Recently, I spent a few hours with a website usability specialist learning about trends. I like to think I’m pretty current on this stuff but things have changed a lot over the last three years and even I was surprised at some of the most recent trends.

If you’re a consultant or owner-operator, here’s what you need to know about your website: 

Your Homepage
The purpose of your home page is twofold: 1. To welcome the visitor 2. To lead them to info they want quickly

Reality Check: Unless you’re a massive brand, most people who visit your website already know you. They probably met you at an event or were referred to you by a colleague. So they don’t want to know more about you. They want to know what you can do for them.

• We recommend that you stream people to your service pages using buttons or obvious links. For example, let’s pretend you’re a financial services guru with three kinds of services designed to help three kinds of clients: Doctors, dentists and lawyers. You’d be smart to have three buttons on your homepage labeled ‘If you’re a dentist, continue here,’ ‘If you’re a doctor…’, etc. that link to the corresponding service pages. Easy, right? Your clients will think so too.
• Title your homepage tab with your company name e.g. ‘Home – Growth Path Strategic Marketing’ (as shown below) rather than just ‘home’. In fact, every page should have a smart title tab to help with optimization.
Home page title
• If you have one of those sites where your logo (usually in the upper left corner) is also a clickable link to the home page, make sure that you include an alternative way to return to the home page. This clickable homepage logo is a recent trend that can confuse older visitors.
• Include dynamic content on your homepage. The easiest way to do this to link your blog or news feed to your homepage so your readers can view the most recent one or two posts. When you update these feeds on a regularly basis, you train the web crawlers to visit your site more frequently. The more frequently they visit, the higher your site will rank.

About Us/Contact Us
It’s time to say goodbye to your ‘About Us’ page. I encourage all readers to suck it up and press delete!
Studies show the only people who read your About Us section are contractors who want to sell to you. Remember that your clients are less interested in YOU and more interested in what you can do for them.

• We recommend that you add a sentence or two about your organization or mission on the Contact Us page. Almost everybody serious goes to your Contact Us page so this ensures a) they read and b) its succinct enough to satisfy the average web users’ ADD.
• Team bios should also go on the Contact Us page (either super-short bios or a sublink to a longer team page.)
• ALWAYS include a map to your office. Even if you work from home or you’re a virtual company, including a map shows that your business has a physical presence and this builds credibility.

The Footer
Ah, the poor misunderstood footer. “What is it good for?” the masses cry. Nobody goes there so why even bother? One word: Optimization.

• Use your footer to link to other pages and use lots of keywords. More savvy readers will look for an alternate means of navigation, but even if your reader overlooks this the web crawlers won’t and it’s a surefire way to boost your Google rank.
• This can act as a site map – organized by key words rather than pages – and those keywords are on every page.

Below is our Growth Path footer. It’s not pretty but Google considers it a work of art…
Website footer 

The Menu Bar
Alternative means of navigation is important when the world is web-savvy and nobody really browses. The old way is to place your menu along the left hand column. Keep that – it’s good for subpages. But it’s also important to include a menu across the top. It’s this top menu that’s critical. Get the top menu wrong and your site will be useless.

• Always put Contact US to the far right of your menu.
• Place the page you most want people to visit next to ‘Home’. For example, the Growth Path menu places ‘core services’ before expertise because we know our clients think it’s more important to go there first.
Menu Bar

• Finally, limit the number of menu items to four or five. If you have 5, #4 will be least clicked in your site.

Test, Revise, Test Again
We recommend that you review your analytics every month and make adjustments. This will allow you to split test different content and layouts. If monthly sounds a little heavy, then the minimum is quarterly.
Clients who have an annual content and layout shakeup enjoy better SEO and higher visitor return rates.
If you change content but keep the same layout, returning visitors will assume the content is the same too and not explore it. Don’t be afraid to change it up a bit!
And if your website is older than three years? Throw it away and raise a glass in its memory. I’m afraid it’s obsolete.

And check back here next month for the debut of Growth Path’s new look!

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