A website is a living entity and evolves in response to feedback in on its relative performance. It is very much like the engine in a sports car. It has intrinsically high performance, but still needs to be tuned up to get the best out of it once it's been installed.
A website is an integral element of the marketing strategy for many modern businesses, because it is an essential route to establishing contact with new prospective customers.
The exploitation of a website to meet the business objectives does not end with the completion of its development. In many respects, this is only the starting point. The most successful websites are those that are improved continually throughout their lifetimes to maximise their ability to attract visitors and to convert them into some form of contact.
Attracting & Converting Visitors
One way of viewing the contribution that a website makes to a business is to take the analogy of a retail outlet. The general public pass by. Those that are interested in the products on offer will stop and look in the window. A proportion will enter and browse the products on display. Some will make a purchase. Others may just ask questions about a product.
The main measure of success of a retail outlet is the value of the purchases that are made. The same is true of an ecommerce website. For all websites, including ecommerce websites, the other main measure of success is the number of visitors who make contact. This may be by phone, email or online submission form. In these circumstances, the “sale” is invariably made offline.
Getting on the List
Unlike the general public, which has to pound the pavements to find a retail outlet, the potential website visitor has only to search on a keyword and Google lists the most relevant websites in its search results. The first step for the website owner is to get on that list. The website owner also has the option of showing an advertisement in the sponsored links, in which case they pay Google whenever someone clicks through to the website.
Whether the entry appears in the normal search results or as an advertisement in the sponsored links, it is competing with the other entries for the potential visitor’s attention, so that they will click through to the website. The advertisements also need to be selective to avoid wasting the cost of a click on those visitors who unlikely to be interested the products or services on offer.
Completing the Journey
The visitor is making a journey, which hopefully ends up with them making contact. This Journey starts with them entering a keyword. Many will abandon the journey before making contact, so the objective is to encourage as many visitors as possible to make contact.
Once a visitor has clicked through to the website, they need to be encouraged down a path that leads to them making contact. If a website is difficult to navigate, or makes it difficult for the visitor to make contact, then the visit may be wasted. Equally, a website that is too aggressive in encouraging the visitor to make contact can also be a deterrent.
The cost of getting visitors to make contact is obviously a major consideration. The end to end financial performance of an ecommerce website that relies predominantly on pay-per-click advertising is relatively easy to measure. The value of the online sales is known, as is the cost of the advertising, so it’s easy to calculate the return on investment. Even so, just as with a non-ecommerce website, it’s important to know when visitors are abandoning their visit before making a purchase, so that any weak links in the chain can be rectified.
Responding to Feedback
The performance of a website can be measured at every stage. This starts with how they make contact, which will be predominantly via Google’s Organic Search Results or via Google AdWords. Once the visitor arrives on your website their behaviour can be measured. Google Analytics provides a host of statistics on how visitors behave collectively, both in accessing to the website and once they have entered the website.
All of this data is only of value if changes are made to the website to improve the performance of the website. Much of this is inevitably trial and error, such as choosing different keywords, changing the way in which data is presented on each page and encouraging the visitor along different paths in the website.