When was the last time you gauged the overall health of your business website? If it’s been a while, you’re not alone.
Best practices in website design, development and optimization are constantly changing, and it can be hard to keep up. With all the hats that business owners wear, it is not always possible to keep current on the latest trends and fads.
The good news is you don’t have to be on the cutting edge. Just like diet and exercise, there are certain things that never go out of style, and robust websites that drive business still come down to a set of core fundamentals. Consider these five questions as a starting point for making sure your website is in good working order and serving the interests of your enterprise.
1. Is your site designed according to visitor profiles?
Depending on your specific business, your website may need to speak effectively to multiple audiences or types of visitors. Examples include existing customers, prospective customers, suppliers, distributors and employees. Consider organizing your online content by visitor profile to streamline navigation and reduce the number of clicks it takes for someone to get to the information they are seeking.
Some companies take this approach a step further by building distinct portals, sometimes with password protection, for internal versus external users, retail versus wholesale users, or patients versus health professionals, just to give a few examples.
2. Is your site optimized for your keywords?
Even though basic knowledge about search engine optimization (SEO) is becoming more common, I still see a lot of business websites that are “optimized” for the company name. The problem with this is that by the time someone types “Arcadia Lawn Care” into Google, they are already aware of your company and actively trying to reach you, so that search probably does not bring added visibility to your brand. What you want to do instead is think of likely words someone might use while searching for your type of company, such as “lawn mowing services Springfield.”
If you do nothing else, be sure that the title tag of your homepage combines your company name with your most likely keywords, e.g. “Arcadia Lawn Care landscaping and mowing services, Springfield IL,” preferably in 70 characters or less. You can check your homepage title tag either by hovering your mouse over the tab at the top of your browser or by right-clicking on the page, selecting “view page source,” and searching for the word “title.”
3. Is your site searchable by engines?
Once you’ve organized your site for your visitors and optimized your pages for keywords, you’ll want to make sure that search engines are seeing your website correctly. One way to do this is to use Google Webmaster Tools. Once you have it set up, you can use their “Health” features such as “crawl errors,” “fetch as Google”, and “index status” to make sure all of your intended content is visible to the engine.
4. Is your site searchable by humans?
Any site with more than 5 pages of content could potentially benefit from adding a site search feature. Many users simply prefer to type “hours” into a search box on your homepage, rather than click around to see if that information is listed under “About” or “Locations.”
Recent entrants into this space include Swiftype, a free service which enables non-programmers to add site search with autocomplete, customized search results, and real-time analytics to their websites. This kind of functionality allows you to see what questions your visitors are asking and then immediately make those answers easier to find.
5. Is your site loading quickly and consistently?
Finally, consider using a downtime and response time monitoring service. The more critical your website is to your business, the more you need to know immediately if your site goes down or slows to unacceptable levels. You might think the worst case scenario is getting a call from an unhappy customer about your website being down, but actually, the worst case scenario is you never get that call because that customer simply clicked on the next website and called your competitor instead.
Services such as Pingdom can provide an early warning system, giving you a head start on fixing any availability problems. If you sign up for a free account, you’ll be able to monitor one website and receive 20 text message alerts when your website does not respond. You’ll also be able to see response time reports, which can warn you about slow loading speeds for your users. Generally, you want to make sure your website pages load in less than 2 seconds.
Taken together, these five questions provide the vital signs for your business website, equivalent to temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. Make sure you put first things first by addressing these fundamentals for a healthy online presence.
Jennie Wong Ph.D. is a Charlotte-based executive coach, author of “Ask the Mompreneur,” and founder of the social shopping site CartCentric.com. Email your entrepreneurship questions to TheJennieWong@gmail.com.