If you’re like most business owners you have a nagging sense that your website isn’t living up to its full potential.
Unfortunately, few business owners do much besides worry that their website isn’t earning its keep. They assume that once a website is built and online there’s not much else to do.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Your business website is one of your most important assets. If your website is doing its job, it’s the first thing potential customers see when they discover your business online. You want to make sure that those prospects have a good first impression and easy access to everything they’re looking for.
And if your website isn’t doing its job, your prospects won’t be able to find you online. In that case, you might as well not have a website.
In either case, business owners should avoid the temptation of letting their websites run on autopilot. No matter how good a website is, there’s always room for improvement. And there are plenty of ways to monitor the impact that your site is having on your business and identifying problem areas that need to be addressed.
Here are three things that every business owner can do to monitor their progress and improve their websites.
1. Use Google Analytics. If you aren’t yet using Google Analytics, you’re missing out on a treasure trove of data that will tell you how many people are visiting your website, where they’re coming from, what they’re looking at, how long they’re staying on your site, and much more.
It’s easy (and free) to get started. Head over to Google Analytics and log in with your Google ID. The Analytics website will walk you through the process of creating an account for your site. Once you’ve done that use the Yoast plugin to enable Analytics on your WordPress site. I recommend using the plugin because eliminates the need to cut-and-paste the tracking code into your theme, and also simplifies the process of enabling some of the more advanced Analytics features (like outbound link tracking).
Once everything is in place, sit back and wait for the data to start rolling in.
If you’re already using Analytics. It may be time to reassess the data you’re looking at. Many business users have a tendency to monitor simple vanity metrics (total users and total page views). While it can be satisfying to watch the number of site visitors rise over time, you may be ignoring data that can have a serious impact on your bottom line.
- Are you tracking conversion goals?
- Is your bounce rate too high?
- How is your average “time on site” and what can you do to improve engagement?
If you’re spending money on Google Adwords and not tracking conversions you have no way of knowing whether or not the money you’re spending is having meaningful results. Pause your AdWords campaigns immediately until you’ve set up conversion tracking.
To set up conversion tracking you’ll need to have some action on your site that your visitors can complete. What is it that your visitors are supposed to be getting out of your site? What is it you want your visitors to do on your site? If you’re selling something directly from your website, your conversion goals will be obvious. But even if you’re not selling you should at least have some form of lead capture system in place. Start by measuring conversion on your email newsletter signups, for example.
2. Use Google Webmaster Tools. Google’s Webmaster Tools is the best way to keep track of the overall health of your website. Once you’ve added your site to Webmaster Tools, Google will even notify you when it notices there’s something wrong with your site — whether it’s a technical problem that prevents Google from indexing your pages or a sign that your site has been infected with malware. In either case, you could see your web traffic dry up overnight, so it’s good to have an early warning that something is wrong.
Plus you’ll get more data about search phrases that lead visitors to your website and your positioning for various phrases.
Webmaster Tools is an aptly named resource that provides a wealth of information about your site including site indexing problems, malware infections, broken links, inbound links, search engine positioning, search engine conversion (the percentage of times your site is clicked on when it appears in search results), and more.
3. Do some user testing. Everyone I know claims to have done “user testing.” In most cases, that means someone asked George in accounting to take a look at the new website. George said everything looked fine, so no further testing was deemed necessary.
A formal user test is quite different and will almost always produce an actionable list of site fixes that can have a significant impact on conversion rates and visitor satisfaction. In many cases, the fixes are surprisingly easy. The hard part is identifying the problems that are preventing your users from accomplishing various tasks on your website. And that’s exactly what user testing is designed to do.
Formal user tests aren’t nearly as scary as they might seem. I recommend David Krug’s enjoyable “Don’t Make Me Think” as an entertaining and informative introduction to the practice of user testing.
Quite a lot has changed since Krug’s book was originally published. New services like UserTesting.com make it astonishingly easy and affordable to run a small panel of user tests.
If you haven’t done this sort of user test in the past you’ll be amazed at how quickly you uncover significant issues that are preventing your visitors from getting the most out of your website.
User testing doesn’t have to be expensive. Most usability experts agree that you can get the actionable information you need to improve your website with only five user tests. Speaking from past experience I’ve seen incredible results with as few as three user tests.
Given the low cost of user testing services, there’s no reason not to run 3-5 tests on your website.