Improving your website, driving traffic, and optimizing conversions is a never ending process. Here is a list of 101 tips and strategies to keep on hand to ensure you never run out of ideas to improve your site.
- Conduct an SEO Audit
- Add a Sitemap
- Check Your Website for Duplicate Content
- Page Title Best Practices
- Meta Description Best Practices
- Manage Your Page and Domain Authority
- Use Human Readable URLs
- Treat Your Website Like a Book
- Tell Your Story
- Produce Unique Engaging Content
- Use Original Photography
- Give Consumers Control
- Develop Simple Tools that Deliver Value to Your Customers
- Conduct a Content Audit
- Write Compelling Web Copy
- Make Compelling YouTube Videos
- Display Reviews and Ratings On Your Site
- Show Third Party Ratings and Reviews On Your Website
- Add Awards, Certificates, and Security Badges
- Effectively Manage Promocodes
- Write in Layman’s Terms
- Proofread Your Work By Reading Backwards
- Conduct an Email Audit
- Have a FAQ Page
- Get Your Business Policies Right
- Spell Check Everything
- Use Product Images from Multiple Angles
- Leverage User Generated Content
- Enable Comments
- Have a Blog
- Keep Your Content Fresh
- Easy to digest. Scannable.
- Repurpose Video Content
- Be Transparent
- Create Remarketing Lists
- Create An AdWords Account
- Participate in Affiliate Links and Programs
- Add Progressive Profiling
- Attract Buyers with Paid Efforts
- Display Your Social Media Properties
- Sharing Should Be Easy
- Write and Send Press Releases
- Collect Emails
- Send Recurring Newsletters
- Create a Rewards Program
- Extend the Life of Your Content
- Generate Ad Revenue
- Function Over Form
- Make Sure Your Site is Fast!
- Is Your Website Mobile Compatible?
- Every Web page is Your Homepage
- Make It Easy for People to Contact You
- Add a Site Search
- Implement On Exit Surveys
- Under Promise and Over Deliver
- Create Personalized Experiences
- Connect All of Your Google Accounts Together
- Test Your Site for Browser Compatibility
- Track a List of Site Issues
- Test Every Link on Every Web Page
- Add Click to Call
- Optimize Your Error Page
- Simplify Your Navigation
- Reduce Customer Keystrokes
- Live Above the Fold
- Delight Your Customers
- Have a Community
- Build Custom Landing Pages
- Use Large Call to Action Buttons
- Accept Multiple Forms of Payment
- Use Audio Visual Techniques Sparingly
- Have Confirmation Pages
- Moderate Spam
- Provide Downloads
- Reduce Clutter
- Setup a Staging Environment
- Setup Backups
- Send Notifications to Your Customers
- Check Your Website for Code Errors
- Be Empathetic
- Be Agile
- Have Exclusivity
- Install Google Analytics
- Always Be Testing
- A/B Test and Optimize Your Website
- Everything Should Be Accessible within 2 – 3 Clicks Away
- Enable Demographics and Interests Reports
- Enable Site Search in Google Analytics
- Connect Your Website to Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)
- Reduce Steps in the Checkout Process
- Let Data Speak to You
- Reduce Unnecessary Fields
- Create Goals in Google Analytics
- Create Custom Alerts
- Annotate Important Site Changes
- Reduce Friction to Speed Conversions
- Optimize Your Promo Discounts
- Check in on Geo Visitors
- Identify Your Critical Metrics
- Automate Reports and Alerts
- Laser Focus On Conversions
Conduct an SEO Audit
Conducting frequent SEO audits allows you to know the SEO health of your website. It is largely agreed upon in the SEO community that setting unique page titles is the number 1 most important factor in influencing search engine results pages. The second most important factor is setting descriptive meta descriptions for those pages to influence click through rates. The third most important factor is to make sure you do not have any duplicate content on your website.
By optimizing these three areas you will have optimized your site for SEO by more than 75%. To take you the rest of the way you will have to dive deeper and look at more technical things. Robots.txt directives, internal and external linking structures, page load speed, on page content, URL structures, schema markups, alt tags, and many other factors can influence your SEO ranking.
Here is one of the best in-depth article I found on how to thoroughly conduct a SEO Audit.
Add a Sitemap
If you have a site with thousands of pages, it is a good idea to have a sitemap. A sitemap simply lists all of the pages of your website so search engine crawlers can effectively find and index your website. A sitemap can also be beneficial to users, but most often it is for search crawlers.
There are smaller sites that can get away without having a sitemap, but I often create a sitemap anyways.
Check Your Website for Duplicate Content
Google has a passion for hating duplicate content on websites for two good reasons. One of them is the simple fact that you wouldn’t like it if someone came along and stole your content, republished it, and called it their own. Another reason is the fact that people wouldn’t like it if they read the same exact information for verbatim on multiple sites.
Furthermore, duplicate content causes confusion to search engines because they are not sure which content is the original. This will cause search engines to not properly give credit to the original source of the page.
Sometimes, duplicate content is created unintentionally. Even though you didn’t mean any harm, Google still hates it. Most unintentional duplicate content is created from content management systems. IE: a category page displays the same information multiple times. Other times, duplicate content can be attributed to something out of the ordinary, like public user accounts copying and pasting the same social media bio.
One of the ways to identify duplicate content is by simply looking at duplicate page titles and meta descriptions in Google Webmaster Tools highlighted below.
Once you have identified them you can fix them in three ways, preferably in the order given below.
- Implement a permanent 301 redirect duplicate pages to the original page.
- Add canonical tags on duplicate page referring to the original page
- noindex, follow on duplicate pages
Page Title Best Practices
Page titles is considered the low hanging fruit in the SEO industry. By carefully crafting a good page title you can effectively influence your page ranking in search engine results.
Page titles are displayed in Google search engine results pages as hyperlinks. Google typically starts to cut off page titles after 65 characters including spaces. It is ok to go over, but its best to stay within 65 characters to make sure things don’t get cut off.
Often when I brainstorm page titles I use this site to make counting characters easier.
To write the best page title you can, keep the most important keywords towards the front as it will have a higher weight. After the main title of the page is complete I often append the name of my website/business at the end for branding purposes with a separator such as (|). I have seen other websites use a dash (-) as well.
Meta Description Best Practices
Similar to page titles, having a good written meta description can entice people to click through to your website in search engine results.
Meta descriptions are often limited 156 characters before they get cut off.
For best practices, write descriptions that pique people’s interests. You’ll want to describe what the page is about accurately and get them to click.
Manage Your Page and Domain Authority
Page Authority and Domain Authority are metrics created by Moz. It is essentially a grade that lets you know how authoritative a domain or a specific page is. A higher authority indicates the likelihood of a webpage or website to rank in Google search.
You can find out what your website’s authority is by using Moz’s free open site explorer tool. With Moz’s Open Site Explorer tool you can see which pages on your website is the most authoritative. These are pages you should always keep around to continue to support your website’s overall domain authority.
Use Human Readable URLs
Popular content management systems like WordPress and Drupal are great platforms to optimize for SEO. Don’t be tricked into thinking that these systems come SEO friendly out of the box, because they honestly don’t without some tweaking.
One of the ways to optimize your website for SEO is to simply have human readable URLs. In other words, every URL on every page of your website should be easy to remember.
Treat Your Website Like a Book
A website that has 10 pages of great content is a lot better than a website with 100 pages and 10 pages of great content. A common pitfall for new website owners is creating way too many pages as placeholders. Create the content first and then structure your website accordingly.
Tell Your Story
Don’t just write just to write. Go the extra mile and put forth the effort to allow your brand or personality to come out in the copy. Unique engaging content will always win the hearts of your customers. If you sell soap describe what it smells like and how it feels against your skin. If you sell beach balls, describe how much fun your children will have on a family vacation. Anyone can write standard self-explanatory copy, but only you can write copy that is unique to your brand. Invoke emotion because at the end of the day, you’re selling to humans.
Produce Unique Engaging Content
Here is the best advice that I always give to people new to the world of SEO and building new websites. Stay focused on producing unique engaging content that people want to read and share. Ever since I became a part of the digital marketing world I have heard the saying that content is king and write great content. The odds are already against you because there are already people creating great content right now as we speak. The only way to beat these people is to create better content than what exists.
Do a search for something that you want to write about. Take the first couple of links and study what is on the website. Think of how you can structure and improve the content of what is already out there.
Use Original Photography
If you’re trying to make the decision of using stock photography versus using a blurry smartphone picture that you took, I would choose blurry smartphone picture that you took any day. I’m against using stock images because of the chance someone else is using the same image you’re using. Using pictures that you took guarantees that you’re using something that’s unique and that no one else has. Using endearing unpolished photos is not a bad thing. It builds authenticity and trustworthiness that you can’t really do with stock images. Plus, the good stock images cost money. Spend your money on other things that matter more.
Here’s another article I wrote about using your own pictures and how you should leverage them for your own website.
Give Consumers Control
People like to feel like they are in control of the buying process. To accomplish this, offer exclusive time sensitive sales, discounts, and promotions. Try to always have some kind of sale going on. An often used strategy is to drive people to sign up for your newsletter by promising that they will receive special sales and discounts.
Develop Simple Tools that Deliver Value to Your Customers
This one is a bit of an advanced tip, but it is one that is worth mentioning. I love sites that provide tools that make me revisit and use over and over again.
Google is a prime example of a tool. Google provides a way for everyone to search the entire internet for information that they need. It makes me return to Google.com over and over again.
Another example of a tool that I like is a Savings Calculator tool on Ting.com. They built a simple tool that allows customers to calculate how much they would save if they were to switch service providers to Ting.
Here’s another example, an app called TrueCar that allows people to see an estimate of the price people are paying for new and used cars.
Tools can be as simple as a simple calculator or an experience customers can personalize for themselves like a build your own ice cream tool. Whatever it is, the takeaway for this tip is to offer a tool that delivers an experience that enhances your product and service offerings.
Conduct a Content Audit
In some situations, conducting a content audit makes more sense than a SEO audit. In some cases they are one in the same. A content audit refers to the quality of the content itself rather than its ability to influence search engine rankings.
For a content audit I look at things such as how many times the content has been shared on social, how many sessions the page attracted, the bounce rate, time on page, and age of the page. The purpose of this is to simply put all of the content in a spreadsheet and review it to see if its any good. If there are specific content that performs particularly well then perhaps more effort can be allocated in creating more of that.
Write Compelling Web Copy
You don’t need a to hire a professional copywriter to write compelling web copy. In fact, many large companies don’t even have a professional copywriter writing web copy.
Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind when you are writing for your website.
- Write in a way that talks about the customers needs and not about you. Use words like “you” instead of “we.”
- Provide succinct information that gets the point across. Don’t try to over describe your product with fluff. Separate information that would be important for yourself but not so important to the customer.
- Exploit your product’s strength and play to your competitors’ weaknesses.
- Always be asking how the information given benefits your customers.
To learn more about writing compelling I highly recommend this book on Amazon “Kickass Copywriting in Ten Easy Steps.”
Make Compelling YouTube Videos
YouTube is the second biggest search engine behind Google. Some people prefer to watch a video as opposed to reading text on a page. Creating videos on YouTube exposes your brand to a new audience. Unsurprisingly, YouTube comments is now tightly integrated with Google+ and has a lot of SEO benefits.
Create videos that describe your business and keep it under 2 minutes. Value your customers’ time. People on the internet have extremely short attention spans. You will want to explain what you do in as little time as possible.
Display Reviews and Ratings On Your Site
I’ve learned after conducting hundreds of user tests that people turn to reviews and ratings as a resource to determine whether or not your product is the one for them. Not only does it instill credibility and trust, it also has great SEO implications.
To win at SEO you need to create unique engaging content that people want to read and share. Creating great content everyday is extremely hard, which is why eventually you will need to rely on other people creating content to take you the rest of the way.
Allowing reviews/comments and ratings allows others to write good juicy content for your website without you having to lift a finger. Find ways to leverage user generated content that will benefit your business.
Show Third Party Ratings and Reviews On Your Website
Just because you’re not getting a flood of calls or emails from your customers doesn’t mean people are not talking about your business. In fact, a lot of the times, these conversations happen outside of your own property.
If a reputable website has written about your business, you will want to give it a mention. For many new customers doing research about your product, they are looking for trust and credibility. Displaying third party sources that have given you awards, reviews, or mentions can support your business and influence new customers.
Below is a screen capture taken from Coin displaying popular news site whom have written about the product.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Social Media Marketing (SMM), & Other Marketing Strategies
Create Remarketing Lists
A remarketing list is a defined group of people who have visited your website. Typically you will want to create a remarketing list if you want to target display ads to them.
For example, you are shopping for a new soccer ball on a sports site but you don’t end up buying that soccer ball. You leave the site and start browsing a different site and notice that the ads displayed are all about soccer balls from the previous site that you visited. This is an example of remarketing.
Remarketing can be a powerful strategy to get people to return back to your site and convert. The most effective way to utilize this is by targeting people who have visited a specific section of your website. For instance, you could create a remarketing list for visitors whom have added items into their shopping cart, but for some reason or another, did not complete the purchase.
Ads strictly targeting people who have been in your shopping cart previously have a higher likelihood of returning to complete the purchase in comparison to a brand new visitor who has not made the decision to purchase anything. Remarketing ads can remind people to return back to the site to finish the checkout process.
Create An AdWords Account
Google AdWords is an extremely effective way of promoting your products and services online. This is especially beneficial for new websites who are just starting out and do not have a lot of organic traffic. You can instantly purchase qualified traffic to your website and measure your spending against conversions.
There is no minimum amount to start showing online ads and Google even offers support for first time advertisers. In my experience, if you have a low budget (less than $25/day), be sure to be extremely specific and targeted for your ads. Every dollar counts when you advertise online and if you do not have a good strategy in place you can easily spend all of your advertising dollars without generating positive results.
Participate in Affiliate Links and Programs
Participating in affiliate links and programs can be a source of additional revenue for your website. One of the most popular affiliate programs is the Amazon Associates Program. With the Amazon Associates program you can simply promote Amazon products on your website. When a visitor buys a product from your website you generate revenue.
Getting started is rather simple. You simply sign up for the program and search for products that you want to promote on your website. Amazon will provide you with special affiliate links to use for your website. When visitors visit and click on your links, Amazon can identify that you referred those visitors and give you a referral credit.
Add Progressive Profiling
Progressive profiling is the method of asking questions about your customers’ incrementally to acquire additional customer information. Progressive profiling can help build you a better picture of your customers. This can enable businesses to identify better opportunities to serve them.
Don’t you hate it when you are a new patient at the doctor’s office and you have to fill out 15 pages of personal medical history? It’s an extremely laborious chore that almost everyone has to endure. Perhaps if doctors employed progressive profiling this endeavor wouldn’t be so instrusive.
Take for instance, you are looking for a new pizza place to try out in the future. You browse around the internet and find a new site that interest you. You are interested to receive coupons and discounts from the company in the future so you sign up for their newsletter. The only thing they ask is your email.
A few days later you get an email for a discount code for a large pepperoni pizza. You take advantage of the promotion online and return back to the site to submit an order. On the website they ask for your shipping address, billing information, and payment information.
A few weeks later you get a survey from the company asking you to provide feedback on your experience enticing you with another discount coupon. They ask about your gender, nationality, and income. You complete the survey and redeem it for another pepperoni pizza.
At this point the company has enough information to identify that white males living in apartments between the ages of 18 – 24 love pepperoni pizza and typically pay with paypal. With this information the company can strategize new marketing campaigns that would be more relatable to their target audience.
If this company where to ask all of this information upfront, they would have likely to overwhelm the visitor and may not have turned into a repeat customer. In summary, think of ways to tease additional information out of your customers. At the same time, be ethically responsible for the information you are collecting and never collect more information than is absolutely necessary to deliver a great customer experience.
Attract Buyers with Paid Efforts
Paying for traffic is a lucrative way to attract buyers. This holds especially true if you have a new website. In the beginning, you may not have a lot of organic traffic. Spending some cash on paid campaigns can bring you instant visibility to your business and product.
Here are some of the major paid channels to consider to attract new visitors and customers to your website.
- Gmail Ads
Display Your Social Media Properties
Your website is considered your owned property, while sites like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are considered rented properties. If you’re utilizing social media and other marketing channels for your business/website, make sure you display these properties on your website.
Sharing Should Be Easy
After you have put a lot of effort in creating great content, your site should have mechanisms in place for people to share content easily. Install Addthis or other similar social sharing widget on every page of your website. Adding social sharing widgets to your site will also encourage users to share.
Write and Send Press Releases
I wouldn’t call myself a publicist, but I have seen how powerful it can be to bring awareness to your site. A press release is more of a formal method of announcing a new business, product, or service. If done correctly, you can receive instant attention from media and attract a lot of customers.
If you don’t have a background in PR I would suggest to proceed with the following steps
- Research and write a Press Release. – WikiHow has a good one.
- Identify the correct channels to distribute your press release
- Consider using a distribution service like www.prweb.com to distribute your press release to amplify your message
- Time the press release to a coordinate launch event
It is really hard to get people to visit your website. Once they do arrive at your website, do everything in your power to get them to come back again. This is the reason why you need to collect emails. The people who sign up to receive email updates from you are the ones that are interested in your business and have a higher potential to do business with you in the future. Almost every website has an option to subscribe to a newsletter, your website should have this option as well.
Here is an article I wrote previously if you need tips on how to send email campaigns.
Send Recurring Newsletters
If your site allows newsletter signups or user registrations, it is a good idea to consider sending recurring newsletters. People who have signed up are basically raising their hands telling you that they are interested in your business and would love to receive updates. Creating newsletters allows you to build a relationship with your customers and grow referral traffic and sales.
Collecting and sending newsletter sign ups have never been easier. I often use a service called MailChimp to manage all of my newsletter campaigns. MailChimp gives you tools to build great looking newsletters. They also have an interface that allows you to build embeddable forms for you to collect newsletter signups for your site.
Create a Rewards Program
Creating a rewards program is one of the best ways to drive returning customers and increase customer loyalty. Almost every large business has some type of customer loyalty program in place. Airlines have frequent flyer miles and credit card companies have reward points for reward programs.
Starbucks is one of my favorite rewards program that I participate daily. To participate, you simply have to load up a Starbucks rewards card with cash. If you are a gold member (earn 30 stars within a calendar year) you’ll receive a free drink of your choice for every 12 stars. Each star is calculated on a per transaction basis.
What is nice about the Starbucks rewards program is every now and then they will send you a special promotion. The most recent promotion that they ran is giving you a challenge to earn 3 stars in separate Starbucks locations. If you complete it they will give you additional bonus stars.
Extend the Life of Your Content
Let’s say that you have poured a ton of your time and energy into creating this awesome content. After you have finished, don’t just publish that article on your site expecting people to read it. To get the most out of your content, you must now do all you can do to bring awareness to your content.
This is what I usually do when I promote, write, and publish content to guarantee that I do everything that is in my power to bring maximum exposure to my content.
The first thing I do is tease what I’m working on. I usually compose a few social media posts and engage my audience of what they should be expecting. I usually do a teaser a week or two before I actually release the content to the public to make sure my audience is primed and ready.
The next thing I do is publish my article and tell everyone about it. If I have taken inspiration from others and/or I have leveraged knowledge from their work I make it a point to contact them directly to let them know. Sometimes, they appreciate the shoutout and re-share your content which is exactly what you want.
After a few days have passed, I remind people again to check out the article. Sometimes, people may forget to check it out and a friendly reminder may extend the exposure of your content just a little bit more.
The last thing that I do, perhaps after a few weeks have passed, is to repurpose and reuse the content. Always aim to produce content with a long shelf life so you can recycle and support future content.
User Experience and Web Development
Function Over Form
I see this way too often. A person or business is tasked with the mission of creating a new website from the ground up and the first thing that almost everyone wants to do is create something different. The overwhelming majority of us are not graphic or UX designers, however, almost everyone wants to aspire to be one the moment they sit down to create a new website.
Keep your site as simple as possible. Avoid the temptation of using elaborate cursive fonts and applying custom color pallets. Please, for the sake of your website visitors, don’t change your background into sparkling stars because you think it looks cool. The place to be different is in the context of your content as opposed to the design of your website. For most of us, you decided to start your website because you have a story to tell as opposed to showing off your great web design skills. Keep it that way.
Make Sure Your Site is Fast!
Most of us living in the United States have decent internet speeds. That doesn’t mean you can still get away with putting up a large 5mb image file on your homepage. With a slow website, visitors may lose patience, get angry, and bounce. Google has been suspected of devaluing a website from poor performance.
How fast should your website be? Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and it will tell you what you need to do to make your website faster.
Is Your Website Mobile Compatible?
Tablets and mobile devices are outselling desktop PCs. If you’re creating a new website today you have to make your website mobile friendly. The quickest way to determine if your website passes this test is just simply visit your website on a smartphone. Do you have to pinch and zoom everywhere to get around your site? Is the font excruciatingly small and painful to read? If you answered yes, your website is not mobile friendly.
Most websites are now adopting responsive design. This basically means that the website resizes itself for different screen sizes. With that said, responsive design is not the only way to optimize for mobile experiences. There is another alternative called hybrid mobile design which is a combination of native app design with html 5. Regardless of what you choose, the fact of the matter is, we are all moving towards a mobile world. Optimize and design your site for multiple screen sizes – large and small.
Every Web Page is Your Homepage
Most website owners have the vision of designing their website in a way in which they think visitors would flow through their site. They believe that the web visitors will first land on their homepage, continue onto their products, and finally checking out. There is nothing really wrong with this, but you have to keep in mind that internet users browse the web in an erratic behavior. There is a very good chance that the first page that new visitors visit on your website is not your homepage. This is why you should treat every page on your website as if it were the homepage.
Make It Easy for People to Contact You
Your website exists so you can connect with your customers. It is not a one way street. Every page should have something prevalent that allows people to contact you. At the minimum, a link to find how people can contact you should be persistent on every page of your website. Email, social media properties, phone number, and mailing address are usually found in the footer of most websites.
Add a Site Search
Have the ability for people to search your site. As your website grows, the number of pages will naturally increase. Have a way for people to search your site to find things they are looking for. If you’re using a content management system (CMS) such as wordpress, drupal, or others, a search function is typically included in the core package.
As an alternative, Google does offer a free custom search for website owners to install. I like using Google’s custom search for the fact that it is what a lot of people are used to when it comes to conducting a search. If your CMS is delivering less than ideal search results and you don’t want to deal with the hassle of tuning it, installing Google’s custom search might be a solution that is right for you.
The only downside in using Google’s custom search is the fact that when you create a new webpage you have to wait until Google crawls your website in order for them to index the page. Google is getting faster at crawling webpages and in my experience, Google is able to index new pages within hours…sometimes quicker…however your results may vary.
Implement On Exit Surveys
I hate it when websites ask me to signup for their newsletter the very first time I visit. I am a big opponent of asking information upfront from new visitors. Visitors should be able to browse your website without you pestering them.
I am, however, a proponent of asking people about their experience when they leave. This is why I recommend implement on exit surveys. When visitors have finished an important action, i.e: finished checking out, then ask them about their experience.
Solicit customer feedback at appropriate places on your website to listen and improve on your web experience.
Under Promise and Over Deliver
I think a lot of businesses kind of set themselves up for headaches when they over promise and under deliver. There are times when I come to a website that shows a live chat functionality that doesn’t work, a 24/7 number that has no representatives to take my call, and fast shipping that takes 2 weeks to ship.
Crawl before you walk and walk before you run. It is good to know where you want to aspire to be, but don’t forget the steps you need to take before you make a promise. In other words, make sure you have the resources that you say you have on your website before saying that you have these resources. Don’t set the wrong expectations for your customers.
Create Personalized Experiences
There is a difference between creating a personalized experience for your customers versus allowing your customers to define their own experience. Creating personalized experiences for your customers is more difficult and risky as compared to allowing your customers to define their own experience.
Online streaming radio is an excellent example of allowing customers to define their own experience. If you use Pandora, Beats, iTunes radio, or any other online music streaming service the concept is pretty much all the same. Listeners choose which genres or artists they like and the streaming service plays similar music based on their selection.
On the other hand, many ecommerce websites create suboptimal personalized experiences by recommending other related products based on other people’s purchasing behavior. Many times these recommendations have little actual relation to the product under consideration.
It is often better to allow the customer to define their own experience by building sorting options and filters than to assume what they like and don’t like. Remember, customers like to feel like they are in control of their own experience.
Connect All of Your Google Accounts Together
Google wants the web to be better. They believe that if websites deliver a better experience to people then their search engine can deliver a more accurate search result. For this reason, they have invested a ton of their resources in helping web masters improve their website.
Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Google AdWords, Google Adsense, Google+, and DoubleClick are just a few web services today that help web masters improve their website. In my experience, using one Google account makes it extremely easy to manage all of these different services.
To make sure you are getting the most out of all of Google’s web services, make sure you are using one dedicated Google account. I have found it more difficult to manage if you use different Google accounts for different services. In addition, if you have one Google account to manage, Google makes it easy for their services to connect with each other.
Test Your Site for Browser Compatibility
Sometimes when we are developing a website we forget that people visit the web from thousands of different devices. It is impossible to make your website compatible across all of those devices, but what we can do is to make sure we are designing the site that is compatible against the most popular devices.
I often install the most popular used browsers on my computer such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. You should also consider downloading various mobile browsers on your smartphone or tablet such as Dolphin, Opera, Safari, or Chrome.
If you have Google Analytics installed, you can also go into Audience > Technology > Browsers & OS reports to see which browsers your visitors are using to visit your website. Make sure your website is performing as expected across those browsers.
Digital Analytics & Conversion
Install Google Analytics
If you have a website you need to have a web analytics tool installed. There are a lot of tools out there, but the most popular one is Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool provided by Google which allows you to see things like how many visitors visited your site, where they came from, and how long they stayed.
If you have a website that sells products or services, I highly recommend going the extra step and installing Google Tagmanager. Google Tagmanager is a tool that allows you to track custom elements of your website without the need to wait for your web developer to write custom code to implement.
For instance, if you wanted to track how many people clicked on an “add to cart” button on your website, you would have to write (or have a web developer write) custom code to be placed on your website with the standard install of Google Analytics. If you installed Google Tagmanager, then you could simply manage and accomplish this yourself.
Always Be Testing
There is an awesome service that I really love when I need some valuable feedback on how to improve a website. I use a service called UserTesting. Usertesting.com is a service that allows website owners to setup test cases to solicit feedback from users in their target audience.
For example, if you ran a local coffee shop and wanted to see what customers thought about your homepage you could setup a test on usertesting.com. You can define who should conduct the test that you have setup such as defining a set of demographics like age and income. Once you have set everything up, it takes less than an hour for you to receive results back. You’ll receive back a video and audio recording of the user going through your test cases as they answer the questions that you want them to answer.
A/B Test and Optimize Your Website
Typically speaking, you never want a web page to have a bounce rate of more than 50%. With that said, sometimes a high bounce rate could be a good bounce. In these circumstances, these people have found exactly what they were looking for and left. So, if you see that a lot of your pages have more than 50% bounce rates, then you could definitely experiment to see if you can reduce the bounce rate.
The best way to reduce bounce rates for webpages is to simply test different versions of to see if they perform better. There are many A/B testing tools out there such as Optimizely, Test and Target, and Unbounce. However, since most people have already installed Google Analytics, Google has its own built in A/B testing tool called Google Experiments. To setup your first A/B testing experiment just log into Google Analytics and go to Behavior > Experiments.
Everything Should Be Accessible Within 2 – 3 Clicks Away
Don’t you hate when you visit a website and you are just aimlessly clicking around trying to find that one piece of information that you need? If people can’t practically access all of your sites content within two to three clicks then you should seriously reconsider how your website structure is setup.
I don’t want to point fingers, but insurance websites are notorious for having horrendous navigation structure. Information is always so buried and I almost always end up wasting so much time trying to find the information I need instead of spending the time to read the information. Compare that with Google.com. They have managed to index the entire internet and everything is accessible with a search query and a click away.
Enable Demographics and Interests Reports
Enabling demographics and interests reports in Google Analytics gives you additional visibility as to which visitors visit your website.
Enabling these reports will give you a break down of people by age and gender. In addition, you can also see the affinity type of your audience which tells you the type of customers who are most likely to visit your website. There is also an in-market report which tells you which people are actively researching a product or service similar to what your website offers.
To enable these reports go to the reporting section of Google Analytics and go to Audience > Demographics > Overview. You’ll see a screen similar to the one below.
Click on Enable from this page which will take you to another page that looks like the one below.
Google will ask you to make a one-line, one-time update to make sure your code can support these additional reports. If you didn’t make any strange modifications to your Google Analytics code I would go ahead and hit the Skip validation option. I’m not sure why, but for the majority of the websites I’ve worked on, clicking on the Validate tracking code option doesn’t really validate the code. I’ve also looked into this and have found others running into this issue.
Nevertheless, go ahead and Skip validation which will take you to this screen below.
Depending on the amount of traffic your website gets, you’re able to see data in these reports usually within 24 hours.
Enable Site Search in Google Analytics
To track what terms users are searching for on your website go to your Google Analytics and go to the admin section. Once there go to view settings.
Once you’re in the View Settings section scroll down and you will find the Site search Tracking switch.
After you toggle the switch to on, you will also want to enter your Query parameter.
Your site query parameter is usually the letter ‘s’ or ‘q’ but just incase it isn’t, go ahead and go to your website and conduct a site search. As an example, I did a search for “cool toys” on this blog. Once I did that, I looked in the URL to find my query parameter.
The query parameter is between the question mark (?) and the equal sign (=). With that said, sometimes the search query parameter is different than what is shown in the URL so you want to test it by conducting a few searches on your own and checking to make sure it shows up in your reports. As an FYI, sometimes the data takes 24 hours to show up in your reports.
If your site has search categories and you would like to enable them, you can go ahead and toggle that option on. If you don’t you can go ahead and skip this option and save these settings. Once you have done that, you can start capturing people who conduct searches on your website.
Connect Your Website to Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)
Google webmaster tools is a service from Google that allows website owners to gain additional insights as to what is being indexed in Google search. I view it as a direct line to review the health of your website in Google’s eyes.
You’re able to see insights such as user search queries, crawl errors, links to your site, and other valuable information.
To connect your website to GWT, go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and login.
Reduce Steps in the Checkout Process
No one actually enjoys waiting in checkout lines. You don’t like it and I don’t like it. The longer you wait the more impatient you get and the more irritated you get. This is the reason why grocery stores invented express checkout lines and self checkout. The process is still egregious, but at least they are trying.
The internet is supposed to alleviate this headache because there are no physical lines to wait. This is why it is excruciatingly important to have a checkout process that is dead simple. Do not torture your precious customers that want to pay you by forcing them to go through a 5+ checkout process. The checkout process should be 3 steps – 1) Shipping Information 2) Billing information 3) Purchase
Only ask for the information that is critical in order for you to fulfill your customer’s order. The checkout process is not the place for you to collect customer information. The checkout process should only be focused on how quickly you can help the customers pay you money faster.
Below is a screen capture from Bonobos. I grabbed this example after reading Avinash Kaushik’s awesome post on Digital Design & User Experiences. You can see Bonobos’ dead simple 3 step checkout process laid out right in front of you.
Let Data Speak to You
You will quickly realize how important data is to your business especially if you have Google Analytics installed on your website. Collecting data is only part of the equation. To fully leverage data in your favor you must be able to analyze it. After that, you must then turn that analysis into insights to arrive at a conclusion to improve your business.
For this reason, I recommend spending at least a hour a week in your analytics tool to explore the data collected. When reviewing the auto generated reports in analytics, always be asking what the data is telling you. If there is a spike in traffic, investigate why it happened and how you can replicate it. Subsequently, there is a dip in traffic, investigate why it happened and how you can prevent it from happening again.
Reduce Unnecessary Fields
Do you have a web form that asks if the person is Mr/Mrs/Ms? Do you have ask which country they are from if you strictly do business in one country? Do you ask multiple phone numbers for no good reason?
These are some of the most common unnecessary fields I come across on the internet. You should put forth the effort of displaying the least amount of fields possible. You may even find ways to reduce fields that are redundant. People are becoming more sensitive giving away their personal information. Don’t ask more than you need to.
For example, these days, if a user inputs their zip code you can extrapolate their city and state so they don’t have to enter it in. If you primarily do business in the US, don’t ask the user to enter which country they are from because people from outside the US should not be able to complete an order.
Create Goals in Google Analytics
Setting up goals in Google Analytics is an effective way to track your important conversions. By doing this, you will be able to see trended reports in which you can analyze. You can create a number of different goals such as account registrations, making a purchase, and much more.
To setup goals, go to your Admin tab in Google Analytics. Under the view column select goals. Google has some easy templates to help you get started in tracking goals that are important for your website.
Create Custom Alerts
In Google Analytics you are able to create custom alerts for yourself. Sometimes when you are too busy running a business you may not have all the time in the world to dive into your data. Creating custom alerts allows you to be notified when important events happen on your website. For example, you can create an alert if orders on your website hits a new high.
To create a custom alert in Google Analytics go to Admin and scroll down to find the Custom Alert option under the view column. Once there you can set the alert conditions that you want.
If you have made it this far thanks for reading my long list of tips and strategies for improving your website. It took me awhile to write this article and I am sure it took you awhile to get through the entire list.
If you are still needing more strategies, don’t forget to download the eBook with full expanded descriptions for all 101 tips listed in this article. The eBook also contains additional links and resources.
As always, it is your turn now to share your tips and strategies to improve websites. Leave them in the comments below. I’m always learning.