Let me guess … You’re good on website design, brah.
No rookie to web psychology if you read this blog, you likely know your digital stuff.
And you have a sparkle in your eyes when you talk about new technologies, and the online revenue potential they bring to the table.
But your website doesn’t fit who you are, what you know, what you stand for in the economy, and/or who you can make your company be on the web.
No matter how hard you try to optimize, you struggle to see conversions.
And when you do get a lift, you know that it’s nothing more than polishing a turd – now giving stakeholders a reason to keep you washing the pig.
You need a digital experience that delivers.
And you know that a redesign could mean big online success – or a major #FAIL in digital history.
Launching a new website design is typically a very long and tedious process … until now.
This post – and the free downloads listed within it (marketing apps / tools / templates / etc.) – is about to make your job a lot easier.
Whether you’re hiring an agency, taking this on yourself, or assembling your in-house team of digital superstars, this post will serve as your guide to website design strategy, and the free website optimization playbook can help you track your progress as you move beyond analysis and strategy … into each stage of digital redesign.
Before we put our redesign-agility into motion, let’s discuss the first rule about launching a website design or redesign.
The first rule about redesign is … until you know the buyer, YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT REDESIGN.
The second rule about redesign is … until you know the influencer, YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT REDESIGN.
Now that you know the most important rule of redesign prep, let’s divide your project into 4 easy focus points…
- Design for Web Traffic
- Engage users with remarkable experiences
- Use content to build an online lead generation machine
- Conversion mapping the customer journey
Step 1: Design for Traffic
A great website isn’t so great if no one finds it. This is why step 1 of website redesign is getting found online.
Commonly known as the top of the funnel to marketers, the usual first assumption of this flawed model is that the user journey begins with awareness.
In the agile marketing strategy, the user’s first stage is UNAWARE. And in this stage, your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) effectiveness is a must-have to creating a successful website strategy.
Here are just a few basic SEO tips to help increase your organic (non-paid) search engine rankings.
Inbound Link Building 101
- Review Sites
- Profile Links / Navigation
- Bitly links in Posts
- Social share meta tags
- Blog + PR + RSS Feeds
- Internal Linking
- Pick a primary keyword for each page
- Keywords in Headlines & Subheads
- Image file names (Example)
- Use Alt tags religiously
- Header Tags with Keywords
- Keywords in Page URLs
- Consistency in keywords & text-to-HTML ratio
Just remember: Always write the content on your website for humans first … NOT search engines. Good content that gets shared will beat over-optimized robot speak any day of the week.
- Videos = YouTube … got it?
- Image Sitemap + Video Sitemap
- Link every image to something
Title & Meta Tags
Not the sexiest component of SEO (or the easiest), on-page SEO is a definite must-have. Search engines look at meta tags to learn exactly what your web page is about.
Make sure to use these on all of your pages. And make sure that each page’s title and meta tags are unique. If you’re not an SEO guru, site editors and content management systems will typically allow you to edit meta tags without coding.
Not the public HTML sitemap used as an index for content, but a dynamically built sitemap that updates on a regular basis to include the most current pages of any site as you create them.
Ever click on a broken link and notice that, in addition to the inconvenience, there’s not even a “404 message” or “Page Not Found” error message?
This is often the result of a page moved to a new URL and the old link not being directed to the new page.
Permanent 301 redirects are also great for SEO. When users nor search engines can find a page, you lose any SEO status the old page had.
To keep the Google link juice flowing, set up a 301 redirect for pages that moved so that search engines know where to find it.
Step 2: Don’t Make Me Think
Once you’re generating traffic online, the next focus is getting your web traffic to stay on your site.
Depending on the industry, most websites have an average bounce rate of 30-60%.
A large majority of web traffic entering your site will leave without navigating to any other page. And many times they may never come back.
Here are some tips you need to consider for improved web usability and a lower bounce rate.
First Impressions Matter
Your site represents who you are and what you offer the user. When people see it for the first time, they begin to think…
- Is this credible / believable?
- Is it trustworthy?
- Is this a REAL business / event / product?
- Is this company stable?
- Does this site make me feel welcome?
- Am I in the right place?
3 Easy Tips for Creating a Remarkable Website Design:
- Proper use of colors: Use the right colors for your audience to draw attention. Don’t try to make everything jump out – or nothing will. Avoid a chaotic mix of colors and instead pick 2 to 4 colors … and ALWAYS use a dedicated action color.
- Animations, gadgets and media: Avoid the unnecessary. No Flash animations, animated backgrounds, and absolutely NO background music!
- Layout: Create a clear navigation structure and organize page elements in a grid fashion (as opposed to randomly scattered).
- Typography: Make sure the site is legible. Use font types, sizes and colors that are easy-to-read. For easy scanning, try using bullet lists, subheads, and short paragraphs (1-2 sentences).
And don’t be afraid of white space. Be afraid of its counterpart – avoid clutter!
Your site needs to have a good flow from page to page. This means that your colors are primarily the same, as well as your web fonts and page layout structure.
Navigation should remain in the same location of the page throughout your website. Anywhere from 3 to 5 page layouts exist for the average websites:
Try to keep the creative elements in these layouts as consistent as possible. This will help keep your website visitors from feeling lost in the labyrinth of web page layouts.
RELEVANCE. Effectiveness increases as the connection between an image and its perceived value becomes clearer. Choose images with direct implication of value.
REALITY. The force of an image will increase with its level of authenticity. Images bring humanistic reality to the website experience, helping reduce the “virtual distance” between an offering and the user’s perception of value. Choose images that help visitors see the core value.
RELATIVITY. Visual effectiveness will also increases with the image’s relative graphical proportion. Used properly, your image should draw the natural eye-path of the user, bringing more force to the value communicated by the image.
Too many visual elements confuse the visitor … as do stock photos – don’t use them!
Site Architecture (Navigation)
Having a rock-solid architecture that supports all search preferences is one of the most important success factors in the history of website engagement.
- Keep the structure of primary navigation simple (and near the top).
- Include navigation in the footer.
- Use breadcrumbs when needed, so people can see their navigation path on bigger sites.
- Include a Search box near the top so visitors can search by keywords.
- Don’t offer too many options.
- Include links within your page copy and make it clear where the links go. This is also great for SEO!
Make sure anyone visiting your site can view it – regardless of browser or application they use to access it. With undeniable growth in the use of mobile smartphones and tablet devices, people are surfing the internet more than ever before.
Maximize your share of those views by making sure everyone – from any device, OS, browser, etc. – can access your website.
Step 3: Conversion Content Strategy
With the rise of content marketing, agile methodologies and the offspring of the two – content has become front and center in the minds of smart marketing minds.
It is what search engines, social influencers and your prospects are looking for. And it’s industry agnostic. Content drives visitors to your website and turns online prospects into leads.
When it comes to nearly any digital experience – there are at least 4 questions you need to ask yourself regarding the messaging approach of your website …
- Will the user know what the campaign does for them – within seconds?
- Will they understand what page they’re on and what it’s about?
- Will they know what to do next?
- Why should they sign-up or convert to your offer over any other?
How to Deliver the Right Brand Message
Create a few headlines and sub-headline ideas for your most important pages. Use a powerful value proposition and avoid clichés, gratuitous poetry or corp-speak.
Include clear call-to-actions and next steps. Include links in your copy, next step links at the end and calls-to-action where appropriate.
Test your copy. For the most accurate indicator of winning headlines, use A/B split testing to see which variation drives the most conversions – definitively. Believe it or not, there’s no evidence to support that MVT is ever conclusive in its winner.
Offer more than just the ask. Offer calendars, e-Cards, videos, and other value-added content. This nurtures prospects until they’re ready to buy. Plus, they get storytelling and information – not a sales pitch.
Speak to your audience. Use words like “you” and “we” – be transparent.
Be human. Speak their language.
Write as if you’re helping them solve a problem … if you’re at this stage of a complete website redesign, I hope you really are solving a user’s problem (type “User stories” in your nearest Google search bar).
Avoid “we are the best” or “Brand X was blah blah blah” speak. Instead, try using something like “this is how we help you ______ with _____.”
Quality is Critical
- Provide unique content. People love it, social media channels love it, and therefore, so do search engines.
- Write for humans, not search engines. People don’t read like robots.
- Provide value with educational content that helps others.
- Keep website content fresh. Having news that’s over 1 or 2-years-old sitting on your home page probably gives visitors a bad feeling.
- Empathize with your audience. Providing content specific to user problems or needs will make it more relevant for them, and in turn, higher quality.
- Evidence when you need it. If leveraging industry facts, awards, testimonials, etc., try to back up your story with some credit to its source where appropriate – give credit when and where it’s due.
- Know your subject. Do you want a mechanic writing about brain surgery? Me neither. Accuracy equals quality.
This isn’t the 90’s … you NEED a Blog!
- Create fresh content and more pages of unique content, great for SEO and social
- Establish Google authority and status as industry thought leader
- Blogs drive more traffic to your website – and captures MORE LEADS THAN ANY TACTIC
- Enable lead capture via “Subscribe” or “Sign Up for Updates”
- Is the hub of additional list building offers, using calls-to-action and anchor text as a way to flow users into conversion more seamlessly – on their terms – which…
- Allows you to see what content is working, which topics are stronger and what offers gain interest – FAST.
- Is a great way to build links to your website!
Product Reviews – on content, products and campaigns. Let donors fundraise for your charity with insights next to info we provide. Let your best customers, affiliates, partners and loyalty members gain you more customers like them!
Encourage Commenting – Allow user comments and ideas – give ownership via blogs, forums or a My Starbucks Idea, where feedback drives programs.
Allow Users To Curate Content – A website full of new content is hard. Give users power to submit content they create or find.
Become a Social Network. Do people log-in on your website? Why not offer social log-in, support forums, communities and collaboration with the best partner your business will ever have – your customer?
Share-bility. If you made it this far in my prose, do I really need to elaborate on this one?
Social Proof. Provide authentic customer stories and don’t hide these behind a form!
- Place real, short and powerful testimonials on your site –>>>
- Consider placing testimonials on certain topics within the pages relevant to them … the more proof you have, the higher your conversion rate.
- Make it part of strategy to collect case studies and testimonials when possible
- Leverage other sites that provide reviews like Yelp or Google – or simply guest blog
Step 4: Lifecycle Conversion Mapping
You know what it takes to drive traffic and engage visitors. Now let’s get your visitors to convert at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Here is a basic list of must-haves for increasing your website conversions.
Calls to Action
The marketing objective for any good Call to Action (CTA) is to drive the visitor to take action. CTAs are typically kept above the fold or in clear sight on a page so visitors know where to take the next step.
They are the key to lead generation in the digital landscape moving forward. Make them bigger and bolder than most elements, but don’t overdo it.
Consider colors of the CTA, whether it is a link, button or image. Offer CTAs that provide actual value – like events, presentations, reports, rewards, donations, sign-up, etc. (Just an FYI – “Contact Us” is typically the worst form of a CTA).
Make the CTA look clickable. Use buttons or add a hover effect. Test whenever possible. Different colors, effects, shapes, words, and placement.
Often referred to as “Lead Capture Page” or “Form Page” by those who are outside the circle of sense, landing pages are used to convert visitors into leads or customers. This is done via online transaction or collecting the user’s contact info.
Designed to accomplish one goal, and drive this conversion with a host of design and content strategy best practices, landing pages are necessary to implement. They drive your visitors to a particular offer without any distractions seen elsewhere on your site.
Visitors are on a landing page for one purpose: to convert (e.g., complete a form, subscribe, join a community, buy a product, donate, etc.).
- Main navigation has been removed
- Logo remains in the top left corner.
- Clear headline describing the offer.
- Clear image of the offer.
- Brief description and bullets to scan.
- Contains a Form … be it directly on the page or multi-step.
- Content focuses on value.
Effective landing pages will turn your website into a list building machine. But in order to feed the machine, you’ll need to know one key element that gets the landing page, the blog and the website design all moving in unison.
The key to a successful landing page, popular blog or even business that wants to survive online – is the email form. Without it, visitor has nothing to do but leave your web page after reading.
Forms come in handy when it’s time for people to sign-up, subscribe to your site, download an offer or get a free trial. But how much information should be required on a form?
The best balance is to collect only the information you really need. The fewer fields you have in a form, the more likely you will get the conversion.
With each new field you add to a form, friction is introduced (and more work for the visitor) – resulting in fewer conversions.
A longer form gives the appearance of more work, and for many users, will be avoided all together. But at the same time, more fields required means better quality leads.
The best way to find out which form fields work best? TEST IT.
Now that you know how to create the perfect online revenue mousetrap, where do you place your CTAs and landing pages on the website?
It’s not wise to dump CTAs and links just anywhere, because it gives people too many options. And worse, none of those options will be presented at the right options at the right time.
A few considerations when preparing your conversion points…
- Segment offers and products using the Customer Lifecycle and/or most likely of steps in the Conversion Ladder.
- Place lead generation offers (newsletter sign-up, free download, contest) on top-level pages. Level-2 calls to action and landing page offers (demo, event register, free trial) should be placed in more informative – and more targeted – sections of the website, as the user digs deeper.
- Your CTAs should be placed above AND below the fold. Above the fold area gets the most views. Be sure to add some at the bottom or within body content to pick up the perusing user (expect the best offers to be something more than top-level … they’re reading).
- Some studies suggest placing CTAs to the right of the page work better…but the only way to ultimately determine what’s best for your website? Test. Test. Test.
- Use Thank-You Pages and confirmation emails seen right after someone completes a web form. There’s often plenty of real estate to provide additional conversion opportunities via next-level call to action placement..
- Once a prospect completes a form, don’t stop there. Offer the visitor additional ways to help (demos, trial purchases, social shares, 1x versus Membership, etc.). Test, Test, Test!
- It is NEVER CERTAIN which version of 2 variants will drive the conversions. Test different placements to know which one works best for your site.
Not all CTAs need to be big offers. You should definitely offer a newsletter subscription on your website. Newsletters or mailing lists are the perfect way to collect email addresses so you can nurture leads over time to become customers.
Just make sure it’s easy for people to find your subscription form (hint hint)! :)