As a website designer, I know that sometimes when your website is really out-of-date (content & technology-wise), the best thing to do is to start over with a new strategy & platform that works best for where you are now. But sometimes you don’t have the time or budget for that. Or, maybe your website is mostly working for you, but it isn’t perfect and you can’t put your finger on why…
…well, this blog post is for you. I’ll outline 5 quick & easy things you can do that will improve your website!
Improve the speed of your site. To know where you site stands when it comes to speed of loading, you can use a service like this: Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
The reason it’s important to optimize the loading speed of your site is that it can effect how well you do in search results. Also, no internet user is going to stick around for a poky website, no matter how great the content is, and you want them to have a great experience with your brand. Now, all the suggestions Google’s tool (or similar tools) make may not make sense for your site. For example, if you move all your scripts to the footer, your page may not load correctly. So for some things, you may want to check with an expert. But take heart, there are some things you can do that will enhance the loading speed of your site not matter what is going on in the code.
First, optimize those images. The smaller the file size of your images, the faster they load. Use a tool like this to make them as small as possible while still looking great: www.imageoptimizer.net. Also, consider whether you really need all of them. CSS allows you to easily add solid colors and all types of gradients as backgrounds that don’t require images at all, and they load in an instant. If you’re using a WordPress theme (and who isn’t?), consider one that maximizes the look of your site without relying on lots of images to look great — things like typography, spacing, solid colors, and use of lines and borders can (and should) all happen without using images. You can also add a caching plugin to WordPress (my favorite is WP Super Cache) to speed things up, and even a plugin that will automatically optimize all images you add to your site called the EWWW Image Optimizer.
And finally, the web host & hosting plan you’re using has arguably the most impact on the loading speed of the average site. You’ll find it’s usually not that much more expensive to go with a host with a proven track record for loading speeds (and security and customer service) and for a hosting plan that puts you on faster hardware.
Create clear calls-to-action. Let’s set up a scenario: someone finds your website through search (win!) and finds your site engaging (win!); they are clear on what you do / who you serve / how you can help them (win!), and they are ready to engage. What do you want them to do next? Contact you? Buy your book? Follow your Twitter feed?…
Whatever it is, that is your call-to-action. Think of action statements like, “Call now!” or “Purchase today” or “Subscribe” — if your website doesn’t have any, or they’re not clear and easy to find, it’s not doing its best work for you.
There should be at least one on most pages of your site, with one prioritized over the others. If you have more than one, don’t panic… Figure out which is the *primary* one for that page and make it the easiest to find and boldest (so, above the fold, and sized/colored appropriately for your site). If you find that you have more than one primary call-to-action on a page, it might be time to consider whether you’re asking that page (and the people visiting it) to do too many things simultaneously.
Make it easy to share. Everyone has their favorite social media platform: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc… and you want it to be easy to share information on your site (or your site itself) on any of them.
You can easily add sharing functionality to your site using a service like AddThis or ShareThis (both offer WordPress plugins) to make sharing easy, but you also want to make sure that when your content is shared, it shows up correctly.
If there’s an image associated with your content, you want that to be shared in the feed along with the title text (and description, if available). So consider using a WordPress plugin that has the ability to add the correct tags to your site automatically to support that, but which also offer a default fallback (perhaps your logo?) if no image is available. SEO plugins like All In One SEO Pack and Yoast’s SEO plugin have an administrative setting that allows you to do just that.
Set up your key words & use them. This could be a long (and complicated) topic, but for now I’m going to keep it really simple.
Think of what the essence of your page is about, then think of what people might search for, then come up with a short phrase that is a combination of what your page is about and what people are searching for — voilà you have your key words.
An example: if your web page is about how your window installation service is the best in the greater Portland area because you excellently maintain the character & integrity of older homes, then you’re likely to gain customers from people searching for things like “replace windows older home portland” or “new windows old house portland”. So you might make your key phrase: Replacing Windows in Older Portland Homes.
Once you have that phrase, you want to use it in the following places: the url of your page, the page title, the page content, and the page meta description. If you’re using a WordPress SEO plugin (see examples above), they make it easy to do this.
If you’re not sure what kinds of things people are searching for, use the Google search box to help you out. As you start typing words into it, Google will suggest things to you. Those suggestions are based on things people commonly search for, so you can leverage that information to your benefit.
You want to come up with a phrase for each page of your site, and for each blog post if you have a blog. Each page of your site should serve a specific purpose, and your selected key words should support that.
But remember, as much as you’re trying to make sure search engines properly index your site, your site is for people and not just any people, your customer, so never sacrifice readability or ease-of-use to try to game the search engine system. The system is so advanced that you wouldn’t be able to anyway.
Let people contact you easily. I’m often amused / perplexed by websites that offer a product or service (but especially a service) but make it difficult to get in touch by burying that information somewhere in their website that you wouldn’t think to look.
If you rely on people getting in touch with you to make your business successful, MAKE IT AS EASY AS POSSIBLE TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU (sorry for the shouting, I feel strongly about this one).
Offer more than one way — some people like the phone and others prefer email, and you might consider that your potential customer’s preference is more important than your own. This doesn’t mean you need to sit by your email or the phone waiting for them; instead you can get a free Google Voice number just for your business where a robot (!) will transcribe your voicemails to email, then you can get back to folks on your own schedule.
Sometimes I hear from clients that they’re concerned about duplicating information on their site. I’m here to tell you that you could put your same contact information on each page, and it would do no harm whatsoever.
And remember that if you have a place of business, your address should be one of the things that’s critically easy to find. Restaurant websites are notoriously bad at this, and for a business that relies on people coming to their address to be successful it doesn’t make any sense at all.
You don’t have to do all of these — if you’re short on time, pick the one that resonates with you the most and that you think you can accomplish in the time that you have. Then, when you have a bit more time, cross another one off your list. With a little attention, your website can stand above the fray.