Today across digital, small businesses are directly competing with large organizations for the attention of the same audience, which means small business websites are expected to have the same functionality and aesthetic as their larger competitors.
Consumers want every site they interact with to have an excellent navigation, along with a wealth of newsworthy and engaging content and they don't have the patience for a sub-par user experience.
For the last decade, social media and multimedia content have taken center stage with the goal of driving more traffic to business websites. In the last few years, we’ve seen more UX and UI best practices implemented across a wide variety of websites with the goal of increasing conversion rates and decreasing bounce rates.
Understanding the steps to create a dynamic site with compelling content can help every small business owner, compete with their large-scale counterparts.
The following seven steps will help you build a website comparable to large organizations.
Map out Your Site's User Journey
A clearly defined user journey can make the difference between whether one of your customers scrolls through your pages, or leaves after a click or two. Ask yourself what the goal of your website is and how you would like your customers to navigate through each page on your site. Defining a clear goal will help you create a sharp and clear user interface (UI).
The following example from the Nielsen Norman Group provides a deconstruction of a customer journey map.
Click here for a detailed description of the map.
Every website’s overall aim is to make a user move through its web pages toward a targeted goal as seamlessly as possible. That goal could be purchasing a product, subscribing to your newsletter or downloading an eBook.
No matter what goal you're working toward, it's important for your website to have a smooth UI to increase conversions.
If users are having difficulty navigating your site, try creating a site map to pinpoint gaps in your content or calls-to-action. Clearly define the goals of your site to help you create a seamless journey for your customers.
For example, imagine you have a small tutoring website, and your end goal is for users to book an appointment? How would you help them to make that decision?
Your tutoring site may already contain pages reviewing the services you offer, an about me or profile showcasing your credentials, an area to book tutoring appointments, and a contact page.
But, what questions might your audience have before booking? Do you include information about part-time and full-time courses? How extensive is the information about your services?
Content can play a big role in answering the questions above! Create a range of blog posts or a short eBook detailing some key information about your business. Use clear, relevant links in your copy to highlight other pages that could help the users make the decision to book an appointment with you. Educating your customers with compelling and informative content will build trust; they'll appreciate you taking the time to provide relevant information before making a decision.
Pro Tip: SEO can help you create your audience personas. Learn how.
Use SEO to Help Your Website Rank in Google's SERPs
Update your website regularly with relevant keywords and links to keep driving traffic to your site and crawl up Google’s (Search Engine Results Page) SERPs.
To conduct an audit of your website content, use the free version of Screaming Frog SEO Spider.
This checklist provides all the metrics you should be keeping an eye on:
By listing out all of the keywords and page titles used on your site, you can see if there are any gaps and where you could be overusing certain words.
Below is an example from Moz showing how to begin your audit by taking inventory of your content. For more information, check out their full post on how to conduct a content audit.
Build a Content Strategy and Use This Plan to Populate Your Site
Perform an audit on your existing site to help decide which pieces of content might aid your customers along the purchasing journey.
Single Grain’s ‘'Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Content Audit'’ is the simplest way to condense all of your content, rather than painstakingly scrolling through and listing each post.
The following is a simple list of information you should gather when doing an audit:
Type of Content (article, blog post, informational page, landing page, infographic, etc.)
Content Condition (out-of-date, evergreen, etc.)
Assigned Tags or Categories
Content Owner (as in, who is responsible for editing it)
Number of Comments
Number of Social Shares
Accessibility on Desktop and Mobile Devices
Call to Action
Associated Sales Funnel Stage
When you conduct your content audit, look out for trends in people scrolling through pages and dropping off as soon as they’re prompted to make a purchase decision. Also keep an eye on the types of content your audience seem to be the most engaged with.
Do people seem to spend more time on certain landing pages or share certain blog posts more often? Learning this information will help you decide which types of content you should focus on more to drive more visitors to your site.
To help keep your content schedule organized, check out Crackerjack Marketing for one of the best editorial calendars out there.
Also read WP Curve’s "17 simple edits and tweaks to get more people to read your content."
Keep Your Content Fresh and Up-To-Date with RSS Tools and Feed Readers
A couple of the best RSS readers to use are Feedly and Flipboard. They allow you to create collections of content and source any daily news or inspiration that could be relevant to your brand including social media, blog content, and guides to help your day-to-day content creation.
In addition, tools like Pocket or Instapaper are a lifesaver when it comes to saving and tagging articles for future use. They're helpful tools to populate your social media calendar, and give you back some precious time in your day.
Gate Valuable Content with Conversion Forms
An effective way to increase conversions on your website is by offering valuble content such as eBooks and whitepapers behind a gated form.
Provide visitors to your site just enough information to peak their interest, such as an intriguing data point or bullet points outlineing key takeways of your content. The goal is for visitors to click on the CTA to download the content.
Keep Your Website Looking Fresh and Inviting
If you don't have a mobile-friendly website, now is the time to get one! According to Google, 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.
Your audience don't have the time or the patience to navigate your site if it's not mobile-friendly and they certainly have options when it comes to finding what they're looking for.
Not only will a mobile-friendly site help boost your conversion rates, it will help your SEO as well. Google penalizes sites that aren't mobile-friendly, meaning your page rank is lower if your site isn't mobile-responsive.
Always aim for your page design to feel clean and straightforward. Avoid cluttering your pages with too much information. Just like your site’s navigation, or UI, the overall user experience should be clear and inviting.
Using white space on each page can help visitors to your site find what they're looking for easily by drawing attention to certain content and CTAs. White space is defined as the negative space or space left unmarked on a web page. For example, if your home page is full of text, your audience won't know what to focus on.
Understanding basic HTML can help you make minor tweaks to your website. Code School offers helpful refresher courses if you need them.
However, if you need to give your website a complete redesign, we recommend having a professional developer lend a helping hand.
Monitor Your Site's Performance with Analytics
When implementing the strategies above to optimize your website, it's important to monitor its performance via analytics.
In addition to the reporting your web host provides, we highly recommend integrating Google Analytics. It's the best tool to use because of its comprehensive platform, and user-friendly API, and detailed tracking.
Begin by looking at the key metrics on your site:
Unique Users - How many people are visiting your site?
Pages per Session - Are people leaving your site after 1-2 pages? Or do they seem to scroll through multiple?
Page Duration - Do people seem to spend longer on your FAQ’s page more than your home page? This could suggest your content needs updating.
Traffic Sources - Where are people visiting your site coming from?
Bounce Rate - How many people visit your site, only to leave before navigating to another page on your site?
Exit Pages - Where are you losing people?
In addition to measuring your site's performance, you can use your analytical data to inform your marketing campaign strategy.
For example, let's say you own a swimming school catering to families, parents and kids in the Bay Area.
Have you noticed if there's a surge in activity on your site during the summer months? What about the weeks before summer vacation? This data can provide valuable information into how and when you should be marketing to your target audience.
You'll be able to create your content calendar in advance, and focus your time on creating blog posts like ‘The 10 Best Reasons to Teaching Your Kid to Swim’ or ‘Why Kids Who Are Confident Swimmers, Grow to be Confident Adults’.
We hope these tips help you compete with the big fish! Follow our blog for more marketing insights.
Originally seen on Hearst Bay Area