Whether you’re building a brand new website, revamping an older one or just making sure your site stacks up to the competition, there are five steps you should take to ensure your site is user-friendly, secure, interactive and optimized for search engine rankings. Whether your site is a personal blog, an information source or an e-store, another key to success is the need for limited downtime.
Consider the Navigation
Simply put, your site’s navigation can allow users to find exactly what they’re looking for in a few quick clicks, or it can cause a firestorm of frustration that causes a potential customer to head to your competitor’s website. Think of your navigation bar as a road map to all the content, products or interactive tools on your site. Your idea may develop from a basic infrastructure idea, like have a homepage, main topic pages listed on your navigation bar, and more specific content pages that branch out from the main topics.
If your website is widely known for a specific product or regular blog post, make that item easy for your users to find. This not only allows your customers to have an easy user-experience, but it also lets them quickly see that they’re in the right place.
Content is King
Keep your blog posts to a minimum of 300 words.
Include ALT text on all images and photos.
Use a Google Map for business location placement when possible.
Keep your contact information up to date.
Post new content regularly.
…so the saying goes. And it couldn’t be more true. Your website’s content, including text, photos, videos, products and more contribute largely to your search engine optimization (SEO) rankings. That is, everything you place on your website helps, or detracts, from your placement in internet searches. Understanding your audience is very important in this step. You need to know the key words or phrases your target audience is searching and then incorporate that information into the content page on your site. Other concentrations should include, but are certainly not limited to:
Use a Website Uptime Monitor
Website uptime monitoring is essential to making sure the money and time you spend improving and updating your website doesn’t go to waste. There are numerous services available online, but with the tools provided by Pingometer.com, which include unlimited alerts, adjustable check frequency, a wide variety of monitors to choose from and around-the-clock customer support, the only decision you need to make is which plan works best for your business. Pingometer’s focus is to make sure your website experiences as much consecutive uptime as possible. If a challenge does occur, Pingometer will not only alert you right away of an error message or possible crash, but the monitoring service will direct you to likely causes of the downtime with specific analytics. In addition, get the inside scoop on how your website is performing with detailed reports offered from Pingometer. You’ll delve into load times of your site, error messages that may be problematic for your customers and geographic monitoring so you know how your site appears to users around the globe.
Make it Interactive
Your website visitors likely want to experience more than words on a page, so keep your site fun and engaging with photos, video, a web poll or a space for users to leave a review or suggestion. The web has long left the days of being a push only system for information. People want to engage with other readers, they want to leave reviews for products they love and they want the behind-the-scenes scoop on…everything.
While using social media platforms is certainly a good (and essential) way to stay engaged with your online customers, loyal readers, consumers and contributors want ways to connect with you on your website. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Update a photo slideshow with a few fresh pics each week.
Include a video of your team explaining a new product.
Use a commenting system on your blog to allow users to react to what you write and to one another.
Use a product review system for your e-store goods.
Market in Every Way Possible
Whether your marketing budget allows you to run several online campaigns at once, or calls for you to hunt down the best free ways to get your business off the ground, you need to market your site. This point alone is reason enough to incorporate a website uptime monitoring system. Imagine the work put into designing pay-per-click ad campaigns, or social media ads to targeted audience members, only to discover your site is down and you didn’t even realize it. Marketing is never free, not when you consider the inner workings of your business. Even while utilizing platforms that don’t require a credit card number, you and your team will put in man hours to create the marketing materials, keep them up to date and engage with customers.
Pingometer can help you stay on track with consistent site uptime and give you insight into how to better your website when it comes to load time, security features and search engine ranking.
There are many factors that make up your website and can play into how quickly, or not, it operates in terms of load time for your end users. Some of these aspects are unfortunately out of your control, like the age of a user’s computer, which can play a role in the load speed of your site. However, when you maintain your website at optimal performance levels, you can rest easy knowing you are doing everything possible on your end to create a positive user experience.
One of the tools available to help you determine that optimal performance level is a website uptime monitoring service. Yes, the service will alert you when you experience downtime, but a website uptime monitoring service like Pingometer, will also send you detailed reports allowing you to see potential challenges and better your website before a crash occurs.
Images – Full-sized images can require a lot of bandwidth while loading.
Stylesheets – Ineffective or large amounts of code can create major roadblocks for your site.
Custom fonts – Fancy isn’t always fun. Customize your font, but keep the coding limited.
Responsive design – Browser must download entire web page, then resize it according to the screen size.
Most consumers say they expect a web page to fully load in three seconds or less, reports webperformancetoday.com. The same study confirms the typical page on an ecommerce website takes 6.5 seconds to load. So how can you meet the needs of your consumer, but also make the site colorful, attractive and interactive? There are four core components of any webpage (especially on an ecommerce site) that you should consider, and monitor, when thinking about load time:
One Page vs. Entire Site
It’s good to know if your entire site is loading slowly for the end user, or if the problem is with one specific page. To identify which elements are slowing down your web page, look to the diagnostic tools from Pingometer to break down your page load into specific items. The detailed report lists the number of events for your site, the average speed, average uptime, response time and status codes. With this information you can review image sizes, custom text display or problematic stylesheets.
If your website contains content that is hosted on external servers- think scripts, images, Twitter or Facebook feeds – that information will require extra time to fully load. Pilfer through your website traffic statistics to see which elements your customers utilize and which are becoming digital “wallpaper”. Eliminate those linked elements slowing your site and drawing little to no traffic.
Your website looks good to you, or maybe to the person you hired to design it, but does it contain the critical elements needed to not only keep your consumers on your site, but to convert them into repeat customers? Let’s take an in-depth look at the top elements customers expect to see on your website.
Consider this, 83 percent of Americans said slow websites cause them to have a negative reaction to a brand or company. In today’s world of fast is better, your load time has to be competitive. We’re talking no more than a couple of seconds per page, with some load times longer specifically for ecommerce sites. You don’t want the first impression you give to be the dreaded page loading symbol. Make the homepage clean with few large elements, allowing the page to load quickly and introduce your business in a sleek way.
While this may seem like a “no-brainer,” you’d be surprised how many companies do not clearly list their phone number, email address or physical location on their website. If a customer has a question, or more importantly, wants to know how to get to your store, make it easy for them. More than half, 54 percent, of business-to-business researchers indicated that the lack of thorough contact information reduced a vendor’s credibility. You need to list emails, phone numbers, and a physical address. A postal mailing address also has the power to boost a business’ credibility amongst consumers.
What You Do
If your company is known for a specific product, service or information, make that front and center. Don’t misunderstand this point, however. That’s not to say you should overload your homepage with information or images. Give your readers or customers an easy way to get directly to your popular product. Also, include a simple explanation of what your company is about, so first time visitors will immediately know they’re at the right website.
Give your customers or readers a chance to engage with your company and one another. Devote a portion of your website to client testimonials, product reviews or popular questions from your consumers. When other businesses and customers see that others have used and approve of your service or product, they are more likely to make a purchase and return in the future.
Security is vital to ecommerce websites. Your customers want to know before they type in their credit card number that the information isn’t being sent into cyberspace for the next identity thief to steal. Get Secure Socket Layer (SSL) if you don’t have it. SSL is an encryption system that aids in protecting the privacy and information of your customer’s data during the exchange between a customer and a website.
Ease of Use
Make it easy for your customers to navigate their way through your website. One of the easiest ways to do this is to build a simple, clear navigation bar. When customers land on your homepage, offer a menu of topics on our navigation bar and then provide more detailed content that branches from each of those pages. You can also build a sitemap that enables users to see all pages available on your site. Study your search bar data to see what it is your customers want, but can’t immediately locate. Then use that information to make the most popular search items front and center.
Call to Action
Customers want to engage with you. Give them direction when it comes to keeping up with your business’ products, new blog posts or seminars. Menu items like “Sign up here for our newsletter,” clearly allows your end user to know what they can expect when they offer their email address. Customers also love discounts, so whether you plan to offer digital coupons or specials through email capture, make that a prominent part of your site. Labels like “Click here to receive 20% your first purchase,” are sure to be engaging and revenue boosters.
Customers want to know how much they’re spending when they add an item to their shopping cart on your website, and that includes shipping costs. Don’t force your customers to give a credit card number before you tell them how much shipping the item will cost. Offer a shipping estimate box based on the user’s zip code so they can factor that into their purchase and you don’t lose a sell just before the confirmation page.
Website design isn’t easy, and you’re forced to keep up with your competition by offering better and faster service, especially in the ecommerce industry. Hopefully, these tips will help you gain a little advantage.
With the increase of customers falling victim to phishing scams, malware, and just plain inferior customer service, more and more consumers are becoming wary of the website they use to make purchases, as they should. You are not only competing against other businesses in your industry, you’re also faced with fighting against hackers and identity thieves to ensure your customers not only are safe while shopping your website, but they feel safe.
Building trust indicators on your website is vital to increased revenue and repeat customers. Here are a few things you can do to calm your potential customers’ worries and make them more likely to follow through and buy your products online.
Consider this, more than half, 54 percent, of business-to-business researchers indicated that the lack of thorough contact information reduced a company’s credibility. You need to list emails, phone numbers, and a physical address. A postal mailing address also has the power to boost a business’ credibility amongst consumers. Shopify.com recommends building an entire contact page as opposed to a “contact us” form that isn’t transparent on who will receive the information or when you may be contacted by the company. If a customer has a question, or more importantly, wants to know how to get to your store, make it easy for them.
Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle, a small business marketing company, reports that what other people say about you will be nearly 1000 times more convincing than what you say about yourself. Give your customers an opportunity to review your service, product and customer care. When other businesses and potential customers see that others have used and approve of your service or product, they are more likely to make a purchase and return in the future.
Today’s online consumers are knowledgeable shoppers. They know to look for the “https,” not just the http, and padlock symbols that indicate your website is secured – an absolute necessity for an ecommerce site. Your customers want to know before they type in their credit card number that the information isn’t being sent into cyber space for the next identity thief to steal. For that reason, you need Secure Socket Layer (SSL). SSL is an encryption system that aids in protecting the privacy and information of your customer’s data during the exchange between a customer and a website. Display your SSL certificate symbol to let your customers know their information is safe on your site.
Your website is no different than a brick and mortar to your customers. Just as they would walk into a store, look around and get a first impression to decide if they want to spend their time and money at the location – so it is with your site. If you want them to make a purchase from your website, you need to do everything you can to ensure they find you trustworthy enough.
Before we delve into why your website isn’t converting visitors, you need to decide what a conversion means for your business. Is your goal to get online users to make a purchase, signup for an email newsletter or something more specific to your company? Once you decide exactly what you want your customer to do, then you can determine how to better equip them to complete the task.
Another metric to consider is what you will deem a “good” conversation rate. Forbes says most companies see between 2 to 3 percent of their incoming traffic eventually convert. Anything less than a two percent conversion rate should alert you to a potential problem. The malefactor could be one of these five common conversion killers.
No Visible Opportunity
The lack of opportunity to convert a user may just be the easiest fix to make. This implies that your customers are visiting your website with a desire to connect with you, but they simply can’t find an easy way to do so. Be sure to include a “Start receiving our newsletter” signup form in the footer or side rail of each page. If your desire is for each visitor to make a purchase, add a widget for new product display or a feature button for the “newest releases.”
Put simply, your users are too distracted by everything else you have happening on your website to complete the conversion process. Keep it simple and clear the clutter. You definitely don’t want your potential customers to feel weighed down by the amount of text and info they need to sift through. Prevent your customers from getting frustrated and leaving your site altogether by keeping your content and product descriptions short and to the point. Place your most important or new content above the fold and make each call to action visibly clickable.
Where do I Checkout?
Make it easy for your customers to navigate their way through your website; this includes finding the “checkout” or “shopping cart” button. One of the easiest ways to do this is to build a simple, clear navigation bar and place the shopping cart symbol in the same place on each page. So as your customers click through products or read reviews they can easily access their planned purchases to complete the process and pay.
Don’t underestimate the power of customer reviews. The online users who have already completed the conversion process are your best voice to reach potential customers. Online shoppers want to know that others have made a secure purchase from your website. Encourage feedback by adding testimonials or comments section on your site and allow loyal customers to build your consumer base.
I have a Question
While this may seem like a “no-brainer,” you’d be surprised how many companies do not clearly list their phone number on their website. If a customer has a question, make it easy for them. Embed your phone number in a specific location, likely the header or footer, of each page. This simple touch allows the customer to know if they need an immediate response regarding a product or the checkout process, they can reach you directly.
No matter what your conversion goal may be, showing your customer that your website is secure, easy to use and you are happy to offer top customer service will better your conversion rate. Once you’ve convinced a user of this, they’re likely to go from potential client to loyal customer.