Choosing the Path to Success…
..is not a random option. As this week’s theme (Alice in Wonderland) suggests, your desired destination determines the road you take and path you travel to reach that destination. So determining your goals, your mission, your business’s purpose…all the way down to the brass tacks of what are your loss-leader products and services, to your most profitable – and WHO best matches those products and services – are all vital in determine your path….
Stage One: Assess What you Have
What you HAVE can mean a lot of things. It can mean your overall brand, your business location(s), your staff, your website, your products and services, your infrastructure, and your current marketing strategy. If you are trying to determine how to accomplish your business goals, (if you are an existing business of course) then figuring out where you are NOW is important. There have been entire books written on this topic, so for this specific article I’m going to focus on assessing your existing website.
The first step in assessing your website is to look at how it works; not how it looks, not how it functions. On those factors will come into play next. To determined how your website works, you must have the proper tools and analytics to give it a quantitative review. Google Analytics (FREE!) is a an essential tool to install in your websites code to start monitoring many granular aspects of your website traffic. Next you’ll want to install Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. These two tools will help you get reports on just how the search engines “grade” your website (code and content).
Next, depending on your internal conversion goals (and especially if you have an ecommerce component and sell products online) you’ll want to set up a series of conversion goal tracking within Google Analytics. For example, track hits to product pages, hits to the page(s) of your “buying cycle” and hits the final “confirmation” stage/page of your buying cycle the definitively tells you when you sold or converted someone.
Next, you’ll also want to set up the appropriate tracking links to determine which of your advertising avenues/channels/campaigns are driving the most traffic and also driving the most relevant traffic based on the conversion goals that you attribute back to them.
Finally, you can set up alerts from Google Analytics that will notify you (via email or text message) when, for example, your bounce rate increases, your conversion goal percentages drop, or your average traffic drops to a certain key landing page.
Another layer of your website assessment beyond the ins and outs of the web traffic, is where that traffic is coming from, particularly organically. You’ll want to set up some kind of ranking monitoring (with your brand terms and key audience terms) to see where you are and where you are NOT as far as search engine traffic goes. The webmaster tools and analytics can give you the keyword terms that drive traffic, and that’s a good start, but you also want to determine where your website ranks, even if it doesn’t drive a lot of traffic. That kind of report will tell you how close or far off you are in assessing what your audience is searching for when trying to find a business like yours.
Crunching the Numbers
The final layer of review is finding the flaws and determining how you can fix them. Look at your bounce rate, for example, in your Google Analytics report. If it’s high, you want to find out what page or pages the most traffic is BOUNCING off of. A bounce means that the traffic isn’t finding content relevant enough for them to click deeper or read further or shop further. This arguably can be a generalization, but that is how the bots view that metric, so you have to as well.
Other flaws or issues to look for are strange traffic patterns along the lines of different web browsers. Many times, (and more quickly than you think) the updates web browsers make (IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc) sometime render some or all of your content unreadable, or invisible, or flat out broken. There are dozens of popular web browsers and each of them at any given time have nearly a dozen versions (updated and out-dated).
There are any number of issues you can find when really digging into just your analytics. But that is only the beginning. I always tell my clients, the expectations of search engines are very important to keep in mind, but they come in at a distant second next to the expectations your consumers or clients. Your audience quite literally have eyes to see and minds to interrupt your content and brand. Search engines do not. So you’ll want survey your staff, your current customers, and the kinds of customers you hope to capture, and ASK them what they think about your website. Think of it as a good ole fashion suggestion box. Do they like your logo and colors of your website? Do they like the layout and functionality? Is your website easy to navigate? What are their favorite sections or pages? What ones are ignored completely? All of these questions can help you determine the BUILD (not the structure) of your website and where it needs to go to satisfy thee expectations of your audience.
The Follow Through
If you are interested in getting a comprehensive review of your existing website to determine just where your business needs to go, please do not hesitate to contact Southern Tide Media. We can set you up on all the services mentioned above, as well as run integrated reporting including social media outlets and email campaigns that will give you a 360 view of your marketing strategy as it passes through your website. Call 910-209-6154 today for more information, or simply drop us an email to get the conversation started.