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Your Website is Trying to Tell You Something…Are You Listening? – Matt Weber
The Agents of Change

If only your website could speak, and tell you what’s working and not working. Well, according to Matt Weber, it does! And you just have to know how to listen to it. In today’s episode he’ll share how to understand what your website is trying to tell you and what actions you can take to improve traffic and lead generation at your website


Rich: My guest today has an extensive proven background with on and offline marketing strategy and activation. At Roar! Internet Marketing, he leads the in-house team to leverage direct marketing principles with the latest in web design and digital marketing techniques to create personalized and measurable internet strategies. Roar! is a leader in applying unique direct marketing perspectives to web design and internet marketing to achieve measurable value for all integrated strategies.

Today we’re going to be talking about what your website is trying to tell you but you’re not hearing, with Matt Weber. Matt, welcome to the show.

Matt: Hey, Rich. Good to be here today.

Rich: Now I know that as I look through your LinkedIn bio, that you are involved with Grow with Google. What is that all about?

Matt: Yeah, Grow with Google is a program by Google that trains small and medium sized businesses on various digital strategies. The program has been around for about a decade, different iterations and different names, and I’ve been really fortunate for that decade to be handpicked as one of their trainers.

So pre-pandemic we used to do a lot of in-person events to teach classes on Google Analytics, Google local search, how to help your website perform better, et cetera. Since the pandemic, those have been morphed into webinar trainings, but they’re still very popular. So I teach a lot of what we’re gonna talk about today in classes to organizations like SCORE Chapters, and SBDCs, and Chamber of Commerce all over the country.

Rich: Nice. Have you started to see a request for in-person events now that the pandemic has maybe settled down a bit?

Matt: Yes, definitely. But the nice thing about the grow with Google Webinars is that they tend to have that brand attached to them. So fortunately, the show rate is still really strong when these organizations offer the Grow with Google webinars.

Rich: Nice. Very cool. So, you are arguing that our websites are trying to tell us something, but we’re just not listening. And in fact, you have a list of five things that are falling on deaf ears. So I’m hoping that today I can go through those with you, one at a time. You game for that?

Matt: Absolutely. And Rich, I got to tell you, this started back in the early days of the internet. Google Analytics had a treasure trove of data. I mean, just amazing. That could really help businesses pretty quickly. But they just didn’t know where to look. And I think a lot of people were intimidated by it. I mean, just the word ‘analytics’ itself is a little intimidating. And then you’ve obviously logged onto the interface. And if you ever watched the face of somebody who owns a small or medium sized business going to Google Analytics for the first time, you see that look of shock and all over their face. The interface doesn’t do anything other than make it look more intimidating.

So I distilled it down to, let’s forget about the numbers and the charts and the multisyllabic words for just a second, and let’s just focus on if your website could talk to you, what would it tell you to help you and help your business perform better?

So let me give you an example. The first one, without question the most important, is it’ll tell you whether or not your website is being a good salesperson. We can make this as complicated as we want, but really the sole purpose of the website for most businesses is it’s there to convince people to do business with that business. And if it doesn’t succeed at that, what’s its role in life? And your website will tell you pretty quickly whether or not it’s being successful at doing that. And that’s a number called a ‘conversion rate’. And that’s the percentage of people that go to the website that do the thing that website was designed to get them to do. Whether that was download a catalog, fill out a lead form, watch a video, whatever that end goal is, right? That’s the measurement of that.

And I always ask businesses, just if you have a salesperson in your company, you know that you would judge that salesperson by the percentage of leads that they got, that they turned into sales, right? And if that salesperson didn’t succeed at convincing people to do business with you, you’d fire them.

Rich: Rr get them training. One or the other.

Matt: Or get them training, that’s right. If you’re a good employer, maybe good training. So the same thing applies here. Your website’s gonna tell you whether or not it is doing a good job at selling or not. And that’s the highest-level benchmark.

Rich: Now obviously different websites, some are straight up e-commerce sites, others are lead gen sites. So when we’re talking about doing sales, it doesn’t necessarily only mean dollar sales. It could be about just moving somebody to that next step in the customer journey or sales funnel, depending on what your perspective is. Correct?

Matt: Yeah, no question. I mean, if you think about the average B2B, and maybe they’ve got this really critical white paper that they need to get in hands of their best prospects, and if the website doesn’t convince someone to download that white paper, it’s not selling that white paper well enough. So change has got to be made in that case.

Rich: All right. What’s the second thing our website is trying to teach us?

Matt: Yeah, and I know you work a lot with small and medium sized businesses too, and so you know that, a lot of them are owner/operators. They own the business and they’re trying to operate the business, and time is really one of their most scarce commodities. And you feel it, right? Because you feel that people are saying like, “Oh, should I do that paid? Should I do the organic? Should I do the social? What should I do?” And when you end up trying to do all of them, you end up generally failing at all of them. But your website will tell you right now where you’re doing well. And for most businesses, it’s a lot easier to sail into the wind than in sail against the wind.

I would tell you that at least three outta the five businesses that I work with, we do this simple exercise, and social is just not a channel that really puts money back in their pockets. And then we look at it and we say, well, do you spend any time or money on? So yeah, we do post, and we tell them that it’s Jack’s birthday, and blah, blah, blah, but it isn’t a payoff there.

So if you have a limited amount of time, your website will tell you, look you’re doing really well right now and paid, and yes, organic would be great if we could get those clicks for free. Be fantastic. But the truth is, right now we’re sailing into the win with paid. Let’s do more of it.

And Rich, I just got a quick, funny story to share with you. It’s not quite funny, but we worked with a client a couple weeks ago, and they delivered really specialty specialized metals in the manufacturing process. And we did this exercise and found out that when they get a lead from Thomas Net, which is the online version of Thomas Register, the age-old manufacturing registry those leads were converting at five times better than any other visit from any other place. And so we say, well shoot, what do we look like in that registry, that directory? Can we get a bigger listing? Can we get one that’s in red? Let’s put our time there. Because even the smallest amount of time is gonna pay off as a much better return than if we continue to knock our head against the wall and try to figure out how to rank better for this list of 50 keywords that they wanted to rank for. So it’s about prioritizing time. And your website will tell you how to prioritize your time.

Rich: That’s a great point. And I think too many business leaders get interested in the wrong things in terms of how to generate leads and sales for their business. So that’s a great one. What is the third thing that our website is trying to tell us?

Matt: Yeah, and this is something everybody experiences every day of their life. And it’s something that your mother told you way back when and she told you, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And websites are the same way. We tend to be as users a pretty superficial crowd. And the data seems to show consistently over and over again that people will make very quick judgements about your website. A lot of that based on the design, a lot of that based on can they get what they’re looking for so they don’t devote their entire lives to trying to figure your website out. So that first impression that you make. And a lot of research discusses this in terms of nanoseconds, literally, is gonna determine whether or not that person sticks with your website, follows through, gets immersed or goes somewhere else.

And the example that I always give to people on this is, think about the difference between elephants and squirrels for just a second. And I think unfortunately, most people design websites for elephants. They believe the user’s going to lumber up to their website, grab a nice cup of coffee, sit down, take a deep breath, and just absorb everything on their website. And you and I know in reality that’s not the case, right? People are more like squirrels. For a nanosecond, they look at a headline and then they maybe jump at a caption of a photograph, and then maybe they look at a subhead and that’s it. And if we didn’t grab them right there, we lost them. So the thing your website will tell you is, are you making that first impression? And generally that’s expressed as something called a ‘bounce rate’, which I think is also the most misused statistic in website analytics. Because people tend to think about bounce rate of a website, when in reality what we do is we want to look at the bounce rate of a page.

If a lot of people come to a page and they bounce, it only means one or two things. Either we’re attracting the wrong people, or we got the right people and they didn’t see what they were looking for. And they just don’t devote their entire lives trying to figure it out, I think. And that’s what the website will tell you. It’ll tell you when and where are you making a really good first impression. And your mom was right, you don’t get a second chance.

Rich: So if we’re looking at our analytics and we’re seeing that a few of our key pages have that high bounce rate, how do you recommend people prioritize that list in terms of going after the page? Because obviously we may have a page with a very high balance rate, but it may not be a very valuable page anyway to our site versus a homepage or a critical service page, which obviously is the money maker for the site. So what are some things that we might be able to do to bring down that bounce rate?

Matt: Yeah. Spot on, by the way. Excellent comment. There are good bounces and bad bounces. Somebody comes to your contact page, needs to get your address and they leave, they’re gone. That’s a good bounce. Somebody comes to a great blog article that you’ve written, but they don’t come from a service area that you do. But the article is great. They come and they bounce. Great bounce. Bad bounce, key selling page, the page that sells through our value proposition and is designed to convince people to engage with this. And people come to that page and they leave. So we’re gonna take two immediate steps if we have a high bounce rate.

Number one, let’s ascertain are we getting the right people? So let’s look at the queries that are ranking for that page. When is that page being exposed for what queries? Are we getting the right people? If we’re getting the right people and we have a high bounce rate, we got to stop, dial 911, because this is now really critical. Now let’s look at that page and look at the queries and see what people are trying to find out. Remember that most people go to the web to scratch an itch, right? They go to solve a problem. And what is the problem that they’re trying to solve?

In a lot of cases, most businesses are still trying to put forth that old chest pumping copy. “Hey, we were formed in 1963 under the values of honesty, integrity…” which is not helping the user. So in most cases, we got to reverse the thinking a little bit and make it less about selling and more about solving. What is the user trying to solve? What’s the problem that they’re having at that moment, and what can we say to convince them that we can solve it? Because mission statements don’t help people solve their problems. Knowing how many years you’ve been in business doesn’t help anybody solve their problem. So that’s one of the second biggest thing we got to do if we see a high bounce rate, is look at are we offering the solution to what that searcher is looking for?

Rich: All right. Let’s move on to the fourth thing on your list. What is it?

Matt: Yeah, it is the fact that your website will tell you who likes you best. And what I mean by that is, and I think your experience is probably the same as mine, ultimately, there’s gonna be a pattern, right? I mean, we all want to think that we can sell to anybody. And we all want to think that everybody is our potential customer. But the reality is every business will evolve a pattern. And whether that pattern is gender, age, geography, somewhere you’re gonna look at your analytics and your website’s gonna say, “We do really well with women 25 to 49 that come from this city, really well. And we don’t do well with men at this age.”

And so the great thing about digital marketing is that we get to market with a laser and not a shotgun. And as soon as we start narrowing in on who’s already receptive to our message, things become so much easier. The writing of copy becomes so much easier because we know exactly who we’re talking, to and we can start eliminating some of our advertising. I mean, super simple strategies. Like in Google Ads, just saying, no, I don’t want to show my ads to men. Could I sell to men? Yes. But statistically, women are more receptive to my message than men, so my dollars go further when I push them down the place where I’m already getting a lot more traction.

So your website will very clearly tell you who likes you best. And keep those people on the playground, play with those people more often than the other people.

Rich: What is the report that we’re looking at that’s giving us those demographics?

Matt: Yeah, it’s in Google Analytics and it’s under ‘audience’, and it’s under ‘demographics’. And you can look at engagement by gender and you can look at engagement by age. You can also look at engagement by city. City is pretty interesting too, for a lot of SMBs, because the competitive influence changes in different cities. And sometimes you may have a competitor that’s really strong over here, but not so strong over here. You also have some, and I love these stories, some topographical elements that effectively… here I’m just outside of Orlando, Florida and there is a river, the St. John’s River that separates two counties, Seminole and Valia. And there are people in Valia County that are physically as the crow flies closer to businesses in Orlando than they are to Daytona Beach, which is the opposite direction. But they don’t drive over the river. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve seen that show up over and over again. I see this in some of our Fort Myers clients as well, that there are some boundaries that people just don’t buy their nature cross over. And that’s a pattern that will show up in your analytics.

Rich: All right. Moving into the home stretch now. What is the fifth thing that our website is trying to tell us?

Matt: Well, I love this one, and I think this is why I maybe saved this one for last. Because your website will tell you which of your current pages are actually repelling people. And I think if I said to you, hey Rich, describe a couple of your services, I’ll bet you there’s a couple services that you describe like spot on really passionately and very convincingly. But there might be another service that your own words maybe are not as connective as the other services. And I think that’s true for just about every business owner. And that kind of shows up a little bit in website copy. There are certain pages that seem to sell well. Maybe it was because the copywriter understood it better. Maybe because the business owner wrote it and that’s his or her particular passion. But your pages are not all equal. Some of them are being more persuasive.

And I always compare this to if you owned a restaurant, you got a bunch of dishes that you serve. And if you owned a restaurant and you saw that every single time you served up a dish, somebody got up from the table and left the restaurant. It wouldn’t take you long to stop serving the dish. In websites, we’re really doing the same thing. Most websites have a page that when we look at them, people just go to the page and they leave the site from that page. So why do we still serve it? And that’s a piece of information called the ‘exit rate.’ And we can look at the exit rate of a particular page. And Rich, as you mentioned in the very beginning, some pages are more important than others. So let’s look at our key selling pages. And if that’s one of those pages that people come to and they just bolt off the site from that page, we got to stop serving that dish.

Rich: That makes a lot of sense. Or if we’re talking about webpages, what do we need to do to fix that? Because if we’re still gonna have that service, then what can we do to improve that page, improve that conversion rate? And I’m guessing that, obviously it’s people who are leaving that page and not going to another page and leaving the website, versus people who would leave a page, but then head over to the contact form if it’s on another page. And obviously that’s showing the strength of a page.

Matt: Yeah. And a lot of this is really getting down to the vernacular, the words. And I think if you think about how marketing has changed over the past 10 to 15 years, think about what we were taught 15 years ago. Got to know your customer’s demographics, got to know your customer’s psychographics, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Really, what’s most insightful today is what’s the language that they use? What words do they express? And as search queries get longer and longer and more detailed and more detailed, you gain real insight as to what do they want, what are they trying to solve?

And the copy really has to match up pretty specifically with what they’re trying to solve. We’re in a world right now where people have an expectation that they can type anything into Google and get a valid response, right? Anything. And it wasn’t that long ago that if you were looking for a used car, you’d go to Google and you would go, “used car Orlando” or “used car Portland.” Now people are like, “2012 Mazda GLC four door with USB port”, right? And we have to align with that expectation.

And this goes back a little bit to that point of, I think business owners just have to shift the paradigm a little bit. We’re not in control of the messaging as much as we think we are, because we want to emote, right? We want to say why we’re the best and all these great things about our business. But we got to take a deep breath and say, what do they want? What are they looking for? And then align the content with what people are looking for.

Rich: Good advice there. Excellent. Well, it seems like there’s a whole lot our websites have been trying to tell us all along and we’ve just not been listening. But now at least we know where to look for the answers. So Matt, I appreciate that. For people who want to learn a little bit more about you and what you’re up to, where can we send them online?

Matt: Yeah, you can find me at roarwebdesign.com. And you can also find us on Facebook at facebook.com/roar, internet marketing. So roar on the web.com, and Facebook at Facebook/roarinternetmarketing. And we’re located just outside of Orlando.

Rich: Great. And you will find all of those links in our show notes, as always. Matt, thank you so much for your time today.

Matt: Great talking to you, Rich.

Show Notes: 

Matt Weber understands the importance of making a positive and impactful first impression. He is dedicated to helping businesses do the same, starting with their websites and continuing through all of their digital marketing. Check him out on Facebook, and see what he and his team are doing by stopping by his website.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.