We could delve into the finer points of marketing communication and human behavioral response. Get all philosophical… But we’re not going to. Right here, we’re going to take a look at some cases where the answer is so much plainer and simpler than all that. No analysis paralysis. Just quick wins. Let’s take a look at a few common situations facing business website owners to pinpoint some big wins you can take to the bank.
When your “About Us” isn’t about you. It’s strangers in a stock photo.
A few years back, Vince Vaughn posed for stock photos in a stunt to promote his movie, Unfinished Business. The sublime stupidity resonated with everyone who has ever seen a bad stock photo. It was a viral hit. The fake photos spread like wildfire.
Checking a business out online is only natural. Everyone should plan on being checked out online by potential clients looking for their website. Even if you’re a brick-and-mortar business where you meet with clients in person, the sales process begins before you even meet. Usually, by going to your website. People want to know about you before they decide whether to call you or not. Often, they head to your “About Us” page. But what if your “About Us” page feels a little blank, and you don’t want to bother taking real photos of you and your business? For some, the answer is to show potential clients a picture of suspiciously chipper people pretending to be business people in an eerily pretend business setting. What could go wrong?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. In person, or online. For many people, your website will be their first and only interaction with your business. Make it a credible interaction that encourages people to get to know you better.
If your site is making people wait.
In the DoubleClick study, “The Need for Mobile Speed,” researchers found that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. And you thought the 3-second rule only applied to a cookie falling on the floor?
Internet users have the need for speed, and Google knows it. Site speed is part of the Google algorithm. If your site isn’t working quickly, don’t expect the website to rank well. This is a common theme with Google: If it doesn’t work well for users, then don’t expect your website to rank well. Google is driven to encourage website owners to improve their websites (and by extension, improve their search results). Google has found that website owners can lose an astounding number of customers by making people wait more than 3 seconds — 40% of all visitors will abandon a website that makes them wait. They won’t just lose them once, they’ll lose the majority of that business forever. 80% of those visitors will never return.
When your site is being hosted on some dude’s server
One of the simplest ways to increase your speed is to upgrade your hosting. If you’re on WordPress, the hands-down solution is quality managed WordPress hosting through one of the larger providers. Managed hosting has made exponential increases in quality over the last 2-3 years, and the hosting industry has been transformed. Hosting with an independent developer cannot compare to the quality and efficiency of a large company for this technical aspect.
In the old days, hosting your website on some guy’s own server (possibly in his garage) might have been fine. Today, there are economies of scale a smaller developer or agency cannot match. The next time a developer offers to host your site on their server, just say no. If the developer makes using their own server a sticking point, that could be your cue to re-evaluate the relationship. Is the developer more interested in making money off you than ensuring you get the best performance and Google rankings? Choosing one of the largest and most widely recommended managed WordPress hosting companies is one of the surest ways to top speed and performance.
If you’re not taking advantage of the best free stuff from Google
Google is a far-flung and confusing beast. Most widely known for their search engine, Google offers a complex and ever-changing range of products and services in addition to their search engine and related ads. We wholeheartedly recommend every local business takes advantage of these Google services:
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Google My Business
- Google Analytics
The good news is: they’re all free. The bad news is: Google doesn’t specialize in user-friendly — and they’re constantly changing their products (for what can seem like their own twisted amusement). The number of times Google changes the name of their products alone is confusing. (Google Places, anyone?) Trying to figure out where to find things after they redesign can border on maddening. Keeping up with Google is time-consuming and requires patience. But the results are worth it. Just be prepared going in.
Set up distraction-free time blocks on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to tackle setting up and managing. Put another way, leave yourself time to be frustrated. It’s not an intuitive system, you just have to take the time to learn where things are and how they work. Best bet: Set up two screens, one to complete the registration and the other to Google questions about going through the process.
Google My Business is the easiest to set up and understand of the three. You can do it without adding code to your site, and enhance your visibility in the process. Here’s the link to set up Google My Business yourself for free.
It does take time and training to learn to use these tools effectively. In the meantime, make sure your Google Analytics and Google Search Console (formerly known as: Google Webmaster Tools) accounts are set up and connected to your website, like now-ish. Even if you don’t understand how to use them today, the data will be there for you tomorrow. The more data the better. That won’t happen overnight. So, get trackin’. Go to Google Analytics and Google Search Console to set up now for free. Bonus points for linking your Analytics and Search Console accounts.
If you’re using auto-generated content
There are certain ways automation can be valuable. Other ways it can wreck your website. Here’s how to tell the difference: If something is mechanical and repeatable, then it can be replaced with automation without much concern. (For example, scheduling tweets at specific times in Hootsuite.) If something requires human uniqueness, using automation can set off a red flag for Google. (For example, writing.)
One of the most unfortunate – and widespread ways – automation harms website rankings is with auto-generated writing for meta tags, such as the All in One Pack SEO plugin. One of the most popular plugins on all of WordPress.org, they make the proud claim that the plugin-in “Generates META tags automatically.” Shame on them for promoting such shenanigans.
Google has made it clear in their guidelines that you’ll be knocked down in rankings for trying to circumvent their quality standards. Unfortunately, you may not even know something like the All-in-One SEO plugin is being used on your site if you buy into a web developer’s “SEO package.” Here’s how Google defines “automatically generated content”:
Lacking a marketing and writing skillset, many developers have found an easy way to check off SEO boxes through automation. Unfortunately, Google isn’t amused. Google has declared war on the non-human, low-quality content that clogs their search engine. Every day, the Google algorithm is being advanced to detect low-quality content.
Don’t try to go up against Google and expect to win. We’ve seen rankings for a website almost instantly improved by ditching the All-in-One SEO Pack plugin and auto-generated text – and by writing high-quality, engaging content in its place. Run, don’t walk away from anyone who proposes using All-in-One SEO Pack or anything that smells like auto-generated shenanigan promising to get Page 1 rankings. Do the work, otherwise don’t expect to get the results.
When your website developer is still working on your website (a year or two later)
Web developers are often compared to building contractors. They show up on the first day to get a deposit, do some work, then you can’t get them to complete the project. There’s fairness and unfairness to the comparison. People go directly to contractors, such as web developers, because they don’t want to pay for a general contractor, who has the technical expertise to manage the project. The price is lower. Your odds of completing the project also go down.
People go directly to contractors, such as web developers, to save money, but they may be lacking the technical expertise to manage the project. The price is lower. Your odds of successfully completing the project also go down.
Unfortunately, many website developers only complete about 60% of the projects they’re paid to start work on. So what happens? Sure people get busy and delays happen. But the problem often starts at the beginning by hiring a developer who understands how to build — but doesn’t have the expertise to help you understand what to build. Without a clear plan, the project goes haywire — often overbudget. The developer doesn’t want to do any more work on it, and the client doesn’t understand where all their money went. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to look to someone like a content strategist who can expertly plan and manage the project. Feel free to contact us if you questions about a website project in limbo, and you’re not sure where to turn.
If you’re still using Flash
Yes, there are still websites out there using Flash. But even one website is one too many. Here’s what a lot of websites look like to audiences visiting them…
This screenshot was taken from a real website’s homepage in June 2017. A real business with real customers looking for them treats interested people who want to give them money to a big blank space and error message. Flash sites were appealing to some back in the day, but usually they took too long to load. Today, online audiences expect a high level of speed and responsiveness that naturally eliminates Flash.
Flash also doesn’t work on mobile. Even in its heyday, it was annoying to sit through a splash page. The technology is almost completely unusable today. Make sure you’re flash-free and up to date… And let your competitors subject people to this kind of glitch.
When you need to turn the volume down
How’s anyone supposed to sneak web search for a dentist at work with that annoying music is blasting? The reality is that many people use downtime at work to search for local services they need to quickly squeeze into their super hectic workweek. At best, it’s mildly annoying. At worst, you’ll make them go running from your website.
If you really must have music, give your audience the option to go on a listening voyage with you. Provide a button to click for volume. Being loud won’t get you attention online, anymore than it will in real life. Being genuinely informative and helpful is the best way to bring more business to your door; Not by playing an instrumental flute version of the love theme from “Titanic.”
If you’re still welcoming people to your website
Remember the days when you’d be greeted at a new web page with a “Welcome to my website!”… Meanwhile in 2017, times have changed. No one needs to be welcomed into the strange and mysterious world of websites. We get it.
For online consumers, we just want to find what we’re looking for and know if we want to call you or visit in person to continue the conversation. “Welcome to my website” is all about you. Your clients want to know WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). Remove anything remotely resembling “Welcome to my website!” text, and welcome to the future.
When your website doesn’t list business hours. Even worse, having the wrong business hours (and not being able to change them).
Recently, I tagged along with a friend of mine to try on sunglasses at a well-known eyewear boutique (rhymes with Warby Larker). She checked the hours before we drove over, but when we got there we were met with a friendly “Come back again when we’re open.” There’s nothing more frustrating than making a special trip to a business, only to get there and it’s closed. An amazing number of businesses don’t provide even the most basic information their customers need to be able to buy things from them. Unfortunately, a lot of scraper sites aggregate content and publish it. That means your website’s opening hours will be wrong on your website and every other online directory.
The answer is to make your business website editable with a content management system, such as WordPress. For businesses who are afraid of the costs involved with managing a website, a WordPress website offers a simple way to add pages and change info — all without a developer.
If you’re not mobile-first
“Today, most people are searching on Google using a mobile device,” according to the Google Webmaster Tools blog. Anyone not optimizing for mobile is waving off the chance to be seen by more than half of all Google searchers. If you don’t have a large marketing budget you may not want to spend a lot of money on ads looking for new clients. But do you want half of all people looking for you to go somewhere else? For local businesses, mobile consumers are often highly motivated. They’re often searching for the business they need from their own because they’re in their car and ready to drive to your location.
Does your website pass the test?
There are real guidelines for creating great user experiences. Google is ranking you on your mobile content and site speed. If you’re not mobile friendly, that’s a big red flag that it’s time to update. Once you commit to a new website, don’t get stuck on your perfect ideal. Creating a great website means focusing on your customers’ needs are being served.
-By Melissa DuShane