5 Quick Tips For Website Health & Success
Design: Training Your Website Review Team
Who do you turn to for design advice? While there are many many tools available to perform testing and analysis, sometimes the data raises more question than it answers. So if you make many of your design and marketing decisions “from your gut”, then welcome to the club! I encourage everyone to go with their gut first and foremost. But for your most important marketing or website changes, it’s comforting to be able to share it with your family and friends pre-launch, asking for their suggestions. Any feedback is good feedback, right? Wrong! In order to squeeze the most actionable business insights from their comments, you’ll want to carefully select a review team and give them a framework to provide helpful comments:
- Explain the characteristics of your target audience, and ask them to act the part of that demographic.
- Try to get them to consider every question you ask from the perspective of the target audience.
- Simple questions, such as “which do you think would persuade my audience best, version A or B?” are more easily measured than open-ended ones.
Lucky you if a professional website designer is among your closest friends, to give you a professional perspective. But the very best reviewer is an actual client or someone who closely fits the demographic of your audience. Regardless of who you choose for your team, the extra time that it takes to train them will pay off when they start giving you more usable feedback.
Fine Tune: Your Content Strategy
It’s easy to see how your site is ranking for your highest priority keywords by taking a quick look at your Google Webmaster Tools “Traffic / Search Queries” tab. If your target terms aren’t showing up here try checking your rank using a rank tracking tool. Now that you know what Google considers you relevant for, and where you rank, create content with a short list of target keywords in mind. To improve your ranking for your target terms, include them in prominent areas of your site. But don’t force the keywords in — just keep adding content. And ask yourself before posting:
- does the content help inform and educate?
- does it make sense to the intended audience?
- is it high quality, creative and entertaining?
- does it contain the target terms?
Search engines may change the way they rank sites over time, but consistently posting high quality content will never go out of style.
Analytics: Link Up Your Webmaster Tools
Google Analytics continues to add features to help website managers to better understand and improve their sites. Many of the more advanced views now require your Google Webmaster Tools account to be linked up in Google Analytics. Not sure if you’re accounts are linked up? Try viewing Traffic Sources / Search Engine Optimization and you may see a message saying “This report requires Webmaster Tools to be enabled” with a button that says “Set up Webmaster Tools data sharing”. Clicking the setup button and linking the correct Google Webmaster Tools profile now allows search term impressions and clicks to be viewed right in your Google Analytics dashboard. Even if you don’t plan to look at your Google Analytics right away, take this step now.
Research: Never Stop Spying On Your Competitors
Just like having a target keyword list in critical in judging your search-engine success, creating and updating a competitor “watch list” can help you with tactical decisions and allocation of marketing budgets. The same type of ongoing analysis that you perform on your own site can easily be performed occasionally on your competitors or other best-in-class companies, to see where they lag behind your offering, where they are improving, and where they meet or exceed your efforts. Google Alerts is a decent place to start with monitoring competitors and your own brand mentions. Alexa.com and Compete.com both offer free comparison data, just plug in your site then a few example sites and see approximately where you rank for traffic. Charts and data from Compete and Alexa are often inaccurate, at least with their free offerings, so use it for general research purposes only.
Monitoring: Your Site’s Health
Help Google stay up to date on changes to your content structure by occasionally checking your Google Webmaster Tools under Diagnostics for “Crawl Errors”. If you see any 404 Page Not Found errors, a 301 Redirect can be added to redirect traffic from the old URL to a similar page on your current site.
Keep up with other site performance tips over at the Google Webmaster Central Blog.