When it comes to improving website performance, big companies have it easy. They have daily traffic that nears a million visits a day and more than enough data to reach statistically significant conclusions at a quick clip, along with the resources required to perform the analysis. Things aren't quite as easy for small businesses that frequently lack enough data to determine the best course of action. If your website only gets 1,000 visits a month, it's going to take you a lot longer to draw specific conclusions.
But rather than getting hung up on lack of data, small-business owners seeking improved website performance would be better served focusing on the advantages they do have: creativity, speed and resourcefulness.
Here are four ways you can help your website's performance—even when the data you have is limited.
1. Leverage the Data You Already Have
In my role as CEO of Blue Corona, I'm always amazed how many business owners have Google Analytics installed to track their website, but have never logged in to look at the data. Google Analytics can be absolutely worthless if you don't look at and make decisions based on the data.
Even if you don't have a lot of website traffic, reviewing visitor patterns can uncover significant opportunities to improve your website's usability—which, in turn, can dramatically increase your site's visit-to-lead conversion rate. For example, with minor customizations, Google Analytics can be configured to show the age of your site's visitors.
If your site features small fonts, but you find that your average visitor is over the age of 60 and you have a high bounce rate, an optimization to test would be to increase your average font size—particularly for important calls-to-action.
2. Take Advantage of Low-Cost Data Sources
William Lau, a senior SEO specialist with DealNews, a daily deal website, recommends Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends—both of which are free. “These are really great and powerful tools that any small business can use to make informed decisions on what their users are interested in," Lau says.
In the past, if you wanted certain types of data, you had to buy it from expensive data aggregators or collect with the help of an agency—perhaps via a focus group, something that is notoriously costly and time-consuming. Today, you can collect data for peanuts using sites like SurveyMonkey.com and UserTesting.com without ever leaving your office.
3. Solicit Feedback from Existing Customers
“The edge any small business has is the ability to truly listen to its customers," says Antonia Townsend, founder of Enclosed, an online shopping and gift site. “Data, spreadsheets and statistical accuracy are amazing, but hearing a customer's tone of voice when they speak about their needs and/or your product offerings brings invaluable color and clarity to refining and growing your offering."
This can be as casual as a phone call or a question posed on social media. If you're going to go the survey or user test route, make sure to offer a small gift card or other compensation for their time.
4. Borrow Insights from Larger, Analytically-Savvy Competitors
If you don't have your own website data to analyze, consider finding a larger, analytically-savvy competitor and pay careful attention to what they're doing online. This may seem time consuming or even a bit sneaky, but rest assured—many experts are doing it and it's time well-spent.
How can you tell which competitors are analytically astute? It's not as hard as you might think. Sites like Builtwith.com and Datanyze.com offer free and paid solutions which allow you to see which analytics tools your competitors are using. A competitor using Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer, for example, is probably engaging in A/B testing, a well-documented method for improving website conversion rates.
When you find a competitor using these tools, pay close attention to where they place their key calls-to-action and website contact forms. If all their website contact forms are near the top of the page on the right and yours are at the bottom of the page on the left, it might be time to make a change.
If you review their site frequently enough, you might even see one of their A/B tests happening in real-time! A lot of companies running A/B tests of a particular page will have the test version hosted on a similar domain—something like: www2.company.com/test-version. Over time, it shouldn't be hard to tell which test won.
Nothing beats running your own tests and using your own data, but if you can't do this, it's okay to learn from those with more data and better tools—just make sure you don't outright copy their website. Do that and you could end up with little data, but big legal problems!
Putting It All Together
Measurement and data collection is all about reducing uncertainty. While it may seem like big businesses have all the fun when it comes to data-informed website optimization, there's a lot a typical small business can do—even when data is limited. Rather than spend time focusing on what you don't have, take advantage of what you do.