Common Discussions and Best Practices for Effective Websites

By Nelson Bruton, President, Interchanges

I had the pleasure of facilitating an Interactive Roundtable Discussion on "Website Best Practices" at the recent TMSA Marketing & Sales Leadership Conference. The conversation was about the things to take into consideration when building a new website or when trying to improve an existing website. Here are highlights from the discussion:

First, definitions of “website usability” and “conversion rate” were suggested by various members of the group. “Conversion happens when a website visitor takes the action you want them to," one observer said. "Whether it is to call a phone number, fill out a form, sign up for a newsletter.”

I then suggested that you should think carefully about what your primary and secondary conversion objectives are for each page of your website. I learned years ago that you can use size, shape, color, position, and motion as design elements to drive the visitors’ eye-path to the desired conversion objectives. At this time I also mentioned that you never want to have anything ‘auto-play’ when someone lands on your website.

This spurred another best practice for improving website usability. Use a heat map tool. I mentioned how we have seen heat map data showing the most highly clicked thing on a page is the pause button on auto play videos. A heat map tool allows you to see all the clicks from all the visitors on your website page. This allows you to make data driven decisions for optimizing usability and conversion rates. I shared how our team uses but that there are others available.

Additional points made regarding website usability:

  • It should be easy for people to get to what they want quickly.
  • Don’t put too much information on one page.

I summarized by saying, “You basically have to put yourself in the visitors shoes and consider what they are trying to accomplish on each page. Part of that is being able to understand how they got to the page in the first place. Was it an email, search, or an ad from a trade journal? Wherever they came from, they came for a reason, it is critical to match that reason with text and images; essentially make sure the page the visitor ‘lands’ on is a well optimized landing page.”

I also suggested that unless social media generates identifiable, significant revenue to your bottom line, then your social icons should not be highly visible. In fact, for our B2B clients, we usually put them in the bottom footer of their website near their contact information.

Then the conversation pivoted briefly to a platform question. Over two-thirds of the group had their website built using WordPress. The others were in .net or Joomla.

Someone added, that from their personal experience, it was important to “not to have too many people working on the website at the same time” so that efforts aren’t duplicated or even worse, written over and erased. Everyone nodded and agreed.

My comment was that it didn’t really matter the platform you build your site in as long as you have an efficient way to update it regularly with relevant content. This took us right into the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Here are some of the best practices that were discussed for SEO success.

  • Have an updated list of target keywords for your company. “For which keyword phrases do I want to be sure people can find my website when they type them into a search engine?”
  • Add content to your website on a regular basis. Updating your blog once a month is a good habit to get in.
  • The content should be laden with relevant keywords that match the topic of the page. However, the content should still be easily readable by your website visitors and not appear that you are trying to ‘stuff’ keywords into the paragraphs. Google in fact will penalize your website if they catch you stuffing too many keywords on to a page.
  • Monitor your rankings for a broad set of your target keywords so that you can benchmark and then watch for changes in rankings – up or down.
  • Expect rankings to fall for 1 – 2 months when you redesign your website. As long as all the URLs have the appropriate redirects set up, you should bounce back. If you do not set up the redirects correctly, you could lose the majority of your rankings.
  • For people with WordPress websites, the Yoast SEO plugin was recommended a couple times

The next topic I brought up was how some websites are built for lead generation and some are more important for credibility. I suggested that if most of your business comes from referrals and word of mouth, then you must make sure you have all the credibility indicators in the right places.

  • Communicate a clear value proposition on the home page, campaign specific landing pages. Ideally, with 10 to 15 words, you should articulate why an ideal prospect should do business with you versus your competition.
  • Consistently add client success stories to your website.
  • Place testimonials in close proximity to primary conversion objectives such as buttons and web forms.
  • Put a small disclaimer by your web forms about your privacy policy. 
  • Share awards your company has won, clients you’ve helped, and years you’ve been in business, and anything else that adds to a compelling story about your success.

Adding on, I mentioned the importance of tracking and analytics, especially for a lead generation website. I shared that we use a call tracking software to see which campaigns are working and which ones are not. We use but there are others available. I also suggested it is important to get familiar with Google Analytics and determine the most important data points or key performance indicators for your business.

One person suggested, that in addition to lead generation and credibility, some websites are built to be a resource of information. Again, the discussion went to content – a recurring theme in today’s marketing circles.

We all agreed that the most impactful content is content that resonates with your target audience. It is important to understand the needs, anxieties, and concerns of your target audience so that you can create content they will want to consume. If you can become a thought leader or a resource for your potential clients, they will reach out to you when the opportunity presents itself, simply because you have already helped them think through their challenges.

Last, but certainly not least, I strongly suggested that live chat was a best practice. I cautioned that if you were going to integrate live chat into your online strategy:

  • Have someone dedicated to the chat. You do not want your chat to say “not available” or “please leave a message.” 
  • Respond quickly to web leads from live chat or web forms.
  • Study the chat transcripts for insights into additional content topics.

I had to give a shameless plug and mention we offer a 24/7-staffed live chat solution and share the website:

Overall, the discussion was helpful to everyone at the table and we all had took away some practical next steps to improve our companies’ online presence.

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