3 Common Website Pitfalls to Avoid and What to Do Instead
Your website is an essential marketing tool, and keeping it in good shape is a crucial part of creating an enjoyable customer experience that keeps prospects moving through the sales funnel. If your website doesn’t rank high in search, have the information customers need, isn’t organized in a way that is intuitive, or simply isn’t working at all, your potential leads will likely go elsewhere in search of answers.
But why exactly is having a solid website so important to the customer experience? To start, this foundational asset is where many of your prospects and leads first go to become acquainted with your brand and offerings. A poorly designed website that is difficult to navigate is sure to leave a bad taste in their mouths and motivate them to look for answers to their questions elsewhere.
Your website is also where leads are able to gather critical information that enables them to narrow down exactly what they need and keep progressing through the customer journey. So, even if your bad website manages to capture a lead’s interest, poor navigation and user exerience design might discourage them from doing business with you as they finalize their decision.
Today we’re on a mission to help you get your website in excellent shape. Keep reading to learn 3 common website pitfalls to avoid and what you can do to fix them.
HTTP Error Codes Ruin the User Experience and Damage Your SEO
One of the worst things that can happen as a customer navigates a website is encountering an HTTP error code. For leads that are navigating your website, encountering an HTTP error code (such as a missing web page) creates a disruption in the customer journey and can result in them missing out on critical information that would have helped them make an informed decision. Even worse, if this is the first time a prospect attempts to visit your website, encountering an error code could motivate them to simply navigate away, resulting in a total loss of opportunity.
But the customer experience is just part of the equation. Too many error codes can seriously wreak havoc on your SEO, making it nearly impossible for potential leads to find you in the first place. If your competitors are showing up in that #1 or #2 spot on a search engine results page (SERP) and your website is not listed until the second page of the search rankings, you’re at a severe disadvantage.
Taking action to fix any existing errors will improve your SEO and guide customers to the information they need.
How to Fix HTTP Error Codes:
Unfortunately, HTTP error codes actually don’t tell you much at all about what is wrong with your website. So, unless you’re a seasoned web developer and know the ins and outs of your website, these errors can make you feel pretty helpless.
To be clear, not all codes should signal an alarm, but you should take action when you encounter those ranging in the 400s and 500s. Here’s what they mean for your website and what you can do about them.
400s (Page Missing or Not Found)
Http error codes in the 400s refer to pages that are currently missing from your website or completely gone. The two most common errors you are likely to encounter are 404 errors (Page Not Found) and 410 errors (Missing).
For 404 errors, a common practice is to create 301 redirects, but many organizations make the cardinal sin of simply sending visitors back to the homepage, which confuses the heck out of both Google and your users. To avoid disrupting the customer journey, make sure that you redirect users to relevant content. For example, if the page missing originally linked to a blog called “The 10 Best Running Shoes Under $100,” then you should try to link to another piece of content that discusses affordable running shoe options.
410 errors refer to a page that is missing and does not redirect visitors to another resource on your website. The best way to deal with these is to remove any remaining links on your website that point to pages with 410 errors to avoid sending visitors and bots to information that is no longer available.
500s (Server Error)
Error codes in the 500 range usually mean there is an internal server error or that the server is unavailable. These errors prevent both search engines and potential customers from finding you, so it’s important to determine their cause and resolve any issues as soon as possible.
Because 500 errors are a bit more complex, a good place to start is working with your web developer to find the root cause. But, let’s say you’re a one-to-two person marketing team without an in-house web developer; there are still resources available to get to the bottom of this problem. I myself had a 500 internal service error pop up on my personal website and was unable to even log in to my instance of WordPress.org. I contacted the lovely people at my website hosting provider and they fixed my problem in only a matter of minutes.
Your Website Lacks Keywords and Language That Resonates With Your Audience
Failing to have the right keywords is another common website pitfall that impacts the visitor experience and your SEO. When your website isn’t packed with keywords and optimized to rank high in search, your target audience may never know you exist or that you can provide solutions to some of their greatest challenges.
But, let’s say that your potential customers do manage to find you despite your low search ranking, failing to have top-ranking words or phrases can still put you at a great disadvantage. If the language that permeates your website doesn’t resonate with the terms and phrases your visitors use on an everyday basis, they might not be able to see the value in what you have to offer.
The lesson here is that being able to speak the language of your audience is key to creating a seamless customer experience that allows your potential customers to find you, understand how you can solve their problem, and easily convert when they’re ready.
How to Fix Poor Keywords and Messaging
Knowing who you’re talking to is the first step toward building a website that speaks to your audience. Before you begin putting pen to paper and developing your website headlines and copy, start by building out your customer personas.
Why is this step so important? Having an idea of who your prospective customers are and what is important to them in the decision-making process will make it that much easier to map your website and create relevant content. When you know your customers, what they do, and what their pain points are, you can get more targeted with your communications.
Once you have a general idea of who your customers are and what content they’ll be searching for, it’s time to flesh out your efforts by making sure you’re using the right keywords and phrases. Performing keyword research and making sure that the headlines and content reference the terms and phrases your audience is searching for will tremendously improve your SEO and engagement on your website. If your visitors can find you and understand what you’re trying to say once they’re on your website, they’ll be more quick to understand your value, know what you want them to do, and keep moving down the sales funnel.
You don’t have to have an in-house SEO person or hire an outside agency to get you started. Act-On’s SEO Tool can help you ensure that your landing pages are fully optimized with high-ranking keywords so that you can put your best foot forward and make a good impression with both search engine bots and leads.
Guide Your Audience to Valuable Content
It makes sense to put key information front and center on your website, but too many organizations are afraid that doing so will make them seem desperate and scare their customers away. The truth is quite the opposite –– hiding valuable content on your website will only encourage your visitors to navigate away and cause you to miss out on some amazing opportunities.
Even organizations that are eager and willing to promote their products, services, and messaging are misplacing content, and that’s largely due to their failure to understand the customer journey. Your website should be structured in a way that is intuitive, and key information shouldn’t be more than one-to-two clicks away from any given position on the site. Understanding your customers thought process –– how they’ll arrive from one piece of information to the next –– will help you create a website that is intuitive and efficiently guides customers to the answers they’re looking for.
How to Fix Your Website Content Placement
To avoid this pitfall, start by reviewing your customer personas. Consider the types of content each of your ideal audience groups are looking for and the best way for them to arrive at that final destination (whether it’s filling out a form or scheduling time to talk to one of your experts).
To continuously optimize the customer experience, it’s important to review and analyze your data. Looking at how pages on your website are performing will tell you a lot about how customers are enjoying your website and whether your pages are serving you well when it comes to generating engagement and driving conversions.
For example, Google Analytics can tell you if there are certain pages that have a particularly high bounce rate. While this could sometimes indicate that your visitors have gotten the information they need, that is rarely the case. Unless you notice some sort of conversion coming from the page, such as filling out a form or scheduling a demo, chances are your visitors have simply hit a dead end. If you want to get as detailed as possible with your efforts, Act-On’s Data Studio can save you the pain of toggling between platforms by consolidating your website and campaign data all in one place and giving you a full view into the customer journey.
Finally, you can further optimize the website customer experience by providing targeted content recommendations as visitors navigate your website, effectively guiding customers to where they need to be if they do happen to stray. Act-On’s Adaptive Web tracks customer behavior to provide tailored content recommendations as visitors browse your site. This solution is great because it allows you to get very targeted with your recommendations without the lift usually involved in implementing other similar solutions.
Your Website Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle
Your website is important, but it’s only one piece of the customer experience. If you truly want to create a cohesive customer journey from beginning to end, you have to consider how your website fits alongside your other marketing efforts.
These tips will put you on the right path toward optimizing your website, but there are so many other things you can do to ensure it’s set up in a way that helps you meet your goals. If you’d like to learn more about how to leverage your website to increase engagement and drive conversions, check out our eBook “Personalizing the Web Experience.”
And, if you’re ready to focus on the bigger picture and learn how you can leverage your website to align with other marketing tactics, we invite you to talk to one of our marketing automation experts. They’ll be more than happy to show you how marketing automation can help you consolidate and innovate all your marketing efforts.