It’s easy to diagnose a sick site. It’s under performing. It doesn’t deliver business. It may be completely invisible no matter how hard prospects search for your web-based real estate.
It’s easy to diagnose a sick site, but fixing what ails a web business may not be so simple. But, once you’ve determined that your site isn’t delivering to expectations, there are things you can do to improve site performance.
Are you dealing with a sick website?
The first step is to gather critical site metrics – numbers that describe the performance of the site and the visitors who actually land on your site. Metrics are available in lots of places – alexa.com. Google’s Webmaster Central and, if you want to pay to gather your site’s performance stats, there are programs like SEO Elite and SpyFu – an AdWords program that can tell you a lot about how visitors find you and why they leave.
Now, not all site metrics deliver the same quality of diagnostic information. Some metrics, provide a clearer picture of why your web site is underperforming. Finding fixes for puny numbers isn’t as easy as compiling the numbers themselves.
However, by learning to interpret the numbers associated with your web site you can make tweaks to improve, not only the numbers, but the performance of site visitors who land on your home page or landing pages.
Here are six critical metrics to compile, along with what these metrics tell you and how to improve the numbers and your site performance simultaneously.
Important note: Site metrics tell you what’s already happened and they can’t predict the future so it’s common for site owners to jump to the wrong conclusion based on the misinterpretation of metrics. Use your numbers carefully and make changes that work in sync with what the numbers tell you.
1. Bounce Rate
A “bounce” is a site visitor who lands on your home page or on an interior landing page and leaves immediately – in less than a second or two. A high bounce rate indicates that the page on which the site visitor lands didn’t capture the attention of that prospect.
The question is why? There are any number of reasons a visitor bounces:
- the first thing they see is an opt-in box (gone)
- the type face you’ve selected is difficult to read
- the color motif is unappealing
- the headline you wrote isn’t compelling
- there are too many choices for the visitor to make
- there aren’t enough choices for the visitor to make
- the site navigation is confusing
Clean up the home page. Use black type against a white or off-white background, choose neutral colors, write a headline that addresses the needs of the site visitor (and provides a solution if that’s what you do), simplify the site navigation, take the visitor by the hand and lead him or her to those sections of the site you want them to see – the sell pages.
Provide informational content that actually helps the visitor. Add trust builders like association affiliations, a secure site emblem and the on-line Better Business Bureau logo.
2. Time on site
How long does the visitor stay on your site? The longer the better. You want the visitor to explore the different zones of your site and ultimately, you want the visitor to perform the most desired action or MDA.
If the average visitor spends 10 seconds on your site, the don’t count as a bounce but they sure aren’t sticking around to read about your LIMITED TIME OFFER, that’s for sure.
Provide site visitors with a reason to stay on site. Embed a video on your home page to increase visitor attention. Next, start by describing the benefits of your product, service or message in bullet list form. Site visitors tend to scan text rather than read it and the likelihood that a visitor will read big blocks of tiny text are about zero.
Provide useful, helpful information instead of sales hype. Add a blog. Solve a problem on the first page. Make it simple for the visitor to drill down deeper into your site through the use of embedded text links – those blue hyperlinks that serve as a simplified system of navigation. (More on that later.)
3. Keywords analysis
Keywords are the words and terms that search engine users enter into the search box of Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing, Ask and any of the other 4,000 search engines scouring the web each day.
Once you discover which keywords are delivering results, increase the density of those keywords, but keep keyword density below 5% of all of your site text.
Also, placement of keywords is important. Place your strongest keywords – the ones with the most pulling power – in strong text that includes headlines, sub-heads and words that are bolded, underlined or italicized. These words have more “value” when spidered by search engine bots and, therefore, increase your site’s position on search engine results pages (SERPs). Take advantage of the keywords search engine users enter organically or intuitively.
4. Page views
A simple but telling metric, page views is simply the number of pages average visitors looked at when they visited your site. The more page views the better. Why? Because the longer a site visitor stays on your web site reading pages, the more likely they are to perform the MDA.
If visitors are only looking at a single page before they bounce, make it easier for visitors to drill deeper into you site to view more pages. This can be done in two ways.
First, use a navigation bar that takes visitors to different pages or zones of your web site. The navigation bar should appear on every page and in the same place. So, if the navigation bar appears at the top of the home page, it should appear at the top of every page of the site with the same labels used for each link to another page.
Second, add embedded text links. These are those links (mentioned previously) that are embedded in text, usually in blue, that enable the visitor to move to a different page with a single click.
5. In-Bound links
How many other web sites link to your web site? The more of these in-bound links you have the better. First, in-bound links tell search engines that your site is a quality site – one other site owners recommend to their visitors. Second, if you collect enough in-bound links, you become an authority site in the eyes of search engines and you move up accordingly on SERPs.
Provide solid, useful informational content (like this content). Informational content establishes your authority and expertise. It also encourages other site owners to link to your site to help their visitors further their searches for the exact information they’re looking for.
6. Downstream clicks
Where do visitors go when they leave your site? Do they go back to the search engine results pages by clicking the back button on their browsers? If so, chances are they’re still looking for the information they were hoping to find on your web site. If they click off your site to another site that’s linked to your site, their still searching. Or, they might be comparison shopping. Or they might just be killing time until it’s time to leave the office.
If visitors are returning to Google or Yahoo, they didn’t find what they were looking for on your site. So review your information.
Review your product descriptions. Review the descriptions of your service offerings. Review your message. Is it clear what you sell?
Add trust builders. Add your picture. Add product pictures to show visitors what it is you sell. Also add logos of professional organizations and associations to demonstrate that you’re an active member of your industry or area of expertise.
Track where visitors go after they leave your site and determine why they left without performing the MDA. Were they confused? Did they even understand what the MDA is? Remember, web users flit from site to site, and by determining where they go after leaving your site, you can often tell what’s “missing” from your web site, add that information and lower your click-through rate, lower your bounce rate and increase the number of pages viewed by each visitor.
Bottom line? Your bottom line. Your web site should be designed to meet the objectives of the site visitor, making it simple for these people to perform the action you want them to take, whether it’s to buy something, to opt-in, to complete a form or to pick up the telephone to call you.
If your site isn’t performing to expectations, it may be a sick site but you can cure it with a little analysis. Use the tools available on line to find out who’s stopping by, how long they’re staying and where they go after leaving your site.
In the end, with some small changes, you can cure that sick site and create a robust, healthy site that actually delivers visitors who are eager to perform the MDA.
That’s why you built the site in the first place, right? So, if you have a sick site, use metrics to analyze visitor performance and find the cure to encourage visitors to stick around longer and perform the MDA.
That, in a nutshell, is the definition of web success – the very thing you’re after.