Andy Crestodina (@crestodina) is Co-Founder of Orbit Media and author of the book “Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing.” Andy and I recently presented a webinar, “Improve Your Website by Removing These 30 Things.” What follows is a Q&A with Andy on how to improve your website.
Note: This interview was originally published on the DNN Software blog with the title “How to Improve Your Website: Q&A with Andy Crestodina.”
What’s one thing we should add to our websites?
Answers. The main function of any website is to answer questions. And so many website are missing this one key piece of content. Here are examples of answers that should appear on every marketing website:
- Answers to the top questions asked during the sales process
- Answers to the question: “What truly makes this company the right choice?”
- Answers to the question: “What does this company really stand for? What do they believe?”
- Answers to the questions that other companies in this industry are unwilling to answer.
Successful websites emulate a conversation between a representative and a sales prospect. The prospect wants to have specific questions answered in a certain order. Smart websites do this in a smooth, frictionless way.
This is part of content strategy. Here’s a quick template for making sure you add the right things:
Why are some websites implemented so poorly?
There are bad designers, bad programmers and bad writers. But the main reason why websites fail is because they aren’t focused on the visitor. They mainly fail on two levels.
- They don’t have pages that align with the phrases that the audience is looking for. These sites don’t get traffic.
- They don’t have content and design elements that align with the psychology of visitors. These sites don’t convert.
The other reason websites fail is that they’re difficult to update. But the readers at DNN shouldn’t have any problem addressing that!
What’s the first thing we should do before beginning a website redesign?
Look at the current site and get a sense for what visitors are doing now.
What pages are already ranking in Google?
What is the top path through the current website?
Where do people tend to enter and when to they leave?
Once you understand this, you’re far more likely to build a new site that both attracts visitors and converts them into leads.
What are the key metrics you track for the Orbit Media Studios site?
The two most important numbers are total traffic and the conversion rate.
Everything I do as a marketer is focused on one of both of these numbers.
I check traffic a few times per week and several times a day when we send a newsletter.
The conversion rate doesn’t fluctuate as much.
But reporting isn’t the same as analysis. When I do actual analysis, I’m looking more closely at the conversion rates for each traffic source and the performance of specific pages. Reporting is really just a quick check up. But when I do analysis, I’m looking for answers and making decisions.
What action can I complete in five minutes to increase my site’s conversion rate?
Great question. Take a look at your sales pages and run them through this quick checklist:
Does this page clearly state the benefits of the product or service?
Does this page include evidence? (testimonial, endorsement, statistic, case study)
Does this page have a clear call to action?
Does this page have any distractions near that call to action?
Each of these can be handled with content, which is fast, free and easy to manage through your CMS. The five minutes you spend on this may lead to years of better results.
Under what circumstances would you link to a competitor’s page from your own site?
Never. I can’t think of a good reason to do this. Unless maybe..
If the competitor is also a partner in our philanthropic efforts, Chicago Cause. At that point, it’s all about helping others. We set aside everything else.
Also, a lot of “competitors” are just partners that you haven’t met yet.
If you sit down and have a beer with a company that looks like it might be the competition, you’ll probably find out that you have slightly different services, specialties, target markets and prices. After the second or third beer, you’ll probably be referring clients to each other.
You get to choose one: an effective blog or an effective information architecture. Which one and why?
I choose the effective information architecture. You can succeed without a blog. Many companies do. But:
- Confusing navigation will hurt your conversion rate, because visitors will have trouble finding answers.
- Generic navigation (services, solutions, products) will hurt your rankings, because you’ll miss an opportunity to indicate relevance.
- Shallow sites have many topics on one page, missing opportunities to target multiple phrases.
- Sites without contact forms and thank you pages make it harder to track goals and conversions
No blog means missed opportunities. But big structural problems and bad architecture are disastrous for digital.
Gartner for Marketers uses a right-aligned, vertical navigation bar. Thoughts?
It’s good to differentiate your brand. But usability is no place to be different. Be different in WHAT you say. But be normal in HOW you are used.
Look at cars. Some cars look amazing. They’re different. They’re beautiful. But they still have doors on the sides, wheels on the bottom and headlights in front.
If the Gartner website was a car, the doors would open backwards. This isn’t a benefit to the visitor. They’re just trying to be different. This kind of non-standard usability is just confusing.
Here’s a quick overview into web design standards for marketing websites:
If search engines and SEO didn’t exist, what differences would we see on websites?
Probably, you’d see more clever headlines, shorter blog posts and better writing on home pages. In these ways, the web might be a bit more user friendly. But SEO trends also pushed brands to go mobile-friendly sooner and build faster loading pages. In these ways, the web might be a bit less friendly.
What’s the future of the website?
In the future, websites will be simpler and cleaner. There will be fewer columns and larger text, but more video.
In the future, websites will be more personal, more human. Authors and contributors will be more closely connected to the content.
I’m looking forward to all of it. It’s a great time to be online.
Recently, Andy and I presented a webinar titled “Improve Your Website by Removing These 30 Things.” View the webinar recording below and let us know what you think!