Why Your Website Sucks (And How to Make it a Success)

So, you’re combing through your website analytics and they offer some clues. Traffic is flat. Average page per visitor is declining, bounce rate is up, and conversions just aren’t happening. But why? Figuring out the “why” is more important than the numbers themselves. You see, the numbers are just symptoms. You really need to know the root cause.

Steve Forbes has a great quote, “With all thy getting, get understanding.” I love this quote because it’s simple, and it gets to the heart of many challenges we face as marketers. We have more data than ever before, but do we know the “why” behind the data? With that said, if you don’t like the results (or metrics) of your website, here are several clues that might be your “why.”

  1. Are you telling a compelling story?

In my opinion, this is one of the hardest things to do in marketing, no, business, for that matter. Telling a great story about your brand requires creativity, relentless drive, risk-taking, buy-in from all internal stakeholders, and a vision for where your brand is going. As if all that wasn’t hard enough, a good story is still subjective. What one person finds fascinating and entertaining, another might find mediocre at best. To have any chance of nailing this, you must know everything about your target markets. What are their demographics, preferences, purchase habits, psychographics? Yes, a ton of work. And on top of that, you need an uncanny vision for where your brand is going.

So why is it important to tell a good story anyway? The answer is simple. Since the beginning of time, humans have always loved a great story. They get passed down from generation to generation. They get told around campfires. They bring us closer to each other, and, they pull at our heartstrings in a way few other things can. Tell your story well, and bring your website to life in a way that is defensible and differentiated from the competition. This is a long-term approach, but it’s one that will pay off.

Not sure you want to believe this type of “soft” or subjective approach? Good news! There is plenty of scientific data to back this up, including this Science of People article and a Psychology Today article featuring a Princeton University study that shows how your brain reacts positively to a well-told story.

  1. Is your website inspiring or generic?

So, you have got a great story, but how do you implement this creatively on a website? First, ditch the generic templates. If you take yourself seriously as a brand, you need a custom-designed website. It’s not as expensive as you think, and it will make a huge difference. For example, stay away from stock images. The human eye can recognize when something is fake, and subconsciously judges it negatively. Last, do not confine your story to a typical “about us” page. Let the story permeate through your website – across the homepage and key product pages. In other words, walk the talk, whatever your talk is. According to Forbes, customers love to know about the people and culture behind a brand, and that’s something that template designs just can’t deliver.

  1. Is your site fast enough?

This one is technical and straight forward. Test your site speed regularly, and often. According to Google research, the probability of a bounce (leaving your site) increases from 32 percent to 90 percent when site load time passes three seconds. Three seconds! That’s not much margin for error, so don’t waste your visitors’ time with bloated code and slow-loading images that will drag down site speed. Our favorite tools for speed testing are Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. Bonus, they’re both free!

  1. Conversion hooks?

Do you offer compelling reasons to convert anonymous visitors into actionable, qualified leads?

Ok, that’s a mouthful. What that means in simple terms is, does your website motivate visitors to give you their information and continue the conversation? To be clear, we’re focused on non-e-commerce websites with this point. For e-commerce sites, there’s so much more that goes into converting visitors into purchasers – that’s for another article. Back to non-e-commerce sites. If you just have a generic contact form – get rid of that garbage right now! Nobody wants to fill out a long-form in order to receive more info, a quote, or other assistance.

Ask yourself, how can I make this more interesting? Maybe it’s a free sample. Or a human consult. Or a chat tool. Think critically about the value your business really offers, and then distill a sample of this through your website. Whatever you do, don’t ask for a dozen form fields to be completed just because it’s easier for your customer service team to make prospects fill out a bunch of fields. Instead, think about what’s easier for your potential customer!

Ready to jump in and make your website a conversion machine? Check out this great resource by industry-leader HubSpot, all about conversion rate optimization. They offer numerous practical tips to increase conversion. For example, changing the structure of a pop-up box on their website increased click-through by 192 percent! As they point out, it’s not just about driving more traffic to your website. It’s easier and more efficient to grow a customer base from the traffic already coming to your site.

  1. Are you heat-mapping?

This is another straightforward, technical approach that every brand should be using. Heat mapping offers major insights into why prospects abandon your website by literally showing what your visitors are doing on your site. The visual reporting shows where people are spending time on pages, where they are speeding through, where they click, where they don’t, and so much more. It’s easy to install this type of reporting on most sites, and you’re guaranteed to gain immediate insights by simply using the tool. Lucky, Orange is our favorite – check out their thought leadership here.

  1. Confusing U/I

Make it easy to find content on your site with a thoughtfully designed menu, navigation structure, and UI (user interface). According to Fast Company, there’s a major ROI case to be made for good UI, as well. Avoid jargon, acronyms and industry thought processes of “because that’s the way we do it.” Instead, step back and ask, “Could someone from outside our industry find their way around, and quickly understand what we do?”

Instead of rushing through your next website update or re-design, slow down and invest time in getting it right. Host a focus group to gain further insight and look for ways to implement this onto your site. Keep only what’s most important on the nav and organize everything else in a collapsible “hamburger” menu. Also, offer multiple ways to get to content. We all think differently, so there are always multiple right answers when it comes to navigating a site. 

Apply these tips to get to the “why” behind your website metrics and you will be rewarded with a higher-performing site. However, a word of caution. These improvements take time because there are no “silver bullets” when it comes to a great website, or marketing. As the saying goes, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” So true! Stay focused, be bold, and commit to the time and resources that it takes to make your website perform at a high level.

Matt Devlin founded MG Marketing in 2011 on three principles – strategy, creative and technology. With this in mind, Matt leads the team and thrives on creating solutions to help clients be bold and tell a great story. When not wearing his marketing hat, Matt loves playing sports with his family and tasting new salsas – spicier the better! @mgmarketingagency


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