When a website is underperforming, one logical response is to consider a redesign. Now, “redesign” can mean different things to different people — from refreshing just the look and feel to reworking certain user interactions or sections to completely re-architecting the structure of the site. The nature of your performance issues will determine the extent of your redesign, but in our experience, web redesigns fail to achieve their business objectives when they only look at tactical, page-level fixes and consider content as an afterthought.
While this post will address the role of content strategy (and user experience design) in mitigating certain website performance issues, keep in mind that our recommendation is always for content strategy to play a central role before, during and after any website launch or redesign.
1. Bounce rate: Visitors look at one page and leave. If this happens on your home page, check that you’re surfacing the most relevant, sought-after information and links that bring people to your site in the first place. Reevaluate copy to ensure it is clear and compelling, and make sure calls-to-action are prominent.
If people are bouncing from deeper pages, revisit your customer journeys to determine what they might’ve been trying to do before they got hung up. Look at the page’s metadata, keywords and links to see if they need optimizing so that users coming through search reach more appropriate content.
2. SERP ranking: We’ve known for a long time that links after the first search engine results page (SERP) may as well not exist. Heck, if you’re not one of the first five pages listed, you still have a weak shot at getting click-through traffic. Review our advice on how to create content that scores well with Google’s algorithm and fix anything for which the search giant issues penalties (keyword stuffing, spammy in-bound links, etc.).
3. Low conversion: They’re coming into your showroom and kicking tires but leave before making a purchase (or signing up for a newsletter or requesting a demo or whatever turns them into a quality lead for your business). Some possible explanations:
- Your content doesn’t answer their questions convincingly or demonstrate value.
- Your content doesn’t provide clear next steps.
- Your doesn’t show that your business understands their needs.
- Your content is too vague and sounds just like the competition.
Keep it simple and don’t make users work to understand what you’re offering.
4. Dwindling traffic: You used to get healthy site traffic, but those numbers have been dropping. One likely suspect — low Google ranking. And many of the problems that Google’s algorithm penalizes are the same things that turn off human site visitors. These include poor quality content, slow load time, stale design or content and poor mobile experience.
5. Low exploration: Parts of your site may be performing just fine; it’s just that there’s a lot of other information you wish users would explore during their visits. Maybe they’re not noticing new products or never visit the education center you’ve spent so much time building. Quite possibly, your site’s information architecture and navigation aren’t letting users discover the full breadth of your content. Maybe you’ve labeled this content with terms that the audience doesn’t recognize. You also need to update your SEO to ensure you turn up in search for new sections or pages.
6. Abandoned carts: E-commerce sites aren’t the only places where users give up on tasks midway through. They also bail on forms required to download a white paper or they split right in the middle of your sales video. Think long and hard about gated content — requiring users to provide personal information and email addresses before you let them read your stuff. Oftentimes, this demand for information comes way too early in the sales/marketing cycle and users aren’t ready to give it up, at least not as much as you’re asking for.
Another explanation might be the registration process itself, which could be confusing or buggy or feel endless. Don’t test the limits of your users’ attention span. Make sign-ups quick and simple. Keep content concise and digestible and get to the point fast.
7. One-visit wonders: If your brand is trying to build a community of engaged customers, you need those users to come back and take part. But you have to make it worth their while, and you can’t make it all about you. Get to know your audience as people, figure out what’s on their minds and create content that demonstrates your empathy and relevance to their needs.
Website analytics are a huge source of insight as you work to determine why your site isn’t performing up to snuff. User testing is another valuable tool in determining how people are reacting to your site structure, content and overall experience and what areas you need to improve.
Whatever you do, don’t lose sight of the big picture – where your visitors arrive from, what they’re trying to accomplish on your site, and whether those “performance problems” are actually “not starting with a content strategy problems.” Spending time at the outset to develop a robust content strategy can help prevent some of these problems, which is a lot easier than fixing things after the fact.