The executive’s guide to Digital Marketing – #2: website usability and conversion

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Website usability and conversion

In the first edition of this series of digital marketing guides, we established the prerequisites for effective online marketing: having a website, creating traffic reports, making staff accountable, and setting goals. Assuming you have the basics in place, let’s take one small step forward by evolving each of those key areas. By addressing website usability and conversion, we can increase budgets, expand the team, and ultimately grow revenue.

Today’s theme: the customer is always right

In the beginning, websites were like flashing billboards that contained little content and tortured users with a variety of bizarre usability quirks. Thanks to organisations like Google, content and usability are now far more important than flashy design.

Here’s how usability informs the development of our four basic digital marketing categories:

  • Website usability and safety must be the highest priority
  • Analytics should be used to finetune the user experience
  • Inhouse staff must focus on the user journey, especially conversion
  • Every website owner must set conversion goals

The website: It’s called website ‘development’ for a reason

Bad websites are static, good websites ‘develop’. They are ever-changing due to trends, barriers and opportunities that affect website usability and conversion. Yes, it’s annoying to have to constantly spend money on a website but it’s an absolute necessity if you want to grow traffic and improve conversion (sales, subscription etc).

Your inhouse digital marketing person/team will want to make changes in order to turn your website into a revenue stream. If you do not have a budget for the required development, you cannot increase revenue.

Good businesses have a web development roadmap (usually focusing on major features) plus a prioritised list of smaller scheduled tasks (tweaks and streamlining), and a budget for maintenance. Smart companies set a budget which is spent according to costs and benefits.

Traffic: creating user journeys

In the first instalment of these digital marketing guides, we created a fundamental knowledge of website traffic. After a few months of receiving traffic reports, trends should be emerging. You and your fellow executives should start to create your own ideas and expectations. Above all, you should be annoyed by negative trends, and be actively seeking solutions.

Negative trends are usually caused by poor usability. Errors are an obvious cause but it’s just as likely that you have not created clear user journeys that end in positive outcomes (e.g. conversion). Start creating some flow charts that explain the intention of the user experience. Rather than let your users wander aimlessly, guide them down a path.

Here is one of the most simple and common user journeys:

Homepage –> Products overview –> Product page –> contact form/cart

There will be many more possible journeys, so list them all. In each case, use Google Analytics to analyse which step in the journey is preventing users from reaching the conversion stage. Eliminate impediments or streamline the journey and you will begin to increase conversion. This process can be incredibly valuable. For instance, you may discover that the barrier to conversion is price, and a minor adjustment, based on competitor research, could improve conversion across all sales channels.

Staff: don’t just develop the website – develop the team

Inhouse teams can get very large and sophisticated. I’ve led digital teams of 30 people performing more than 17 distinctly different roles. But there’s no point beginning with a large team unless you’re doing a ‘hard launch’ of a very profitable product that will rely heavily on online leads or sales.

To begin with, you’ll want to hire a junior to start doing the heavily lifting. Get a digital consultant or experienced SEO to work a minimum of one day per month to do deep-dive analysis and make recommendations on digital marketing activities and website development. The rest of the roles will need to be handled internally. As your audience grows, you’ll want to build a small but dedicated team.

Here’s an example of what your first two proper teams might look like:

Phase One (3 internal staff)

All permanent roles are allrounders, and the level of sophistication will be low. All roles are junior except for the manager, which is mid-level. Technical or specialised roles are outsourced.

  • Digital Marketing Manager – management, analytics/reporting, product ownership, project management
  • Customer Relationship Manager – social media management and advertising, email marketing, outreach/networking
  • Producer – content publishing, minor design, basic landing pages, internal linking
  • Web Designer/Developer (outsourced)
  • Copywriter (outsourced)
  • SEO/digital consultant (outsourced)

Phase Two (5 internal staff)

Specialist roles are created and you can stop outsourcing unless it’s a complex project. Multi-skilling is still required but the output is more sophisticated. The manager should now be senior, and depending on the importance of tasks, all other roles are junior or mid-level. Your first Web Development and SEO staff must be mid-level or senior.

  • Digital Marketing Manager (senior) – management, product ownership, project management
  • Customer Relationship Manager – social media management, email marketing, promotions
  • Producer/Writer – copywriting and ad management, content production, publishing
  • Web Designer/Developer
  • Search Manager (SEO, SEM, analytics and reporting)

We’ll progress to phases three and four next time.

Goals: Show me the money

Last time, we talked about setting targets and making the website pay for its own resources. If you’re still pessimistic about using your online channels as revenue streams, it’s time to look at an example.

Let’s say your website sells financial products or services, and has 20,000 visitors per month. The finance sector enjoys excellent conversion rates online (10% on average). If your audience stays steady, you will get approximately 24,000 conversions per year. Consider how much you would pay for 24,000 solid leads.

There are many variables to consider when calculating online conversion but the biggest influence on conversion is your ability to be competitive in the market. Analyse website usability and conversion, start putting a dollar value on your projected results, and justify the budget required to be a key player in your industry.


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