In the good old days of the Internet (we’re talking the 1990s here), clients grappled with the decision to jump on the newest marketing scheme – the website. Advertising and PR agencies, as well as marketing directors, had widely divergent opinions about several components that are now taken for granted.
The conversation has gone from, “Do we really need a website?” to “How can we make our website better?”
I was on a marketing team that received a MAME Award for Best Website. (The Major Achievements in Merchandising Excellence golden trophy is to the homebuilding industry what the Oscar is to Hollywood.) My employer strolled into my office and said, “Did I mention you’re going to be the guest speaker on websites at today’s Homebuilder’s Association meeting? We leave in 20 minutes.” After the shock wore off, I must have delivered an intelligent lecture because many of the builders asked me to evaluate their websites.
What surprises me today is that many of the same problems I saw with sites in 2003 still exist. Sure, with WordPress and new design trends, the hot features of today are hero images, video and animation. But in the race to beef up data capture and content marketing, simple, everyday details can easily be overlooked. Vendors and publishers alike can up their game and make it easier for their audience to engage, sign up, download, interact and purchase.
Here are 6 key areas you should evaluate on your website to ensure maximum engagement:
You would think contact information would be a no-brainer. But when I’m wearing my research hat, nothing makes me yell “REALLY?!” faster than wasting time hunting down basic information. Your address and phone number should be easy to find. Your “Contact Us” link should be at the top or bottom of every page. If people can’t reach you when they have questions about your event or product, they will likely move on to the next vendor on their list. Don’t be coy. Give ‘em your 411!
In this digital world, time zones abound and chances are someone out there is looking at your website when you are not open for business. There are pros and cons to both popular methods of people reaching you after hours: “Contact Us” forms and Company Directories.
A contact us form (which is what we have on our own company website) can be programmed one time and simply lives on your website. Visitors can, however, be frustrated if you create a pre-populated and mandatory dropdown-list. What if the reason for contacting you isn’t on that list?
My personal favorite is Company Directories such as the one at HIMSS. It’s easy to find their staff and there’s no question who does what. But, you must keep on top of it and update it often.
So, you’ve got an “info@” email address posted on your website. It’s better than nothing. But who reads your incoming message? More than one person? Do you respond to every inquiry?
Whether it’s someone asking a question or providing feedback, a simple follow-up lets your audience know you’re on the ball.
And please watch the automated replies. It’s great to receive a quick email referencing my trouble ticket number. But it doesn’t make a very good impression to acknowledge you received my email and will respond shortly, and then never get back to me.
Follow up. Every. Single. Time.
Tell me thank you, let me know you’ll consider my suggestion, or forward me to the person who can really help me. Don’t leave me in the dark.
Oh, and remember to redirect the routing of your website mail if you have a change in staff.
The team members monitoring your web mail – inquiries and data capture alike – will know the average number of contacts you receive per month. Any sudden drop in those numbers should be a red flag.
Minor updates in website programming, firewalls and email proxy servers can all wreak havoc on your incoming messages. Test your site from time to time. Send yourself an email from the website or fill out any forms to ensure everything is still running as it should.
Social Media Platforms
Are links to your social platforms elusive? Are they current?
I’ve taken over social media duties for many clients and I am dismayed when I discover they have a LinkedIn account but no way to reach it through their website.
If you have multiple channels, make sure website visitors can reach them. By the same token, if you haven’t tweeted since 2013, it might be best to remove the little blue bird until your account is more current.
Yes, websites can be expensive to program. But a laundry list of social media platforms adds an unnecessary degree of difficulty that makes it so much harder for visitors to engage. Our eyes are now trained to look for social graphics and a text list of Twitter and Facebook will be overlooked.
A much better example is to use the icons with which everyone is familiar. No questions here on how I can engage!
But let’s not get carried away. Mashable, gotta love you, but honestly, which Twitter handle do I use when I’m trying to share an article you published?
Social Media Sharing
Publications count on social media to increase readership of their articles. Even vendor websites add sharing buttons to the side of their blogs to encourage readers to engage. What surprises me is how often a pre-programmed post opens in my Twitter profile without basic information such as a Twitter handle.
When you set up your Share buttons, be sure the website plug-in of choice includes your Twitter handle. It’s a common mistake and simple to fix. Also, Twitter doesn’t include links in the character count, but it’s still nice to provide a bit.ly (or whatever service you use) so visitors can RT and comment.
Which is, after all, what engagement is all about. To wit, here are some great examples of engagement done right:
Forbes – This site could really improve by adding their Twitter handle and a shortened link, but they get kudos for adding several options of “Tweet This” above the article. Readers will be quick to click that button and get the message out.
Becker’s Hospital Review – Share any of their articles on Twitter and the post starts with “Reading @beckershr” followed by the article title and the link.
Health IT Outcomes – Push the Tweet Share button and the post is auto-populated with the title of the article, a shortened link, and “via @HITOutcomes.”
Politico’s Morning eHealth – Not only does the Share button have all the necessary bits, but the journalists’ Twitter handles are displayed for even further engagement.
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. Not only are these suggestions relatively low-cost fixes, the attention to detail will elevate your website to social success.
What suggestions do you have for making websites more social? Please share them below.