How to improve your website – 2019 small business guide
Since the dawn of the internet, businesses have had one major aim, and that’s getting their content found online.
A website is a must-have, and even since the introduction of social sites like Facebook, the presence and the ownership of space online that a website offers is essential.
You own that URL, that site, and your brand is protected there because no change from an algorithm or designer will affect the look and feel of your site. If you’re running a small business then your website is your shop front, and you’ve probably put a lot of effort into it already to make it look and behave the best it can.
The biggest mistake we see small business owners make with their websites is pure and simple:
Not updating the website!
The greatest thing about a website is that you can update it as many times as you like (mostly for free) and it’ll give your users a fresh and updated experience over time. Adding to it and updating it is highly recommended, and we can’t shout about that enough.
Getting your business online is fairly simple now and with packages from platforms like WordPress you don’t even need to be a technical person to build a site and get it live within a relatively short space of time.
But… you need to understand what a great website looks like, what the user experience is like, what it feels like, and what a great website can do if you’re really going to make it work for you.
We’re going to share with you some really helpful content below.
We’re going to give you a shopping list; a must-have list, a ‘2019 website to do list’ to help you get found higher up on Google.
That’s why you have a website, right? To get found. Don’t set it live and forget it; that’s not how ranking a website works. It’s not how SEO works in 2019 and if we’re honest it’s not really how it’s worked since Google started.
You need constant improvements and updates, but in the ever-confusing world of SEO and websites, you’re probably a little lost as to where to start.
We’re going to cover the basics and the ‘must-do’s’ for 2019.
You can jump to any of the sections below if you want to get on with that area first.
Why not bookmark this blog right now?
Come back to it each week and work on a section at a time.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- How to improve your website ranking.
- How to improve your website speed.
- How to improve your website performance.
- How to improve your website traffic.
- How to improve your website usability.
- How to improve your website content.
- How to improve your website navigation.
- How to improve your website conversion.
Right, let’s get into it and help your website be the best it can be in 2019 and beyond…
When someone Googles a search term the systems at Google (and other search engines) will use their clever mechanics, algorithms, and magic to give you a list of results.
The way this works changes all the time, and Google is rumoured to update their algorithm 5-600 times a year so you’re advised to keep an eye on the big changes and stay focused on your site and what Google – the #1 choice for search engine in the world – wants from your site.
We’re not going to cover it all in this section, but we will cover what we consider to be the top three simple wins you can do right now.
There are three main areas you should focus on:
- Your page titles and meta descriptions.
- Google Search Console.
These three areas are not the only areas, but they are some seriously quick wins when it comes to improving your website ranking if you’re new to SEO or even if you’re looking to update your site.
Content is everything when it comes to SEO, and since the dawn of internet time this has been the focus for search engine. Finding and sorting the top content, the most relevant content, and more lately the deep dive, exceptional content, is where Google has been focused.
Content is the cornerstone of your SEO. But it’s not enough to create just any old content. Now, more than ever, you need to create great content that is better and more in-depth on a single subject than ever before.
If you’re creating content about small businesses for example, you’ll want to focus on one area.
Let’s say you want to talk about cash flow, which is a big one for any SME.
You’d want to go deep on the reasons cash flow is so powerful and often disabling for a small business and then list, explain, and then help with almost all the areas you can find that are the cause of good and bad cash flow in a business.
Go DEEP is 2019’s tip for content.
Oh… and it has to be for humans, not search engines.
Don’t try to trick Google (it’s more intelligent than ever, anyway). Just write and share the best content you can. It has to flow, it has to be educational, and it has to encourage the reader to stay for longer.
If your visitors turn up and then ‘bounce’ away very quickly, Google will notice that behaviour, and show your site less often.
Your page titles and meta descriptions
This is a really simple one and a great way to view your website audit. Looking at each and every page to make sure it’s mentioning the right keywords and then selling the click in the search results is key here.
Every page on your website has key elements that Google looks for when it’s trying to work out what your page is about. Page title and meta description has always been important.
Simply put, these are the reasons people click (or don’t click) on your website and you need to go through each page and make sure that yours are as good and as clickable as they could be.
The page title is the blue font in the above image and the meta description is the grey wording below it.
Google knows that searchers are more likely to click on a result if the keyword is in the title so when you put keywords there, you’re more likely to be shown.
It’s not enough to just stuff keywords in here. You’re trying to attract humans, remember?
Your titles need to include your keyword in both the title and the description – but make them appealing and write them so that they make sense.
Google Search Console
Google gives you a lot of tools to help it be a better search engine and Google Search Console is one of those. Not only does this tool help your site rank a little better, it gives you some great data and insights, and… it’s free!
Google Search Console is dashboard for your website’s search ‘health’. You’ll get some great data on search terms, an idea on your keyword ranking, and some little nuggets on finding out how to get more traffic.
One of the best places to look at are the clicks and impressions found in the ‘Performance’ section.
This is such great data, as here you’ll find the keywords that your site is ranking for and then how many impressions you’re getting on Google, and how many clicks you’re getting for each term, too.
There’s a really simple process to do here:
- Find search terms that make sense to appear for.
- Go for the ones with high ‘Impressions’.
- Make sure you have content that’s matched perfectly with it.
- Consider improving the page titles and descriptions for these pages.
- Create more content around this subject.
- Go DEEP on the content, too.
What Google is doing here is showing you content that’s already performing well or, in many cases, could do better.
A really good Click Through Rate from impression to click is around 5% so if you’re getting something near this, well done.
If you’re getting 1-2% or less, then chances are you could get some big wins by improving these pages with the tips in the first section of this guide.
By doing all the above (with some good keyword research) you’ll help your site rank better by using data from Google’s real time searches.
Remember: add value, educate, and write for the human searchers, not the tool showing them the results. Be the best and help Google; don’t fight it.
Next up on your list is the site speed. Speed is a very important ranking factor for Google. This makes a lot of sense as, like all the ways you can rank online, it’s what the searchers want.
When a reader is searching for something on Google, they’re impatient and they want that answer right away. Research shows that you have just seven seconds to get someone’s attention, and websites increasingly struggle to keep people on them for more than a few seconds.
If your content keeps people on your site for more than 30 seconds, you’re actually doing a great job. If you’re still reading this then thank you for your time as we know how hard it is to keep people engaged. Hopefully you’re seeing how helpful this information will be!
So speed is everything in the online world and your website is no different. In most case, the majority of traffic to a website is now mobile traffic too, so you’re going to see this speed metric become more and more important as we surf on small devices, with weaker signal, and with less time.
How can you improve your website’s speed?
If you run your site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool you’ll soon see what your site needs improving on and these generally fall into the following four areas:
- Image size
- Website code
- Server speed.
We’ve blogged more depth about site speed and SEO before. In essence, you need to focus on improving all of these areas.
Upload web-sized images that will load fast on a mobile and desktop even using poor reception. It might be fine on your office computer on fibre optic speed, but what about in the park? Your readers are all searching from all over the place now.
Don’t add millions of plugins or fancy stuff like sliders to your site unless they really add value or keep the visitors there. These will mostly slow your site down.
Move your site to a faster server. The server speed will hugely affect how quickly your site is presented to the device. Even if they have a strong speed, it’s dependent on your server speed for it to load fast.
Not convinced this makes a difference?
We saw a conversation on Facebook recently that shared an image from Google Search Console which we’ve shared below, with their permission.
Look at those impressions a week after the site speed was improved. The site owner did nothing else in this period to improve their SEO other than have some website improvements to the code and how the images were loaded.
Combine these new impressions to the Google Search Console tips from above and you’re in for an increase in traffic.
Website performance is how your website ‘performs’ on a device which is how well it works, loads, and allows the visitors to use it.
This is a slightly more technical area than we usually cover here, so bear with us while we geek out for a second or so…
Behind all that funky design, those boxes, and that swishing thing you had added, is code. loads of it.
Code is the basis for every site and even with WordPress or similar you have code.
Look, this is all probably another language to you. In fact – It IS another language!
Here’s the main point: code is probably affecting your website. So run some tests and take a look at this great article on website performance if you really want to go deeper on this.
Now that we have a good base for traffic, we’ll give you some tips on getting some more.
Getting traffic can be covered in these core areas:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Joint ventures
This is not an exhaustive list (and we’ve thrown in a few curve balls) but it’s a great place to start with your website audit for 2019.
Quite obviously, SEO on the whole will drive more traffic. Get your site indexed with Google, check your data, create great content, improve that content, and base it all around some in-depth keyword research and you’ll go a very long way to getting more traffic.
There are some other ways to push traffic to your site though…
Social media is a great way to share your content and ‘push’ people to your content. By push, we mean encourage, as of course you need to be creating superb content to attract them. Social media is a powerful tool for linking to your content and driving back some traffic from your communities or places that you hang out online.
Email is also a tried and tested tool for getting people to your site. Of course, you need a list to begin with, but with great content and good lead generation you’ll soon be able to grow a list through your efforts. Email marketing with an engaged list is a great way to drive traffic to your blog. Create a blog, share it with your email list, get instant traffic.
Content amplification is something we’re really proud of here at Evergreen Agency. We don’t just encourage content creation; we work on getting other sites to link to the content and thus send a stream of relevant content to the articles. Linking up with other relevant sites is a great way to get more traffic from sites that already have a tonne of it.
Getting friendly with people who have customers that would be suited to you in a non-competitive way is another good move for your website traffic. Get on their email list with as link, get them to share your content on their social media, get a link from their blog or website.
It’s not all about online. Go networking (as we do) and build up those two tips above and you’ll soon see some new, fresh traffic coming through. Searchers are more likely to click on your content if they know you.
Paying for clicks is another way to get traffic. Google Ads isn’t the only player in town here, either. Facebook ads are cost-effective (for now) and a good way to get your blogs and articles onto the timelines of your ideal prospects. With some good targeting you’ll be gaining more relevant traffic in no time. Of course, when you get them there, try to capture data and then you can re-market to them with ads and email marketing, too.
Getting traffic shouldn’t be passive. Work on your site, your outreach, and your list and you’ll improve your website traffic. SEO will help you loads, but some gentle help never goes amiss!
Next let’s look at your site from the perspective of your user and ask a really difficult question:
“How easy is it to use your site?”
This is hard to answer because you already know where everything is on your site! You’ll rarely get to see someone trying to move around your site. But if you ever do, and you find yourself showing them where to click when they know what they want, you have a problem to fix.
Usability is a powerful area to focus on as this will give a really big signal to Google that your site is not one to show in the results again if visitors bounce fast and leave pages constantly and consistently.
The activity on your site and the areas where people leave are an important area to fix.
You can get some good metrics on this from Google Analytics with the ‘Behaviour Flow’ graph. This will show you where traffic enters your site, where it goes next, and where it drops off the most.
This will give you an instant ‘What to improve’ list.
Improving the areas that have a large drop off, especially if that’s your home page is recommended.
Reasons people leave your page/site could include:
- Incomplete information
- Hard to use navigation
- No clear ‘next steps’ or ‘Calls To Action’
- Too many pop-ups or distractions
- Content that’s hard to read.
Consider finding your issues and making these changes with your usability and you may well improve that drop-off rate.
Keep your site consistent. Make sure that the way your site performs doesn’t change too much as you move through the site.
Don’t overcomplicate it. There’s a reason that most sites have a menu bar at the top, and ‘burger menu’ on a mobile site on the top right, and then contact details linked at the bottom as well as in the menu. We’re used to websites being a certain way. Don’t try to re-train your visitors. They’ll just get frustrated and leave.
Mobile… mobile… mobile. It’s not OK for your site to be rubbish on a mobile device in 2019. It’s not been OK for years. Navigate around your site on a mobile and iPad and make sure it’s easy to get around. Don’t use pop-ups that don’t work. Improve items that are un-readable, and fix buttons that are hard to tap.
Use subheadings and titles. We’re all busy, so on large pages you’ll want to help your reader to find the content they want and make it easy to navigate the page. Clearly, if you’re reading this on a mobile you can scroll for a long time until you reach the bottom! We try to make it easy to skim read this content, and we recommend that do that for your readers, too.
Use web-sized images. Remember, images are the biggest factor for slow speed, so don’t add loads of large image to content, but use some to break up the copy or show a point can really help and keep the users engaged.
(As an added SEO benefit, naming your images with good ALT tags helps Google, too.)
All of this will help your site’s usability and that’s going to keep visitors on your site for longer.
Some good benchmarks to view within Google Analytics a few months after the work is completed are:
- Bounce Rate – the % of visitors who leave after just one page view
- Time on site – the average time users spend on a particular page.
Both of these will improve if you do it well.
The content on your site is the core of your SEO and without it, you’re unlikely to rank. Google search for anything and you’re likely to see a result from Wikipedia.
Why? Because the content there is in-depth and vast!
Go to any Wikipedia page and you’ll see what Google likes.
You have to create content that has more value, better navigation, more links to more content, scrollable headings, videos, images, bullet points, graphics, and anything that improves the experience of your reader.
With content, you’ll want to create a list of topics that you know are being searched for and that you know are going to help your ideal customers or website visitors.
We’ve shared six ways to create better blog content for your website to help you with ideas on this, but here’s a summary of the areas you need to focus on with great content:
- Good titles
- In-depth content
- Explainer videos
- Scrollable headings
- Sum-up with bullet points
- Link to more similar content.
Good titles. Titles are key to your content. Without them, most content will never get read. Titles are vital for SEO, but even when you’re sharing your content on social media or email, and linking to it from your own blogroll, the title will be a key part of the reason you do (or don’t) get clicks. Include your keywords in your titles too. This is a must.
In-depth content. It’s not enough to have 300 words in a blog any more. If you have some important areas of your business then you should really consider creating 2000 word+ pieces of quality content on them. Using Google Search Console, you may find some areas you could improve on and make articles longer and better. This is encouraged.
Explainer videos. We’ve not done that here, but over on our Learn SEO series, every single page has a video to accompany it. If you’re a reader or a watcher, you have options that suit you!
Scrollable headings. This is really simple to do, and very powerful. Go back over old content and make sure you’re writing in short, sharp paragraphs and making it really easy to move through the content and get to the parts you want. Again, we highly recommend that you revisit old content and make it better, especially if Google is showing a good number of impressions for it.
Sum-up with bullet points. We’re all lazy and when it comes to reading online, we want to get an answer fast. Even just summing up with some bullet points can encourage reader to go back and read that section, as they can see that the heading and summing up describes the problem they need help fixing.
Link to more content like it. Internally or externally linking to other content is useful for the reader and liked by Google, so we encourage it! This works especially well if you’re trying to focus on one key topic and you don’t want to go into too much detail on a certain area, or if you need to reference some data, stats, or news.
Having a fast website, great content, and a search engine that likes you isn’t the end. Once you get people to your site, it needs to be easy for them to find out more.
How many times have you simply left a website because you couldn’t find what you were looking for?
A lot we suspect.
Getting what you want, and getting it fast is a key metric for your online success. The data will soon tell Google when it was wrong to send a visitor to your site.
If you’re getting traffic for a search term you can help with, but your bounce rate is high, then you have a problem with something on your site. That problem could well be the navigation.
Or to put it another way: If you’re attracting the right traffic but they leave, you didn’t show them the way!
The navigation of your website needs to be simple, effective, and lay out the obvious next step at every turn. If you want to see a really good example of this then head to Amazon and see how easy it is to buy something. If you’re on a page with a product, you can buy it right there and then.
Amazon also nails the ‘You might like this’ game too. Here’s what we mean:
Amazon obviously do e-commerce very well and they succeed because they make it very easy for visitors to give them your money.
Navigation should be simple, obvious, and ordered. Amazon knows that you read left to right, so they put the stunning images and information on the left, and the step they want you to make – the sale – on the right. Seamless.
Your website can learn from this if you ask yourself some simple questions:
- “Is my design consistent?”
- “Are all my navigation elements clickable?”
- “Are my categories easy to find?”
- “Am I using sensible, obvious titles in my navigation menu?”
Don’t get the clever stuff working well and forget the obvious parts. The navigation bar and the sub sections of it need to say precisely and concisely what that page is for.
We did this with our site like this:
Of course, we do more than that. But on each page, you’ll find the obvious next step for you to take. If you try to cover off all the bases in one place, then you’ll only succeed in confusing your visitor.
If you’re ranking for SEO Oxfordshire on Google but when your visitors land they can’t find your SEO services, then you lose.
You’ll notice that we’ve fronted our menu with the Learn SEO tab. This is because we believe it’s incredible content and that you’ll really benefit from taking a look at it, so we’ve added that first.
We also found that this floating ‘Contact us’ button has really helped as you can always find out how to contact us, no matter where you are on the services pages.
They came, they read, they loved it. Now what?!
Well, now you need to convert them. And that’s the most important part of it all. Conversions on websites seem to be pushed-back, with the design and other areas being at the forefront of the decisions. But without conversions, your website is just a shop with an empty till.
You need contact forms filled in, lead magnets downloaded, and sales made.
Here are a few areas for your site to consider and improve this year to get those conversions up:
- Action verbs
- Above the fold
- Strong CTAs
- Vary the options
- CTA buttons; not links
- Show reviews
- Show download numbers.
Use action verbs on your pages
Keeping it clear and simple is important for your website and for your SEO as it keeps people moving and gives them what they (and you) want. Action words like ‘Get’, ‘Contact’, ‘Buy Now’, ‘Download’, or ‘Find out more’ are going to get you more conversions simply because they’re simple.
Getting someone to contact you might be as simple as asking them to contact you! If you’re looking to grow your email list, then make that call to action obvious and place it in the hot spots on your site.
Keep conversions buttons above the fold
Looking to grow your conversions? Don’t hide the buttons and boxes below ‘the fold’. The fold is the area below your screen that you need to scroll to. Most home pages have all the juicy bits below this, and they miss out.
Visitors don’t always scroll down, so put your Call To Action right in front of EVERYONE who visits; not just the ones who look further down the page.
Have strong calls to action (CTAs) in all pages
Whether you’re trying to get contact forms completed and phone calls set-up, or you’re encouraging downloads of your lead magnets to drive email subscribers, put that CTA on every page and make it really easy for your website visitors to buy, contact, or download from you.
Consider adding live chat
Being able to interact with your customer ‘live’ in real-time can be a great way to increase conversion rates on your website. Having the ability to answer your potential customers questions in a human/real way adds another layer of personalised service and has been shown to greatly improve your conversion.
One of the best options on the market, is a company (who we actually know personally so can recommend them from experience), is MeluChat.com. Unlike most live chat services that use “chat bots”, Melu live chat is actually provided by real human beings who are on hand around the clock to help your customers.
We know many businesses using and loving Melu so do check it out as an option to increase your conversion.
Offer various payment options.
Just like Amazon are now doing, you can have the various options for payment clearly visible and make it obvious you have them.
If you were in a bar serving drinks and the person at the bar wanted to set up a tab, you’d help them, right?
How about on a website? You don’t have the luxury of knowing that someone is on your site and asking these questions to themselves, so display them clearly.
Use CTA buttons rather than links
Buttons are… clickable! Website visitors love clicking a button – so make sure they have one to click. Amazon know this and it’s why all their ‘add to basket’ buttons are clearly placed above the fold and in orange, a bold, cheerful and contrasting colour associated with moving forward. On your forms and downloads make sure you go for buttons that are clearly labelled and obvious.
A bit of social proof is powerful so if you have some great testimonials or reviews then display them on your site. If you’ve got a lead magnet to gather emails, consider adding some social proof into that to show what others think about it or you.
Show download numbers
This is simple, but powerful. Showing numbers on your site so perhaps the number of clients, downloads, or similar could well drive more of the same. As humans we like to be like other people and therefore we look for signs that other people are doing something before we do it, and we copy them. Visible metrics can really help with this.
Make 2019 the year you review your website and get more traffic, leads, and sales
We hope you’ll agree that this guide is a great start to help you increase your website traffic. We guarantee that if you do everything we’ve suggested that you’ll see some incredible results. Most of the areas above are pretty simple to do yourself and are, in many cases, quick wins that you’re likely to see results from very quickly.
If you need more help then please do contact us now, or head over to our Learn SEO series for more advice and guidance for your SEO.