The most common problem that Lorrie Thomas Smith, CEO of Web Marketing Therapy, encounters with the websites of small and medium-sized businesses is a straightforward one and, thankfully, pretty easy to fix. “There just isn’t enough focus on user experience,” she proclaims. “There is all this fuss to get people to the website, but not enough thought about how to get folks through it.”
SMBs that want their websites to deliver results must take steps to guide their visitors, and it all starts with the home page, which must say who you are, what you do, and whom you serve. “So many SMBs fail to spell that out,” Smith laments. “There is also not enough guidance with navigation or text to lead folks into the logical next pages.”
A proactive engagement strategy with integrated analytics is a great way to boost website conversions. At the same time, it helps website visitors find what they need and guides them through checkout, suggests Tara Sporrer, vice president, marketing and sales operations at Moxie Software, a provider of real-time customer connection and engagement solutions. Of course, many SMBs have only limited resources and expertise to devote to their online endeavors, so it can make sense to engage an outside expert to conduct an evaluation of your website and suggest ways to improve user experience. But Sporrer says these self-evaluation tools are easy to use for those with even a modicum of online know-how:
- Google Analytics lets you set up goals, conversion funnels, and alerts to tip you off when anything unusual happens so you can take immediate action.
- Google Webmaster tools help you make sure your site is healthy and “crawl-able” by search engines.
- SEMRush provides powerful search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) research capabilities, along with a site audit tool to check for errors and any pages that are not search-engine friendly.
- Moz and WooRank both offer Chrome plug-ins to check individual pages for any red flags to the user experience.
- Crazy Egg provides heat map tracking that makes it easy to find out if visitors are missing your great content or skipping over key calls to action.
Christian Wiklund, CEO and co-founder of the social networking platform Skout, emphasizes that understanding what your data says about your users and their experience is the most important factor in improving that experience. “You’re selling an emotion and a brand, and with that comes analytics, testing, messaging, design, and consumer satisfaction. No matter how you look at it, data is everything.” Even if you have a dedicated data team or rely on an outside expert, you should still take a crash course in analytics, he adds. “At the end of the day, you need to be able to understand the language. In order to make improvements to your site, you need to be well versed in data analytics.”
The four keys to making users love your website are speed, device independence, cleanliness and logistics, and charm, says Adam Balkwill, technical director at integrated marketing agency Garfield Group. Data analytics can help you measure, track, and improve all those performance metrics, but only if you monitor them regularly. Sporrer suggests a good exercise is to be your own secret shopper, using multiple devices to make a purchase or conduct a transaction on your own website. “Many SMBs are horrified at worst, and surprised at best, at what the user experience has become, especially on mobile,” she says. “Check functionality frequently, before small issues become big issues.”