Both Google and your website visitors have become very selective when it comes to who they give their attention to. In order to thrive in a competitive online landscape, your digital presence needs to be on par with the expectations of both your audience and search engines.

Here are 10 ways to increase your website’s performance in 2014.

1. Speed optimization
Page loading speed is a key factor in Google’s search algorithm, meaning fast sites get rewarded. Run a speed test using a service like GTmetrix and have your developer follow its recommendations for improving performance. Implementing things like gzip, browser caching, image compression and CSS/JavaScript minification can lead to big improvements.

Fast sites also make users happy, which leads to increased time on site and lower bounce rates. Both of these metrics have strong ties to conversion rates, so it’s in your best interest to pay close attention to them.

2. A/B testing
Businesses and web companies put a lot of effort into building websites; however, most spend far too little time optimizing them to increase return on investment. Let’s face it, most of us are shooting in the dark when we try to determine whether a red or green button will attract more clicks, if “Request a Quote” is a better Call-to-Action than “Request a Consultation” or what the correct order of links in your main navigation menu should be.

A/B testing allows you to create two versions of the same page, and throttle traffic to two separate groups of users. For example, a page with a green button can be shown to 50% of visitors, while a page with a red button can be shown to the other 50%. After analyzing user behavior for enough time to establish a thorough pool of results, you can then determine which page won the test. This simple exercise can be repeated for any element on a website, including messaging, buttons, colors and images.

3. Conduct a survey or focus group
If you’re lucky enough to have a loyal online user base, a survey or focus group is a great way to stimulate real feedback from your actual consumers. Put together a digital survey using software like Survey Monkey, or arrange an in-person focus group.

Assemble a list of questions about your website that is meant to help you determine what people like and what they don’t. If 75% of people are experiencing the same issue, you should probably fix it right away. You can also collect feedback on features or functionality they would like to see implemented to make their user experience more enjoyable.

4. Add a blog or improve your existing one
The power of great content is taking over digital media. There are many reasons you should have a blog, and many ways to use it to boost your digital presence. At a minimum, a blog is a great way to share industry knowledge and establish yourself as a subject matter expert. This holds a lot of weight and can do a lot to boost your brand perception.

Blogging is also very effective for adding fresh, crawlable content to sites that otherwise remain static. Google likes frequently updated sites with content that engages users.

5. Do away with unnecessary elements
Web trends have changed a lot over the past few years, and there’s a good chance your site contains elements that have worn out their welcome. The digital world is moving towards minimalism and simplicity, so it’s time to do away with extraneous features that complicate, clutter and confuse.

Some examples of elements you can live without in 2014 are banner carousels, cheesy stock photos, tag clouds, twitter feeds, facebook fan boxes and distracting motion graphics. Take some time to consider what you really need to present to your audience in order to teach them about your business and convince them to pay attention. Everything else is fluff.

6. Improve your messaging and calls to action
A Homepage, like an elevator pitch, needs to be short and sweet while delivering a powerful punch line. Visitors to your site are typically looking for fast answers to the following questions: Who are you? What sets you apart from the competition? Why should I care? What should I do about it? If you can answer these questions on your Homepage, you’re off to a good start.

Site messaging and calls-to-action should be given careful thought, and created with specific goals in mind. Enlist the help of a copywriter to craft a cohesive set of brand messages that can be woven together to lead visitors down a path to conversion.

7. Add video
People are obsessed with video. YouTube is the second largest search engine and virtually every major news and media website focuses heavily on video as a content delivery method. When it comes to business websites, most of us would much rather watch a 2 minute video to learn about a product or service than reading 1,000 words of text in 10 point font.

Opportunities for integrating video with your website are endless, and fun. Video subject matter can include informational sessions with experts, client interviews or testimonials, product videos and How it Works intros.

8. Go mobile
Mobile internet searches are about to surpass desktop, and a good majority of your web traffic probably comes from phones and tablets. Creating a mobile version of your website or building a Responsive Website opens up a new world of possibilities and gives users a platform tailored to they way the want to consume content.

Responsive websites in particular can have a tremendous impact on overall effectiveness and efficiency for your business. For more information on responsive website design, check out this article.

9. Redesign
If your website is more than 3 or 4 years old, it’s probably time for a complete redesign. Advances in technology, trends and content management systems (e.g. WordPress and Magento) are now far superior, and your site may need a major technical overhaul to comply with recent Google algorithm updates.

Starting fresh allows you to consider the right aesthetic and approach for your current market and audience. You want to avoid looking like the guy who shows up at his high school reunion wearing the same clothes. Dated websites are, if nothing else, unfashionable. First impressions are everything in the digital world, and it all starts with image.

10. SEO improvements
Google has changed quite a bit over the years, and your site may need an overhaul to ensure it complies with recent Google algorithm updates and Webmaster Tools Guidelines. Things like navigational structure, title tags, image alt tags, keyword density and on-page copy need to make Google happy, otherwise your search rankings will suffer.

It’s important to hire an industry expert to assist with mapping out SEO requirements for your site. While everyone proclaims to be an expert these days, poorly implemented elements can destroy your rankings and make it very difficult to recover.


by Fuze January 17, 2014