One of the reasons you have a website, I’m guessing, is to get visitors to do something you want them to do. To get even more specific, you’re probably trying to get the right visitors to do something that will lead to a certain outcome.
Tip: You should know your goals for your website.
Sounds obvious, but a shocking number of people/ businesses don’t really know what they want out of their website, or they have too many goals (leading to a mess of confusion for visitors). Good goals for your site are along the lines of:
My site should get customers to buy my products, with emphasis on moving seasonal inventory.
My site should encourage customers to come to my restaurant. I especially want to fill tables at lunch.
My site should provide leads with information about the services I provide, establish me as an expert in my field, and make it easy to contact me.
My site should get prospective clients with good-fit projects to submit quote requests with enough detail that I can respond with an estimate.*
*This is one of my goals for this site.
Notice I’m not including numerical targets in these examples – for my particular purposes, I’m not that interested in converting a certain percentage of leads. I’m much more interested in finding the right people, with the right projects. I don’t need to track conversions on my forms to know if my site is working, and knowing those numbers doesn’t actually inform my strategy for making adjustments to my website.
I wrote a lot more about planning your website, with great info from three professionals in related fields, if that’s still where you are in this process.
Design & Structure Your Site to Achieve Your Goals
Again, sounds obvious. However, I talk to lots and lots of people who talk about putting all sorts of stuff all over their site, including key places on the home page, that won’t actually lead to their primary goals for their site. A good designer will help you through this, and will push back if you’re going too far off track. Your job is to listen, and to put your goals first.
Tip: Make content areas as flexible as possible
On my home page, every single text area is editable. This is what the main feature block looks like when I go to edit the page:
I can easily swap out the language to change the first messaging people see when they visit my site, even while the styling stays the same (and adding an image that reinforces that messaging would make it even stronger):
Pay Attention to Where You’re Falling Short
Once you’ve got a site up and running that is at least somewhat targeted towards your goals, take note of every interaction and data point related to your site that shows you how it is and is not helping you achieve your goals.
A lot of the time, instances where your website isn’t helping you (and might be actively hurting you) are noticeable points of pain or annoyance. For example, if you continually get phone calls asking whether you’re open – the most awkward kind of call for everyone involved – that’s probably a good sign that your website is failing to inform your potential customers of your hours.
In my case, when I get multiple inquiries that aren’t a good fit for a previously-defined/ known reason (e.g. too soon, too small a budget), it’s a very clear sign to me that I am not clearly communicating the limits to the projects I do take.
You may think you’ve been clear on your website, but you already know where each piece of information is on your site, and people miss stuff all the time. If one person asks, just make a mental note of it. If two ask, make a change (or waste more time on both sides answering those questions over and over).
Make Lots of Small Changes
Hopefully your site is set up so that it’s easy for you to update your content. I build my sites so just about every possible piece of content is editable by the client. I love my clients but I do not want them to be dependent on me for every little wording change or link update, so I make things unbreakable but completely editable.
Tip: Tiny Changes are Still Good Changes
I think it’s easy to fall into a mental trap where you don’t touch your site content except to make major updates. While major refreshes are important from time to time, I think you should also be constantly making little changes here and there. A few of my favorite small changes to make on my own site are:
Grammar/ Spelling/ Syntax Edits
Pretty much every time I reread text I’ve written I find edits I want to make. Sometimes it’s as small as fixing a typo I missed the first couple times around, others I realize I left out an entire word or wrote a sentence that actually makes very little sense. That’s what that “Edit Page” link is for.
Going back to that scenario where you get the same question or request over and over again – that signals a necessary content tweak. You probably don’t need to rewrite your whole site, though. Instead, find the spot where the disconnect happens and add just a little bit of guidance for your visitor.
I recently decided to focus more of my time working with designers and less directly with clients on projects they designed themselves, so I made use of the way I’ve set up the content blocks on my home page to be easily editable and updated the intro copy to focus on that aspect of my work.
Similarly, when I realized I was getting a lot of requests where the project budget was just too low for my actual price range, I went into my quote request form and made a few edits to the form fields so that the low end of the price range that’s available to be selected is more in line with what I actually charge. Even though I also already listed my typical project costs right next to the form, forcing users to select their budget and limiting their selection to a reasonable budget range makes it even more clear what they can expect.
I use the Gravity Forms premium plugin for my contact form, which is great for a number of reasons but one of my favorites is that it’s so easy for me to make tweaks to the form in a matter of seconds, and to add little notices depending on what the user selects (like my warnings that I’m usually not available for rush projects). (Contact Form 7 is my favorite for simpler forms.)
Other forms of structural tweaks available to you in WordPress are changes to your navigation and any widget areas (such as a blog sidebar). If you find people aren’t visiting a key page as often as you’d like, make it the first link in the menu and change the link name to something obvious and compelling. If you’ve got a special promotion or announcement, throw it near the top of your blog sidebar using a text widget (the Black Studio TinyMCE Widget plugin gives you a more flexible interface for your widgets including a media uploader).
You don’t necessarily need to be able to rearrange your entire layout on a regular basis, but you should definitely be able to make frequent text and content edits and updates without needing to do any coding of your own (Gravity Forms’ interface is a bit of a learning curve but doesn’t require any HTML at all).
The bottom line is that your site is doing you a disservice if it isn’t set up to be easily and quickly editable, and you’re doing your goals a disservice if you aren’t paying attention to how your site is or is not meeting them and adjusting accordingly.