Growth-Driven Continuous Improvement for Your Website - Part 1

Traditionally, website redesigns are set it and forget it projects. Your team spends 6-10 months working on this new experience for users, but once it’s launched they all get re-tasked with other projects within the company. The traditional life cycle of the website dictates that the site remains in this form with minimal changes—except the addition of new content in blog posts—until it is once again deemed inefficient by someone in upper management and the re-design cycle starts again.

In growth-driven design, however, your website is more like a racecar. It needs to be constantly tuned up, improved, updated and tested in order for it to be able to win races. At Growth Guild, we want to make it easier for you to get a return on your website investment. So we created this guide to keep you on-track for growth-driven continuous improvement. Don’t let your shiny new racecar of a website fall apart!

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that you’re within 30 days post-launch of your brand new beautiful website and you’re wondering what you can do next to keep the growth momentum going.

The first step is: build your audience.

In order to propel growth, you’ll need to test different hypotheses on your website. The problem is, without a steady stream of organic visits, you won’t be able to get statistically significant results. So what is the amount of organic traffic you need in order to run successful experiments with your website? Is it 3,000 monthly visitors? Is it 50 daily visitors? Once you have decided on a number, look at your analytics and determine how your current site is stacking up to that audience goal and then generate and test different traffic-generating initiatives to take you to your audience goal before you can move on to the next step in the continuous improvement cycle. Some techniques you can apply at the audience stage of continuous improvement are paid campaigns, SEO campaigns, sponsored posts, PR blitz, and frequent content generation through a content plan.

Inman news, a real estate news organization, tests traffic-driven initiatives on their site frequently. In this example, this announcement ribbon on the main page above the navigation allows for an extra discount to their in-person event with a call to action to ticket sales.

Inman news, a real estate news organization, tests traffic-driven initiatives on their site frequently. In this example, this announcement ribbon on the main page above the navigation allows for an extra discount to their in-person event with a call to action to ticket sales.

The second step is: assess your value.

In a nutshell, is your site providing good enough information to make your audience to stick around and explore? And is your current audience promoting your site as a destination for new members of the audience? The best way to determine whether you’re offering your audience value is to do a content review and ensure that you’re speaking in clear, concise language and that the information you’re offering is easy for the audience to find. Some simple benchmarks that answer the question of value are time spent on site and social media shares. If your audience is leaving the site in a few seconds, they might not be able to find or understand the information they are seeking. If your audience is not sharing your blog posts or other content on social media, it’s an indicator that your information is either too simple, too complex or too hard to find. It’s not providing your audience with value.

Mashable found a way to graph out how popular an article is on social share and present that as social proof right next to their content on their website.

Mashable found a way to graph out how popular an article is on social share and present that as social proof right next to their content on their website.

The third step is: evaluate usability.

When your audience visits your site, are they able to accomplish what the set out to do when they first decided to visit? This can be easily measured by establishing event triggers within your site analytics. If your first site conversion is to collect email addresses, create an account or schedule a demo, is it easy for a first-time visitor to do that? Your call to action needs to be concise; your data capture forms should be as abbreviated as possible. If your bounce rate is high, it could be because the site is confusing or your on-site search is not working. Your interface should feel familiar for a first-time visitor, and if not familiar, it should at least be intuitive enough for a new visitor to find their way. While creativity is important, out of the box thinking belongs in artwork or your advertising campaigns, not navigation and interface.

An out of the box idea that helps with usability is making sure that your 404 error pages are built with navigational options so the 404 is not just a dead end for a user that has lost their way.

Notice here how Steve Lambert features lots of possible redirection links on his 404 page.

Notice here how Steve Lambert features lots of possible redirection links on his 404 page.

The fourth step is: optimize your conversion rate.

How can you remove all potential objections to make a seamless transition through the entire customer funnel from visit to conversion? First of all, determine the conversion you want to focus on. Is it an email capture form, signing up for a demo, scheduling an appointment, downloading a white paper? Once you determine what conversion to track, measure it by comparing the amount of people who arrived at the website to the amount of people who converted.

In this step, it’s helpful to focus on one kind of conversion at a time, and even more precisely, closely analyze all the paths a potential site visitor can take to make that exact conversion. Once you have plotted all the paths that lead to the conversion, look at every potential barrier. The point is to eliminate those friction points to make it harder for the prospect to bounce before completing the conversion.

There’s a few different ways to perform this analysis. A simple one, based on site analytics, is to look at the profile of those who have successfully converted and try to find commonalities within the data. It could be an operating system, a day of the week, the source of the traffic, the time of the day. Once you’ve found those commonalities, you should try to reverse-engineer the experience and try to pinpoint factors of friction.

Another idea is to evaluate your funnel and then simplify the steps. The less steps, the less friction a potential lead experiences on their way to converting.

Find out ideas for shortening the funnel here.

And finally: maximize stickiness.

When your first-time visitor audience leaves your site, do they ever come back? Stickiness is an important part of the continuous improvement cycle that could get buried below other more important-sounding steps. Say your visitor completed one conversion: signing up to receive emails. Is your email nurture campaign providing enough calls to action to warrant a repeat visit from a customer who’s already in your funnel? Websites can help push prospects further down the funnel with the right mix of new and diverse content, intriguing calls to action and smart personalization (read more about personalization later on in this post).

A good technique we can suggest to help with your site stickiness to help with stickiness is retargeting on social media. Here are 7 retargeting cases where some seriously creative tactics were used, to get your mind going.

With these steps, you can expect your website to remain a crucial asset. After all, for many of us, this is our "storefront." It's important to make sure that through it, we're inviting, available and relevant to our customers. 

Astrid Storey