People and companies create websites for various different reasons, and their approaches differ accordingly. If you’re putting together a personal blog, for instance, you might not be very concerned about how well it does — it might just be a side project. But if you’re looking to invest a lot of time and effort into making your website as good as it can be, you need a great strategy.
The thing about website strategies is that they’re as complex as you decide to make them, so it’s easy to linger on minor elements that won’t matter so much in the long run. The key is to prioritize your efforts on the most important things.
To help you do just that, here are 3 of the most critical concepts you should follow if you want to get maximum performance out of your website:
1- Only make changes you can meaningfully assess
It’s amazingly common for even big companies to implement changes through their strategies yet have no useful way of reviewing them.
Imagine that you recently decided your homepage wasn’t really working, so you overhauled the entire thing — you changed the copy, the structure, the visuals, and the navigation, all in one go. You updated the site, and waited.
A few months later, your revenue has gone up a little. Is it because of the site changes? Is it entirely unrelated? You can take a closer look at the analytics, but you can’t really glean much from them. You made too many changes with no reliable way of comparing the page versions, and now you can only hesitantly guess at the results.
Whenever you make a change to your website, you must leave yourself in a position to accurately judge its value.
In the example we just looked at, for instance, you could have made only the copy changes to begin with, and run them against the previous version of the page in an extended A/B test. You’d then have been in a position to get a more granular breakdown of which version of the page is better received by users.
Yes, this slows things down, but that pace is necessary for the process of iterative improvement. Otherwise, all you can ever do is make sudden changes, hope for the best, and make more changes when they don’t pan out, never really understanding why anything is or is not working.
What you need to do
If you’ve been making changes very inconsistently, don’t worry about that now. You can’t change the past. What matters is what you do in the future, so get used to this process:
- Benchmark your site as it is today. Check the page speed, run an SEO scan, test mobile-friendliness, and make a note of the best-performing pages. Find out what works and what doesn’t.
- Identify an important area that need improvement. Does your website load very slowly? Maybe you have numerous broken links, or no mobile responsiveness. Look for the lowest-hanging fruit — the small issues that have big consequences.
- Update it slowly and carefully. Every change you make can have unexpected secondary effects, so take things slowly. Address the selected issue, confirm that it works as it should and has the required results, then move on.
Once you’ve successfully completed this process, you restart it. By doing so, you ensure that your website steadily gets meaningfully better, and you don’t expend any unnecessary effort trying to fix things that don’t really matter.
2- Aim to stay ahead of the curve
What’s so important about being ahead of the curve? After all, until a new technology or design standard hits the mainstream, people aren’t really going to care, are they? Well, that’s true, but being ahead of the curve is important for another reason: organic search rankings.
Search engines like Google assess and index sites on a significant lag, and change their algorithms on their own time without releasing concrete details on ranking factors. This means that you’re not just competing against rival websites today, but also against search engines’ UX standards of tomorrow.
Think back to how earlier changes in search algorithms addressed issues such as keyword stuffing or mobile-unfriendly layouts. Companies that decided to adapt as late as possible struggled because algorithms assess site performance over time and wouldn’t acknowledge their improvements for quite some time.
Now, you don’t have to be ahead of the curve, but it’s an important aim to maintain. Factors will conspire to slow your progress, get you comfortable with the status quo, and leave you vulnerable. Secure future-proof hosting, read about new UX developments, and experiment with new technology as soon as it hits the market — it’ll leave you in a strong position.
What you need to do
You don’t need in-depth technical expertise to be forward-thinking in the digital world. It’s far more about being open-minded and willing to learn and adapt. Here’s how to go about it:
- Overdeliver for today. Look at the current standards and beat If you notice that all of your rivals are lacking a particular feature that you think is likely to become standard eventually (such as Schema.org markup), jump on that chance today. This will set you apart and give you some breathing room.
- Follow authority channels. Possibly the best such channel is Google’s Webmaster Central Blog. It’ll teach you a lot about how Google operates, and if you notice that a new feature is being talked about quite a lot, you’ll know that it’s likely to become a ranking factor in the future.
- Research upcoming trends. You’ll come across trends in the largest blogs, but you can also simply search for “[the coming year] website trends” and other such strings to find pieces like this one with topics worth looking into.
- Test new channels and technologies. This prospect is golden for several reasons. It shows a willingness to grow (which appeals to visitors), it generates a ton of content ideas, and it gets you familiar with big concepts before they hit the mainstream. By the time they hit public awareness, you could be considered an authority.
Some technologies you test will pan out, some won’t.
For instance, while it always seems to be the case that VR is on the cusp of mainstream success, the technology hasn’t yet reached that point. But it’s better to try something that doesn’t go anywhere and learn from it than it is to miss the boat on a huge technological shift and be left trying to catch up.
3- Squeeze as much as possible from your content
Suppose that you’ve created an outstanding piece of copy for your website. It’s in-depth, well-researched, attractively set out, and extremely valuable to your audience. You’ve made that chunk of content a significant investment, and you need it to pay off in a big way — but that will never happen if you just leave it on your blog and never mention it anywhere else.
You need to repost, repurpose, and rework all your best content whenever useful to save time, money and effort. To do otherwise would be like buying an expensive jacket, wearing it with a particular shirt, and then throwing it away because you’ve already worn it. Change the shirt, change the tie, and get maximum utility from the jacket.
Here are some great ideas for getting more from your content:
- Post everything you release across all relevant social media platforms to reach a larger audience and inspire greater engagement (try setting a content schedule using Buffer).
- Turn your most valuable content snippets into downloadable or linkable assets for lead generation (you can create a lead magnet with Designrr to save some time on this).
- Update your content on a semi-regular basis to target fresh keywords (particularly those relating to new seasons, dates, years, or technologies). If you have a 2016 guide to a topic, for instance, update the copy for today and change it to a 2018 guide.
- Reach out to relevant websites and influencers in your industry with your best work. If they like your material, they might re-post it, giving you some great credibility — and it will give you an excuse to make some important contacts.
Instead of having a large amount of low-performing content, strive to hit a high standard at all times. It’ll save you effort in the production stages, and send a clear indicator to your audience that your work is reliably excellent.
What you need to do
We’ve been through some specifics tips already, but here’s the overall plan you should follow to get started:
- Track your audience. Where do your users like to spend time online? Are they dedicated Twitter advocates? Do they prefer to lurk on Reddit? Don’t take it as a given that you’re already using the right platforms. It’s so easy to access the vast majority of online avenues that there’s no reason not to approach a particular channel if there’s fresh engagement to be achieved there.
- Review existing content. As well as looking at your own content to see which pages are attracting the most traffic, you can look at other content online for inspiration. You might discover that your guide to a particular topic is the most detailed but doesn’t get as much attention as others because it’s presented as an article instead of an infographic. If you need to change format, do it.
- Get relevant feedback. Before you begin working on content, reach out to your audience with your general concepts to see how well they are received. Your users will appreciate being made to feel important, and you’ll be able to distribute your efforts sensibly to spend the most time on the most important pieces of content.
Every piece of content you release should have a comprehensive production story behind it — where the idea came from, how it was checked with the audience, and the value it was intended to provide for the website. This will ensure good use of your production time and deliver a much higher standard of content for your audience.
It takes a while to create a really strong website strategy, but these 3 critical concepts are important to keep in mind at all stages. If you can avoid making spontaneous ill-considered changes, keep up with the pace of technological change, and make your content marketing as good as it can possibly be, you’ll have a solid framework for achieving outstanding performance. The rest is up to you!
About the author: Kayleigh Alexandra
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest micro biz news and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.