clean up

Whether it’s a few webpages you have an intern update every few months or a giant behemoth that you employ an entire team to tame each and every day, your website is an integral part of your business.

But when is the last time you gave it a good tune up?

Having a poor website experience can often be worse than having no website at all, yet many companies have allowed their websites to collect dust as they adopt other easy-to-update platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.

Despite all the new, flashy digital platforms that have come and gone over the years, your website still remains one of the best ways to reach your customers.

It’s a place where your customers research, engage and, hopefully, act. So if your website happens to have lost a little of your focus this year, there is no better time than the present to clean it up.

As we approach the end of 2015, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking to polish up your digital presence.

First Impressions Count

There was once a time when a customer’s first impression of a business came from physical interaction.

It was a conversation with a store clerk or the use of a product. It was an experience many companies combed over meticulously, making sure each and every part of the experience met their standards.

However, as more and more people perform their due diligence online, many first impressions of a business now come from their digital presence and too often it fails to receive the same careful attention.

Websites give customers a quick snapshot of a company, allowing them to quickly decide which businesses they will purchase from and which they will not.

It’s a matter of seconds that typically sets you apart, so naturally you’d like for that snap judgment to be in your favor. This is where two parts of your digital presence can help — your web performance and your content.

You Gotta Perform

It seems simple, but if your customer cannot reach your website quickly and reliably, whatever content it contains is worthless.

Enter web performance. Web performance is the notion that the technical aspects of how your site performs (page load time, code cleanliness, etc.) is inherent to the success of your overall digital strategy.

While there are many tools to get a website up and fast, many of them are bloated and come at the hefty price of slow load times. Try running your top webpages through a free web performance tool like Pingdom or WebPageTest.

A good rule of thumb is that if any of your pages take over 2 seconds to load or weigh over 1MB, you may need to invest in more development resources and speed up your site.

Secondly, once your website loads fast, make sure it reads fast. Just because you’ve made all this content available, doesn’t mean customers will want to read it all, so be sure to keep is short and sweet.

Back in the days of print, businesses typically had to pay by the word, carefully crafting their message down to the letter. However, nowadays, words are cheap. Buzzwords start to plague our homepages and our content strategy becomes cluttered.

Be sure to perform a thorough content audit of your top 10 most visited pages about once a month.

  • What is your average word count per webpage?
  • Have you documented your information architecture (URL structure)?
  • Are you using the same keywords that your customers are searching for?
  • Could the opening line of your webpage fit into a tweet (140 character)?

If you’re unsure about any of these, you may need to rethink how organized your content strategy is. In today’s “age of immediacy” how clean and concise your content is may mean the difference between a won customer and a lost opportunity.

It’s Flexible, So Make It Personal

The beauty of digital is that it is entirely customizable. It grants companies complete control over every pixel, allowing them to craft the perfect experience for their typical customer.

However, the web has begun to evolve from a one-to-many platform to a one-to-one communication tool. Instead of marketing to your typical customer or target audience, companies now have the ability to market to their users on a much more granular level — a target audience of one. It’s a trend that will be critical to your 2016 strategy and it’s called personalization.

Website personalization is quickly gaining momentum, with companies like Optimizely, Demandbase and Marketo all offering the ability to create a web experience based on very specific audiences.

When the consumers’ expectations are high, personalization helps you meet those expectations and ensure that you are displaying an experience (content, style, images) that is tailored to their specific needs and behaviors.

This could be a broad as making sure your high-profile products are easier to find for those using mobile devices or as specific as automatically displaying certain types of products based on the local weather of your visitor.

Personalization is still in its earlier stages, but is quickly becoming the norm. If you’re looking for a way to step up your website’s effectiveness, personalization can be one of the best ways to test out some of the assumptions you have about your customers.

It will help you understand if your target customers are actually the types of visitors you have on your site and the type of experience that resonate best with them.

It’s Immediate, So Don’t Be Lazy

Digital gives you the ability to react quickly. The ability to communicate with your customers is more fluid than ever.

Between pushing promotions via email to solving customer support issues over Twitter, your company is armed with more ways to reach your audience than ever before.

However, with the prevalence of these hyper-immediate channels such as email or social media, sometimes the frequency of updates to our website suffer as a result.

Outdated websites are an obvious customer turn off, so be sure to do an audit of your web presence about every 6 months to keep it feeling fresh. No, this doesn’t mean a complete redesign of your website. In fact, it can be as simple as taking the time to browse your website and note any errors or inconsistencies.

Clutter can easily build up across your website, so be sure to keep an eye out for any information that’s outdated, such as phone numbers or product prices.

Also, be aware of how much of your website’s content is dynamic. If 95 percent of your content is the same from month to month, your customers likely won’t have much of a reason to keep returning. Things like case studies, blogs or webinars are a great way to juice up your web presence and keep things engaging.

Title image by Nuno Silva