Posted by Nate Nordstrom, Founder & Creative Director
Is your website ready for 2017 and beyond? Is your online presence truly healthy and creating value for your business or nonprofit?
I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. My dad is an architect and all around creative person. During high school he was building our new house. One afternoon he wanted me to go with and help. But I checked the weather and suggested we skip for the day because rain was in the forecast.
Before my dad walked out the door, he said something that I will never forget. “Son, if I waited for the perfect weather, I would never get started.”
He went to work that day on the house, without me. The weather ended up being fine and he finished framing several more walls.
How does this apply to your website? The owner of Canadian Honker Restaurant and Powers Ventures once told me “if you aren’t pushing your business forward you are going backward.”
Like it, love it, or hate, your website is a key piece of your business in 2017 and is only growing as technology becomes a bigger piece of our world. Your website is either lifting you upward or is dragging you down.
Let’s go through eight practical ways to ensure your website is a healthy and valuable tool.
Health Check #1: SSL Certificate
Why this matters: Google now considers SSL as a ranking factor. So it matters for search engine optimization (SEO). Some visitors may also see a security warning from their internet browser when they visit your website.
- Visitors don’t see a green lock in the search bar when visiting your site.
- Install a free SSL from Let’s Encrypt or Cloudflare.
- Some hosting companies have easy SSL upgrade options built in as well (for a nominal cost).
- If your site handles usernames, passwords, or payment information, then a premium SSL certificate may be worth the investment.
Example #1: https://dmc.mn/ (look for a green lock icon in the upper left of your browser)
Health Check #2: Easy-to-find Contact Info
Why this matters: Ultimately, your website is just a tool. In most cases, the main goal is for a website visitor to contact you for products or services. So contact information needs to be very easy to find.
- A low percentage of website visitors actually contact you.
- No “Contact” page on your site or is hard to find.
- Only having an email contact form and no other options such as phone, address, map, etc.
- No quick-contact options when on a mobile device.
- Create a contact page with a clean contact form that funnels requests to the right people.
- Make sure your entire contact process works without any breaks and that every request gets a response quickly, usually within a day or less.
- Consider a live-chat feature if you have the support team available to respond.
- Add contact info to your site footer.
- Put a call-to-action button (for example, “schedule an appointment”) in your header/footer and give it extra visual weight.
Example #2: https://purerockstudiosmn.com/ (Free trial lesson callout at the bottom of every page.)
Health Check #3: Mobile Optimized
Why this matters: Around half of most website traffic is from a mobile device, and potential customers are less likely to stick around if content is hard to see or awkwardly laid out.
- Your site looks the same whether you’re visiting from a computer or a phone.
- Menu items and buttons are small and hard to tap with your finger.
- Your site takes longer than 2 seconds to load on a phone.
- Use a responsive website template through a platform like Squarespace.
- Work with a team of professionals to design a responsive site.
- Remove unnecessary animations, plugins, or large images to improve load times.
- Advanced: leverage techniques such as lazy loading, caching, and file optimization manually or by using a service such as Cloudflare.
Example #3: https://honorschoirs.org/ (fully mobile optimized through responsive design)
Health Check #4: Accurate Directory Listings
Why this matters: Online directories such as Google and Yelp are like roads to your website. Make sure these roads are well-maintained so that people want to do business with you.
- Your listings such as Google Maps and Yelp are incomplete our outdated -- information such as your web address, contact info, and service listing or menu, and inviting pictures.
- Use a service like Moz Local to manage your listings from one place.
- Delete any duplicate listings (Moz helps with this but costs a few bucks).
- Use Google my Business (free). https://www.google.com/business/
- Update/submit your business listing to any directories that are relevant to your business.
- Recycle good text and photos from your website to post in directory listings -- it’s important to keep consistent voice and visuals.
Example #4: https://www.google.com/search?sclient=psy-ab&safe=active&site=&source=hp&btnG=Search&q=brandhoot#safe=active&q=pixelpress+rochester+mn (Google search of PixelPress)
Health Check #5: Easy-to-Update
Why this matters: An inflexible website costs you extra time and money.
- Making a change to your website takes hours of your personal time, or days of waiting for a freelancer to do it.
- Complicated or outdated content management system that that makes it difficult to change pictures, text, menus, pricing, contact info, or team bios.
- No way to quickly add announcements, events, or create a new page without hiring an expert.
- If you haven't logged in to update your website version in over 30 days, and your designer hasn't either. This point most commonly applies to content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress. This is usually why a website gets hacked, due to security holes that are exposed over time unless patched.
- Hire a professional who can build you a site that is a better fit for your needs and is easy to update long-term without coding skills.
- Keep your designer/agency on a monthly retainer, so that they can quickly make updates.
- Work with a team as opposed to a freelancer so that a project manager and multiple designers and developers, who are always available to handle your needs.
- Use Squarespace, which makes editing as easy as clicking and typing. Plus, Squarespace updates its version automatically so you never have to worry about security. (Squarespace is a great fit for many small businesses and nonprofits but not all, contact us if you'd like to discuss.)
- If using WordPress or another content management system, keep your website and plugins up to date. Usually monthly is sufficient.
Example #5: https://pixelpressweb.com/ is built on Squarespace, an extremely easy to edit platform. Just login, click, and type your changes right there in-context on the page. No complicated dashboards to wrangle with. Just edit and go. (Contact us for a free demo.)
Health Check #6: Clear & Targeted content
Why this matters: Inaccurate or irrelevant content often leads to customer confusion, frustration, low engagement, and lost revenue.
- Some information is old or incomplete.
- Grammar or spelling errors (seriously, no excuse for this one).
- Your business doesn’t produce blog or social media posts.
- You aren’t sure who your ideal customers is or how to communicate effectively with them.
- Your content isn’t answering the questions that visitors are asking -- better is not believable, different is.
- Interview a few clients to find out what questions they have - why did they choose you?
- Clarify your brand voice.
- Create a lead magnet to answer those questions (landing page, downloadable guide, etc.).
- Based on your lead magnet, create a series of blog and social media posts. Create a publishing calendar to keep you on track.
Example #6: https://pixelpressweb.com/blog/ (our free Growth Tips blog which they can sign up for)
Health Check #7: Analytics that Move You
Why this matters: You can’t improve if you don’t know where you are. Smart analytics help you to see positive and negative changes so that you can adjust accordingly.
- You don’t know how many people visit your site each month or what search terms led them your website.
- You don’t have data available when it comes time to make decisions about your website or marketing strategy.
- You don’t know whether your visits are from actual users or if they’re just spam. (We’re seeing many customer’s data be wrong by 20 or even 30% before we configure custom Google analytics spam filtering.)
Health Check #8: Smart Buyer Persona Marketing
Why this matters: Your ideal customers know what they want, but you’ll have a hard connecting with their exact needs through your marketing and services without getting to know them more deeply.
- Your marketing is very generic.
- You don’t know who your ideal customer is.
- You don’t know what issues your ideal customers are dealing with.
- You don’t know where your ideal customers get their information from.
- Your site and its content aren’t optimized for your ideal customer.
- Learn more about good Buyer Persona questions here.
- Interview past, present, and future clients using Hubspot’s template.
- Create a few buyer personas based on these.
- Compare these personas with your site’s content to make sure you’re appealing to them.
To wrap up, we talked about:
- The importance of SSL
- The importance of easy contact information
- Mobile optimization
- Accurate directory listings
- The importance of easy changes
- Why content needs to be extra clear and targeted
- How analytics can help you
- Introduced the concept of buyer personas.
Remember, “if you wait for the perfect weather, you will never get started.”
Action: Focus on one area to improve this month. Then pick another next month. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. (We do not suggest you actually eat an elephant.)
how Did you do?
How many health checks did you pass above?
- 8 out of 8? You're an all star. Just don’t get too comfortable.
- 6 or 7? Feeling pretty good. Just a few small improvements.
- 4 or 5? Let’s step up your game.
- 3 or less? Significant room for improvement.
Want a free 30 minute consult? Book here.
Appointments subject to availability.