Getting people to visit a small business's website is important, but keeping them there is a huge priority. Boosting website engagement is crucial for any small business to improve their conversion rates and strengthen customer relationships.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug is a definitive website design book and a must-read for anyone wishing to increase customer engagement. Krug’s design philosophy incorporates a crucial insight called “cognitive ease,” which means site visitors should never have to have to stop and think about how to engage with a site.
According to Krug, that one disruptive moment can be enough to derail their visit.
“When we’re using the web, every question mark adds to our cognitive workload, distracting our attention from the task at hand,” he writes.
To make a website more engaging, it’s important to design the site in a way that lets visitors easily slip into the flow. If they have to stop and think about how the site works, this bit of friction may keep them from engaging and cause them to view the site – and the business behind it – negatively.
Here are seven key ways to help make a business website more engaging.
While the home page is important, reserve some creative juice for those potentially more engaging and higher-converting interior pages, imagining them as the crucial entry points they are.
1. Be Clear
A website should be well-organized, and the terminology for navigating the site should be clear and easy to understand. That sounds simple, but it can be challenging for small-business owners and managers to put the customer experience first.
Conduct an audit to assess how the site scores on these key questions:
- Are buttons labeled with logical words that someone outside the company will understand?
- Are the steps for completing an action on the site logical?
- Is the navigation bar organized in a way that makes sense to prospects and customers?
A classic issue faced by many sites is where to place articles and content to attract users. Often a button labeled “Resources” will be a catch-all for various kinds of content. Realistically, this is the content that people want to engage with, so it shouldn’t be isolated like that. It should be more obvious and easily accessible in the website navigation, as well as interlinked on other pages throughout the website.
2. Make It Interactive
Adding interactive elements to a site might be the perfect solution to making it more engaging. But there are different notions of interactive web design.
One school of thought says interactive web design is everything you do to get visitors to take an action. That means engaging them to click on more pages and keep consuming more content until they get to the ultimate action of becoming a customer.
Another idea involves several forms of interactive web content – think “listicle” articles and slide shows, where every item on a list gets its own little page. These can boost engagement, but only if you’re measuring in page views. That’s great for a media business that sells advertising impressions. If you’re in any other business, will that kind of interactivity help your site achieve its goals?
It's vital that engagement ushers site visitors toward completing key actions. If the site’s objectives are deeper, more meaningful interactions, then a slideshow may just distract from the larger goal.
For any interactive element, make sure tracking is in place so you can see where users drop off or, even better, where they shift into your sales funnel.
3. Design for Mobile First
Since Don’t Make Me Think was first published in 2013, digital technology has gone through many monumental changes. Perhaps the greatest one is the rise of mobile.
Even if mobile is not a huge factor among your visitors, there are two key reasons why designing a site for mobile devices first makes sense: email and Google.
A potential or actual customer who clicks through from a marketing email will have to stop and think before engaging if they see a desktop-first web page on their tiny screen. It can ruin a visitor’s experience, reduce the efficacy of an email marketing campaign, and even tarnish an entire brand.
But there’s more: Google is the gateway billions of users rely on to find sites that will answer their questions. When Google indexes a site, it predominantly looks at the mobile version first – what it calls mobile-first indexing. Sites that fail Google’s mobile experience test get reduced exposure within the search engine overall – for both desktop and mobile.
4. Prioritize the Customer’s Perspective
One excellent tactic to enhance engagement is to anticipate the challenges and questions common to your customers and potential customers. Then create content that answers them.
To start, review the questions that people in your industry are asking Google. Search a highly relevant keyword term and then note what Google suggests as related questions other people are asking. Then, create a section on your site called “Frequently Asked Questions” where you answer the questions in a straightforward fashion. Aim to provide clear, useful information that might naturally inspire consumers to try your products or services.
5. Build Your Site Inside Out
When site visitors come from search engines, results tend to send them deeper into the site. This is true of the vast majority of 'unbranded' searches – that is, searches that don’t include the company name. The search engine won't direct those visitors to your home page.
Many sites are designed assuming visitors will start at the home page and then navigate through the intermediary index pages. By the time the design project gets to those deeper interior pages, the budget and energy may dry up.
While the home page is important, reserve some creative juice for those potentially more engaging and higher-converting interior pages, imagining them as the crucial entry points they are. Incorporate contextual links and other promotions that can help site visitors accomplish their goals – and then drive them to accomplish yours.
6. Plan Customer Journey Paths
A good practice for engaging website visitors – and measuring their engagement – is to clearly establish the paths you want customers to follow on the site. What are the pages a user needs to traverse to become a lead? What information do they need to provide?
There will be multiple paths, but the trick is to end each with a conversion action to collect that information: a newsletter sign-up, a webcast registration, a demo request, and a purchase are all good endpoints.
By knowing how you want people to traverse the site, you can measure its efficacy and optimize the process to keep visitors engaged. Additionally, traffic-generating efforts can be optimized to drive prospects into this process.
7. Include Video
Video provides a site with many benefits. Mainly, it taps directly into the primal need for people to engage and connect.
While video can be more time-consuming and expensive to produce than text, it can be a worthwhile investment. It helps get users to stay on your site longer, which can improve the site's visibility in search engine results.
Tips for producing and posting video:
- Production value counts. Avoid recording videos on a phone. While this might work for social media, it usually doesn’t work for a serious business site.
- Plan what elements would be best covered by a video. Product demonstrations and explainer videos are good starting points, as these are key elements potential customers are often curious about.
- Make the page content relevant to the video. Nobody is going to click on the video just because it’s there. There needs to be a meaningful connection to provide context.
There can be a lot of value to improving a website’s engagement. People will spend more time on your site and – presuming you're attracting the right kinds of people – customer conversions can increase as well. These seven tips are a great starting point to help increase site engagement.
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