You’ve accomplished the first step: you have a website for your business. But is it good enough? Answering these five simple questions can help you determine if your online presence is building your business — or holding it back.
How important is your website?
It’s a key part of the relationship between you and your customers. Research by CIRA found that 63 per cent of consumers believe a website makes a business seem more credible, and 26 per cent simply don’t trust businesses without one. Even if you have a bricks-and-mortar presence, 76 per cent of Canadians will research their purchases online before going to a store to buy it — but that doesn’t mean any web presence will do.
Anna Walkowiak, Business Model Innovation Lead at BDC’s Advisory Services, explains that in today’s market having a bad website can do more damage to your brand than having no website at all. “There are companies that actually function successfully without a website and they do everything manually, the channels are very much direct. It’s not ideal in 2019, but having a bad website can actually jeopardize the scalability of the whole business.”
With your website potentially playing such a critical role in success, the next question is obvious: is yours good enough? Fortunately, you don’t have to be a web expert to find out. There are online tools that can help, or simply ask yourself the following questions to get a good sense of where you might need improvement.
1) Are you presenting your brand effectively?
Any individual, whether or not they have interacted with your brand before, should be able to go to your site and understand why your business exists, what sets you apart from the competition, and how you meet their needs as a customer. Your voice and visual branding should also be clear and consistent.
If you don’t feel these elements come across strongly on your site, look for places to make adjustments. And if you are struggling to explain why customers should do business with you, first focus on building a strategic marketing plan to help develop your brand and position your company. Anna suggests asking yourself these five questions before developing your website “Who is your specific target customer? What are the clear benefits of your business to the customer? How can you make your messaging customer-centred and inclusive? What is your unique selling point? What is your strong call-to-action to the customer going to be?”
2) Can your customers find you?
You’ve heard the saying, if you build it, they will come. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in the digital age. Anna recommends making “your website part of your wider business strategy,” in order to make it as easy as possible to find your business.
Google is responsible for over 92 per cent of searches, so your first check should be how you rank when you look up keywords relevant to your business. If you are appearing a few pages in, there are some organic (unpaid) techniques you can use to improve your standing — and most are related to having a good website. Unique and quality content, faster page loads, backlinks (websites linking to yours), and secure pages can all help. You can also consider paid search advertising to get your result to the top of the first page. A Google Ads campaign is easy to set up, but can be a challenge to execute effectively — so you may also want to get expert guidance.
Lastly, don’t forget the other channels that can feed into your site, from social media to local review sites (like Yelp and Foursquare). If you aren’t using these tools, you are making it harder for potential customers to find you. However, like a bad website, poor social media messaging can be harmful to your brand.
“Your messaging needs to be carefully crafted,” says Anna. Also, you need to give some thought as to what social media channels are appropriate for your business. “For example, if you are a business-to-business service, you don’t necessarily have to be on Instagram but you need to be present on LinkedIn.”
“With your website potentially playing such a critical role in success, the next question is obvious: is yours good enough?”
3) Can your customers find what they are looking for?
Think about your customer’s experience when they visit your site. The more scrolling and clicking that’s required to find important information or purchase a product, the more opportunity there is for a customer to drop off before reaching that goal.
“Your website should be clearly addressed to your target customer with a value proposition that gives clear benefits for your customer,” says Anna. “How is it useful? What is the specific end result customer can get?”
You should also think about the questions your customers ask you most often. Are the answers easy to find on your site? Can they easily contact you if needed? Can they find your business location? Can they make a purchase or sign up for your newsletter without having to dig around? If you answered no to any of these, it’s time to make some changes.
Consider how easy it is to navigate your site, how clearly information is presented, and how visually appealing it is. Competitive sites can be useful for comparison, but keep in mind that consumer expectations are set by their entire online experience, not just sites in your industry.
4) Are you learning about your customers?
You already know that understanding your customer is key to success. If you aren’t using the data from your site and social media channels, you’re missing out on an important opportunity to get to know them better.
Google Analytics is a great tool for digging into your site stats. Look at where visitors are coming from, how they navigate your site, what content they read, and at what point they exit. There’s also demographic information, like age, and you can compare subgroups, like new versus returning visitors. All social media platforms include their own analytics tools as well, where you can see what content gets the most engagement, and learn more about your audience.
You can use all this information (and much more) to fine-tune your efforts, not only to serve your current customers better but also to target new ones.
5) Are you mobile-friendly?
If you’re feeling good about how your website looks on your laptop, have you tried navigating through it on your mobile phone? Anna says “clarity and simplicity are key,” and be sure to go deeper than the homepage. Follow the common path of a customer, whether that’s reading content, making a purchase, filling out a form, or watching a video.
Having a site that works optimally on any device is key — considering 72 per cent of Canadians access the internet through a mobile device. And since search engines will rank a site higher if it has a mobile version, this will also impact your ability to attract potential customers.
If you’re checking all the boxes, congratulations! If you have work to do, don’t worry — the great thing about your online presence is that it can always be improved.
For a clear look at how your website is performing — and tips on how to improve it — check out BDC’s Website Assessment Tool. Simply enter your URL, and in 90 seconds you’ll have access to a free report looking at how your site stacks up on several indicators.