Welcome to 2005 (well, almost). I officially dub 2005 the "Year of Web Site Optimization." Time to set aside a portion of your Web site budget to focus on site optimization. If you're planning to redesign your site next year, set aside a percentage of your overall budget to tune it after launch and throughout the year.
Doing a big site redesign every two years, with minimal content updates between redesigns, no longer makes sense. If you're really concerned about the site's performance, consider tuning it, based on overall site goals, throughout the year.
And when it's time to redesign that site, don't scrap what you've done in the past. Improve it! Yes, some of it will change, but some of it will stay the same. Which content stays and which goes? I can't tell you, but your visitors can. Focus on improving your key metrics' performance. Again, your visitors will tell you where to spend your time.
Is your site's primary goal to increase qualified leads or increase sales and profitability? Better service existing clients? A combination of these?
It really doesn't matter. When tackling new initiatives in 2005, focus on results, not just the once-every-two-years, all-encompassing redesign. What are you doing well? Keep it. Perhaps even improve it slightly. What are you doing poorly? Spend time on that. What's the upside if you could fix the underperforming areas? Spend your dollars on those areas.
Focus on areas with the greatest effect on the bottom line and with the greatest upside. Is it time to refresh the look and feel of your site? Not unless it's going to improve conversion on your key goals and the bottom line.
Our most successful clients set aside roughly 10 to 20 percent of their annual Web budget to optimize the site throughout the year. In many cases, staff is divided into groups. Two people on a 10-person Web team focus exclusively on projects to optimize site performance. Optimization work can include improving calls to action, copy, signup or checkout funnels, campaign landing pages, and so on. Again, understanding how visitors use your site helps you identify where you need to spend the time.
Analytics is a natural way to identify opportunities; the next natural steps are usability studies and surveys. Once you generate the hypothesis on the problem, it's time for action, such as rolling out an A/B or multivariable test.
We're beginning to set aside 20 percent of the redesign budget for many of our site redesign projects for tuning and optimizing in the months following the site relaunch.
For those of you who have read my previous columns (feel free to check them out here), I want to continue the emphasis of getting started, even starting small. It's a fresh year, with new objectives and budgets. Now is the time to focus not only on that budget but also the best way to use those dollars and resources.
Are you moving in this direction? Let me know how it's going or if you're facing any resistance within your organization.