Website Optimization 101: Questions and Answers

websiteoptimization1014Being someone who optimizes and improves websites, I get countless questions all about what website optimization exactly is. Because of that, I have been gradually realizing that many, many people online still don’t know much about the powers of website optimization.

So, I thought I would write a quick ‘Website Optimization 101′ questions and answers session, sending you all back to school to learn more about this emerging  subject. So, pencils at the ready. Lets get started…

Q: Just what exactly is website optimization?
In a nutshell, website optimization is all about making websites better. Not necessarily one that looks better. Or one that does better in the search engines. Which are both important – but in particular, its about making websites better in terms of visitor experience.  To put it plain and simple – the happier your website visitors are, and the more your website meets their needs, the more they will come back and engage in your content or buy from you – making YOU more money as an online business. Everybody wins!

Q: My website is great thanks. Why should I optimize it?
Put the shoes on your own feet. When you go to a website for the first time that doesn’t offer what you want, and doesn’t offer a good visitor experience, its highly likely you won’t come back. Right? Well, it’s the same thing for visitors arriving at your very own website. If its not meeting their needs, they won’t be back very often either. Chances are, this is happening more often than you might think too. And you probably don’t know what y0ur website is truly capable either – thats why you need help from a professional website optimizer.  The good news is that its great way to gain competitive advantage if you start website optimization soon, because not many of your competitors are understanding or doing it yet either.

 Q: Who will benefit if I optimize my website?
Optimizing your own website isn’t like putting some rims and a spoiler on your car just to please yourself (and your lady). Optimizing and improving your website will benefit everyone who visits your website – from the casual tire-kickers, to the die-hard repeat visitors. And they will come back more as a result of a well optimized website (which is much cheaper than trying to get new visitors to come). This will please you because you know your website is performing better, and will also hopefully benefit your bank balance because of the extra sales or ad revenue generated.

Q: But I am already doing search engine optimization. Isn’t that the same thing?
I actually just wrote a post all about this subject matter. Basically, while it is important to engage in search engine optimization (SEO) it doesn’t matter how much SEO you do if you don’t have a well optimized website that meets the needs of your website visitors. Your SEO efforts will be wasted because your visitors needs won’t be met, and they will simply leave your website and go back to Google and click on one of your competitors instead. If you want read more about this, here are other main differences between SEO and website optimization.

Q: What tools do I need to do website optimization?
Firstly, you need a web analytics tool (at least Google Analytics) to be able to measure what your visitors are doing on your website, how they are getting there, and more importantly where any why they are leaving prematurely. In order to get best results with website optimization you need to use a testing tool like Google Website Optimizer. Using testing tools like these enable you to test different variations on your site to see what has the highest impact on your website visitors, and how they best convert for your website goals.

Q: Is website optimization hard to learn?
Learning good website optimization isn’t something you learn overnight unfortunately. And there are many elements that go into becoming a good website optimizer – knowledge and experience of web analytics, web usability and web marketing in particular. Combine that with quite a few years of website design best practices and you are on your way to becoming a great website optimizer! There aren’t many classes on this subject matter either – one great workshop to start you on your way is the landing page optimization workshop by Marketing Experiments.com (which I recently had the pleasure of attending).

Q: How do I know it’s worth my time doing website optimization? Wont it take a while too?
The great thing about website optimization is that its easy to measure the impact of it using web analytics tracking tools, so you can see how you were doing before optimization, and how you have improved after optimization – whether this be increasing online sales, increasing repeat visits (and less cost needed on paid search to generate visits) or an increase in newsletter signups, etc. The other great thing about website optimization is that its fairly quick to measure these results – just as long as you get some good traffic to base your optimization tests on.

Q: What types of things have the best results for optimizing?
Anything that has the potential for high impact, and any page on your site that gets considerable traffic. This could be your website homepage, pages that get a lot of your paid and organic search, your shopping cart (if you sell online), top entry pages, registration pages, internal search results pages, browse pages or product detail pages. You can even optimize and test parts of pages, like navigation, images, calls to actions, forms, tag lines and more. Sometimes its the smallest of things that have the biggest impact on your visitors experience.

Q: Who can do website optimization for me?
Website optimization is still a relatively new field – as a result of this, there aren’t too many people specializing in this yet. Apart from myself, here are some other great ‘website optimizers’ that can help you – Avinash Kaushik, Tim Ash, Brian Eisenberg, Linda Bustos, Billy Shih, Justin Palmer, and Chris Goward.

Q: Where or how can I learn more about website optimization?
Well, luckily there are now quite a few great books about website optimization, and great website optimization blogs where you can learn more about the subject. And of course, you can subscribe to my blog and get more posts about website optimization like this. I have also  just started a new series called ‘Win at Website Optimization’ which will help you get even more ideas to optimize your website.

So there we have it. Hopefully after reading that Question and Answers session you are a little more in the light about website optimization, and what it can do for your website and its visitors. Any other questions, feel free to comment…