To keep the pace with the erratic digital landscape, businesses need to keep investing in the expansion of their online presence. In most cases, a key to achieving this goal is a fully functional, aesthetically captivating and SEO-friendly website that effectively engages the target audience.
To determine the extent to which a website can improve a company’s overall digital strategy and identify the best practices for its development and optimization, we talked to the experts from Mekiwi and Aegora, who unveiled their most resourceful website optimization strategies.
Grateful for their cooperation, we are happy to present you with the practical tips they decided to share.
1. A standalone website helps your business be taken seriously.
The value of a business website is enormous, mainly because it can directly increase sales and improve brand awareness. Rick Carlile, the founder of the world’s first networked professional marketplace, Aegora, explains that “a standalone website is fundamental to almost any brand that wants to be taken seriously in its market space.”
According to him, there are some exceptions, but they in no way minimize the value of a company website specifically designed to align with its business objectives.
For instance, an eBay seller can do perfectly well with only an eBay presence – however, eBay is an arena in which amateur players are not significantly discriminated against. The other resources one uses to reach a target market will depend on whose attention you are trying to get – ranging from LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit and so forth, either organically or paid – but for any business that wishes to be seen as professional all marketing avenues should lead back, at first or second remove, to the core of your operation – the standalone website.
2. Think carefully before starting to work with third-party service providers.
The increased availability of web-based platforms enables many companies to start using third party business profiles rather than setting up their own websites. Although such solutions may help you grow your business with minimum investments, this can be quite an unstable strategy for serious companies.
Apart from a limited number of inbuilt templates they need to keep in mind, marketers also risk the possibility of being shut down for not obeying a particular site’s rules. Carlile emphasizes that developing your own website is always a more reliable option, since it gives you the ultimate control over the traffic flow and marketing:
If you don’t operate your own website, your digital presence relies on one or more third-party service providers, each of which has the opportunity to interfere with one’s business flow, to “turn off the tap” in one way or another.
In support of this statement, Carlile reminds us of LinkedIn Apps that, once shut down, left numerous companies incapable of further progress:
For instance, numerous startups once operated within the LinkedIn App environment, which allowed users to place apps like image galleries on their LinkedIn profiles, but when LinkedIn decided to kill the Apps concept and replicate those features in-house these companies were suddenly and completely out of business. One should think very carefully before relying on any third party; it must sometimes be done – for instance, in almost all cases using a third-party payment provider or merchant service is a better choice than “re-inventing the wheel” in-house – but should always be done with eyes open and risk fully assessed.
3. Focus on inspiring consumers’ trust.
The focus on security was also mentioned by our second correspondent, Jani Kaipainen, a representative of Mekiwi. As an innovative software design and development service provider, Mekiwi understands online consumers’ increased awareness of security issues and advises companies to invest in this aspect.
I believe that well built company website increases trust of your customers, which is the most important thing in order to do successful business. And, your company page usually works as a centre of everything in the digital world. It represents you. It works like a gateway to every other media channel you have. Nonetheless, a nice looking website may generate some inbound leads as well.
When it comes to the most important elements that should be optimized for user experience, Kaipainen emphasizes mobile-friendly design and overall website structure.
4. Mobile UX should be a top priority for businesses.
Mobile web browsing increasingly defines marketing strategies and is definitely a trend for the future. ExactTarget’s 2014 Mobile Behavior Report shows that 37% of consumers are more likely to purchase on a mobile-optimized website. Conversely, a study by eMarketer shows that 52% of US-based small business owners do not have a responsive website, which can be devastating for any business.
Similarly, Jani Kaipainen suggests that going mobile should become the No. 1 priority when designing a company website:
Nowadays almost over 50% of visitors to your websites are mobile users. So, optimizing your content and design for mobiles is one of your 1# priorities.
5. Structure your website so that it meets your users’ expectations.
In addition to mobile optimization, Kaipainen also points to the importance of understanding consumers’ online behavior in order to create a better-performing website. He notes that a website’s structure should follow both company’s goals and users’ browsing habits.
When designing a website, you should always have a clear vision what’s the goal of this website you’re working on. Is it to generate sales, educate people or to advertise something? It plays a big role in terms of search engine optimization which is another big and important topic as well.
Kaipainen also gives a set of practical tips for coming up with an intuitive website structure:
Always keep in mind the basic pitch structure: Why-How-What. Why are you doing this? Why should I be interested? How are you solving this or that problem? What are you offering as a solution? By following that simple structure you may increase your visitor length metrics dramatically.
6. Keep it simple yet effective.
Like many other industry experts, Carlile believes that website simplicity is a foundation of effective communication. He encourages website owners to focus on this aspect in order to develop a prosperous digital strategy:
If you focus on efficient communication you shouldn’t go far wrong. It’s dangerous to be too close to one’s creation, because one can lose focus on the product and become too enamored with the process. Any click anywhere on your site or app represents a user with a query or need, and you have a handful of seconds to communicate your answer or fill the need.
Bad development ideas usually start ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have a…’ Instead, build everything from user stories (‘As a prospective client, I want to know your hourly rates’, for instance) rather than starting from ‘cool ideas’. The cool ideas will come later when you figure out how to answer those user stories, and that focus will mean they’ll be the right ideas. Any time you have a development idea, challenge it by asking ‘What user story does this help answer?’
If the answer’s not immediately apparent, forget it. This applies equally to design decisions – ‘How does this help the user make a decision? How does it help turn a prospect into a customer?’”
7. Good UX equals better brand perception.
The ability of a website to provide seamless user experience is the ultimate goal website owners should strive to achieve. In relation to this, Carlile emphasizes the importance of design, which plays a major role in the way you present your company story to your visitors.
Good brand impressions come from good user experience, and good UX comes from a user having to learn as little as possible to use your site or app. Of course, for any useful service there has to be some learning curve for the user (one might argue, the more useful the service, the necessarily greater the requirement to learn) but every development decision should be made based on smoothing out this curve.
Finally, he suggests that great websites are those that manage to offer all the relveant features and information in a highly simple way.
Any feature you add has a UX cost in terms of additional UI complexity, so if its value doesn’t outweigh its cost, forget it. People will often ask you for features that mean a lot to them, and maybe five percent of your users. But one hundred percent of your users have to pay that UX cost of seeing the feature on your site and figuring out what it does and whether they need it – for ninety-five percent of them, it’s a waste of time. So, forget it. It’s no coincidence that mass-market software is becoming ever-simpler.
Suffice to say, running a fully functional website is the golden rule of a successful digital strategy. Integrating these seven website optimization methods with your digital strategy will help you better plan your digital strategy to increase website traffic and eventually improve sales.