1. Your website could be 500+% more effective at converting visitors into leads

There's an entire discipline in the web marketing world called conversion rate optimization (CRO for short).

CRO, in a nutshell, involves making changes to your website with the goal of increasing the percentage of people who contact you, sign up for your newsletter, share your blog posts, or purchase something.

What most businesses don't realize, however, is that people who do this well realize huge gains in performance from their websites.

Here's a great blog post from Kissmetrics detailing performance improvements all the way up to 560%.

I've worked on client projects that saw improvements as high as 500%.

Generally speaking, it's also easier to double conversion rates than it is to double qualified traffic.

Use tools like Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, or Google Content Experiments to test variations of your website layout or content to determine what drives the best results.

2. Your website's copy, images, and site architecture are far more important than the design

You're in need of a website refresh; if you're like most companies you look for a design firm that has a great portfolio, one you and your team like personally.

But what most people think of as the components that make up a website's design are relatively superficial things like colors, patterns, gradients, buttons, etc.

While it's always important that your website reflect your brand, we usually see far too much attention given to the superficial things and far too little attention given to the things that actually sell your products or services.

The color of a button on your website will have little to no effect on your prospects. Whether a specific element has some shading, pattern, or gradient will have little to no effect on your prospects.

Having a website that "pops," is "professional," or has that "wow-factor" will do very little to improve revenue.

What will have a giant effect on your prospects is how clearly your value proposition comes across through copy, images, and site architecture, how compelling your offer is, and how easy it is for visitors to find what they're looking for.

Next time you have your site redesigned, try focusing most of your time and effort on planning out site architecture, defining your value proposition, crafting high performing copy, and custom photography and video.

3. Build it and they definitely won't come

Don't expect to rank just by throwing up a website. SEO is a long-term strategy and it's competitive. Your competition wants to get found just as much as you do.

If you plan to drive traffic, leads, sales, etc via the web, it pays to spend the time and money required to get results.

Don't invest all your resources into the website itself. Be sure to budget time and money to understand your target market and how they use the web. Save a good chunk for SEO, PPC, or other methods of driving traffic, leads, and sales.

4. Blogging probably isn't worth it (yet)

Blogging has become synonymous with SEO, but as I've written about in the past, a blog is just a place where content lives and will not necessarily help improve your performance in organic search.

Ok, so a blog is just a home for your regularly updated content. Then adding content regularly will help with SEO, right?

No, not necessarily, and definitely not the way most people do it.

Here's a project we worked on recently. Over the past 2 months this client has had over 100,000 people enter the site through their blog. Exactly 0 have completed our primary conversion goal during that session (Note: Blogging wasn't our recommendation).

blog-posts-leading-to-goals-2

The problem I see with the way most companies attack blogging is that they tend to blog just for the sake of adding content without any strategy.

For many projects, a blog is one of the last things you should add if you do it at all.

You need a coherent strategy, and a solid understanding of your target audience and of SEO to craft a solid content strategy. You'll need to answer questions like these:

What's your goal?

Do you want to increase brand awareness? Demonstrate thought leadership? Generate leads? Help shorten your sales cycle? Get ranked for a specific keyword?

All of these goals require different strategies. Understanding your goals and how best to utilize content to acheive them should be the starting point.

Who are you blogging for?

Who's your target for this blogging effort? How will your blog help you reach your target and also acheive your goals.

If you're an insurance company, do your customers really want to read relatively generic information on winterizing their homes?

Make sure your goals, audience, and content are all aligned so you aren't wasting valuable resources.

Is a blog the right format for your content?

Blogging is like journaling – it makes sense for regular updates and timely news and events, but blogs tend to encourage brief, regular updates, when in fact, most companies would do far better creating longer, reference-style, evergreen content pieces.

Have you addressed your web copy yet?

Most companies could dramatically improve conversion rates by working on normal sales pages and better defining the value proposition. Those are the pages actually doing the selling – start there first.

Blogging can be great, but it depends on your goals and, in all likelihood, you have lower-hanging content fruit that's ready to be picked first.

5. Social media probably isn't worth it (yet)

Social media has absolutely exploded over the past several years. But it's a lot like blogging: If you don't fully understand your goals, the platform, your customer, and have something really useful, interesting, entertaining, etc, to say, then you'll probably be wasting your time.

Social media is an awesome way to amplify what you're already doing well – or not well – but that's it.

Think about it – if you're the neighborhood HVAC company, do you think people on Facebook really care that you hired a new employee? Or that you're now offering free AC inspections?

No, only your mom cares about your new employee and everybody offers free AC inspections. Who cares.

shouting-blue-bird-1

Where social media shines is when you're already doing something worthwhile or noteworthy or creating something that is awesomely unique and interesting.

Starting a scholarship for disadvantaged youths? Share it!

Working on a cure for cancer? Tell me all about it!

Got an amazing, unique product that's unlike anything I've ever seen before? Perfect!

But if you're asking the question, "should we be using social media," the answer is probably, not yet.

6. You can track, in as much detail as you want, the effectiveness of your online marketing spend

The awesome thing about online advertising is that we can track a heck of a lot more than we can in the offline world.

Sure, you can put unique website addresses or phone numbers in your offline advertisements, and there's definitely value in that, but it's cumbersome and not nearly as accurate.

But online we can track every interaction someone had with your website before, up to, and after submitting a contact form.

We can track which pages your website visitors actually looked at before they called you.

We can measure how long someone stays on a particular page on your website, then test changes to that page to encourage them to stay on longer or interact with the site in a deeper way.

Tools like Google Analytics, Woopra, and Kissmetrics make this stuff possible.

Here's a screenshot from Woopra showing Andrew's latest interactions with our website:

woopra-interactions-1

Tools like ClickTale and Mouseflow even let us record the entire interaction someone has on a page, such as the entire process of filling out a contact form.

You can even link up all that data with your CRM or offline systems so that you can track the entire sales cycle from first interaction to the last.

Implement tracking so you know what's happening on your site. Define a goal, start small, and build incrementally as you find the need for more data. You'll be surprised at how simple it can be to get started.

7. The vast majority of your website visitors are not yet ready to convert – but might be in the future

According to B2B lead nurturing research from Gleanster, as much as 50% of the leads that enter a pipeline are not yet ready to buy, but will be in the future.

It makes sense that a far greater percentage of all your website visitors are potential customers but not quite ready to either a) enter the pipeline, or b) make a purchase.

The simple fact is most people are just browsing. But if you can give them a reason to come back, or you can keep in touch through email, RSS, social media, whatever, you'll be much more likely to be top of mind when they're ready to make purchase.

Take the time to understand your customers' buying process and use your website to maximize the value of each visitor.