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How to Do a Step-by-Step Strategic Website Optimization

By Neil Sniffen
7 minute read | Last Updated: July 21, 2016

One change to your website can alter its entire universe. Focusing on smaller zones can bring everything back into balance.

Your company’s website isn’t a single entity, it is part of an interconnected system. The website is not only how it looks and performs, it’s the voice and tone; content, cross-channel marketing, assets, and UX strategies; retail partners, sales teams, and vendor partners; personalization; development; website, company, and customer goals; internal politics; management and stakeholder expectations…[BREATHE]

Without all these interconnected pieces working in unity, websites inevitably fail. Getting them in agreement requires blood, sweat, and tears. It requires a strategt.

Planning for just one website element or project—a redesign, a new product launch, a new campaign—is really re-planning the entire universe of your website.

Disrupting one element causes other elements to spin differently, changing the course and trajectory of your website (for better or worse). Each piece is dependent upon the other to be successful and for a website to work well, all the parts need to be in harmony.

While this may seem daunting (it is), dividing the universe of your website into zones can minimize the chance of an extinction event. It’s a great first step in a strategic website optimization process.

With these smaller zones you can systematically examine, experiment, and ultimately improve the way things evolve in your website’s universe.

“NASA may look at the whole universe, but their main focus is on smaller experiments (Mars Rover, Pluto New Horizons, the moon).”

Divide your website into habitable zones

There are seven zones to your website’s universe. Each is connected and overlaps, but each can be explored and improved on its own. Let’s look at each separately.

Zone 1: Brand

The reality is that your website is not a marketing tool. It is a selling tool. Your marketing’s job is to get customers to your website. It is your website’s job to sell your products and services to your customer and it does this by helping your customers get what they came for, do what they came to do, and get them on with their life. Throw marketing into this mix and you’ve got a problem. It’s time to evolve beyond the flat-earth, marketing-centric website strategy and accept the customer-centric approach.

Review your website for heavy-handed marketing and brand-first content. Does your homepage make it easy to 3-click to checkout our is there a field of jargon to navigate through before a customer finds what they are looking for?

Zone 2: Customer

Ever try to find an answer on a cable company’s website? If you have, you know it’s like looking at the moon with a microscope. Too often company websites are not geared towards their customers, but are designed to meet the agenda of stakeholders within the company who either don’t understand the web or subscribe to the old idea that website visitors want to know all about the company when in reality customers really want to research and buy products and services.

If your website makes this research and decision making process difficult or frustrating, it’s time to give your customers the right tools for exploring, viewing, using, and searching your website.

Zone 3: Channel

If your company sells online and in retail stores or through channel partners, there is inherent (perceived and real) conflict. Most brands solve this conflict by taking the easy way out; creating and maintaining a website that does a poor job of doing anything. Channel partners don’t like you selling online. Make the website terrible. Channel partners complain you are siphoning customers away. Make the website unusable. Channel partners having a bad month. Crash the website.

The reality is that your channel partners revolve around your brand. Without your gravity holding them in orbit, they would drift off into the vacuum of space. The stronger your website is at helping your customers, the stronger your brand’s gravity becomes, the more customers and channel partners will take orbit.

When a customer is looking for a product or service you sell, their first instinct is to look at the brand website. Don’t make that first impression terrible.

Zone 4: Content

Content is the oxygen your website requires to survive while also acting as the corrosive element that can erode sales, leads, and your team’s morale. Too much content is unsustainable. Too little content is crippling. Fighting off stakeholders for a share of the website’s content can be exhausting. But offering the right amount content at the right time is the key to a customer-centric web experience and successful website.

Sales and leads are created when content helps customers accomplish their goals. Content that distracts or derails those goals can kill your conversions and harm the success of your website.

Zone 5: Technology

Having the technology infrastructure in place to create a successful customer-centric experience only gets you into orbit, but without a solid infrastructure your website can’t even get off the ground. Solid infrastructure doesn’t mean having a website full of bells, whistles, and red buttons. In fact, a website that is full of features that are not important to your customers is a website full of obstacles that only slows the website’s load speed and your customer’s conversion.

Evaluate your website’s technology and features for mobile friendliness (even if you only sell to businesses who are desktop dependent) and feature effectiveness. Having an effective website is more than just having cool features, it’s about having effective architecture and navigation design. It requires constant refinement.

Zone 6: Customer Path

Your customers will chart their own path through your website. Knowing what that path is can tell you all that is right and wrong about your website. Customers who are constantly looping between the homepage and a product category page indicate that they are not finding what they are looking for. Loops are a visual representation of the ineffectiveness of many websites.

Ideal customer paths should be linear with a clear starting page and finishing on a transaction page (whether that is a checkout or a field submission).

Zone 7: Post Purchase / Follow through

When a customer makes a purchase or submits a form, they are voting with their mouse (and their wallet) what content they want. It also indicates opportunity for your brand to follow-up for reviews, complimentary products, and future business.

Forgetting your already converted customer while in search of life in the Internet ether is a mistake made by most brands. Don’t forget your already converted customer, they are more likely to convert again (and spend more) if treated right.

There is an art to following up with converted customers. Too many emails can cause irritation and spam complaints. Too few or no follow-up at all is a missed opportunity. Discover your right mix through constant testing and iteration of frequency, quantity, and content.

Start small

Dividing your website into seven zones can help focus your attention away from the vast universe of your website and towards smaller, important targets.

Begin with one page, one line of content, or one headline and A/B test variations. Limiting your testing to one thing eliminates the chance of making a conclusion based upon bad data and false results. If there are too many variables, how can you confidently say a particular headline works better when you also changed the navigation structure and page design? Start small, test thoroughly, and act on the results.

Broaden your tests

Using the data from your small tests, begin to broaden the scope of your testing. If your original testing was on the homepage calls to action, look next to CTAs on subsequent pages. Do the CTAs that work on the homepage also work on secondary pages? If so, great. If not, find out what does. Use each test to broaden your scope and refine your content.

The universe of your website is vast and expanding. Before embarking upon wholesale website changes, focus instead on the smaller zones of your website. By prioritizing experimentation, iteration, and improvement within each zone, you will effect positive change on the entire website’s universe.

We wrote the book on website optimization. If you are ready to effect positive change and dive deeper into the seven zones, check out Stop Marketing, Start Selling.

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