How to know when it’s time for a website refresh
Digital marketing agencies weigh in on what to consider
Your website isn’t what it used to be. Conversions are not happening. It has been years since anyone has looked under the hood.
B2B marketing woes like this one are common — and it’s often not the marketer’s fault. Quick business decisions propel website design, sometimes with not enough thought given as to how the elements of a web page are supposed to come together as a working whole. Inferior UX hobbles the online effort to sniff out leads and convert them into sales. But matters can be corrected.
This looks like a job for a digital marketing agency.
Renovate or rebuild?
The agency’s mission is to analyze the traffic coming to the website and set right anything that is not working towards conversions. On paper, this sounds easy, but in truth, it becomes difficult as soon as the agency starts working with people. No matter what stage a project is at, there will be different stakeholders. And you have to walk them through the process. That’s what we learned from John Lincoln, CEO and founder of digital agency Ignite Visibility.
“We go through Google Analytics to identify the highest converting customers,” Lincoln said. What is their demographic? What are their behavioral interests? That data can be used to build a persona. Color preference and language interest will be flagged here, and that can be rolled into the next step: designing the web page.
Here Lincoln stressed the “seven-second rule” — the maximum amount of time the website should take to load. That first page needs to tell the customer who the company is and what it does, how it is different, and also show a call to action button. This is all backed up with data. “We know what works well to speak to the customer,” he said.
Customer referral is widely perceived as a driving factor in online sales. “This is nonsense,” said Mark Lennon, Marketing Agency Leader at B2B marketing firm Espresso. In reality, 92% of online sales begin with a search. “If you buy into that reality, then you start to understand that you are now competing on the basis of your website and your content,” he stressed. “If your website and content aren’t competitive, you never hear about the opportunity, even though the prospect may have looked at your website.”
A website refreshment project can be either a renovation or a total rebuild, said Will Norris, design team head at UX design agency Codal. More often than not, “there is a need that is not being addressed well, or not being addressed at all.”
Speed is not enough
“Many websites are slow. As Google starts to penalize slow websites by displaying them lower in their search results, it becomes important to make sure that your website responds quickly. You may make design decisions based on this.” Lennon said.
A website that looks nice and loads fast is only part of the story. Under the hood, automation should kick in to track visitors, score leads, and capture users that fill out the forms or press the call to action button.
“By having this in place, when we’re going to speak with a prospect for the first time, we already know which pages they have looked, and how many times. We know if they have looked at the pricing page. We know which e-books and white papers they have downloaded. We even know how they found our website. Was it from LinkedIn? A Google search? One of our emails?” Lennon explained. “This type of information is incredibly valuable to a sales person.”
“If you have a contact form, make sure that once someone fills it out, it triggers analytics, an event or goals,” said Mike Melen, co-founder of web design and digital marketing agency SmartSites. “There is a spectrum of what you can do and how deep you can do it.” If a company has a heavily trafficked web site, Lennon observed, increasing conversions by just 0.1% can yield dramatic results. “This is a competitive advantage.”
Data tells you what happened, not why
“Data is good at telling you what is happening,” Norris said. But it is not telling you why. This is where user testing comes in, using small groups, usually of three to five, he said. “There is no statistical significance. We want directional accuracy.”
Amazon can afford to recruit thousand of users to achieve statistically robust results, but that is beyond the means of many smaller clients. Testing with three to five people “should capture 80 percent of the issues,” Norris said. At that point, fix problems — and then test again.
The time factor
Companies cannot expect their web pages to remain unchanged while the world changes around them. But expert opinion varies as to how often a refresh is needed — anywhere from once every one to two years, to as long as once every three to five.
“If [a website] is serving the user’s needs, it does not have a shelf life,” Norris added. But “It has to evolve functionally to meet demand.”
How long it takes to do the work varies. A typical project can take 45 days to develop, another 30 days to code, with a final shake-down of two weeks before launch, outlined Melen. Another way of tackling these projects is rely on agile methodology, breaking work down to two-week “sprints”, Norris said. One week will flesh out the requirements, while design is done in the second week. This takes a few meetings up front to be sure about what the client wants, but getting it right should minimize last-minute changes, he said.
Finally, Lincoln flagged one factor that can work against redesign: a company’s size. Some firms may be too big, and their web properties too complex to easily change. Such firms are at a competitive disadvantage since wholesale renovation is daunting. Instead, they tend to concentrate on improving their technology to engage with users, focusing on personalization and market automation, he said.