10 tips to boost your website’s performance

A common problem for many website owners after they’ve forked out hundreds or even thousands of pounds for a website is that it doesn’t deliver the response they hoped for, or their website visitors are not staying on the site or not finding their website at all.

However, not all is lost. Making a few simple changes to your website will not only change a visitor’s perception of your website, but will also ensure you attract more visitors and retain those visitors on your website.

By following the 10 simple steps listed below you can make changes to your website that your business will benefit from in the long term with more visitors, increased sales and more credibility to your company.

1. Navigation – can your visitors find what they’re looking for?

Is the navigation on your website clear and consistent? Is it the same on every page of your website?

It is surprising how many websites have unclear navigation, meaning visitors get frustrated at not finding what they want or end up in a dead-end. It is essential your visitors can get around your website quickly and easily, else you will find they won’t hang around for long.

- Ensure your website navigation is consistent with navigation menus, including a link to the home page on every page.
- Navigation must be properly labelled – buttons and text links must describe the destination page. Never use pictures for navigation as it’s confusing.
- Place a link to a sitemap of your website on every page – if visitors get lost, they can use the sitemap to navigate (also helps search engines index the site).
- A 404 page error page will help steer visitors back on to your site if they click on a broken link, rather than end up on a ‘this page does not exist’ browser page.
- Do not bury key pages deep into your website. Make sure they are accessible to visitors in a couple of clicks.

2. Design – keep it simple.

Is your website full of flashy graphics, garish colours and annoying pop-ups? Think about it – will it give a good visitor experience when they have to wait 5 minutes for your website to load, or can’t find what they want for the endlessly distracting animated graphics? The following design rules work well:

- Neutral colours – pale or white backgrounds, dark font colours.
- Consistent fonts, font sizes and colours.
- HTML text as opposed to text in graphics.
- Quick to load gif or jpg images with small file sizes.

This will ensure your visitors are not confused and put off, and your website loads as quickly as possible.

3. Layout – make it easy to scan.

Long pages of information can be difficult to digest. Most website readers will quickly scan a page then go back to the points that interest them. What’s more, you only have a few seconds to keep your visitors attention. Use short paragraphs, bullet points, highlight important information and keep the content to the point.

4. Copy – what’s in it for me?

Is your website content mostly a description of your services products or do you tell your visitors about the benefits of your products/services? Long uninteresting text telling your prospects about you, i.e your business and products, will not get your visitors’ interest. What they want to know is ‘what’s in it for me’ – tell them the great benefits of your products and services, why they should buy from you and how you are different from your competitors. Give your visitors a clear call to action, e.g ‘contact us today for a free report…’ etc.

5. About us / contact us pages – is there anybody there?

Make sure your website include pages about the company and how to contact the company. Not just a form or email address, but names, telephone numbers and postal addresses. This will reassure visitors that there is someone there, and they can contact you outside of your website.

6. Trust – make your visitors want to buy from you.

Gaining your visitors trust is a great way of getting new business. Think about the websites you have bought from in the past. Did you know them before you purchased from them, or did you just go ahead and buy because you felt you could trust them? Why did you trust them? Was it the money back guarantees, returns policy, easy to contact them, secure site? Make sure all of this is included on your own website.

Tell visitors that if they leave their details on your website they are not going to be spammed or their details sold to other parties – make sure your privacy policy is easy to find.

7. Testimonials / case studies – reinforce your sales pitch.

Whatever you’re selling, whether it’s a product or service, gaining testimonials from happy customers prove your offering is sound and your business is viable. But never ever make up false testimonials.

8. Optimise your website – are your pages search engine friendly?

Once you’re happy with the design and content of your website, then you need to optimise the pages for the search engines. Check which key phrases visitors will use to find your website, and ensure you insert the appropriate key phrases into your page copy. Write descriptive page titles and meta descriptions using the key phrases, and change these according to the content of each page. Your optimisation will be ineffective if you use the same titles and meta descriptions for every page.

9. Is your website listed in the main search engines?

Once you’ve optimised your website, then ensure your website is indexed by the major search engines including Google, Yahoo & MSN. Don’t be fooled by automated submissions to 1000 search engines for £99 or by anyone offering submission services. All you need is a link from a website that is already in the search engine’s database – they will follow that link and come and visit your website. It takes several months to achieve high rankings, so build on those quality links while you wait.

10. Keep it fresh and keep in touch.

It’s essential you update your website regularly. There’s nothing more off putting than seeing out of date information on a website. Anything new happening in your business can be included – new products or services, press releases, articles, general industry news. Why not start a blog?

Use this to keep in touch with clients & prospects through regular emails as well – you never know when they might need your service and acts as a constant reminder of who you are and what you do.

© Forty First Marketing Ltd 2007

Sam McArthur specialises in online marketing for small businesses. Find her at www.fortyfirst.co.uk

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