Most businesses make improvements over the years as they grow. As computers get old they're replaced with newer, faster models; as office decor and carpeting gets dated it's replaced to modernize the work place for both employees and visitors. But even in this year of 2014 there's one thing businesses continue to ignore or put off that is dramatically impacting their business growth and public image. Their websites!
Web development best practices have changed dramatically in the past 5 years, which is often the timeframe most companies last updated their website. Not only does this make their company image look dated and less relevant in today's market, chances are their site's overall performance in search is declining or non-existent.
This post will address what makes up an optimized website in 2014, and what the cost is of NOT having a proper optimized site in this day and age.
What an Optimized Website Contains in 2014
Every website is different obviously, based on industry type, audience type, services/products, etc., but the core components that are essential for a modern, optimized website, include:
1. Well-organized site architecture that's intuitive for your site's users and easily crawlable by search engines.
2. Unique and quality content written for your site's users, with natural inclusion of relevant keywords (only where they fit).
3. Clean and simple site design that's inviting and engaging, not distracting! With modern website design, simple is better.
4. Supporting imagery (photography or graphics) to aid site users when reading your page content.
5. A responsive or mobile-friendly framework that allows users to view your website on multiple devices.
6. A dedicated blog section, with the intent of keeping this updated with at least weekly postings (with fresh, unique content) that offer value to your clients and prospective clients.
7. Conversion opportunities other than your Contact Form, such as case studies, whitepapers, eBooks or other valuable content.
8. Video(s) to show site users firsthand your products, your people, your process, etc.
9. Clean and user-focused meta data (page titles, meta descriptions, image alt text, etc.).
10. Fast page load speed that's not bogged down with fancy flash animation and images not properly formatted for web.
11. Social media integration so users can easily share content via their social media accounts, and also find & follow your company's social media profiles.
This list could keep going, but as I said, these are the core components you should be focused on.
The Cost of an Unoptimized Website
Whether your boss or your company's leadership wants to believe it or not, it's proven that buyers start their journey and decision process online. Meaning, they're viewing your website during this process and making judgments before you ever have contact with them. In fact, 78% of B2B buyers start their buying research through online search.
If you have an outdated-looking website with a crappy user experience, you're:
1. Turning away potential prospects before they can even learn how great your product or service is, and how you can help them. Let's say you're a manufacturer of some form of custom equipment, with an average price tag of $20,000. Even if you only had one of these potential customers visit your site on average once per month, and your closing rate is 30%, you're looking at a total of $72,000 in lost sales opportunities.
2. Turning off those familiar with your company, even if they've done business with you in the past. Sure, they could still stick around but your chances aren't very good. For example, what happens when one of your key competitors starts attracting them with engaging content and a more pleasing user experience on their website? You'll eventually lose your relevancy and fall off their short list. Do the math on the cost of losing some of your core customers. Scary, right?
If your website is non-existent in organic search, during your prospects' buying research phase, you're:
1. Not even a contender with winning their business, since they never found you! Sure there's things like Google AdWords or banner ads to get noticed online, but the majority of clicks these days are for organic search results that have earned their ranking from producing great content and providing an exceptional user experience. This is where you need to be.
How to Take Action
If you're reading this and having an even bigger 'OH S%!T' MOMENT than before, don't panic. There is hope and you can take action to turn things around. It will take some work and some marketing dollars but if you want to stop losing out on lost sales opportunities, here's what you can do:
1. Invest in Switching to a Robust Website Content Management System (CMS)
Forget the days of being held hostage to your IT department or current website technology company for making even the simplest site updates. Having your site built on a CMS system is a must for being able to maintain your website and keep your content fresh. Our preference is HubSpot's Content Optimization Systems (COS), which we're building a new site on for ourselves, but other favorable systems include WordPress, concrete5, Squarespace,and Weebly.
A lot of these systems offer templates that are both modern and mobile responsive, which can save you a lot of time and money if you're operating on a limited budget but urgently need to refresh your site's design. Remember though a great website is more than the design. Content and overall site structure should be your focus.
2. Stop Putting Off Blogging
Seriously. The longer you put off blogging the more painful it will be to make this part of your marketing mix and routine. And the farther you'll be behind your competitors that have amassed a large archive of blog content that is dominating in search results for keywords you want to be found for. Now is the time, my friend. Start by committing to one blog per week and if you or your staff don't have the time or writing skill, consider hiring an outside firm to blog for you.
3. Implement Conversion Opportunities
Move beyond your Contact Us form to convert your site visitors into leads, which really is only for people that are ready to talk about your products/services or who are looking to find your location(s).
Implementing advanced content downloads such as case studies, whitepapers and eBooks, that site visitors need to complete a simple conversion form in order to download, will allow you to start converting more of your site visitors into leads as they work through their research phase in the buying process. Once you crack the code on creating content that guides and helps them during their buying process, you're golden!
4. Identify & Implement Longtail Keywords to Optimize Your Content
The key here is not to obsess over your keywords or overuse them on your pages, or in your page meta data. By thinking like your customer (or even speaking with them) and outlining the various categories of potential search phrases they may use when searching for your products/services, you can turn these into longtail keywords to optimize page titles and blog headlines. An example of a longtail keyword is "truck bodies for moving companies" versus the head match keyword "truck bodies." By going after the longtail keyword you have better chances of ranking higher in search and attracting the right traffic.
5. Get Social
Implementing social media sharing, and sharing your own website content on social, is a must to perform in search and maintain a healthy SEO performance. Make it easy for visitors to share your content (like you see at the top of this blog with our social sharing icons/counters) and get your team to share it as well. Again, this is where blogging comes into play since every new blog is a chance to share it on social media, and for your site visitors to share it as well.
There's no doubt that in order to perform in today's business environment, a well-optimized website is a must. The longer you put off giving your website the attention it needs, the more opportunities you're missing out on. Use this blog to make the case that although your company will need to invest to get your website to where it needs to be, the cost of doing nothing is far greater.