It is pretty safe to say that anyone reading this will want their site to be a success. After all a successful website can drive business, retain customers and save money. Of course, one person's success may be quite different from another's. So when we talk about 'success', what are we really talking about? Is it about the look and feel of the design? Is it the architecture and technical performance? Or is it about the user's experience of getting what they need from the site? As you can see, there's no easy answer. Or is there?
Ask yourself - What's your website done for you lately? Most people would probably agree that a website is successful if it meets the business's objectives. This is true no matter what they are – eg fast friction-free sales for the e-tailer, thought leadership and relationship building for the business consultancy etc. Looking at it this way, the key questions become:
- Is it delivering a high return on investment (ROI)?
- Is it reaching the people you need to reach?
- Is it sustaining relationships across the sales cycle?
- Is it converting browsers to buyers?
- Is it delivering repeat purchases?
The problem for many site owners is that they cannot answer these questions with any real level of certainty. While they probably know they should measure these things, they're discouraged from doing so because they don't believe they have the time, money or knowledge.
Opimizing your website
Most marketers still take a sequential approach to developing and improving their sites. They will try something one time. If they are happy with the results, they will try it again. If not, they will try something else. Of course, deciding precisely what success really looks like is not always easy. For example, say you currently convert 3% of your visitors to customers. Is that good? Well, if the market average is 1%, you've got every right to be happy. If, however, the average is 20%, you've got a pretty big problem.
To plan a more effective route forward, you'll need to look at 3 distinctive areas:
1) An understanding of what's happening across your site right now (analytics)
In theory, analytics gives you a good picture of what is going on. But they can be complex and As a result, all too often they are restricted simply to the people who understand in-depth how to use them. The rest of us scrape the surface. So if you have the responsibility for the site's success or failure, getting the objectives right is pretty fundamental.
2) A plan for where you're going and how you'll know when you get there (KPIs)
The first step is to clearly decide – and write down – what you are looking to achieve. What does success look like? This could be increased sales, lower costs, better engagement, higher downloads, more sign-ups, greater brand awareness of any number of other things. Get it down to as few objectives as possible.If you have three or less, you are in a much better place.
3) Setting up the funnel web and a way of testing different options in real time (optimisation)
So, say you are selling products directly from your site. You may decide to measure overall traffic volumes, top referrers, the average value of each visitor, the most profitable pages, shopping cart abandonment rates and repeat buying levels among other things. If your objective is greater customer engagement you may instead select the number of comments on your blog, Facebook Likes, referrals, newsletter sign-ups, forum traffic and retweets etc.As you can see, different objectives are intrinsically linked to the metrics you choose to measure. But unless you do measure performance, everything remains just subjective opinion.
Creating the funnel web
This is why I think it is useful to talk in terms of sales funnels and the funnel web. At the top of the funnel we attract as many relevant leads as possible. Then at each stage of the sale a certain percentage moves on, getting closer to the final purchase. Finally, a proportion of leads become paying customers. When we take a look at what's happening in our funnel, we see there's good traffic from our emails, people are watching the demo and downloading the free trial. But they're not converting to sales. This would indicate that perhaps our offer isn't a strong as it could be and that we need to create other incentives to convert people into customers.
While this example is a little simplistic, you get the point. By measuring and tracking each stage of the funnel, you can begin to hone in on areas that are underperforming and take action to address any issues.
Running A/B testing gives you the opportunity to reach and adapt quickly. And a guidance on what to test are:
- Form pages – simpler tends to be better (and deliver far higher responses)
- Headlines (and subject lines for emails) – test talking about the product, the offer and the customer. Test questions against statements against testimonial quotes
- Calls to action – clear directions, higher in the page tend to work harder. Test the wording, position and even colour of your calls to action
- Offers – are your customers incentivised by your offer? Is there a better alternative?
- Page layout – test whether you need to go simpler or richer, test the hierarchy of messages within the design
- Personalization – instead of delivering the same we experience to every visitor, test to adapt parts of your content for your visitors. Giving them a more relevant web experience.
Having the tools and views to reports available to easily and quickly review how the site performs against the KPIs is extremely important so that you can change and adapt immediately.