After months of planning, working through design, development, testing, and curating content, the team’s hard work is complete and you’re ready to launch the new website! While worth celebrating, some organizations fail to realize that launch is not the end of the project. It’s only just the beginning of a new digital product. Digital teams should be prepared to stay hands-on as it relates to continuously monitoring and improving the new site after it goes live to meet user and business needs.
This process of making regular and incremental improvements to the site is referred to as optimization. Broadly, these tactics may be informed by a feature backlog or planned initiatives, or may be ad hoc and inspired by, for example, analytics, audits, and testing tools. Ultimately, optimization is an ongoing endeavor meant to get the most out of a given tool, its underlaying technology, and the teams that support it.
To get you started, here are six tips to inspire a post-launch optimization strategy:
Optimization is no longer a digital fad, it's a best practice. A central idea behind optimization is testing, experimentation, and incremental improvement. To this end, data is an organization’s greatest ally. Free data collection tools, like Google Analytics and Hotjar, give organizations greater insight into how users are engaging with a website or digital product. More specifically, these tools are helpful in understanding what content users are engaging with and visualizing how that content is being engaged. Tools like Optimizely (formerly Episerver) allow teams to personalize content, A/B test different variations of content or designs, and promote the best experience possible to the right audience at the right time.
Understanding where and why site visitors fall off allows teams to tailor efforts to improve those specific experiences. This data can inform experiments and test scenarios to improve conversions or business outcomes. In some cases, it can be as simple as moving the call to action (CTA) higher up on a page to be above the fold:
Be sure to capture current metrics to serve as a benchmark for any experiment or test. You’ll want a before/after comparison to understand if any tweaks or tests have achieved the desired results.
Teams can spend hours crafting the perfect piece of content, publishing it, and then…crickets. Don’t fret! Whether it’s creating new or retrofitting old, there’s multiple ways to add great value (and get a greater return!) on site content:
NOTE: While it’s tempting to change and update the URL for republishing, don’t! Search engines can ding sites for posting duplicate content and creating a redirect could lose some of the value in the original URL.
Speaking of search engines…
If optimization were an Oprah Winfrey giveaway, we’d all expect to see search engine optimization (SEO) under our seats. One misconception with optimization is that teams often confuse this with SEO, specifically. SEO is just one element of optimization, though it plays an important role in a website’s visibility and effectiveness at attracting users.
SEO is the collective effort taken to get pages to rank higher in search engine results and increase the quality and quantity of web traffic to given page or site. Since search is the primary way users navigate web, it’s critical to include SEO best practices/techniques into websites and new digital products and monitor their performance.
Search engines use (and regularly update) algorithms to determine what pages to surface to a user based on their search query. However, there are several core components that evaluate a page’s experience and rank position:
Google Search Console is just one tool that can help teams understand search traffic and performance, improve search results based on Google’s recommendations, and analyze search queries for impressions, clicks, and overall position of site content.
The average site visitor will (patiently) wait 1 second for a page to load before bouncing back to the search results for another result, never to return again. When a site offers a poor experience with slow load times, users get a bad taste in their mouth and associate the brand with it. Search engines understand that a slow page provides a poor experience and, therefore, incorporate page speed into search engine algorithms.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool offers a free, quick analysis of a site’s mobile and desktop performance on a 0 to 100 scale with color-coded maps to indicate performance score ranges: red (slow), orange (average), and green (fast).
For each of its assessments, PageSpeed Insights lists the opportunities to improve page load times with detailed explanations and estimated savings after implementing changes.
It’s a standard now that websites and digital products should be responsive to fit modern devices and breakpoints. Still, there’s mobile usability improvements that can often be made to enhance mobile experience for users. In the last few years, search engines have tweaked algorithms to consider mobile experience for a page’s search result ranking. Test the website’s mobile experience using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Tool! Similar to PageSpeed Insights, Google will give further explanation on how to make adjustments, if needed. Even if a site gives a largely positive result, there may be room for improvements (indicated by the “Page loading issues” notification).
Bounce rate is the percentage of website traffic that leaves a site after viewing only one page. While it may sound like a problem, having a high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can indicate several different things:
Analyze analytics tools to understand specific pages that may be receiving high bounce rates. Review live pages and assess content with some of the following examples in mind:
Remember: Launching a site is just the beginning! That’s when the real work of optimizing and ensuring business results begins. For many organizations, a website represents the top of a sales or conversion funnel. Making iterative, incremental improvements to user experience and performance will make the site more visible and enjoyable – and maximize the team’s efforts in standing the site up in the first place. If you could use some help getting started with optimization, drop us a line here.