Four Strategies Website Owners Must Employ to Compete in 2018
Strategies for implementing site analytics, search engine optimization tactics, responsive design,
and accessibility behaviors.
By Ariana Lawrence*
If you currently own a business, chances are pretty good that you have a website supporting your endeavors and advertising your services. Congratulations! Ten, even five, years ago, you would have surely felt proud of your very own digital presence on the web and the assured time and cost investments you took to get there.
Unfortunately, just owning a website no longer buys you a ticket to the game. Brands looking to stay competitive in today’s marketplace must make a concerted effort to dedicate constant and careful attention to the performance of their site. Here are four strategies every business owner should employ in 2018.
1. Track your site’s performance.
How many people visit your site per month? How many of those people do you convert into leads? Are your marketing efforts working? As a clinic owner, you should not only be asking these questions, you should also be answering them. Most seasoned marketers have measurement and analytics tools set up on their website to track the site’s performance. The learnings that are gleaned from the data and analysis lead to optimization tactics that lead to better performance of the business overall.
Setting up analytics on your website is not as daunting as it sounds. In fact, you could probably make good headway in a single afternoon. Many tools are available, but my suggestion is to get started with your basic Google Analytics. It’s a free(!) service offered with any Google account (if you currently have an account for Gmail, Google+, Google Drive, etc., you already have access) and so effective that even top brands with multimillion-dollar marketing budgets use it.
Understanding your data can be one of your most powerful tools in increasing the effectiveness of your site. Here are just a few ways you can leverage Google Analytics immediately to positively impact your business:
- Determine how people are finding your site and which traffic sources are most effective at converting leads. You can use this information to determine if your marketing dollar allocation is appropriate or should be adjusted in favor of higher-converting channels.
- Understand the characteristics of the people who are visiting your site. Use this information to ensure your target audience aligns with your site visitor demographics. For example, if your practice caters mostly to women, you’ll want to see your visitor information skew to women. Narrow by age, location, and device as well.
- Identify which pages have high exit rates, or the percentage of people who “exit” your site. The result of this analysis can determine if people are ultimately finding what they are looking for or if they’re reaching a dead end.
Google offers intuitive instructions and video courses through its Analytics Academy that will walk you through the set-up process and ensure you have the level of support you need to get started.
2. Make sure your site can be found.
Unfortunately, the digital world isn’t the Field of Dreams—spending countless hours perfecting your website does not mean people will come. What’s worse is your visitors not being able to find your site at all.
We are all familiar with sites like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, and most of us have contributed to the over 6 billion searches across these sites on any given day. So how do you make sure that your site pops up as a result of one of these searches? One of the best ways to improve your “searchability” is to make sure the search engine robots, which are tasked with ranking websites, can effectively crawl your site and understand your content as best as possible. The more the automated bots “understand” your site, the more they will reward you with a higher search engine ranking.
Why does this matter? Your search engine ranking is extremely important and directly correlates to the amount of traffic your site will receive. For example, sites on Google that are located within the first four positions on a search engine results page account for more than 80 percent of all clicks, which means that any lesser ranking significantly reduces your chances of people clicking to your site. And worse, if you don’t rank within the top 10 results, you are relegated to the second page of results, which is only ever clicked one percent of the time by all users.1
In order to boost your ranking, you can employ search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. There are thousands of articles that have been written on the subject and even more strategies you can put into effect, but here are a few ways you can get started:
- Write unique and descriptive page titles and headers.
- Make your URL structure intuitive and simple.
- Set up your site’s navigation in a way that’s logical and easy to understand.
- Take advantage of title tags, meta descriptions, and use the ALT tag for images.
- Create keyword-rich content in an authentic way.
- Add a site map, reduce duplicate content, and get rid of broken links.
For more information on how to perform some of the most basic SEO tactics, check out Google’s SEO Starter Guide.
3. Create a mobile experience.
What may be even more surprising than the 6 billion web searches on any given day is that more than half of those are done on a mobile device, and that behavior trend is only increasing with time. What that means for you and your business is that it is imperative, more so now than ever, that you have created an optimal mobile experience on the web.
In the past, many brands would automatically look to create a mobile app in order to satisfy the needs of its mobile population; however, mobile apps require their own unique digital strategy and are generally expensive to set up and market.
These days, one of the most effective ways to reach your mobile demographic (and to stay relevant and flexible across the many different devices and screen sizes that people use) is to build your website with responsive design.
Essentially, responsive web design is exactly what it sounds like: Your website “responds” to the user’s screen so that its shape, features, and functions adapt to accommodate the new screen size. Mobile users have a few more constraints that you need to take into consideration including significantly less real estate to view your content and generally a decreased attention span. You’ll want to keep this in mind as you think about how to adapt your site to this audience.
Go ahead and experiment with how flexible your site is by pulling up the URL on your mobile and tablet device. Ideally, your site should exhibit best practices for mobile device viewing such as the following:
- Avoids horizontal scrolling. Mobile and tablet users intuitively scroll up and down, rarely right and left.
- Buttons, links, and anything clickable should leave plenty of room for “fat fingers” since mobile users generally don’t have the luxury of a computer mouse.
- Take advantage of native mobile features. For example, phone numbers, when clicked, should launch the phone application, and clicking on an email address should open up a new message within your email app.
In short, you may be alienating more than 50 percent of your website visitors by neglecting to create a native mobile experience, so be sure to spend some time researching what changes you should be making to your web design.
4. Reach a broader audience.
If there is any industry that is experiencing firsthand the aging population in the United States, it’s health care, and physical therapists are no exception. In fact, the aging population is expected to triple to 1.5 billion by the year 2050.2 What that means for your website is that a growing percentage of the US population will have trouble accessing web content on the internet, especially those who are blind or visually impaired. And what that means for you is that you should be considering how to make your website more accessible to this rapidly growing segment.
Despite the fact that making your site accessible is probably the right thing to do, it would be wise to address the fact that there has been a rise in website accessibility litigation within the last few years with health care companies being the latest target. Review the full list of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and consider following a few best-in-class practices for your website (bonus: Almost all web accessibility tactics also improve your SEO!):
- Ensure your site is visually contrasting and fonts and texts are large and readable.
- For all non-text site elements, include a text alternative to make it easier for screen readers.
- Allow users to access all content on your site with just their keyboard, removing the dependency on eyesight.
1. www.smartinsights.com/search-engine-marketing/search-engine-statistics. Accessed November 2017.
2. https://siteimprove.com/blog/why-web-accessibility-should-be-a-priority-now-3-stats-to-prove-it. Accessed Novemeber 2017.
Ariana Lawrence is a marketer with over a decade of experience in digital advertising, leading award-winning strategies for some of the world’s most high-profile brands. She can be reached at Ariana.C.Lawrence@gmail.com.
* The author has a vested interest in the subject of this article.