So 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.
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
Reaching 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
Now, 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.
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.
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.