Good websites and blogs are constantly evolving organisms. Content is added, links are established, features are added, layouts are changed, and the cycle continues in a neverending quest for improvement and perfection.
This is a good thing. If your website or blog isn’t changing and improving, why are you even bothering with it?
The problem is that you can be overwhelmed with the amount of different things that can be done to your site. I often look at a to-do list for one of my sites and gasp in horror. Here are five strategies for improving your blog or website efficiently:
- Plan Ahead – If you know you’re going to do some work on your blog or site, plan ahead of time exactly what you want to accomplish. It can be frustrating to sit down when it’s time to do the work and waste time figuring out what exactly to do.
- Prioritize Your Tasks – People naturally do the easiest or most fun task in front of them first. More often than not, this isn’t the task that will lead to the greatest returns. You’ve got long term goals for your site right? Figure out which tasks will help you accomplish those goals and have the greatest impact. Do those first.
- Group Similar Tasks Together – It’s a waste of time to jump around from different task types. If you sit down and write an article, then program some code, then open your graphics program, then submit your site to some directories, then answer some emails, you’ll waste a ton of time. The best idea is to handle all the similar tasks at once. If you want to write an article, write five of them while you’re in writing mode. If you need to make some graphics, do all your graphics tasks at once while you have your graphics program open. Grouping your tasks will make things quicker and easier.
- Outsouce – Whether it’s a task you don’t like doing, a task you aren’t good at, or you just have too much on your plate, figure out if there are any tasks that can be outsourced. You’d be amazed at how cheap some specialists are these days. You can hire a writer to write content, a designer to improve your site’s look, a search engine expert to help your search engine optimization, or anything else that might come up. We have a tendency to want to do things ourselves, but it’s not always the most efficient way to handle it.
- Focus – Possibly my biggest weakness, it really pays to focus on the tasks at hand and block out distractions. If you really want to get some work done on your blog or site, turn off your instant messenger, close down your email, turn off that podcast or TV, and focus on the tasks in front of you. The free time you’ll save can be used to do those other activities later.
That’s a quick start to getting you on the right track to making some positive changes to your site. Good luck.
Gawker Media has launched a new blog called The Consumerist.
In Nick Denton’s explanation for launching the blog he points out that his ad sales team have been asking for a shopping site, but that:
To the extent that it’s a shopping site, it’s a shopping hate site. It won’t be popular with advertisers, or our ad sales staff. But it will, at least, be therapeutic. And, in our own way, we’ll be doing something to fix the capitalist system.
Then Steve Rubel of MicroPersuasion comments on The Consumerist and says:
My question is who will want to advertise on it?
My answer is, who cares? Denton has the right idea here. Gawker didn’t get where they are by pandering to advertisers. They create blogs that are interesting for people to read. Without people reading your blogs, nobody will want to advertise on it.
Basically, if The Consumerist launched as a new blog that was happy go lucky about commerce and just applauded all the companies advertising on it, it wouldn’t go far. People would realize it was just a shill site to attract advertisers.
Gawker has chosen to tell it like it is, and if advertisers come, so be it. The only way to get conversions and reach goals is to cater to the customer, which is the visitor reading the blog in the case of The Consumerist. If it’s a successful blog, then the advertisers will come. They might not be the commerce companies that the blog is criticizing, but they’ll be somebody who’s willing to pay money to get in front of the eyeballs of their audience.
As we hit the holidays and the end of the year, it’s time to think about some special types of blog posts or website content one might create. Creating holiday/year-end content can help your site convert on it’s goals by engaging the user in the season which hits them on an emotional and a current state of mind level.
- A Wishlist
For your blog: Post a wishlist of what you’d like for holiday gifts, a wishlist for the industry or subject your blog covers, or maybe a socially conscious wishlist of things you’d like to happen in the world.
For your ecommerce site: Pick out the items on your site you’d actually want to buy as a wishlist. Not the items that earn you the most margin, or the items you have the most inventory of, show us what YOU would buy. Let’s see Jeff Bezos’ Amazon wishlist right? Or what about wishlists from your employees or perhaps famous people in your industry?
- The Year In Positive Retrospect
For your blog: Let’s see your top 10 blog posts of 2005! Or what were the top 10 things that happened in your subject area? Top 10 funniest things you wrote? Top 10 comments from users?
For your ecommerce site: What were the top 10 selling items of the year? What were the best customer service stories? I know it might seem strange to have this type of content on an ecommerce site, but buyers do like this kind of information. It also makes your store have some personality, which is great to create emotional connections.
- The Year In Negative Retrospect
For your blog: What were your worst 10 posts of the year? What were the worst comments? What companies in your industry messed up the most? We like to read about failure as much as success.
For your ecommerce site: What products flopped? Were there any amusing customer service screw-ups? Customers can understand that you may make mistakes. It makes your store human.
- Predictions for 2006
For your blog: What will happen in your industry in 2006? Make 10 predictions. For some humor, try making 10 joke predictions if it fits your market.
For your ecommerce site: Which products will be hot in 2006? What’s coming that your users might not know about? Can you make some general industry predictions?
- Set Your Goals
For your blog: Do you have any goals for your blog? Are you hoping to make a certain amount of revenue? Does it help you network? Are you hoping to make the Feedster Top 500 list? Make these goals public, you’ll be much more likely to achieve them if you do.
For your ecommerce site: Why not make your goals public as well? Sure, maybe you leave out real numbers, but would it be wrong to publicly write that your store’s goal is double sales in 2006? Or to cut customer complaints in half?
- Create a Holiday Song or Poem
For your blog: It’s a bit cheesy, but in the right cases it can work well and be cute or funny. How about changing the words to 12 Days of Christmas to something about your industry? Or combine this with a suggestion above and rehash your top posts of the year with the 12 Days of Christmas?
For your ecommerce site: Get creative and show some spirit. Make up a holiday song or story involving products from your store or services you provide. Make it an activity around the office for everyone to participate in, have some fun.
That should be enough to get you started. I guess the question is which of these content types will Conversion Rater do over the next month?
UPDATE: FutureNow’s Persuasion Architect blog is kicking off a holiday-themed blog post series to look at the conversion assessments they performed of some large ecommerce players. It’s a good example of combining real blog content with a holiday theme.
Sometimes things aren’t as difficult as they seem. Companies spend a ton of money on tools and consultants to increase their sales, leads, or whatever their web goals may be.
Often though, the most powerful way to increase your conversion rate is to simply listen to your customers, and implement their suggestions.
They are the ones using your site, and if they bother to take time out of their busy day to email or call you with a suggestion, you better damn listen.
Here’s a good example that I recently ran across. Tim O’Reilly sent Amazon numerous suggestions on improvements they could make to their Wishlist. Here’s a dedicated customer, using their Wishlist feature, who wants to spend more money and takes the time to write them to suggest changes. Will anything change? Based on his post it sounds like he’s made suggestions before that went nowhere, and it doesn’t sound like he even got a response on this latest request.
Are your users suggesting anything to you? Are they complaining about your site in any way? It’s much too easy to blow them off as just not knowing how your site should work, when really they are the most important people you should be listening to if you want to reach your goals.
It mainly holds true for ecommerce sites, but something that’s important for all sites and blogs to consider is their USP, or Unique Selling Proposition.
Your USP defines why your site is different and what makes it special. Why should people buy from you? Why should they read your blog?
While I don’t go as far as some people saying you should state your USP on your front page of your site, I do think it’s important that you know what your USP is for your site.
A good article about choosing your USP and how to use it comes from “marketing guru” Jay Abraham.
For example, the USP of Conversion Rater is “Making the web convert for your goals.” I find it too vague and I’m not sure I’m fully delivering in the early stages, but nobody said I was perfect. I’ll continue to strive to hit that USP.