One problem with websites that have grown very organically over time is that no one has ever independently assessed it to see if it could be performing even better.
More often than not, the website builder is just too close to the project to objectively assess its effectiveness.
If your website has never had a proper redesign or overhaul, if you've simply added pages when necessary and never considered the customer's journey to purchase, then the chances are that you could make some improvements.
Here are five of the most important ways to check if your website could be working even harder.
Step 1: Check the Customer Journey
At what point to visitors tend to drop out of the purchase process on your website? Take a closer look at your visitor data and you'll probably find it's specific areas of your website that are shedding the most potential customers.
There could be a number of reasons behind this -- maybe the customer journey is simply too long-winded or overly complicated. Maybe your call-to-action isn't strong enough.
Until you work out where these customer drainage spots are, you can't plug them with an effective redesign.
Step 2: Assess Your Paid Search Campaign
One major factor in your site's ability to succeed is the quality of visitors actually reaching the pages. For the huge number of websites that rely on paid search to drive customers, the quality of the visitors is entirely dependent on the search engine marketing team.
It's possible that the keywords you're bidding on are not the most appropriate, causing the wrong kind of person to land on your pages and cost you a click.
Remember, the object of your paid search campaign isn't to drive as much traffic to your pages as possible; it's to drive potential customers.
Make sure your search terms aren't too general and that you're using long-tail, specialized keywords to drive highly relevant customers to your pages. It's even less expensive, so it's a win-win.
Step 3: Encourage Repeat Visits
Does your website work hard enough to encourage people to come back? Returning visitors are free, so if you can boost the average profitability of each customer, you'll massively enhance your website's earning potential.
For example, I bought insurance through a comparison website, only to be reminded to renew by an automatic e-mail 11 and a half months later. Simple to set up and very effective -- I went straight back to the site and purchased my next year of coverage.
But it's not just well-timed e-mails that can boost your repeat visitors. You can write a blog, or offer industry news and tips to give people a reason to visit regularly.
Once a customer has made visiting your website a habit, they will automatically come to you the next time they need the goods or services you supply.
Building habit isn't easy and will take investment, but it will make a difference to your revenues -- loyalty is a very valuable thing.
Step 4: Do More to Encourage Cross Sell
Another way to increase your individual customers' profitability is to boost the cross sell marketing on your website. Perhaps the most successful company at pulling this off is Amazon with its "Customers who bought this item also bought..."
Because of that simple, effective trick, I can't buy a lone paperback on that site, I always end up with at least three or four.
Display other products and services to your customer, ideally in as targeted a way as Amazon. If you don't really have enough products or lack the technology to target customers this effectively, then at least make sure you're showcasing your other offers during the buying process. Why do you think supermarkets put sweets by the cash register?
Step 5: Count the Necessary Clicks
How many clicks does your customer have to make before they can actually make their purchase?
Every single click they have to make is a barrier between them and completing the purchase. Cutting the number of clicks needed means you're less likely to have customers drop out because they have lost interest in the buying process.
My preference is for every page to have a "checkout" button so that I can make my purchase the instant I become bored of browsing.
Another way to cut the barriers between the customer and the purchase is to direct them to the most appropriate page straight away.
For example, if you sell furniture and you've bid on the keywords [children's furniture”, don't send the customer to your home page and force them to search again. Direct them to the content they obviously want so that they have an easier journey and less chance to get frustrated.
Look at What Works in the Real World
Remember, the rules that apply in real life count on the web, too. Think about the kind of physical shops you like to visit and what makes them successful. Have you ever walked out a shop because it was too cluttered? Or because you couldn't see what you wanted?
Work out what makes you enjoy shops and then apply those principles to your own pages. Customers are the same both on and off the Internet and they respond to the same things.
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