So you want to make your website an effective online marketing machine. You want it to have a noticeable impact on your sales and revenue, show significant ROI, and increase brand awareness. Right now, it's not doing any of those things very well. What's the problem?
First, ask yourself these six questions:
1. Is your website modern and updated?
When was the last time you made design changes? How about content changes? If your answer is either "I don't know" or "many many years ago when the Earth was young," it's time for an update.
2. Is your website, domain name, blog, etc. your own?
Have you paid for your domain, and is your blog attached to that domain? The alternative is having your site hosted on one of those free website builders like Wix, Weebly, or Wordpress. If your website is MyCompany.weebly.com or something similar, you don't actually own the domain.
Your website needs to put on its adult pants and become independent. You should own your domain name, and your blog and other website pages should be its subdomains. Hosting through a third party means you're losing all of the SEO benefits of having your own website, and you don't look trustworthy or professional when you're clinging to a free website's apron strings.
3. Are you prioritizing your website as a business growth tool?
Are you actively directing current & potential customers to your website? Or is the website more of an afterthought, something that exists just so you can say you have it? Are there digital tumbleweeds rolling across your nav bar?
Your website deserves more than the bare minimum of effort. It's the online face of your business, and likely, it's the first impression you'll make on a potential customer. Your website is an investment in the future of your business.
4. Are you focusing on yourself or your customers?
Yes, your website should promote your products and services, but it should also be a place where your customers can find relevant information to make the best buying decision. A website that focuses on the needs of the customer is more likely to inspire trust and make people want to do business with you.
5. Do you have an active online presence?
Do you tend to avoid Internet activities? Is your website an island, nonexistent in search engines and completely separate from social media? Part of making your website a tool for business growth is diving head first into modern marketing strategies. The Internet is absolutely critical for modern business growth, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
No matter how much you hate the new everything-is-connected, darn-kids-with-their-faces-in-their-phones culture, you have to embrace it if you want your business to succeed in the 21st century.
6. What's the current state of lead gen on your website?
Are you generating a few leads a month? One a month? None at all? For experienced marketers, lead generation is the most telling metric of the effectiveness of a company's online marketing. Although we also measure traffic, impressions, click-through rate, and other metrics, leads are really what we're looking for.
All of these factors affect your marketing efforts.
SEO, traffic, conversions, and other online marketing strategies rely on these six things to be super effective. If you're new to online marketing, that's where you should start.
Lead Gen Basics
Defining & Targeting Your Audience
Buyer Personas are the most effective modern targeting method. They're more detailed than demographics, and give you insight into the behavior and motivations that lead to a purchase. Your website and its content should appeal to your personas in tone, design, and usability.
You'll target your personas using inbound marketing strategies, including blogging, social media, landing pages, CTAs, and forms. We'll explain these tactics in a bit.
Track Visitors & Activity
Want to know what people are doing on your website? It's surprisingly easy to find out! There are multiple types of software and plugins (depending on which CMS you're using) that can track visitor activity. If a visitor becomes a lead, you can see everything they've ever done on your site. Creepy, but effective.
Your website should be audited by an expert for both SEO and conversion optimization. An experienced SEO or marketer will understand best practices and be able to assess your website objectively. Their expert, third-party perspective is invaluable when performing a full website audit. In an SEO audit, they'll be:
- Checking keyword usage
- Test crawling your site
- Analyzing your site's code
- Looking for indexing issues
- Assessing on-site ranking factors
- Identifying off-page ranking factors
- Reviewing your site as both a user and a search engine
- Researching your competitors and their websites
A conversion audit, or website review, focuses on how visitors experience your website. As with an SEO audit, a conversion audit requires an experienced marketer who understands best practices. Your reviewer will identify:
- How visitors find and enter your website
- How your design impacts visitor behavior
- How your current SEO is affecting the quality of visitors
- How your social media is influencing activity
- What roadblocks are keeping visitors from converting
- How your content impacts conversions
- New conversion opportunities
Media & Quality Content
Your website needs more than straight text content. Websites with a variety of content types appeal to a larger audience and tend to be more successful overall. This means utilizing images, videos, graphics, links, and other types of content that appeal to your buyer personas.
For instance, if you're targeting CEOs, use video. According to Forbes, 59% of executives would rather watch video than read text. Similarly, according to Marketbridge, 76% of B2B buyers prefer to receive content unique to their buying stage.
SEO, content marketing, and buyer personas are all foundation pieces for your inbound marketing strategy. Inbound marketing brings customers to you so you don't have to chase them down with annoying, outdated interruption advertising.
- Blogging - Your blog should be updated frequently with useful information. Your buyers start their purchasing process with a Google search - your blog should be there to answer their questions.
- Social Media - Social media is a must-have for modern businesses. All of your social media profiles should be active and directly connected to your website.
- A/B Testing - Test everything! How do you know what works best if you don't try different things? A/B testing compares two versions of a CTA, landing page, or other marketing element to see which provides the best results (highest conversion rate, click-through rate, impressions, etc.).
- CTAs - CTAs give visitors a "next step." Placing CTAs at the end of your webpages, blog posts, and in your copy equals plenty of opportunities for them to convert (a lead for you, and helpful information for them!).
- Landing Pages - Landing pages fulfill the promise you made in your CTA. If your CTA advertised a free download, the landing page will provide access to that download.
- Forms - You should have a form on every page. It could be your regular contact form, or a form for a high-value content offer related to the page topic.
Inbound marketing and lead generation go hand in hand. The entire purpose of inbound is to generate leads (which ultimately increases sales). If you do it right, you're guaranteed to see an increase in your lead generation efforts.
Pop-up forms are surprisingly effective, considering their sudden and unexpected appearance. Many studies and trials have been performed using pop-up opt-in offers, and companies have consistently seen a 1000% increase in conversions using pop-ups vs. sidebar forms. As always, your pop-ups should be relevant and provide value to your visitors.
Customer Experience Factors
Testimonials & Customer Proof
We trust the input of other customers and users above what businesses tell us. For good reason - it seems corporations are constantly finding new ways to trick us into buying stuff. L'Oreal even tried to claim its anti-aging cream could "affect genes" (what??). The company was eventually barred from making this claim until it could provide scientific evidence of genetic alteration.
Testimonials, customer reviews, case studies, and referrals are some of the most effective marketing strategies you can use. Placing this proof directly on your website gives your visitors immediate evidence that you're trustworthy. When people trust you, they're much more likely to do business with you.
Along with customer proof, you can demonstrate your trustworthiness with easy-to-implement trust signals. These include security seals (McAfee, Truste, and Verisign are common), a privacy statement that their email address will not be used outside the company, and industry association logos.
If you're really confident in the quality of your product or service, you can advertise your "guaranteed" promises - money back guarantees, free returns, warranties, etc.
Use the KISS strategy for everything. Simple fonts, a layout they're expecting, and no "clever" surprises. Unless you're a marketing expert, do not try to be creative with your website. You're more likely to hurt yourself than discover some new online marketing trick.
- Navigation should be intuitive and easy to follow. You should know what you want your visitors to do on your website, and the navigation should nudge them in that direction.
- Links should be spaced out far enough that mobile users don't fat-finger click the wrong link.
- Menus should be categorized well - many websites use dropdown menus to make navigation simple.
- Design should be simple, modern, and professional. Obviously, these are subjective factors, and how you apply them to your website depends on your buyer personas.
Mobile friendliness is not optional. When users search on mobile devices, Google will prioritize mobile friendly sites over non-mobile friendly sites. You're shooting yourself in the foot by ignoring mobile. You can easily assess the friendliness of your website through Google's Mobile-Friendly Test.
When designing and building out your website, there are a few major factors that will affect the mobile experience:
- Fonts - should be large enough to see without pinch zooming (this means at least 12 pt at all times)
- Touch friendly navigation and buttons - should be big enough to avoid fat-finger clicking
- Media - make sure media can load on mobile devices
- Short forms - forms should be short, since typing and switching form fields on mobile can be annoying
Certain CMS, such as HubSpot, automatically convert your website to a responsive design.
Website Loading Time
One of the unfortunate side effects of the Internet age is decreased attention span and patience. I'm just old enough to remember dial up Internet and being willing to wait half an hour for a YouTube video to load. That wait time is unimaginable these days. And, with plenty of website advice to sift through on the same good old Internet, there's no excuse for a laggy website.
If you prioritize these website elements, you'll see results.
Often, the problem with our clients' websites is that they don't understand how to use them. They don't understand best practices, how it integrates with a full inbound marketing strategy, or what makes buyers take action on websites.
That's why we (and other inbound marketing agencies) are here! If you have any questions about using your website to its full potential, we're happy to provide assistance. If you don't want to talk to a human about website optimization, here are 5 simple things YOU can do to improve your website.