5 New Year's Resolutions (for your website)

It seems like just yesterday that I was working on a Top 10 List of New Year's Resolutions (for 2007). Since another year has come and gone, we now must look to 2008 for the opportunity to complete our aspirations.

"This year," we say, "I'm going to lose 10 pounds" or "I'm going to exercise twice per week." While these goals are fine and dandy, I personally think it's time to set a few resolutions for your website. Yes, it's true, you've been neglecting that website since 2004 and it's time to give it some love in 2008.

Without further ado, here is the list of the Top 5 New Year's Resolutions (for your website):

1. Install Google Analytics

This year, it's time to learn more about who is visting your website and what they are doing when they arrive. The easiest way to do this is to install tracking code from Google Analytics. Don't worry, it's free to use and it will provide you with a wealth of information about your users. Once you sign up for a free account, they will provide you with a few lines of code to place on each page of your website. This will keep track of users as they navigate your website and tell you helpful information such as:

  • How many visitors came to your site
  • Average time they spent on your site
  • % that were new visitors
  • # of pages they viewed
  • Average # of pages viewed per visitor
  • Bounce rate (# who left immediately)

This information is essential to knowing how well your website is performing. For example, if your bounce rate is a whopping 85%, that tells you that the majority of your traffic feels that your website is irrelevant to what they were looking for. They bailed on you before you even had a chance to show them page 2. Maybe it's time to think about modifying that homepage?

2. Track Conversion Rates

Every website has a purpose. You want your customer to pick up the phone and call you, you want them to request a quote, to fill out your contact form, or request a free report.

But do they?

Once you have your tracking code installed, you can set up "goals" to answer this question. If one of the goals for your website is to have users "request a quote", then you can use your Google Analytics account to tell you what percentage of visitors actually do that. If you're like most people, you'll be disappointed with the answer.

However, with this new information at your disposal, you can start to make changes to improve your conversion rates. For example, maybe your "request a quote" page is hard to find. Maybe you should have a big bold graphic on the homepage? Maybe the form is too long and you should try to make it easier and quicker to complete? All of these things are possible to remedy once you know there is a problem.

3. Determine Your Search Phrases

Once you are tracking your visitors and know that your website is converting those visitors into leads, it's time to work on getting more visitors. The first step in this process is to determine which search phrase(s) are relevant for your line of business.

The easiest way to do this is to pretend you are a customer sitting at Google.com. What phrases would you enter to find a company/service like yours? For example, if you are in need of an attorney to represent you for a dog bite, you might search for "dog bite attorney in rochester mn" or "personal injury attorney in rochester mn." What will people enter to search for you?

It's important to think about location when determining your search phrases. Very seldom will someone just search for "attorney" or "personal injury attorney", and if they do, they will usually end up trying again because they won't find someone who is local.

Determining your search phrases is all about knowing who your customers are and how to reach them. When you have highly targeted traffic to your website your bounce rate (see #1 above) will go down and you'll have higher conversion rates (see #2). This leads to more sales which will make your boss want to give you a big promotion in 2008. OK, maybe not.

4. Optimize Your Website

Now that you have determined which search phrases will bring you the most targeted visitors, it's time to optimize your website for them. You do this by putting these search phrases in the page title(s), text, and alt tags of your website. I know, this sounds complex, but stay with me for a moment and I'll show you how.

First, open up your homepage and look at the text in the very upper left of the browser window. For example, on our home page it says "Web Design Web Hosting SEO Video Production Graphic Design - Rochester MN". Wow, that looks an awful lot like the search phrases that someone might use when trying to find the services we provide. Coincidence? I think not.

Next up, you need to add your #1 search phrase to the text of your homepage. In order to tell the world that this is what you do, you want to make it big and bold. For example, at the top of our homepage, we've added all of the main search phrases again, and even added some links and bolding to them. This is something you'll want to do as well. You should also bold, italicize, OR underline maybe 1 or two instances of the keyword. Don't go crazy with this. Just provide natural emphasis to the words that best describe your business.

This is a very basic how-to for optimizing your website. If you'd like more details on how to optimize your website check out Brad Callen's SEO tutorial or drop me a line.

5. Update the Content

I know, you're probably thinking... "Please Stop!... You've already given me enough to do in 2008 and 2009." However, I have one more simple resolution for you to make in 2008.

Keep your website up-to-date.

If you have outdated photos on your website that include employees who left in 1999, it doesn't reflect well on your company image. Resolve right now to make someone in your organization accountable for maintaining your website in 2008 and keeping it up to date. Jon's end of year maintenance post gives you six areas of your website to watch out for when it comes to outdated content. Check these areas of your website once per month and make sure they are up to date.

So, there you have it! 5 resolutions for your website in 2008 that should not only educate you but also turn your website into a profitable marketing machine. You never know, with all this extra knowledge you might get that big promotion after all!