A while back I promised to post some learnings from the process of redoing the Polygon corporate website… regrettably I appeared to have lied and never posted so will endeavour to make amends now.
Here goes… Three things I learned or was reminded of when redoing our website (not necessarily the only things I learned, but 3 key ones):
Caveat: Polyhomes.com is a website for a real estate developer. I think these comments are pretty relevant across the board, but save me the agro comments if they are too basic or don’t apply to you, they may not apply to every website everywhere.
1. Don’t fixate on the homepage, chances are few people go there.
This is such a tough one as when people envision their website, they usually think of the homepage and so they spend countless hours in design and revision of it. Chances are the boss-(wo)men will fixate on this aswell and have specific ideas they want when it comes to the homepage. The reality is, in today’s search-centric times, I am willing to guess that very little of your traffic (in our case only 10%) will ever come through the front door… making the guts of your site the most important part.
That said, a few suggestions:
a) check your analytics before you start design, if your direct traffic is low and search is high, then maybe you should focus more attention on getting your inside pages right and less on your homepage. Focus specifically on the pages that most searches seem to land on.
b) consider who is coming through the front door and design specifically to them. What is the profile of the person who actually types in your url vs. searching on a keyword? It may be your bankers, competitors etc and not your customers, so how might you reconfigure things for that audience? And / or maybe you should put your aesthetic hat aside and be designing your homepage strictly as google fuel?
c) set the tone with the boss-(wo)men early. Make sure whoever is the final approval on the site is clear on what the homepage stats and strategy is before you get in to presentation. Use your influence to steer the approval process so people don’t get fixated on pages, features, formats that don’t matter.
2. Track everything.
As creepy as it is for some people to imagine, the web allows you to track everything; so, are you? At the most basic level, do you know where your traffic is coming from and how they’re navigating your site? To the more advanced, are you tracking IP addresses and linking those to your CRM system so you can monitor when prospects come and go and what they are most interested in? To the specific, are you monitoring mail-to and call-to clicks so you know if people are emailing or calling vs. just filling out your registration form? And can you compare this data to other data of your registrants, how many people called or emailed, what keywords produced the most calls vs. emails vs. registrants etc. etc.
Anyone with any web experience is rolling their eyes at me right now disgusted at what a basic “learning” this is, but the challenge is to not take it for granted and reconsider what valuable information you are not tracking and figure out a way to capture that info. As you get in to more advanced web-tech you will use this data to serve up demographic and / or customer specific content.
3. Analyze your bounces.
One of the quickest ways to pick up return visits, extend average time on site, and increase registrations, mail-tos and call-tos is to figure out where and when people are bouncing and fix it. There are a number of reasons people bounce: keyword relevance is low, forms are too long, navigation is weak and frustrating, content is thin, among other reasons. If 30 – 50% of your traffic is bouncing, by fixing these triggers you stand to make big gains quickly.
Agreeably, none of these comments are earth shattering “learnings” nor have I cracked the code and earned the title of “web guru” but it is so easy to be distracted by “shiny buttons”, widgets, social media plug-ins and sexy java functions when the answers to a better website lie in the basics first. I suspect I’ll get motivated to write about this topic again in a few weeks / months at which time I should share some more advanced insites. Hope these thoughts are of use.
So I’ve been messing with Google+ this week and already I can see it’s usefulness and power. I am having the same feelings I had several years ago when I first realized the enormous power facebook would have and how it would change my life and how I do my job as a marketer.
Not withstanding, I was skeptical at first and still struggle to see how long it will take for it to really get traction and change my long established twitter, facebook, linkedin (among others) habits, I am officially willing to declare it’s #gamechanger status.
So what’s the big deal. It’s simple really. It’s not facebook, it’s not twitter, it’s not linkedin, or youtube, or flickr… it’s the evolution of all of them. It takes the idea of a social world and is the mechanism to bring it to life in a less segmented way than the aforementioned.
For most of us, I’d say twitter is our “general public” tool… a place where we share ideas, photos, articles etc for anyone to search on, follow people we want to hear from whom we may or may not know and where we live a “social” life in the public realm. Facebook, for most of us, is our “social” life in the private realm… a place we share ideas, photos, articles etc with our closer friends, family, acquantances. And linkedin is our “social” life in the professional realm.
G+ merges all of these. The basic premise of the platform is to build a seamless network of everyone you come in contact with and immediately categorize them in to groups or “circles”… friends, family, work or a custom group you create. Every post is set up to share with only the groups you want, or with the entire general public. As such, content becomes attached to the large or small groups who are sharing it. You can see comments from the thousands of public people who have all shared the same link or just those in the smaller “circles”. This is not new as you can create similar groups in Facebook, but after using it, I can tell you it is more intuitive in G+.
The thing that pushes G+ over the top is when you consider the header tab which reveals quick access to your gmail, calendar, documents, photos etc. Now start to dream about the impact of a social network that is intimately tied to all your emails, your calendar, the documents you share etc etc… now take it one step further and realize that because it is a google product, you are also now intimately tied to all of your search results… so everything you search and research will also reveal the long list of referrals, comments, shares of everyone in your network. In theory, not only will this make your search results more relevant, but will also provide the play-by-play commentary of either the general public, your friends, family, or co-workers to further filter your search results and content stream.
In addition, with google offering a plethora of apps to perform personal or business tasks, G+ creates a seamless and fluid platform to accomodate all personal, professional, and public dialogue. I can imagine going to work and fascilitating dialogue, sharing of information, meeting set ups etc all through G+, while merging personal scheduling, sharing etc. all in the same dashboard… while at the same time have the prevailing public conversation on the same topics right at your finger tips. HOLY CRAP! G+ truly does fascilitate living a life in the cloud.
As a business and for marketers the impact is astronomical and realizes what I spoke about in a previous post I wrote called “Customers liking you is more important than you think“. I won’t reiterate everything here again, but the jist is, companies and marketers will have to be crazy focused on not just producing relevant content, but ensuring they are building networks to support it… I suspect that whole process will be circular in that one produces the other. And for those businesses that do embrace it as a platform to manage dialogue across the board, they will be miles ahead of their old world competitors… but that’s another topic, and this post is already too long.
Try it out, add me , tell me what you think.
I have been waiting for it to happen and the idea of using the social web to faciliate discussion surrounding development is starting to pop up more and more. IMO the examples are still somewhat clunky and just scratching the surface of truly becoming a “Development Process 2.0” but they do illustrate / provide the context for a new kind of public process conducted online. A couple more recent local examples are…
Shannon Mews is a site in Vancouver currently in the redevelopment stages… they have launched a very thorough website including forums and other opportunities to share and discuss the issues relevant in the public process… you can learn, share, contribute here www.talkvancouver.com
Rize Alliance is a developer currently working on the rezoning of the land at the corner of Kingsway and Broadway. This site is rather controversial for the immediate neighbours as it calls for a 26 storey tower in an area that currently consists of mostly low-rise and some 12 storey mid-rise product. They have done some pretty cool initiatives in an effort to create support / conversation including beautifying part of the space with public art and landscaping, a pop-up retail store concept (with free rents associated), facebook page, blog, in addition to their corporate website.
A while back I did a post called “Customers liking you is more important than you think.” and in it I talked about the importance social networks will have on search results.
Today I came across two blog posts reiterating this significance and thought I would share them here…
1. from Google’s official blog: An Update to Google Social Search (thanks for sharing this @MsBone from @6s_Marketing)
2. from SEOMOZ’s blog: A Tweet’s Effect On Rankings
How is your twitter account supporting your search rankings? Are you “Liked” enough on Facebook to be noticed in a Google search?
After several years lobbying for a new website and about a year of planning, strategizing, and finally building it, I am so excited to see the launch date in view. Stay tuned, once launched I plan to share some key learnings and highlights from the steps along the way …
Take one last look at polyhomes.com, it’s new face will be live shortly.