Stop killing your website

What do successful websites do that others don’t? How can one landing page be fifty or even a hundred times more profitable than its nearest competitor? The answer is much simpler than you could ever imagine.Successful online businesses thrive because they understand certain basic principles, at the same time as benefitting from the fact that most of their competitors do not. The good news is that you can follow these principals too, and they won’t even cost much to implement. Better still, just doing these five simple things will automatically put you ahead of 90% of your competitors.

1: Hire professional copywriters
For SMEs this is one of the biggest killers out there, and at first glance it kind of even makes sense. Shave 10 -­‐20% off the cost of your new website by spreading the responsibility for content around the office – usually to the overworked heads of each department.
The problem with this approach is that you end up with a website costing £1000s that no-­‐one outside of your organisation wants to engage with. Worse still is the fact that a lot of what gets written actively confuses people. It’s probably why Seth Godin recently remarked that 90% of all web usability problems are simple copy fixes. If you want those messages popping off the page, if you want everyone who visits your site to instinctively know where they are and what they need to do next, you need an external specialist. A copywriter can condense all of that information into a few concise words and core messages, producing pages that spark favourable reactions. Good websites hire professional copywriters for the same reason that good restaurants hire professional chefs; they appreciate the value of people who understand the building blocks of those secret sauces. So should you.

2: Get your internal link structure fixed
The most popular button on any browser is the back button and every visitor to your site that hits it should be seen a small and entirely avoidable failure. The back button is an admission of defeat. “I’ve come as far as I can go and I can go no further.” “A dead end has been reached.” Ok, maybe not always, but keeping people moving around your site is crucial. It not only shows that your content is keeping users engaged and happy, but it’s also great SEO for precisely the same reasons. Conduct regular audits and fix broken links. Work on your 404 page to make it more helpful. Give people recommendations for more related content. Google wants to rank sites that demonstrate high user engagement so make it easy for them to do that for you.

3: conduct usability testing
The problem a lot of SMEs have is that they think that this must be really expensive. The truth is it isn’t. There are a number of different ways you can go about it, all with varying degrees of effectiveness.
The best time to usability test is as your website is being built. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother just because your site already exists.
Firstly, you can install surveys. The trouble is they tend to be a tad invasive and can often interfere with the very thing you’re trying to achieve: convert visitors into customers.
Alternatively, conduct phone interviews with users who agree to take part. Again this is interfering with your conversion funnel, and the fact is you usually have to bribe them, which means the quality of responder isn’t always great. They often want to get off the phone a.s.a.p. and collect their voucher.
The best method is to conduct face to face tests as the design and build phases progress. It doesn’t involve a two-way mirror or people with clipboards – you just need around three people and a list of core tasks for them to perform. Then sit back and video them as they carry them out. The results are often startling.

4: split test your landing pages
Again, this is a lot simpler than you might think. There are many affordable programs that will allow you to set up multiple versions of the same landing page, often without the need for a web developer.
All you do is drop a bit of code into your site’s file and you can begin testing different versions of the same page to see which works best. You can change the words on the page, the colour of the buttons, move elements around or swap images, all whilst getting real-time results from actual visitors to your site. Be careful though, it’s incredibly addictive.

5: give something back for free
Online generosity is everything these days there’s always something your organisation can provide to benefit its wider community. Usually it comes in the form of information.
Remember the digital trinity of generosity, persistency and connectivity. The more you show up somewhere and share your knowledge, the more connected you become, and the more your brand spreads throughout the digital networks.
Think, what you can offer your audience that’s relevant and useful? Make a plan to keep helping people throughout the year. The long-term rewards will be greater than any form of paid advertising – and cheaper too.