5 Reasons Your Website Sucks

UPDATE: Thrilled to have this blog published on the DFW Chapter of the American Marketing Association website! Check it out here.

So, you’re combing through your website analytics and they offer some clues. Traffic is flat. Average pages per visitor are declining, bounce rate is up, and conversions just aren’t happening. But why? Figuring out the “why” is more important than the numbers themselves. You see, the numbers are just symptoms. You need to know the root cause. Steve Forbes has a great quote, “With all thy getting, get understanding.” I love this quote because it’s simple, and it gets to the heart of many challenges we face as marketers. We have more data than ever before, but do we know the “why”? If you don’t like the results (or metrics) of your website, here is a short list of things you can do to make your website better.

1. Tell a Compelling Story

In my opinion, this is one of the hardest things to do in marketing, no, business for that matter. Telling a great story about your brand requires creativity, relentless drive, risk-taking, buy-in from all internal stakeholders, and a vision for where your brand is going. As if all that wasn’t hard enough, a good story is still subjective. What one person finds fascinating and entertaining, another might find mediocre at best. To have any chance of nailing this, you must know everything about your target markets. What are their demographics, preferences, purchase habits, and so much more? Yes – a ton of work. So why is it important to tell a good story anyway? The answer is simple. Since the beginning of time, humans have always loved a great story. They get passed down from generation to generation, get told around campfires, bring us closer to each other, and they pull at our heartstrings in a way few other things can. Tell your story well, and bring your website to life, in a way that is defensible and differentiated from the competition.

You’ve got a great story, but how do you implement this on a website? First, ditch the generic templates. If you take yourself seriously as a brand, you need a custom-designed site. It’s not as expensive as you think, and it will make a huge difference. Similar to this, stay away from stock images. The human eye can recognize when something is fake, and subconsciously judges it negatively. Last, do not confine the story to a typical “about us” page. Let the story permeate through your website – across the homepage and key product pages. In other words, walk the talk, whatever your talk is.

2. Improve Site Speed

This one is technical and straight forward. Test your site speed regularly, and often. According to Google research, a visitor will abandon a slow loading website in about three seconds. That’s not much margin for error, so don’t waste your visitors’ time with bloated code and slow-loading images that will drag site speed down. Our favorite tools for speed testing are Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. 

3. Conversion Hooks

Do you offer compelling reasons to convert anonymous visitors into actionable, qualified leads?

Ok, that’s a mouthful. What that means in simple terms is, does your website motivate visitors to give you their information? To be clear, we’re focused on non-eCommerce websites with this point. For eCommerce sites, there’s so much more that goes into converting visitors into purchasers – that’s for another article. Back to non-eCommerce sites. If you just have a generic contact form – get rid of that garbage right now! Nobody wants to fill out a long form to receive more info, a quote or other assistance. Ask yourself, how can I make this more interesting? Maybe it’s a free sample. Or a human consult. Or a chat tool. Think critically about the value your business offers, and then distill a sample of this through your website. Whatever you do, don’t ask for a dozen form fields to be completed just because it’s easier for your customer service team to make prospects fill out a bunch of fields. Instead, think about what’s easier for your potential customer!

4. Install Heat Mapping

This is another straightforward, technical approach that every brand should be using. Heat mapping offers some glimpses into the “why” by literally showing what your visitors are doing on your site. The visual reporting shows where people are spending time on pages, where they are speeding through, where they click, where they don’t, and so much more. It’s easy to install this type of reporting on most sites, and you’re guaranteed to gain immediate insights.

5. Simplify Your U/I

Last, make it easy to find content on your site with a thoughtfully designed menu and nav structure. Avoid jargon, acronyms and industry thought processes. Instead, step back and ask, “Could someone from outside our industry find their way around, and quickly understand what we do?”. Host a focus group to gain further insight and look for ways to implement this onto your site. Keep only what’s most important on the nav, and store everything else in a collapsible “hamburger” menu. Also, offer multiple ways to get to your content – we all think differently, so there are always multiple right answers when it comes to navigating a site.

Apply these tips to get to the “why” behind your website metrics and you will be rewarded with a higher-performing site. However, a word of caution. These improvements take time because there are no silver bullets when it comes to great marketing. As the saying goes “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” So true! Stay focused, be bold, and commit to the time and resources that it takes to make your website perform at a high level.

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