Broken is Not Always Obvious
When it comes to websites, there are a lot of different kinds of “broken.” Sure, if a website won’t load, has links that don’t go anywhere, or functionality that just doesn’t function – well, that’s clearly broken. But sometimes a broken website isn’t as easy to see. Sometimes “broken” just means, “not working the way it should” or even “not really doing much for my bottom line.” And let’s be clear – your website should be directly impacting your bottom line. This goes for all industries and all target audience demographics.
So, is your website working or is it “broken?” Is it elevating your brand and your profits or is it just dead weight, dragging you down? Do you know? How do you find out if your website is working or not?
It’s Not Working If…
1. You can’t track your data.
If you know us, you know how important we believe data is. The data available to us through today’s tracking technologies – everything from basic Google Analytics to full-on marketing automation tracking systems like Act-On and Pardot – makes it possible for us to really understand how, when, and why people are using your website – and WHO is using your website. If you don’t have access to the data, how can you even begin to understand whether or not your website is doing you any good? If you can’t tell where things are falling apart, you have no idea what things to fix things, when to fix them, or if they need to be replaced altogether. Here are some things that you should be tracking:
Your site traffic numbers will tell you how many people are coming to your site and what pages they’re visiting while they’re there. If the numbers are low overall or if they’re significantly lower on your subpages than they are on your homepage (a sign that people aren’t engaging with your message and flowing through your site), then you probably have some issues with your site that need to be addressed.
This is related to site traffic. A bounce is when someone comes to your website (either the homepage or a subpage) and immediately leaves again without exploring your website any further (and without engaging with your content). Bounce rate is an indication of how relevant your website is to the people who are visiting it and it honestly varies widely from industry to industry. High bounce rates for your industry indicate that people are not finding what they’re looking for while low bounce rates show that you’ve giving people what they need and that your content is engaging enough to keep them on your website longer. If your bounce rates are ugly, it’s time to look closely at your data to determine what’s going on and why you’re losing people.
Search rankings are a little trickier to track accurately but it’s easy to get a general idea if your ranking well or not. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes for a moment: what are they looking for? What do they need? What search terms are they going to use to find what they’re looking for? Type that search into Google and see what happens. This is what’s called “organic search.” It’s not your company’s name – if someone types in your company’s name, they should find you without problem. That’s not organic search. Organic search is what brings in NEW customers and it’s crucial for you to keep track of it so that you can respond to drops in ranking with positive SEO tactics.
(Source: Search Engine Watch)
(Source: Search Engine Watch)
2. Your website takes a long time to load.
One of the biggest contributing factors to high bounce rates is long load times. With the increasing availability of high-speed internet connections, users have a shrinking amount of patience for slow sites. This is even true of mobile users – a traditionally more tolerant demographic – as our cellular connections are getting faster and faster. What is YOUR website’s average load time? Do you know? Google provides a free tool that will check your load time and even provide a few suggestions on how to improve performance.
3. The mobile experience is less than awesome.
If you used the Page Speed tool above, you’ll notice that Google specifically calls out the mobile experience. That’s because mobile is CRUCIAL to the effectiveness of your website. We’ve talked about all of this before but the stats keep rolling in and it bears repeating: mobile is no longer optional – it is required – for business.
(Source: Search MoPowered)
As of May 2015, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.
Your website’s mobile experience is vital to your bottom line and you can’t afford to ignore your mobile users. A while back, Google responded to the increase in mobile traffic by updating their search algorithm to prioritize websites that were designed with mobile in mind. You may have heard about this – SEO specialists and marketers alike were calling it “Mobilegeddon.” This shift in focus means that, if your website DOESN’T prioritize mobile users, you’re taking a significant hit to your search engine ranking and your competitors who ARE mobile-friendly have an advantage over you. And, as if that weren’t enough, there are levels of “mobile-friendly” in Google’s eyes. A mobile-only site performs better than a non-mobile site but a mobile-responsive site performs even better than a mobile-only site. How mobile friendly is your site? Find out with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
4. People are calling you all the time to ask questions that your website should answer.
Are people calling your office or using your contact form to get basic information that should be easily accessible on your website? That’s a good sign that your content is a mess and that your navigation is out of control. This is a problem because it increases bounce rates and lowers search engine rankings but, beyond that, it is also a complete waste of your resources. Your staff is wasting time (and, consequently, money) answering basic questions that they shouldn’t have to and which are keeping them from doing more skilled and vital work. Remember, nobody uses phone books anymore. If they’re calling you, they found your phone number online. If they were already online, they should have found all the basic info that they were looking for. They shouldn’t need to call you. If you are frequently being contacted for basic information, it’s time to take a close look at your website navigation and content strategy.
Your website should be directly impacting your bottom line. This goes for all industries and all target audience demographics.
5. People are on your site but they’re not doing what you want them to.
A strong call to action creates conversions… and conversions keep the lights on. Your website should have a clear business purpose and everything about it – from your site structure to your content strategy – should be driving site visitors towards taking the actions that serve your business needs. This is where website and content strategy comes in. Is your primary call to action clearly defined? Does it match the needs of your target audience? Is your primary audience taking the desired action? If not, where are things falling apart? How can you reconnect the disconnect and increase your conversion rates? Strategy and data analysis can answer these questions but your website has to be able to support your goals. If it isn’t, then you have to look into creating a new site that does.
6. Your URL is hard to type, hard to say, or hard to remember.
Bad URLs are often overlooked when it comes to website optimization but they play a huge part in how effective your website can be. If people can’t remember your URL, they can’t find it again easily. If it’s hard to type out – or if you have to explain the spelling when you tell it to someone – they are less likely to remember it. Not everyone finds you through a search engine or by clicking a link. The human interaction factor has to be taken into account – and our memories aren’t always the most reliable.
There are a lot of things that contribute to bad URLs but here are two of the most common things that we see:
- Length – The longer a URL is, the more likely it is that someone will misspell it, misremember it, or just forget it altogether.
- Dashes and Underscores – When you add dashes and underscores to your URL, you’re asking site users to remember characters that have no meaning – dashes and underscores are “nothing” characters. This article is littered with spaces and line breaks but do you know how many there are? Spaces and line breaks are also “nothing” characters – they don’t register on your consciousness. They exist specifically to draw attention to other characters. Dashes and underscores in your URL are the same way. They’re hard to remember because they don’t register. Underscores add in another level of difficulty since links are often underlined which causes underscores to effectively disappear making them doubly hard to remember.
7. You hate updating your site.
Websites that are difficult to update become obsolete fast. Stale content affects how users interact with your site as well as how well you rank with search engines. In a world where phonebooks are an endangered species, your website is the primary source of information about your company. If that information isn’t up-to-date, then your site isn’t just obsolete, it’s actively hurting your business. The harder it is to update your website, the less likely you are to update it regularly.
Of course, you may just not like your site. Maybe it doesn’t fit your company culture or speak to you target audience anymore. Maybe it’s just… dated. That’s a completely valid reason to revisit (and maybe completely renovate) your online presence. If you’re not a fan of your own website, then you are far less likely to keep it updated and make sure that it’s performing optimally. The bottom line is: if you don’t like your website, it’s not going to do its job.
So take a moment and take a critical look at your website. Is it tracking data? Is it fast? How does it look on mobile? Are people getting where they need to go and doing what you need them to do? Is the URL conversation-friendly? Do you even LIKE your website?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then it’s time to start thinking about building a new website that delivers all yesses.