New Year’s Resolutions: Trim the Fat

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions: Trim the Fat

A new year is a fresh start, a time that many people use to start thinking about those aspects of their lives that can be improved. Most of us just consider the most immediate things: eating right, working out, and generally trimming the fat. But how long has it been since you considered trimming the fat from your website?

The effectiveness of websites, like many marketing pieces, can be a tricky thing to assess. It’s easy – seductively easy – to put together a boilerplate version of your company identity, a staff page, a contact form, a few pre-existing marketing pieces from other media you have lying around, then shove it all out there and trust that customers will find what they’re looking for. It might even appear to be effective in the short term. As time passes and company initiatives come and go, the site accumulates more and more information, which seems like a good thing. After all, more content means more hits on search engines, right?

But then, a few months or years down the road, traffic starts to level off. No matter how hard you try, you can’t keep up the level of growth you enjoyed at the beginning. Your web visits reach a plateau and no amount of new content can get you beyond it.

The first thought many company owners have at this point is that their site has become antiquated somehow, slow and/or uninteresting to look at. But even a redesign with the latest coolest top-of-the-line features only creates a moderate bump in traffic as old customers come back to see what the fuss is about. Then that bump melts away and you’re right back where you started.

We at Matcha Design see this pattern all too often. The trouble isn’t in how the site looks; the root of the problem is in what the website says. In cramming their site with content in pursuit of search engine hits, the company has lost focus. The time has come to trim the fat.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the company should scrap everything and start over. Much of their existing content can still be useful. But the powers-that-be have to determine just what the site’s core message really is, and how it integrates with the company’s philosophy as a whole. After that, the decision between what to keep and what to toss becomes much simpler.

Sometimes just looking through your site’s logs with a critical eye can reveal interesting tidbits. There are two metrics you should watch out for: unique visitors and bounce rate. Your site’s unique visitors is the number of individual computers (not necessarily people; one person using his phone, laptop, and desktop to access your site will count as three unique visitors, but in practice this doesn’t change the numbers that much) which connect to your site during a given period. Dividing this number into your pageviews gives you the average number of pages a visitor looks at on your site. Higher numbers are better, because that means your content is compelling enough to keep people reading.

Bounce rate, meanwhile, is the percentage of visitors who come to your site, look at only one page, and leave. This number is nearly always higher than you’d like it to be, but even then, bounce rates over 50% often indicates that visitors are coming to your site based on search engine results which don’t necessarily match up with your site’s stated goals. This is a sure sign of either woolly thinking or too much cruft. Time to start trimming.

Once the decision is made, every scrap of information needs to be compared to its relationship to your new, boiled-down message. Important concepts should be emphasized. News reporters have a phrase, “burying the lede,” which means hiding the most important information down in the latter part of a news story instead of putting it right up at the beginning. Don’t bury your site’s lead! Make sure the most important information is either directly accessible on the home page, or one level deep. Less important stuff (but still important) can go deeper. Stuff that’s not important … well, why is it there? If your most compelling business reason is “I kinda like it,” then maybe it’s time to make the hard choice.

In the end, a lean site runs better, looks cleaner, and is all about your business. You can have confidence that the site truly represents what you intend to say. This almost always translates to more focused content and more interested customers. Give it a shot. All you have to lose is some fat!

About Matcha Design

Matcha Design is a full-service creative B2B agency with decades of experience executing its client’s visions. The award-winning company specializes in web design, logo design, branding, marketing campaign, print, UX/UI, video production, commercial photography, advertising, and more. Matcha Design upholds the highest personal standards for excellence and can see things from a unique perspective due to its multicultural background.  The company consistently delivers custom, high-quality, innovative solutions to its clients using technical savvy and endless creativity. For more information, visit MatchaDesign.com.

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