Increasingly, your website is becoming an essential marketing tool and can often be a major sales tool as well. When you designed your website, it probably represented the "state of the art" in your mind. Over time, you will have fresh insights into what works, your competition on the search pages will change and your product emphasis may change. Periodic tuning can keep your website healthy and doing its job. This menu provides a list of activities to get more out of your website.
Website design and search engine optimization are large industries in their own right. This menu and the associated recipes can not teach you how to do a website with all the inherent experience that requires. They do point out things that you can look for in a website designed for you by others so that you can improve the effectiveness of your site.
Set your Goals
As always, we encourage you to set some goals for this project (see Goal Setting Recipe ) so that you know where you are heading and when you get there.
When you designed your website, it probably represented the "state of the art" in your mind. Over time, you will have fresh insights into what works, your competition on the search pages will change and your product emphasis may change.
This menu is primarily about high level aspects of your website to consider. The actual nuts and bolts of tuning your website is covered in Website Appetiser
Review the purpose of the website
Pause and reflect on what you want the website to do:
- is it a marketing brochure? If so,
- how would it look to fresh eyes?
- is there a call to action to get people to contact you?
- does it adequately cover your present and desired products and services?
- is there material that will attract and interest the target groups you are chasing? This may change over time as your business focus changes. Perhaps your food store initially sold to individual customers for personal consumption but, over time, you have begun to focus on larger institutional orders. Has your website kept up?
- does it present the information that your target audience want quickly and effectively? Most will visit your site with a purpose in mind. They are initially not very interested in you but are interested in what you can do to help them. Does the site play to the largest radio station in the world WII-FM (what's in it for me)?
- does the site focus on what you have decided to focus the business on? Should some items be demoted on the menu structure and others promoted to make the most important information more quickly accessible; especially on the small screen mobile phone. With a properly constructed sitemap submitted to search engines, demoted material is still found by the search engines but doesn't reduce the user experience.
- is it an on-line store? If so:
- is the product range on offer still relevant? Are you no longer selling some items? Are there items you are selling that don't appear?
- is your pricing still appropriate and competitive? Spot check against your strongest competitor.
- are the product search and checkout process as streamlined as possible?
- are you taking payment across all the current methods . For example, are you accepting PayPal and Apple Wallet and other similar payment channels
- Review search terms
Search engine optimization
Unless someone is looking specifically for your website, they will be using the search engine to search for something they need; like a left handed widget. If you sell left handed widgets, you want to be sure you are found when they do that search. Therefore your website needs to be optimized for left handed widgets (among other things) so you come near the top of any search for that item. This is referred to as Search Engine Optimization and often abbreviated to SEO. See Website Appetiser for more.
Check page position
You know when you search the Internet, you don't go past the first page of results very often, Neither do many other people. So, if your site is not on the first page, its not getting the attention you would like.
Using the metrics from your site's page ranking (see below in Dessert), look for poorly ranking pages, prioritize them (see The Amazing 80:20 Rule Tool for why) so you work on the most important first and then apply the techniques in the Website Appetiser to improve their positioning. Because of the interplay of competitors, this will be a never ending tuning process and hence the need to always focus on the 20% of your pages that produce 80% of your sales.
Check Summary text displayed
When your site is displayed in search results, there will be a little snippet of introductory text. Often this comes from your Description meta tag (see Website Appetiser). You have maybe one second at best for the wording here to draw people to your site. Does your wording do that? Are your most compelling sales messages appearing in search results? Look at each of yours and consider if they need an overhaul.
Check the mechanics of the site
Give some thought to the way the site operates from a usability point of view. Internet users will not hang around on a slow or hard to use site.
- Speed. Does the site load quickly and especially on mobile phones and other similar devices that are probably slower than desktops? Poor site coding and large images can slow your site down a lot and encourage users to jump off before it is fully down loaded. Remember that it might load quickly on your machine because you are visiting it regularly and it is stored in cache memory on the device. It might load slowly on a machine that hasn't been to the site before. Try it on a new device or flush the cache / history of your browser according to instructions provided for that particular browser.
- Broken links. Are there any links to pages that don't exist?
- Mobile friendly:
- does the site load quickly on a mobile?
- are there any over-large images that fill the phone's screen and hide your main content?
- can a user quickly get to the main parts of your site that you want them to visit?
- does the site render differently on the mobile to the desktop or is it essentially a miniature version of what you see on the desktop? If so, it has not been set up for mobiles with what are know as 'responsive templates'. This means they respond differently to the various devices on which the site is displayed.
- Responsive templates on your site are critical today.
- is the writing readable on the small devices?
- menu structure: Can a visitor get to your important messages in just 1 or 2 menu clicks. Especially on slower mobile devices, they will not hang around waiting for slow pages to load.
- if it is a shopping site, is it workable to view products and place orders on a mobile? If not, you are losing a significant chunk of your potential market.
Visit these handy sites to test your website;
- Google Page Speed Insights - simple to use and understand and helpful suggestions for improvement
- a more complex test site probably requiring some experience to use Webpagetest.org
Road test the site
Chances are you know your site intimately and you know how to find it in the search engines. However, a stranger to your site might approach it quite differently. Don't just tune the site to work for you. Set a few friends and relatives a general task and see what they search for, if they find and load your site and how they navigate around it. For example, for your organic food store, the assignment might be "place an order for 2 kg of dried fruit for delivery or collection at your suburb".
If your website is in your 20% of things that deserve your attention (see The Amazing 80:20 Rule Tool), recheck that your metrics are recording the "right" things to give you good feedback. See Website Metrics Recipe
Resubmit your site
After any site overhaul of any significance, regenerate your site map and resubmit your site to the search engine submission pages. Your site map feeds the engines with a guide to your site and once they are alerted to your changes, they will crawl it more speedily. Don't just rely on search engines to find and update your site.