Your website should generate conversions that help your organization reach its business objectives. But it won’t automatically function as the powerful marketing tool it can be. It needs to be designed in a way that skillfully invites your audience to take the actions you want them to take.
That’s what website optimization is all about. And although some organizations might choose to build an entirely new digital experience from the ground up as a way to improve their reach, reinventing your whole site isn’t a prerequisite for achieving better results. Even some simple, targeted improvements can result in more of the leads and conversions your organization depends on.
But to be effective, optimization can’t be a guessing game. To make the right changes in the right places, you need to gather and analyze the information to make data-driven decisions. Take these 3 steps to start optimizing your website for success.
1. Define the Actions You Want Users to Take
Your website exists for a variety of reasons. You use it to tell your organizational story, establish and maintain connections with your stakeholders, and keep your audience engaged and informed.
But to target your optimization efforts in the right areas, it’s essential to narrow your focus and define precisely what you want your website visitors to do. What is the ultimate objective you’re trying to reach? And how are you leading your prospects down the pathways that will get them where you want them to go?
Whether you want your audience to enroll in a class, sign up for an event, donate to your cause, apply to your institution, or purchase your product, define your goals clearly. Then take a look at the corresponding data points that will inform and guide your efforts to propel your audience forward on their user journey.
2. Measure the ABCs of Leads
Once you’ve defined the actions you want your audience to take, it’s time to track the specific behaviors that produce the conversions you’re after. If you haven’t already, establish a baseline of how your website is performing now in order to make changes that will increase results in the future.
This involves digging deeper into the standard metrics most organizations track. Yes, it’s important to look at big picture numbers like overall website traffic, time spent on page, and exit rate. But to take your website to the next level, look at three key areas more closely.
The first metric to analyze more closely is website traffic. Where are your site visitors coming from? Which channels are driving them to your site? Are they finding you via organic search? Clicking on a paid media ad? Discovering you via your social media pages? Visiting as a result of a referral link? Responding to an automated email drip campaign?
Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about where your visitors are coming from and what they do once they arrive on your site. You can also add short polls and surveys to ask your site visitors targeted questions about what brought them to your site.
The next thing to look at is what users do once they land on your site. Google Analytics allows you to track users’ specific actions along their user journey. In addition, tools like Hotjar heatmaps bring trends and patterns to life using color-coded data visualizations. And using Google Tag Manager to implement a tactic such as event tracking can alert you when users take desired actions, such as scrolling for a certain amount of time or visiting more than one page.
Gather data about user behavior by answering questions like:
- Where do users go once they land on your site? How long does it take for them to either exit or convert?
- Where are users spending the most time? Are there certain areas of your site that attract the most attention? Are key pieces of information virtually ignored?
- Do users behave differently based on the channel they come from?
- Which channels produce the most engaged visitors?
- Are users consuming your content? Are they exploring all the content types your site has to offer?
- What are users searching for within your site? Are there specific words or phrases that show a pattern of discovery and exploration around certain topics?
- Do users respond more favorably to personalized content that’s generated based on their geographic location or other biographical information?
- Where are visitors dropping off? Are they exiting out of an uncompleted form or bouncing almost immediately after arriving on a landing page?
Google’s Behavior Flow Report can show you exactly how users progress through your site. With each behavior and action users take, they are offering clues about what your website is doing well and what needs to be improved. Use that insight to ultimately optimize your site and boost those all-important conversions.
If you want to boost conversions, one of the best things you can do is take a closer look at the users who have already taken that ultimate step. Who are they? What channels did they come from? Which pages did they view before converting? And are your conversions a good match for your organization? In other words, are you drawing the right-fit prospects you’re looking for?
After you qualify your conversions and identify the types of users that best match your business objectives, trace the steps that those particular users took from start to finish. Look for ways to improve your site experience to move other users like them through the conversion funnel.
3. Use the Data You’ve Gathered to Optimize Your Website
Now it’s time to take the information you’ve compiled to make concrete changes to your website. And remember: sometimes the simplest changes have the largest impact.
For example, one client we worked with noticed that users continually asked the same questions via their “Request More Information” button. After gathering that qualitative data, they strategically placed the answers to those common questions in visible places throughout their site. As a result, the overall number of requests dropped dramatically, but the quality improved.
Depending on what your data shows you, you might consider:
- Using the principles of the inverted pyramid to place important information within the top third of each page.
- Replacing generic landing pages with personalized or unique landing pages that prompt users to take the next action along the desired user journey.
- Cutting long blocks of content down into scannable bulleted lists or shorter paragraphs.
- Sprinkling headings, subheadings, and metadata with keywords that enable better search optimization and enhance scannability.
- Highlight important information using pull quotes, microcopy, or other content types (e.g., videos, images).
- Shortening forms and reducing the number of clicks needed to navigate to where a user wants to go.
- Make sure your “call to action” buttons are strategically placed and easy to find.
Consider conducting user testing to round out your quantitative data and test which changes are most effective. That way, you can continue to optimize the areas that make the most impact.
Give Your Optimized Website Time to Yield the Conversions You Expect
Even after you define your business objectives and gather quantitative and qualitative data to help you optimize your site, it can take time to see the results you’re looking for. This is especially true when you’re relying on organic search or referral traffic to attract a right-fit audience. It’s not uncommon for it to take a few months or longer to see the increased momentum you expect.
Keep tracking your data. Continue optimizing and looking for areas of improvement. But be patient and give the time to the process. Once you’ve optimized your website for success, better results are right around the corner.