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I recently had two very different experiences that reminded me of how important it is to look at your website through a fresh pair of eyes in order to really see what is working and what is not.

The first one was presenting a website assessment to a client. This is something they asked us to do – go through their site and let them know where it was working, where it wasn’t and the specific steps required. I realized as I presented, that there is so much emphasis on SEO and attracting people to the site that sometimes we forget about the experience someone has when they get to the site. During the presentation, as I pointed out items I noticed and made recommendations, the client said “it’s so obvious, I hate it when websites do [that], I can’t believe that is exactly what is happening on my site.”

The second, and slightly embarrassing, situation happened when I was training someone in our company on what things I look for when I review analytics. I was in the analytics of a client’s site pointing out where things were going wrong. When I switched to another screen to move to a different part of the training, I realized I was not in the client’s site at all – I was in the PMG site! Even though we do this work for a living, we had not taken the time to step back and look at the information and experience as if it was new.

It’s not easy to look at your own website objectively, but it can be done with a little up front prep. Start by thinking about your customer – who are they? What do you know about them? Some people find this easiest by creating a buyer persona – a detailed description of a fictitious person that describes everything about them including whether they are married, what they like to read, what kind of car they drive, how they make decisions, etc. Whether you do a detailed description or a simple checklist, you need to get in the mind of your prospective customers and make note of what kind of experience they are looking for when they are on a website. Once you have this documented, put yourself in their mindset and visit your site as if you were a prospective customer.

Here are a few things to look for as you do your website assessment:

1. What questions do people have when they are first seeking your product and service?

Are the answers to those questions front and center either as buttons on the home page or as navigational elements? Have you given them a reason to engage with you by creating a compelling offer and call to action? Typically, when someone first visits your site they are seeking education and information. They want to know if what you offer is what they are looking for, why they should buy from you, and if you are the best source for them to buy from.

2. Is it easy to contact you?

Is your phone number on every page?

If you have an offer (a white paper, a coupon, an eBook) are there barriers for the visitor to access the offer? For example, as we prepped for a sales meeting a few weeks ago we observed the following: the company had an offer for a “Free Travel Guide”, and when you clicked on the button/link to access this free guide, you were brought to a blog post titled “Travel Information You Should Know”.  Right away this is a barrier. The title of the offer and the title of the landing page did not match. Then, to find the download, you needed to get to the bottom of the blog post to see “Free Travel Guide”, where you had to click again. Yikes! 

If you want someone to contact you or download your offer make it easy and direct.

3. Now fill out the form and see what you think of that experience.

How complicated is the form?

Is the value of what you are asking the visitor to “give up” equal to the value of what they get for filling out the form?

Do you provide a clear thank you page that makes it obvious that the form was submitted?

Does the person receive an automated email thank you that reinforces your brand, builds a connection with the individual, and continues to market to them?

4. Is your brand consistent throughout the site?

I was speaking to a prospective client last week and we were looking at something on his site. He then asked me to go to his blog and suddenly the look and feel was dramatically different. I felt like I left his site and it turns out I had – his site was on a different platform than his blog. The colors were different, the use of the logo was different, font was different, etc. It is critical that your brand experience is maintained at every step in the process.

These are four of the top items we often discover when doing a web assessment. But if you would like more tips on how to improve your website, check out 9 Ways Your Website Is Driving Visitors Away... (And How You Can Bring Them Back).

Free Download: Website Redesign vs. Refresh – Sizing Up Your Digital Makeover with 12 Decision Factors

About the Author

Susan LaPlante-Dube | PMG Principal
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Susan LaPlante-Dube, PMG Principal

Susan LaPlante-Dube created PMG in 2002 and acts as one of PMG’s Principals. As a jack-of-all-trades in marketing, she loves digging deep on a topic and finding new ways to spin old ideas. While she would prefer having some high-tech voice software to record all of her blog thoughts instead of having to write them down, she loves the satisfaction of helping her readers learn something new.

 Tags: Website & Graphic Design

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