Wouldn’t it be great to sit down and make a better website in one evening? Well, creating a better website can be easier than you think. Making small changes in a number of places on your site can quickly add up to a big overall improvement.
In addition, learning how to use just a handful of simple free tools can set you on the path to making even greater improvements in the future. And it will help you make them easier and faster than you ever thought possible.
In this short guide I show you how to take advantage of 8 fast, easy and free tools and techniques that you can use this very evening to build a better overall website.
Best of luck, and have a great evening!
Control quality on your site
It’s a great idea to start keeping a list of terms used on your site that you (or others) need to use often. This helps you maintain editorial quality and appear more consistent and professional to your readers.
Such terms might be product names, the name of your organisation, the way that you refer to customers (are they users or buyers? Clients or partners?), or how you describe various aspects of what you do. This list will benefit you both today and in the future, keeping things clear as your site begins to grow.
ACTION #1 => Create a list of at least 10 commonly used words and phrases and explain how they should always be written on your website.
“Small changes across your site can quickly add up to big improvements.” TWEET THIS!
Start tracking your brand on the web
It is also important to monitor how the rest of the world is referring to your industry, your company and your website. Doing so let’s your respond to issues, track and learn from feedback and seek out opportunities in your industry and market. The Google Alerts tool allows you to track words and phrases across the web giving you email alerts when new pages are published online that contain them.
ACTION #2 => Go to Google alerts and type in 2 or 3 words or phrases you want to start tracking. Then specify the type of results you would like, the volume and frequency of updates you want to receive, and the email address that these updates will be sent to.
Unlock the power of the mailing list
Your next job this evening is to get a proper handle on email. Email is still the one medium that is consistently highlighted as one of the most successful methods of engaging with your target audience.
Don’t believe me?
Three-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent” to “good” ROI. (Econsultancy, 2016)
Setting up a complete email strategy is a bit beyond the scope of your work this evening – we’re more concerned with quick wins! But hopefully these statistics have shown you that you really need to take email seriously from now on, and dedicate some proper time and effort to it.
You may already have an email list in your organisation which is great! If so, what you need to do this evening is consider how email fits in with the promotional strategy and workflow of your website, so that you can suggest alterations and improvements in the future. Knowing who is in charge of key parts of the process will make it easier for you to benefit from parts 4, 5 and 6 of this guide.
ACTION #3a => Write down who is in charge of creating content for your email list, who is in charge of sending out the emails and who is in charge of getting more signups. If you don’t know the answers to these questions then ask someone who does.
If you don’t have an email list and want to get started building one then you can get setup on a simple free program called MailChimp. This fantastic tool lets you set up an email list for free, and start to collect the email addresses of your readers from your website.
ACTION #3b => Go to MailChimp and set up a new free account and mailing list for your website. It is up to you whether or not to go through the whole process this evening of course – but if you do want to then I recommend this great free PDF guide from MailChimp.
Plan out a lead magnet
Now that you understand the importance of email your next question will probably be about how to get signups. There are many ways to do this, some of which are discussed in the next part of this guide, but one stand out technique is by creating a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a useful resource, guide, free gift or other piece of material that you give to your audience in exchange for their email address (and the permission to contact them in the future). The more relevant and valuable you can make the lead magnet, the more likely it is that your readers will happily hand over their email address.
Think of it as an opportunity to go a little further than the information on your site, and provide some really in-depth material for your readers in a format that will benefit them.
Your task this evening is to plan out a simple lead magnet to offer to your audience. If you work in a university this might be a prospectus of your courses, if your business has a good PDF brochure then this might be perfect for your needs, if you run a blog then think of your most popular blog post and consider how you could provide more value for your audience on this topic in a lead magnet.
ACTION #4 => Plan out a simple lead magnet that will be beneficial to your audience and help you get more signups to your mailing list.
Get that signup link seen
If, as the statistics show, your email list is one of the most vitally important communication channels you can use, then getting signups to that list is crucial. And one of the best ways of doing this is quite simply to include the link on more places on your website.
There are so many places on your site where a legitimate request for people to join the mailing list can be made. This could include your “About” page, your most-trafficked blog posts or pages, your “Contact us” page, even in the sidebar or footer of every page.
ACTION #5 => Write down at least 5 places where you could add a signup link to your mailing list on your website.
Try and help every reader
It can take a lot of effort to get someone to your website, and the last thing you want them to do is get lost and leave. Good navigation across your site is important, and one area that can be overlooked is the 404 page.
If a reader clicks on a dead link or types in a URL where there isn’t a page – they usually land on a 404 page that explains the issue. This can be a great opportunity to highlight some of your most important content and even ask for email signups.
And if you are struggling, here are 60 ideas for your inspiration.
ACTION #6 => Write down 3 ways to improve your 404 pages so that people don’t just click to other websites.
View other people’s links
Sooner or later it is a great idea to have a really good look at what your competitors are doing and see if there is anything you can do better. If you’re looking for further ideas on how to make a better website in one evening, then this could be a great place to look.
You can of course start doing this by looking at their websites, but to go a little deeper it is very useful to see what other sites are linking to your competitors’.
This will give you a sense of how they are perceived in the industry and can also provide you with ideas and opportunities to get links to your own site. Here’s a simple free tool to carry out this research:
ACTION #7 => Go to this Moz tool and input a competitor website URL (or any other URL you’d like to investigate) and then go to the “Inbound Links” section.
“What your competitors are doing online might be the best source of market research you have.” TWEET THIS!
Learn how to monitor social media
Determining what your target audience is interested in using social media is not an easy task, but it can provide insightful and up to date information to help you plan future website improvements.
Social media can give information on topics that relate to your area of expertise and that you think could make for good website content, or that describe the issues and problems your target audience may face.
The free online tools Social mention and Tagboard will let you see what is being said about such topics right now, and who is discussing them online. The two sites give slightly different results so it is recommended that they are used together.
Now you know how to make a better website in one evening – these are your next steps
There we have it – 8 simple tools and techniques to improve your website, come up with new content ideas, get more readers and engage better with all of the traffic that you can generate. That can all be used and implemented in a single evening.
This guide will have helped you to take your first steps in content strategy. For a more thorough overview of the topic, and to learn how it can benefit all aspects of your website view the introduction to content strategy.
A vital part of content strategy is a solid content publishing workflow – as this is true if you run your own blog or work on enormous multinational websites. And if you can ensure that your content strategy is aligned with content marketing for better business results, you’re stay on the straight and narrow to success!
Also published on Medium.