Your company’s website is often the first interaction a prospect has with your brand. Ongoing website optimization ensures that your website is performing at its peak.
But what does that actually mean? What does website optimization entail? And how hard is it, really?
In this article, we’ll cover:
Website optimization is the art and science of making continual improvements to your website to increase quality traffic and conversions, driving bottom-line business results. A holistic website optimization approach includes:
In reality, it’s about making educated guesses about what will improve the website, and then testing to see what actually worked. (That’s the combination of art and science.)
Website optimization is important for many reasons. At some point, you invested in the design and development to get your website up and running. With a live website, you have the opportunity to use real visitor behavior and data available to help you improve it—both for your visitors and for your business.
Even the best designers and developers are not optimizers. The goal of a website redesign is getting the new site live as soon as it’s better than the previous site while operating under the real-world constraints of deadlines and budgets. Typically, redesigns are not about making it perform as strongly as it possibly can. If that were the case, website redesign projects would never end!
The internet and internet users are constantly evolving. Search engine algorithms change, user expectations change, new competitors pop up, existing competitors make updates, and new technologies are released. Your website also needs to constantly evolve and adapt to maintain its relevance and performance.
Having a website and neglecting its upkeep is like opening a brick and mortar shop and not reacting to how buyers interact with merchandise, never adjusting inventory or restocking the shelves based on your customer’s buying habits and preferences.
A strong website optimization program drives bottom-line business results. Period. The results should speak for themselves.
Here’s a sampling of results we’ve helped clients achieve through website optimization programs. These were all achieved in less than a year and several in a few months:
The #1 goal of website optimization is to drive business results. In most cases, that means increasing high-quality leads, or direct sales, from the website.
But getting to that end game is a step-by-step process. First, people need to find you. Then, they need to navigate your website with as little friction as possible to reach that end goal.
This means leaning on a few proven website optimization techniques:
When you’re focused on data and driving up key metrics, it can be easy to fall into a straight numbers game. But remember that at the end of the day, your ultimate goal is to drive quality conversions.
Stay in touch with your sales team. Gut check lead quality with them.
If you’re getting conversions but they’re not from the right visitors, use this feedback to tweak your program. Maybe this is a shift in keyword targeting. Maybe it’s updating language on the site to speak more clearly to the right audience, or softly helping the wrong visitors opt themselves out.
As we’ve covered so far, there’s a lot that goes into an effective website optimization program. But what it really boils down to is three things: SEO, conversion and UX optimization, and analytics and reporting.
Search engine optimization is made up of many actions designed to improve how a website performs within a search engine. There are three distinct categories these actions fall into; content optimization, technical optimization, and off-page optimization. Since off-page optimization doesn’t take place on the website but on other parts of the web (e.g., link building) it’s not commonly included as part of website optimization.
We think of content optimization for SEO as anything that’s user-facing on the page. This includes copy, images, video, and any embedded content. It should be optimized for search, yes, but also compelling to the user. Copy that gets someone to a page but doesn’t speak to their needs as implied by the intent of the search doesn’t cut it.
Technical optimization for SEO is anything that isn’t immediately viewable by a user. This includes things like your website’s information architecture, link structure, and development functionality. For example, a slow-loading website may need development updates for website speed optimization to meet both user expectations and Google’s core web vitals metrics.
Content and technical SEO should be reviewed holistically, then prioritized based on:
Lastly, from a content perspective, I recommend having a bias toward middle- and bottom-funnel keywords and topics. Remember, quality traffic trumps quantity. A visitor to a service page is almost always more likely to convert than an informative blog post reader. (And yes, I recognize the irony here.)
Conversion and UX optimization start with a visual site review in which you put yourself in the shoes of a visitor. First, understand your conversion goals and audience needs. Then, poke around the website and ask yourself questions like:
With this analysis in mind, you can prioritize conversion improvements with an approach that starts with the easiest, most impactful stuff and move on to the more challenging things to implement.
Our website optimization services always start with a review and update of Google Analytics. Without accurate reporting, there’s no way to accurately benchmark your current performance, or identify opportunities to improve.
Make sure that your Analytics Goals are reflective of your website and business goals. Our approach is to only use Goals for conversion events. In most cases, we segment Goals into two categories, and watch and report on each individually and in rollup:
Outside of Analytics with a big A (meaning, Google), we use analytics constantly to understand SEO and conversion performance, elevate issues, and identify opportunities. The tools listed below are some of our favorites.
Here are some of the tools we use pretty much daily to give us the insights we need to assess and improve website performance. When using these tools, it’s critical to remember that live websites are never going to be perfect and error-free. Your website optimization team’s job is to analyze the information these tools provide and prioritize efforts based on where you’ll see the strongest return.
The good news is that simply by reading this article, you’ve taken the first step in your website optimization journey. You know it’s a need, and you’re ready to get started.
At a high level, your options are to manage your website optimization program in-house or hire an agency to help. In my experience (both at Orbit and in my previous professional life on the client site), hiring an agency is critical to keeping a program like this on track. It’s far too easy for other internal priorities—usually reactive, fix-it type things—to get in the way of this more proactive, sometimes preventative work.
Hiring an agency also gives you access to the talent you need to pull off a website optimization program at a much lower cost than hiring in-house. At any point in your program, you might need any or all of the following skills:
When you’re ready to start your program, spend some time putting your plan together. Document your goals and success metrics. Get your arms around your current state and prioritize the work ahead.
We always start website optimization programs with a two-month assessment. This time is used to:
With that plan in place, it’s simply time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
copy + speed are the top 2 imo. Great write up.
What are your thoughts?