If you had 60 minutes to fix a problem, how much time should you spend figuring out what the problem was in the first place?
Michael Cooper at Entrepreneur.com, who called problem diagnosis “the most important business skill you’ve never been taught,” quoted Albert Einstein as saying fifty nine of those minutes should be spent figuring out exactly what’s wrong. Once the hard work of diagnosing the problem is done, the solution is usually obvious.
Leading a small business yourself, you’ve probably noticed that much of your day isn’t always about moving forward, but rather resolving the problems that are keeping you from moving forward in the first place. In that, your role is like that of a mechanic: you know how to drive forward, but nothing runs unless you’ve got all the moving parts working.
Nowhere is that truer than with your website. Whether you struggle with technical issues or you simply need to make more conversions, one thing is always clear: you need to be able to tell what part of your website isn’t working, and why. Here are a few tips for accomplishing just that:
Step One: Set Up Analytics
If you haven’t already, it’s time to get your website properly rigged with the detailed analytics that will yield you diagnoses at the work of a few clicks.
We’ve already put together a guide to Google Analytics for your small business website. This won’t only take you through the nuts and bolts of setting up analytics, but will explain the key strategies you can employ to start figuring out exactly what it is that’s going wrong.
Get started sooner rather than later. When you diagnose your website problems, you need to work with a large sample size of information which can take time to collect if you don’t have a lot of website traffic. Anything else is just an educated guess that may or may not address your issues.
Step Two: Pinpoint Your Exact Problem and Make it Measurable
Diagnosis starts with measurement. If you’re going to diagnose a problem, you need to put a number to it—otherwise, you’re just working off of hunches and educated guesses.
Browse through this list of conversion rate problems at your website and see if any of them sound familiar:
- No traffic, no conversions. This is primarily a traffic problem, as you don’t even know if your site is optimized for conversions just yet. Focus on drawing more people to your site first.
- High bounce rate with few conversions. This can be one of the most frustrating measurements there is. Your site is getting traffic. It’s placing high in search engines. Yet it seems as though none of the traffic is amounting to anything. A high bounce rate tends to indicate either technical or creative problems. Make sure that your site is easy to load on multiple browsers and on mobile devices. Highlight the features of your service right away—don’t make people click three times to find out what it is you’re selling.
- The site works—but it’s not converting. If you get enough traffic with a low bounce rate, but aren’t seeing the kind of business you’d like, then it’s time to start split-testing. More on that in a moment.
If any of the above sound familiar, you know what you need to measure. Now it’s a matter of setting goals and weighing your site’s success around those goals.
Step Three: Trial and Error
If nothing thus far sounds like it’s your website’s problem, then there may be some harder-to-define issues springing up, such as:
- Poor loading times. These can produce higher bounce rates, but loading time can be difficult to read sometimes, particularly for mobile browsers.
- Stiff competition. This one is difficult because there’s no way to read about it in the analytics. If your niche is full of great competition and fantastic, professional websites, then your own website might be functional—but it still doesn’t stack up. This requires additional research to find out where your site ranks in your market.
Whatever the problem is, take a “trial and error” approach to discovering the solution. As Entrepreneur notes, the lessons of failure can bring with them the insights necessary for success—this is true for large businesses as well as small businesses. Just because you’re working with a smaller budget doesn’t mean you can’t take the time and effort to discover what’s really plaguing your site.
You can kick-start a trial and error campaign by sending more traffic to your site with sponsored ads on Facebook and Google. This won’t only give you a larger sample size from which to measure your site’s performance, but will add to the volume of customers ready and willing to give you the critical feedback you’re after.
Step Four: Ask for Feedback
For the most part, you’re better off relying on numbers and percentage points to get the real-world feedback you need on your website. But if you’re stilling pulling your hair by its ends in frustration, it may be time to simply ask your audience what’s going on.
There are a number of ways to ask for feedback:
- Send out an email to your newsletter. You do have a newsletter through an email marketing service like MailChimp, right? You can directly ask your subscribers for feedback on your site with a simple email and take in the feedback as it comes.
- Try using Google Surveys. If you want to get a little more scientific about it conduct a survey. You can even combine the two tools—using your newsletter to promote your survey—to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible.
While you’ll want to take some customer comments with a grain of salt, do try to watch for patterns. If you notice some frequent themes come up—“the site takes too long,” or “I couldn’t find what I need”—then you’ll have a few breadcrumbs that will show where you need to head next. Over time, your research will be rewarded with a more efficient, effective website—one that’s ready to make sales as soon as customers land.
Measure, Manage, and Improve
These steps are great ways to get started fixing the problems on your small business website. But remember that even the simplest acts of measuring your success and tweaking for improvements can add up to major upgrades in quality over the long-term future. Make your small business website a priority and you’ll be sure to increase your chances at online success.