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November 8, 2013

7 Ugly Truths a Pretty Website Can't Hide

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website-design-mistakesA version of this post originally appeared on Inbound Insiders, a new section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Inbound Insiders.

Have you ever heard anyone say “I chose my bank because its website has cool banners,” or “I always buy from that business because of their explainer video"?

My guess is probably not.

Let’s face it: Customers don’t buy from websites because they "look good." Despite this, businesses and design agencies sometimes obsess over beauty at the expense of ROI, resulting in a great looking, lipstick-on-a-pig website.

Design is only skin deep; true beauty lies within.

Does your great-looking design really only serve to cover up some ugly warts? Let’s find out. Here are 7 ugly truths that even the prettiest website can’t hide.

1) It doesn't rank.

Search engine visibility trumps beauty. Beyond the name of your company, search Google for the products and services you provide. If your website is off hiding in the woods, does it matter how pretty it is?

For example, Bullet Proof Designs consistently achieves top five rankings for its three principle products:  “radiator guards,” “swingarm guards,” and “disk guards.”

SEO Tips:

  1. Make sure your site pages are targeting topics and keywords your audience is searching for.
  2. Invest more in creating high quality, optimized content, and less on beautification.

I think most metrics-driven marketers would agree traffic makes any site more beautiful.

2) Your content sucks.

The evidence is overwhelming that original, helpful, and sharable content wins business. If you're not engaged in content marketing, you're losing customers to competitors. Here are the facts:

  • 329 million people read blogs every month. Are they reading yours? (Tweet this stat!)
  • 27 million pieces of content are shared daily. How many shares does your site get? (Tweet this stat!)
  • 73% of customers prefer blogs and articles over advertisements. Are you marketing “your way” or “their way?” (Tweet this stat!)
  • 61% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that publish content than those that don’t. (Tweet this stat!)
  • Clicks from shared content increases the chance of sale by 500%. How many shares are you getting? (Tweet this stat!)
  • Over 80% of content shares are happening in email, social media, blogs, and forums. How well are you marketing on these channels? (Tweet this stat!)

(Source: Ditch Cold Calls. Why Content Is King.)

Content Tips:

  1. Start blogging yesterday, and do it at least twice a week. If you're in a competitive space, you may need to increase that frequency.
  2. Ask your salespeople and customer service the questions they regularly receive, and answer them in your blog content.
  3. Read your blog post out loud before publishing. If you could say it face-to-face to a lead or customer and be happy with parts being used as a quick clip on TV, it’s ready to publish.

3) It's running on an inadequate marketing platform.

To build your traffic, leads, and sales, you need a platform that lets you publish content, build and test landing pages, nurture leads, and optimize conversion rates.

Time spent messing around with extra tools and complex configurations -- especially if all your tools and platforms aren't well-integrated with one another -- can double or triple the time it takes to execute good marketing. It can also complicate or hinder your ability to measure what’s working and determine what you should do next to improve results. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your platform allowing your site to generate and nurture leads? How does it aid in creating keyword and SEO research data? Does it offer solutions for managing your social media marketing
  • Furthermore, can you manage direct customer interactions? What about company processes and initiatives? Is there room to create and enable team collaboration within your platform?
  • Can your platform manage email marketing and social listening? Can it help measure customer satisfaction? Does it allow you and your business to monitor marketing effectiveness?

If your platform cannot do or at least produce an answer to these questions, how will you know if your platform can truly help to test new ideas and track KPIs? Ultimately, you need to ask if the platform is truly working the way it should be.

Platform Tips:

  1. The ability to build out an idea, test how it works, and then improve your idea is integral to modern marketing. Look for tools that can help you test ideas on your website.
  2. Find a tool that works for you. If you spend more time fighting with a tool rather than creating content with them, it may be time to ditch the tool.

4) It doesn't generate leads.

The internet is the top tool ever devised for effective targeted marketing. What TV failed to deliver regarding target marketing, the internet covers brilliantly. Today, really well-executed internet marketing has rendered traditional prospecting mostly obsolete.

And if you aren’t using your website to drive awareness, generate leads, filter for fit, and deliver sales qualified leads, you’re missing the boat.  

Generating leads is really all about crafting the right call-to-action (CTA) to take your customer to the next step in the buying process. From “Read More” to “Subscribe by Email” to “Grab your Free Copy” to “Request a Quote” to “Buy Now” to “Tell us how we did,” you should be putting the right CTAs to work on your website to automate the customer nurturing process.

Lead Generation Tips:

  1. No traffic? Start a blogging campaign to target keyword phrases your target customers are searching for. Gather inbound links from relevant websites. Increase the shareability of your content. Guest blog on other sites.
  2. Traffic but no leads? Create offers that help customers better understand their needs and problems.  This will drive awareness of your brand and generate prospects for further marketing.
  3. Leads but no customers? Create and promote offers to help leads convert into customers, and use that content to nurture your leads down the funnel.

5) You’re missing your target audience.

Before you start firing off content and offers, make sure you’ve selected the best target audience, and that you understand how and why they buy, and how to reach them. A well-defined buyer persona means you've worked hard to understand their needs, identify their questions, anticipate the keywords they might use to ask those questions, and know how to address their concerns, overcome their objections, and offer solutions in a voice and tone that matches how they want to be sold.

Once you know who you’re writing for, you can target them successfully.  

Targeting Tips:

  1. Create buyer personas and use them as a reference point for your marketing content.
  2. Create a voice and tone document for your company so that you communicate in a way that resonates with your target audience.
  3. Ask Customer Service and Sales the objections they hear, and craft content to address those objections head on.

6) Nothing changes.

If you’re not continually innovating, something is broken! And stale websites can easily plateau and lose their effectiveness. Now, don’t go and overhaul everything ... instead, constantly iterate with minor changes to your email marketing, landing pages, and conversion funnel, and use A/B testing to test what works best. 

Website Improvement Tips:

  1. Use A/B testing to test new ideas -- whether it’s landing page content, lead nurturing content, or conversion buttons. The first idea you try is rarely the only idea you should try.
  2. Not sure what your customers like? Ask them! A well crafted survey to those who buy from you (and those who did not) will help you understand what you do well on your website, and where you can improve.
  3. Read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It answers “what is lean?” and then explains how a lean methodology can help you innovate efficiently and effectively.

7) It’s socially awkward.

Most visitors don’t land on your site by accident, they certainly don’t leave your site by accident, and they don’t share your content by accident. Be the company that spreads the content that people love. Make it easy to share and watch your customers spread the word. 

It’s called social media for a reason, so give your company every opportunity to be seen, heard, and read about.

Social Tips:

  1. For more likes, shares, and retweets, put 50% of your energy into the headline. After all, the headline is “the first impression” and, more importantly, may be the only thing someone reads! Work your butt off to make the headline great. 
  2. Always include engaging thumbnails when publishing links on social media.
  3. Everything you share socially must be tracked, otherwise you can’t measure what works best and won’t continuously improve.

Think long term. Google+, YouTube, and Twitter will play an increasingly important role in your exposure and search engine rankings in years to come.

The Bottom Line

Poor rankings and ineffective content will drive away potential customers from your website -- if they even get there at all. An inadequate platform and missing your target audience will frustrate you and your team. 

Now that you’ve asked yourself the hard questions and given yourself the chance to uncover any ugly warts on your site, consider solutions that will turn it around, and make a difference to your customers, employees, and your company's results.

Kevin Barber is founder of Lean Labs, an inbound marketing agency with a passion for responsive web design. Kevin resides in Costa Rica and enjoys cycling, homesteading, reading, and professional development. More articles by Kevin Barber can be found at his inbound marketing blog.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing

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