How well do you understand your website design? Ask yourself….
- Are the design, usability, and informational factors top notch?
- Is your site working at its full potential to meet the needs of your business and your customers?
- Do you want to bet your business on that?
Designing a fully functional website is a creative and logistical endeavor. It’s not a simple or easy process to create a site that is visually appealing to a creative designer, informative for the savvy business owner, and user-friendly for the customer. What web designers find attractive may not appeal at all to your customers. What business owners believe is informative may not give customers the information they need.
I’ve seen far too many websites that were created by web designers who put together a beautiful, but impractical page with too much animation, unnecessary frames, or embedded graphics or Flash objects that took too long to load. Worse still are websites that have way too much information crowding each page or give no useful information for the reader. These types of sites clearly show that you (or your designer) are not considering how your customer views and uses your site. Your website is an integral part of your marketing strategy, and it should work for you—not against you.
So how do you know if your website is working for you? Crunch the numbers! You have to look at your traffic statistics.
Will They Stay or Will They Go?
Your site statistics give you important information about who is viewing your site and how they are using it. The key parameters to consider are the number of visitors to your site, the number of page views and new vs. returning visitors. These metrics tell you:
- how many people are looking at your site
- how much time they are spending on each page
- how well you’re retaining visitors
It’s not enough to have record amounts of visitors each day—that’s just traffic. Brick and mortar stores don’t just want people walking through their aisles; they want customers who purchase products. As an undergraduate, I designed an experiment in which I tracked the traffic patterns of a well known clothing chain. I literally sat in front of the store, watched the visitors, and took notes (whether they were alone or with companions, carried shopping bags, and made purchases in the store). The results were fascinating, (and I earned an A on the project.)
I know you want quality web traffic that is going to increase your sales. The only way to know if your site is attracting and interacting with quality traffic is to pay attention to your traffic patterns. Fortunately, tracking your website’s traffic patterns won’t require you to spend a Saturday sitting in front of a store. Just use your metrics to review the habits of who is visiting your site.
If you’re tracking blog traffic and providing useful content, your returning traffic should be a strong percentage. If you’re tracking traffic for a business site, your visitors should stay on the site and view more than just the initial page. You also want them to return. If your unique traffic on a blog is high, it’s time to make some changes. However, if visitors leave a business site after viewing just one page, something isn’t working.
In Google Analytics, you can view this information by clicking Visitors>Behavior>New vs. Returning.
The Road Most Traveled—Who Are Your Referrers?
Another interesting statistic is your referring sites (Traffic Sources>Sources> Referrals). This shows how visitors are reading your site and can tell you a great deal about your visitors’ needs and interests. Are they arriving from a site that linked to yours or are they finding your site through a search engine? The sites that refer visitors to your page tell you a lot about why they choose to visit your site.
This information can help you target the information on your page to what the visitors want. Look at the sites linked to yours and see if you can find any common themes or patterns. If the linking sites are blogs, take the time to read at least some of the posts and comments. You may even want to comment on those blogs. By doing this, you will begin to understand what is going on in the minds of your visitors and can target the information on your own site to their needs.
Likewise, check the keywords and terms they searched that brought up your site on a search engine. Perhaps, for example, your visitors are finding your financial consulting site through a keyword search for real estate values. In this case, it might be time to add some content about real estate.
Quality Content—Beyond Design
Many individuals look at link building as the end all be all answer to quality traffic. However, if you want the kind of traffic that comes back, you first have to have the quality content to link to. There is no substitute for quality content, and you will frustrate your customers (and possibly damage your brand) if you don’t have information they want and can use. Likewise, if your site exists only to promote the sale of your product or service—and doesn’t give useable information—you come across as nothing more than a salesman who only cares about the bottom line.
We’ve written quite a few articles on targeting your audience with content. If you’d like to browse on your own, visit our Content Development category and dig in. Here are a few articles that will help define and refine your writing to reach your audience:
- The Psychology of Content
- Understanding Visitor Behavior—Do They Like Your Content?
- Identifying and Repairing Content That Sucks
In the End
Your customers are the most useful source for determining the quality (and success) of your website. Whether you use surveys, usability testing, or just plain old analytics data, the information these tools provide is essential to the growth of your online business. Who your audience is, what they want when they visit your site, and how they perceive your site overall is knowledge you can’t afford to do without.