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Getting the most from your website

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You need a structured plan!

A lot of small business owners think that the major cost and expense of having a small business website is involved in the actual set up of that website. In reality, the set up is probably the easiest part. Once your website has been set up you really need to understand how it works and how to get the best value out of your investment. Here are 5 tips in terms of how you can maximise your investment.


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1. Get yourself an analytics package

While it may seem like an obvious one, the majority of website owners do not have any idea of how many people are coming to their website, how long they are staying there and what they are actually up to. To get all of this information you need to have an analytics package installed that can track all of your key data.

One of the most popular analytics packages out there is the one that Google gives away for free. Google Analytics is great for the novice website owner who wants to be able to get a good overview of what is happening with their site. Google Analytics requires that you install a small piece of code into the website prior to it being able to collect any data. Once this code is installed your GA package will start tracking traffic from that point on.

Once you have GA installed then you need to get a good understanding of what everything means and how you are going to use it. Fortunately Google and a lot of other guys have put a whole load of videos up on Youtube explaining what you can do and how you can use it. If these videos are not enough then there are also plenty of training courses around that you can take to become an expert.

2. Set up events and goals

Now that you have set up your analytics you need to start thinking about what you want to measure. For an eCommerce website that might be easy, you might want to measure how many people make a purchase. But what about all of those people who get to the shopping cart and then decide to exit the website? A great thing that you can do with GA is set up what they call goals. These goals could be anything, they may be someone making a purchase or they may be someone browsing more than 6 pages etc or going to a specific page. Whatever the case you should set up goals for any action that you consider important to your overall strategy.

The next thing that you should think about is setting up events. An event is basically an action that someone takes on the website and the event is triggered using a piece of code that is attached to that action. For example, you might have an event that is someone hitting a "sign up" button on one of your pages or someone hitting the send-now button on your contact page. These "events" are extremely useful for tracking the effectiveness of different pages.

3. Develop a list of KPI's

KPI's or "key performance indicators" are extremely important to every small business. Similarly, the KPI's for your website should drive your future actions and the attention that you give to certain aspects of your website. There are a number of standard KPI's that work for all websites out there. These are things like number of visits, bounce rate, pages visited and time on site. For your particular website there may be other things that are important like number of people who send a contact form, number of people who purchase an item, average price of items purchased etc.

Once you have worked out what the KPI's are that you are going to be tracking for your website you need to get a really good idea of what is "normal" for that KPI. For example, if your website is a brochure based site and you are located in Australia then you should try to get an idea of how you compare to other similar websites. The internet is full of comparison sites and people offering free advice on website statistics. Doing a bit of research into these different statistics will give you a much better understanding of what your stat's should look like.

The aim in finding out what is normal for your style of website is not so that your website can be average. The aim is so that you understand what the normal range is and what you can aim for in respect of beating and bettering the competition. For example, if the normal range for bounce rate in your industry is around 45% and your bounce rate is currently 55% then you know that you need to do something to address this. If your bounce rate is currently 40% and the average is 45% then you know that you are doing something right and you can continue to try to improve on this.

4. Do some A/B testing

Now that you know what the KPI's are for your website and what will drive it's profitability you need to look for ways to improve that profitability. One way to look at doing that is through a thing called A/B testing. A/B testing is an approach whereby you create 2 separate versions of a specific page. One page will be your control page while the other page will be the test page. You can test a whole range of things using A/B testing however it is best to take a structured approach and test just one item at a time.

For example, you may want to test whether people are more likely to click on a "sign up" button if it is in green as opposed to blue. You would therefore create 2 copies of the same home page (or whatever page you are testing) and have one page with your current blue sign up button and the other with a green sign up button.

To do the actual test you will need some software to administer it. There are lot's of good A/B testing platforms out there however one of the easiest ones to use (and cheapest because it is free) is the one that comes with Google Analytics. You can have your A/B test set up in minutes within GA and a few hours later you will start seeing results coming in.

One of the great things about A/B testing is that it will test all of your pre-determined views. Just because you think something looks good does not necessarily mean that it will make people convert.

Building a successful website is about making incremental changes that work and slowly building on your success. A/B testing is a great tool to help you accomplish this.

5. Keep your content fresh

Keeping your content fresh is incredibly important when you own a website. Google loves fresh content (ie, if you are regularly adding content to your website then you are more likely to drive traffic to your site) and your visitors will love fresh content. There are lots of ways that you can add fresh content to your site but the easiest way to do this is by maintaining a blog.

Once you get in to a routine you will find that there are lots of things that you can blog about. You might want to blog about new products or services that you have on offer or you might want to blog about jobs that your business has recently completed.

Owning and maintaining a website can be a great way to attract customers and to generate business. Once you get your website live you need to come up with a structured plan in terms of how you will maintain it and how you will make incremental improvements to make it better. Hopefully these 5 points will help you to take your small business further.

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