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data-driven website growthSo you’ve launched your new website? Congratulations! Or maybe you’ve had one for a while — and are now won­dering if it’s really working? Well, building your site was just the beginning. Now you need to focus on website growth.

Not sure where to start with that? Don’t worry, that’s quite common. So here are three vital things that many small busi­nesses overlook.

Website Stats

Any usable business website gen­erates a lot of stats on its vis­itors. If yours doesn’t, you’re flying blind. It usually takes weeks to collect enough data to start seeing mean­ingful trends though. So you need to fix this imme­di­ately.

Thankfully, most sites are easy to link to Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. As such, pro­fes­sional web designers often set these up for you at launch. If they didn’t, get in touch today.

Data-driven Website Growth

Got stats? Great — but do you use them? They may not seem much fun to read, but remember, these website growth charts also reflect the growth of your business. Seeing that way can make them a lot more inter­esting!

Besides, trends are far more important than daily fluc­tu­ations. So it’s usually enough to check your website stats once a month — and also pretty easy, since Google Analytics shows the main stats as simple graphs.

Just looking at them won’t help much, though. You’ll need to act­ively review them and fix any problems they may high­light. Among other things, they can tell you:

  • The size and demo­graphics of the audience you’re reaching
  • Whether those vis­itors actually match your target audience
  • How and when they find you, and how often they return
  • Which pages they find inter­esting, and which need improvement
  • How they move through the site (they don’t always start on the homepage)

Armed with that inform­ation, you can gradually improve your site to better serve your target audience. There are many ways to do that, but it helps to start with Search Engine Optimisation and Conversion Rate Optimisation.

Search Engine Optimisation

There are basically two ways of getting website vis­itors — through paid ads, or for free. Naturally, many people prefer free traffic — and search engines are the best source of that.

Still, few people look past the first page of search results, so good search engine pos­i­tioning is vital. That means you can’t take it for granted — you have to compete for it, through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Getting Started With SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for websist growthReaching the first page of Google can be decept­ively easy for phrases with no com­pet­ition. Many firms get to the top of Google for their own domain name and think that’s enough — but that only reaches people who already know them.

Ranking well for valuable keywords is harder. These include fre­quently-searched phrases that get a lot of traffic, and those that suggest more buying intent. Naturally, such search terms attract the most com­pet­ition, too. So they can be extremely dif­ficult to rank for.

The first steps in any SEO cam­paign then, are an initial SEO audit and keyword research. These establish your site’s SEO baseline and the most effective search terms to target from that pos­ition. The Google Search Console will then show your easiest wins — the keywords that your site is already ranking for.

As your site’s authority grows and market trends change, tar­geting more valuable search terms will become easier. So SEO is an ongoing com­pet­ition. That’s why having either an editable website or a website support plan is usually vital to website growth.

On-Page and Off-Page SEO

Once you have iden­tified the best keywords to target, you’ll need to address both “on-page” and “off-page” SEO factors. Some on-page factors are quite tech­nical, so exper­i­enced web designers often build them in from the start. Amateur or DIY solu­tions may cover a few of these, or none at all.

Still, on-page SEO also con­siders non-tech­nical factors, because search engines want to deliver the best results they can. To achieve that, they focus on assessing two broad metrics — content quality and visitor engagement. So what does that mean for you?

Well, it means you can’t just tell vis­itors whatever you want them to know. You need to publish what they want to know. Google spe­cifically looks for signs of expertise, authority and trust­wor­thiness (aka “EAT”) in your content.

So make a list of the ques­tions your target audience is likely to ask, and craft well-written, readable content to answer them. Original art­icles of between 500 and 2000 words tend to get the best results.

No matter how good your content is though, “off-page” SEO is still vital. Search engines look to other sites for other trust signals. The most important of these signals are links from high quality sites to your site pages. These are huge votes of con­fidence for your site, because they aren’t easy to get. So my small business SEO packages focus on helping you to get them.

Potential SEO Pitfalls

White-hat SEO vs black-hat SEONow, did you spot the catch? Search engines mostly focus on readable content. They still find it easier to assess the quality and content of text than of images, or even text in images. So whilst whilst web pages con­sisting mostly of images and white space often look pretty, they don’t do well at on-page SEO. Sadly, many web designers focus on visuals and overlook the SEO impact.

Still, there’s no real secret to SEO. Anyone claiming oth­erwise is just hoping that you don’t look up Google’s freely-pub­lished guidelines.

Likewise, beware anyone “guar­an­teeing” first-page pos­i­tioning on Google. Until they know your target keywords and com­pet­itors, they can’t predict what is achievable with legit­imate tactics. Whilst there are quick-fix SEO hacks (aka “black hat SEO”), search engines act­ively pen­alise sites that use them.

Remember, search engines want to promote quality web­sites, not those who try to play the system. So “white hat SEO” is simply an ongoing investment in quality — and that isn’t easy. It takes per­sistence, hard work, effective ana­lysis and con­stant learning as search engine algorithms evolve.

Still, SEO tools can help you with this, so why pay others to do it?

Well, because the hidden costs of DIY web design also apply to SEO. Your “free” time is not actually free. The time and oppor­tun­ities lost whilst you learn the nuances of SEO make it more cost-effective to engage a pro­fes­sional. So if you’d like some help with your search engine rankings, check out my flexible small business SEO packages.

Conversion Rate Optimisation

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is just as critical as SEO, espe­cially for sites relying on paid traffic. Yet it is so often taken for granted that you may not even have heard of it. So what is CRO?

Conversion Rate Optimisation is the process of improving the per­centage of site vis­itors who take the action you want them to. That may mean buying some­thing, con­tacting you, signing up to a mailing list or any­thing else.

Clearly then, CRO can dir­ectly boost profits and website growth. It also makes your mar­keting budget go further. For instance, doubling your con­version rate effect­ively halves your advert­ising cost per sale. Still, how likely is that?

Well, it depends what’s affecting your existing con­version rate. It’s pos­sible to build a totally inef­fective site by making basic CRO mis­takes that are simple to fix. In fact, con­version rates under 1% are common. That may seem sur­prising, until you con­sider the typical user’s journey through your site from their per­spective.

Website Funnels

AIDA marketing funnel

The classic “AIDA” mar­keting funnel model

Customers gen­erally prefer to research things long before they are ready to buy. So most site vis­itors are just taking the first step in the classic “AIDA” sales funnel — you have their Attention. You then need to nurture their Interest and trust, so that when they have (or can be prompted to have) a Desire to buy, they take the Action you want them to.

As they move through these stages, most pro­spects stall, back­track, or leave the funnel before they take action. Many don’t even enter a site through its homepage. Trying to force vis­itors to view things in the order you’d prefer rarely works, but you can encourage them to do so.

Improving low con­version rates through goal-focused design can be rel­at­ively easy, but higher rates are harder to achieve. In many markets, even a 5% con­version rate is good, and 10% or more is excep­tional.

Achieving high response rates depends on your market, tar­geting and offers, as well as site design. Still, watching your site’s stats can still provide valuable insights into how to develop those too.

Getting Started With CRO

Whatever the goal, CRO starts by dis­cussing your ideal cus­tomer with your web designer. Experienced web designers study user beha­viour as well as visual design. They know website growth is driven more by serving your ideal cus­tomer well than by simply being pretty or “innov­ative”.

However, no one can predict everything about either your ideal cus­tomer, or your actual site vis­itors. So CRO involves gradually making small adjust­ments informed by both your site’s stats and user studies, and watching trends in your site stats to see how well they work for your audience.

Some aspects of CRO involve business decisions that only you can make. That’s why taking an interest in your site’s stats is critical to website growth. Still, common user beha­viour pat­terns add important context, and imple­menting site changes often involves coding. So effective Conversion Rate Optimisation is far easier with pro­fes­sional website support.

CRO and the Paid-Traffic Pitfall

Those common con­version rates explain why paid ads don’t work in every niche.

Pay Per Click (PPC) ads let you pay per visitor delivered, as that is more cost-effi­cient than paying for dis­tri­bution. Still, PPC costs often range from 50p to £50 or more, with prices around £1 being common. Those prices are set by your com­pet­itors’ bids, so they reflect the market value of each site visitor, whether obtained through paid ads, or search engines.

However, that’s for a visitor, not a sale. So let’s say you’re paying just 50p per click, on well-tar­geted ads that bring in traffic that con­verts at 2%. For 50 clicks then, you’ll get one sale, costing £25 in total ad fees. Whilst that can be sus­tainable for fairly high-ticket sales, it clearly won’t work for everyone — and quite small fluc­tu­ations in those numbers can make a big dif­ference.

Conclusion

There are other ways to promote your website too, of course, but they deserve a sep­arate article. For now, if you are already act­ively man­aging your website stats, search per­formance and con­version rates, con­grat­u­la­tions! You’re keeping on top of the basics, and the gradual improve­ments you’re making should pay off over time.

Otherwise, taking these three things more ser­i­ously can make a big dif­ference to website growth. So if yours needs a bit of fine-tuning, get in touch.

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