BUSINESS

3 Keys to a Useful Website That Actually Works

It’s Monday morning, and Jane is taking her first sip of hot coffee when she is interrupted. She sees the incoming call on her business phone is from a neighboring county. “My friend just told me about your business, and I’d like to see what you can do for me,” says Bob, an ideal customer, “But first, I’d like to learn more. What is your website address?”

She’s been hearing it more and more often lately. So, Jane apologizes to Bob and calls a digital marketing company. It specializes in websites that look amazing, and she loves the first design she sees. After giving the project manager some basic information about her business, Jane goes about her routine Monday tasks. The following week, Jane’s new website launches, and she includes her new website in all her advertising and marketing outreach.

Now that she has a website, Jane makes more sales. However, she begins to suspect something is wrong when she looks at her website analytics. Not many people who visit her website stay more than 3 seconds. Worse, few people visit her website at all. “Maybe my website isn’t helping with my sales as much as I thought.” Jane’s initial boost in sales productivity may have come more from the confidence instilled by having a website than from the website itself. Jane wonders if there’s more she can do to make her website work for her business.

Jane’s website is optimized to create an immediate, visually appealing impression. Aesthetic appeal is a valuable prerequisite for a successful website, but it is not enough. Pretty moving pictures attract attention, but well-crafted messages spur users to action.

This story is fictional, but it reflects a growing trend with business websites. Busy web designers often overlook the fundamentals of the user’s experience and neglect search engine visibility in favor of flashy, easy-to-sell websites.

What Should Jane Have Done Differently?

First, Jane never discussed the possibility of keyword research with her marketing company. Instead, she provided some basic information the designer used to generate a website. It is little more than a pamphlet describing her business.

Search Engine Visibility

A successful website uses research to find phrases your potential customers are already using when looking for a business like yours. Based on that research, we can write content around the highest impact phrases. Unless Jane’s website contains the keywords and phrases her customers use when searching, her valuable business will be invisible online.

Second, Jane’s chosen web design company didn’t prioritize speed. Instead, they focused exclusively on visual impact.

Fast Websites Get Results

Jane’s website looks good, but it does not load quickly enough for Google to prioritize it as high-quality content. Google’s research shows that more than half[1] of mobile users abandon a page if it has not loaded in 3 seconds or less. Speed is an indicator of quality, and Google buries slow websites deep in their search results. Since Jane’s website is new, it hasn’t been around long enough to reassure the search algorithm it really is good.

To get herself out of this hole, Jane must work hard to make sure her site loads in under three seconds on a 4G connection. Jane’s customers demand it. Any perceptible wait time makes her customer more likely to leave without making a purchase. Even with a fast website, however, Jane’s troubles are not over.

Third, she needs to work on her messaging. Since her website puts her business at the center, it needs a fundamental transformation.

They’re Just Not That Into Your Business

Jane’s website is all about her and what she does. Her business is the focal point of the website. But human beings are interested in themselves. Jane needs to position her business as a part of a transformation her customers desire. When that transformation is at the center of her message, she will see the engagement she needs. She can start by asking, “How does my business make customers’ lives better and give them new victories to share?”

What Happens Next

After Jane makes three simple changes, her business slowly improves. Search engines begin to pick up her content and bring visitors to her website. She reviews her website analytics and sees her average visit time increase. Her message is clear, and she has calls to action that draw visitors deeper into her website. There they learn more about her, build trust, and begin to buy from her. These simple-but-fundamental changes reap significant benefits.

  1. Invest in optimizing content for search engines,
  2. boosting the speed of your website, and
  3. focusing your message.

When the customer is at the center of all you do, you will get better results over time.

Footnotes


  1. “For many sites this equates to a huge missed opportunity, especially when more than half of visits are abandoned if a mobile page takes over 3 seconds to load.” — Speed is now a landing page factor for Google Search and Ads . Google, 09/23/2019. ↩︎

Harvey Ramer
Harvey Ramer
Harvey has been writing code for nearly twenty years. He builds web applications with React, Node.js, and MongoDB and deploys them to the cloud with CI/CD pipelines. He talks and writes about the Christian worldview, technology, startups, and how differences can become a collaborative asset.