positive user experience, it’s important to remember that people are there for the content. A well-designed and attractive
website without the right content might look nice, but it won’t meet the needs of your users.
“You can redesign a home page. You can buy a new CMS. But unless you treat your content with strategic considerations, you can’t fix your website.”
– Kristina Halverson, Author of Content Strategy for the Web
Your website redesign process should begin with a content strategy and well-defined information architecture. It will guide your plans for the who (audience), what (topics) and where (site architecture) of content creation. It also helps to establish a hierarchy for your content and understand what content is most important to least important for each page on your website. This involves an in-depth understanding of your target audience and key stakeholders, then developing content around the informational needs of each of those groups. Once a content strategy is in place, design should be approached content-first.
Conduct a content audit
Before you invest in creating new content, you’ll need to first examine what you currently have in place, review it for quality and analyze it for usefulness. Create a list of new content needs, recommendations for repurposing existing material, and guidelines for development in the future.
Develop content around buyer personas
Buyer personas help you visually picture the type of people you are trying to reach. By determining your key buyer personas, you can create content that is targeted and relevant to their interests and needs. Your content is meant to answer their questions, educate and address their pain points.
Write compelling web copy
Take the time to create copy that informs, educates, and guides your audience. The length of your copy should be determined by the purpose of the page and your overall message, but a minimum of 300 words is a good rule of thumb. Statistics, research, and quotes are effective ways to add substance to your copy. And be sure to proofread thoroughly—nothing can derail compelling copy and make a bad first impression like misspellings or punctuation errors.
Thought leadership blog
Blogging is one of the cornerstones of content marketing and should be a focal point of your online marketing and website strategy. Each blog post increases your chances of being found online through search engines, ultimately driving more traffic to your website.
- 55% more visitors
- 97% more inbound links (important for SEO)
- 434% more indexed pages (important for SEO)
- 43% of companies who blog have acquired a client from their blog
- 82% of companies who blog daily have acquired a client from their blog
Premium content such as whitepapers, eBooks, and webinars are effective for helping to turn
visitors into leads while providing them with valuable information. Premium content should be
featured on custom landing pages with lead capture forms and promoted in multiple places on
your website and blog using engaging calls-to-action.
Your services or products pages are your opportunity to sell the what of your company and provide as much information that a prospect might need. But don’t overwhelm them with too much text, instead consider organizing content into categorized sections or pages.
Case studies and testimonials
Case studies and client testimonials are a great way to demonstrate your company’s results and
show your worth. If you can provide specific numbers, such as a percentage of increase in sales or ROI, this would be even more valuable.
If you work in an industry where your work is visual, such as architecture, engineering, or construction, showing examples of the work you have performed is going to provide additional
proof to prospects. If you’re a products company, you should invest a great deal of effort making
sure that your products are shown in a visually interesting way.
Compelling “About” page
Your “About” page is often one of the most visited pages of a website, especially for service and B2B companies. It’s a critical piece of content for the consideration and evaluation phases of the buying cycle. This is your opportunity to tell your story, history, and culture and explain how you’re different. In addition to telling the who of your business, this is also an opportunity to talk about the why. This can be a real differentiator for your company.
While design and development are obviously essential to the success of your website redesign, a good content strategy should be where both you and your redesign partner start.
5. Design/Build for Impact
“The design of the site is the first test of its credibility.”
– Beau Brendler, Director of Consumer Web Watch
It’s important that your website visually sets you apart from the competition and helps to form a
positive and respectable impression in the minds of your visitors. Users will land on your website and instantly form opinions about your firm based primarily on design and aesthetics. Successful websites have a balance of intuitive navigation and beautiful, engaging design. Web design and development are two unique skills sets — make sure the partner you choose is skilled in both.
Make a good first impression
Having an aesthetically pleasing website design will not only make a positive first impression, but it will also help your company look more credible. Your website is the face of your business and represents who you are and what you offer. When people land on your website for the first time, in a few brief seconds, they will decide:
- Is this firm credible and trustworthy?
- Is this a firm I want to do business with?
- Does this website make me feel welcome?
Helps visitors find what they’re looking for
User Experience (UX) is simply defined as the interaction (or experience) a user has with a website. While design plays a big role, effective UX is more than just a creative exercise. From a planning perspective, UX is typically defined in wireframes, but every aspect of the web design and development process—from wireframing to copywriting to design to programming—affects the user experience.
The objective of UX is perhaps most simply conveyed by the title and premise of Steve Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think.” A user should never have to learn to use your website. It should be intuitive and easy for them to find exactly what they’re looking for, regardless of the device they’re using or their familiarity with your website.
"76% of consumers say the most important factor in a website’s design is “the website makes it easy for me to find what I want.”
Source: Hubspot, The Science of Website Redesign
Keep things simple
Having a clean and easy-to-navigate website is critical. It should be as effortless as humanly possible for your visitors to find what they are looking for. Less is more. Organize your content in “buckets” to avoid clutter and confusion. Also, avoid any unnecessary features such as complex animations, background music, or auto-play videos. These can be distracting for the visitor and make them leave the site quickly. Studies show, more than anything else, website visitors value simplicity when it comes to design.
“Must have” design elements (checklist)
A firm’s website should serve a purpose: driving traffic, generating leads, and converting leads into clients, but it takes more than simply having a website. Here are several key components to include:
Engaging homepage with the upfront value proposition
Remember, visitors quickly form an impression of your company and in a matter of seconds decide if they will stay on or leave your site. It’s important to create an engaging homepage that clearly states your core value proposition in a way that grabs their attention and compels them to visit other sections of your website. Here are some other important elements to consider including:
- Compelling Headline – Who You Are
- Sub Headline – What You Do
- Features – Details About What You Do
- Benefits – Why It Matters
- Eye-catching Visuals – graphics, photos, video
- Calls-to-Action – Learn More, Request a Quote
- Customer Proof – quotes and testimonials
- Content Offers – eBooks, webinars, demos
- Blog/Insights Feed
Make your website as intuitive and easy to use as possible. If people are confused or overwhelmed when they come to your site, they will probably leave. Make sure the website is organized in a way that is logical to the user. Here are some important navigation factors to consider:
- Keep your primary navigation near the top of the page
- Use a “sticky” header
- Don’t offer too many navigation options on a page
- Don’t complicate secondary menus
- Include a search box so visitors can search by keywords
- Include internal links to other relevant pages on your website
Avoid generic, clichéd images, and, when possible, use photos of actual employees, clients, and locations. Illustrations, infographics, and icons are also popular on sites today.
Multiple forms of contact
Contact information such as phone and email should be visible and accessible on every page of your site. Your website should provide at least two different ways to contact your company. Use any chat app like Whatsapp or Facebook messenger on your website to make it easy for visitors to contact you.
A call-to-action button or link should be on almost every page of your website to guide visitors.
Do you want them to download a whitepaper? Subscribe to your blog? Call you for more information? Register for a webinar or event? View a case study? A clearly defined path will lead to more conversions.
Landing pages are an essential component of content marketing and lead generation. When visitors land on your page, you want them to be able to quickly understand your call-to-action and how it will be valuable to them.
Providing social share buttons makes it easy for your visitors to share information and content about your company with their followers.
Sign-up / Subscribe
Your website and blog should include a simple subscribe form to capture “fans” that you’ve engaged with your content. Be sure to promote subscribing to your blog and signing up for your e-newsletter using intentionally placed calls to action.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures. Video can be a great way to bring some interactivity to your website and engage visitors. Create a brief, compelling video that not only explains who you are and what you do but also why you do it. Instead of just publishing case studies, try creating video case studies to tell a client’s success story. Animated, infographic-style videos can also be a creative way to communicate your value proposition.
Great design is about much more than just having a great-looking website. It creates a positive user experience that also affects usability, navigation, engagement, and conversion.
6. Optimize for Search
In today’s digital world, getting found online by prospects and clients is critical. This means that in spite of all the never-ending changes in search algorithms and SEO techniques, optimizing your website for search remains a top priority.
SEO has evolved
In the past, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was a very technical exercise, focused on essentially finding ways to manipulate or take advantage of search engine algorithms, putting the focus on robots, not on people. But search engines have evolved, and the algorithms of Google, Yahoo, and Bing have increasingly centered on rewarding high-quality content served up on websites that provide a great user experience.
“A lot of SEO has been focused on technical matters and very highly specific ways to configure your website. There are best practices, and you need to make sure you get the basics right, but it is true that a lot of SEO is now circling back around to good old-fashioned marketing.”
- Matt Cutts, former head of search quality at Google
Attract visitors with valuable, quality content
The key to SEO is focusing your resources on creating content that people find useful. It will help you earn search engine visibility, while also building a relationship with your audience and helping to achieve your marketing goals. Creating a quality, context-driven content for your readers, prospects, and clients will ultimately help you have a good search engine ranking.
Be the best answer to their search query
You can’t possibly expect to rank high for certain keywords or subject matters if your website doesn’t have content (and loads of good content) that speaks to those specific subjects. Keep this in mind: users are looking for the best answers to their search queries and the search engines want to provide them exactly what they are looking for. While there are many other, more technical aspects of SEO, no amount of technical prowess can make up for a lack of quality content that speaks to the user’s interests (and search query).
Get the technical fundamentals right
While content is the most important factor in search rankings, there are still technical best practices you need to follow to ensure that your site is search engine friendly. No matter how great your content is, if your website is not technically optimized for search, visitors are less likely to find you.
There are many aspects to technical SEO, but here are some important ones to consider:
- Be sure your website is indexable and optimized for crawling
- Set up Google Search Console for your website
- Use an SEO crawling tool to ensure your site is free of 404 errors
- Optimize image file names and use unique ALT tag descriptions
- Create sitemap.xml and robots.txt files
- Apply a canonical tag to avoid duplicate content
- Invest in website security to protect your site and prevent a rankings hit
Optimize each page and post on your website
While we previously discussed site-wide technical best practices, it’s also important to make sure that each and every page that you want to rank is also optimized for search as well. Make sure that you include the targeted keyword in the title, headers, and copy. But keep in mind, you should be writing to humans, not robots. Here are some of the on-page aspects to consider:
- Use a clean, SEO-friendly URL structure, ideally with keywords
- Use internal links to aid with navigation
- Include quality external links to authority sites where appropriate
- Create a unique page title for every page using targeted keywords – the ideal length is 50–60 characters
- Create a unique meta description for every page with the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) in mind – use no more than 160 characters
- Use header tags (H1, H2, H3, H4) that include keywords
"94% of the links search users click on are organic, not paid."
Minimize page load speed
Page load speed has become increasingly important to Google (they’ve said they’re “obsessed”
with speed) and it’s been part of their (and Bing’s) ranking factors for a while now. Which means
that marketers need to make minimizing page load a priority. While some of these factors might
be beyond the capability of your marketing team, here are some of the ways you can speed up
- Use a website speed tool such as the GTMetrix or Google PageSpeed Insights to find out where you need to improve
- Compress the images and video on your website
- Utilize page and browser caching and enable compression
- Minimize HTTP requests and redirects
- Reduce server response time
- Remove query strings from static resources
Migrate your website to HTTPS
Hypertext Transport Protocol Security (HTTPS) websites use an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate to protect a site connection through authentication and encryption. Unsurprisingly, Google is leading the charge for making the entire web more secure, even launching an HTTPS everywhere campaign. As part of their ongoing push for improving user experience they have also started including HTTPS as a ranking signal, and now give indexing priority to secure pages over unsecured pages.
Make your website (even more) mobile-friendly
In 2015, marketers experienced “Mobilegeddon” as Google released an update that was designed to give a boost to mobile-friendly content in Google’s mobile search results. More recently, Google started experimenting with “mobile-first indexing,” meaning that they will index the mobile versions of websites instead of their desktop counterparts. Needless to say, making sure your website is increasingly mobile-friendly is critical to not only user experience, but also to your website’s SEO.
Inventory existing website prior to launch and set up 301 redirects
Your existing website contains a lot of pages with keywords and inbound links that have built up over time. Deleting or changing those during a redesign project can damage your search results. Be sure to stick with the same naming convention, or set up 301 redirects, which automatically redirect visitors from your old URL to the new one. For example, if you get rid of or change the permalink of a page that has a high number of inbound links and fail to put a 301 redirect in place, you could lose a lot of SEO credit and website traffic.
Leverage an SEO tool
Fortunately, there are a ton of helpful tools out there to help you monitor and optimize your website for search. Your CMS should include an SEO plugin or widget to help you optimize your pages and posts. If you use WordPress, RankMath and Yoast SEO are popular plugins. There are also subscription solutions such as Moz and SEMrush that can provide you website audits, monitoring, rank tracking and will recommend steps you can take to improve your SEO. Additionally, many marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot and Act-On include SEO tools as well.
Putting your audience first by creating quality content will not only improve your search engine visibility but will also help you achieve your online marketing goals.
7. Launch with confidence
To design and build a custom website the right way takes time—and lots of it. While launch dates do matter, a schedule should be set that is realistic and allows room for flexibility. The desire for a new website shouldn’t trump the necessity of getting it right.
Set a realistic launch date
When meeting to discuss a website redesign initiative with potential clients, we always ask them for their desired launch date or an ideal schedule for the project. Not surprisingly we regularly hear things like “yesterday,” “as soon as possible,” “next month,” or something to that effect. But one of the costliest website redesign mistakes a client can make is to try to force an unrealistic launch date on the project schedule. Timelines should be based on how long it will actually take to get the project completed with excellence, and less on what may be an arbitrary date set by the client.
The design process is iterative
If you’re designing a custom website, with many unique page layouts and complex features, it’s going to require time. The design phase of a website redesign is an iterative process, with multiple rounds of edits and often delays in getting appropriate approvals. And because the design is incredibly subjective, achieving the client’s vision, while also obtaining buy-in from many internal stakeholders, is something that has to be accounted for in the schedule.
Content development can be challenging
If there is one particular aspect of a website redesign that clients underestimate, it’s content development. Content is arguably the most important aspect of your website. Once the site architecture and content strategy are in place, developing the actual content—the key messages, copy, photos, infographics, videos, and whitepapers—can be a challenging task. Whether you are tackling the content in-house, outsourcing, or working with your redesign partner, it’s to be expected that the process will require time and energy, so plan accordingly.
Project management, meetings, conference calls, and emails add up
A website redesign project demands a great deal of project management time, on both the agency and client-side. While your agency partner will be leading the project and executing much of the work, the project can’t happen without ongoing collaboration and input from the client. Most website redesign projects involve many meetings, conference calls, back-and-forth emails, and a lot of internal coordination.
Expect the unexpected
Inevitably, there are going to be unexpected delays and bottlenecks along the way. While they don’t always impact the project schedule, they can. Whether it’s internal bandwidth challenges, delays in content development, or expansion of the original project scope, the schedule can change over time. The point is, setting a fixed launch date in advance is helpful for having a goal to work towards, but announcing the date or planning a launch party around that date too far in advance can be problematic. It’s always safe to assume that there might be unavoidable setbacks along the way, so you should plan for more time than you might think is needed.
So how long should a website redesign project take
Just like a construction project, the schedule will depend on many factors, including the scope of work, the magnitude of the project, and the schedules and availability of all parties involved. From our experience, a typical custom website redesign project takes anywhere from one to three months on the very low end. When you account for strategy, planning, content development, custom design, content management system development, and testing (as well as other client priorities and responsibilities), six months should be expected as an average project duration.
Don’t skimp on hosting
One of the most overlooked aspects of a website redesign is hosting, which is a critical aspect of website performance. Hosting affects uptime and reliability, page load speed, bandwidth, and security. To get the most out of your website, you should invest in a quality hosting platform. Your redesign partner should be able to provide you with hosting services or recommend where and what you should purchase.
Protect your website with security
Hacking and malware infection is a growing concern for website owners. It’s not a matter of if your website will be attacked, but a matter of when. So it’s important to ensure that your website is protected with the proper security measures. Your agency should discuss with you their approach for website security and the services they offer to ensure your site will be safe. Some of the best practices for website security include:
- Website security firewall
- Continuous security monitoring
- Malware prevention, detection, and cleanup
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) mitigation
- Vulnerability exploitation prevention
- Performance optimization
- Daily full-site backups
"An estimated 37,000 websites are hacked every day."
Rigorously test, tweak and optimize before launching
Today’s content-managed, responsive websites are complex compared to the static websites of the past. One of the greatest challenges is handling cross-browser compatibility, which requires significant time for testing and tweaking to get it right. Responsive design also requires a substantial amount of testing and optimization to ensure a consistent user experience across various devices. There are a lot of critical last-minute items that need to be crossed off the punch list before launching a new website, so it’s important not to rush this final phase of the project and allow time to thoroughly test and fix any bugs that might exist.
New websites need to be tested extensively! There are many browsers and versions, as well as multiple devices, and each will render your website differently. So it’s important to work out the kinks and bugs and test every single link, integration, device, browser, and form before the website goes live.
8. Measure Success
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” - Peter Drucker
What good is a website if you can’t measure its success? Analytical tools allow you to track activity in real-time, using the key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboard of metrics you established during the planning phase.
Understanding what works and what doesn’t, and being able to make changes as you go along will have a dramatic impact on the success of your online marketing program.
Set up website analytics
It’s important to incorporate an analytics solution into your website to be able to track the number of visits and other important metrics for better insight into its performance. Google Analytics is a tracking tool that many companies use because it is free, easy to set up, and gives you tons of information about visitors. There are also other paid tools such as HotJar and CrazyEgg that can provide you with advanced features such as scroll maps, heat maps, visitor recordings, and form analysis.
Monitor and measure what matters
In order to get the most from analytics tools, and to truly measure the effectiveness of your website, you have to understand what you are looking at and know what to measure in the first place. Here are some of the primary metrics to keep an eye on:
Visitors: know who is visiting your site
- Companies visiting – this is a list of companies whose employees have visited your website. By using an unknown visitor’s IP address, website visitor tracking can usually provide the name of the organization that owns it. It’s helpful to identify potential prospects and targets for your sales team.
- People visiting – once unknown visitors are identified by submitting a form, you’ll see who is visiting your website, what company they’re from, what pages they’re reviewing, and how they got there.
- Unique sessions – the number of unduplicated visitors to your website (each person only counted once). Look for an upward trend over time and see if any spike in visitors correlates with a particular campaign or marketing effort.
- Average session duration – the average length of time a visitor spends on your website within a specified period of time. This is a key metric for measuring the effectiveness and quality of your website. Obviously, the longer a visitor spends on your website, the more informative and interactive your site is.
- Pages per session – the average number of pages viewed during one visit. Normally, the more pages a visitor views, the more interested they are in your company or product.
- Bounce rate – this is the percentage of single-page visits, usually people who visit your homepage and then leave the site quickly. A high bounce rate generally indicates that your page(s) are not relevant to what visitors are looking for. You want this number to be as low as possible, but if you have an integrated blog that generates a lot of organic traffic, your bounce rate is likely to be higher as visitors may come into a post and not engage deeper into the website.
- % New Visits – this is the percentage of visitors that have not previously visited your website. Typically you would want a balance of returning and new visitors to show both outreach and engagement.
Traffic sources: see where visitors are coming from
- Direct traffic – visitors that come directly to your site by typing your company website’s URL into their browser’s address bar. Direct traffic indicates how many visitors already know your company and URL.
- Organic traffic – visitors who come to your website from natural (or unpaid) search engine results.
- Search terms – tells you which search terms people are using to find your website.
- Referral traffic – visitors that landed on your website through a link on another website, such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
- Referral sites – know where your website traffic is coming from and measure the success of guest blog posts, inbound links or online press releases.
- Social media referrals – shows the impact your social media activity is having on your website traffic by identifying the networks and content that generate the most engagement and activity.
- Inbound links – a hyperlink on a third-party website that points to a particular page on your website. Inbound links are important for SEO and should be measured.
Content: know which web pages interest your visitors
Knowing the top 5 to 10 pages on your website that are being viewed is very important. Is your team page visited often? If so, you’ll want to make sure your team bios are up to date. Are there any pages that should be in the top 5, but aren’t (i.e., pricing, contact, resources, etc.)? Maybe you need to change the link structure on your website to direct visitors where you want them or develop new and improved content to replace what you currently have. Keep track of your landing pages and content downloads as well.
Conversions: go beyond page views and visitor counts
It’s critically important to know whether or not your online marketing efforts are working by setting specific lead generation goals for your website and measuring the success of those goals. Conversion metrics allow you to go beyond the basic visitor metrics by:
- Tracking how many visitors converted to leads
- Measuring how effective your landing pages are at keeping track of the visitor-to-lead conversion rate (conversion rate = conversions/views)
- Learning what content led to conversions
- Setting up conversion goals and measuring important visitor activities
- Knowing how many leads converted to sales
Metrics are an essential part of measuring the success of your website. Every aspect of your website should be constantly analyzed, measured, and tweaked to maximize traffic and lead generation.
Don’t wait for the next “redesign” to make improvements. Your website is a living, breathing, active, lead-generating machine. You can’t have a “launch it and forget it” attitude—there is always room for improvements or additions. We recommend the mentality of iterative
design, which looks at your website on an ongoing basis, continually looking for ways to refine and improve it as you go along. Your marketing budget should include ongoing website improvements and maintenance each year.
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