At Thrive Themes, we're passionate about making better, more effective websites. One of the best ways to optimize a website is A/B testing, because it allows you to make real improvements and gain insights of the best kind: those based on cold, hard facts.
Unfortunately, you need to already get traffic to your site, in order to get your hands on those cold, hard facts and that's bad news for brand new websites or any site that hasn't built up a lot of traffic yet.
But despair not: here's a simple, 3-step guide to optimizing low traffic websites. Watch the video to discover the 3 steps and see which mistakes you must avoid.
Here's a summary of the method:
Step 1: Only Fix What's Broken
The biggest mistake you can make on a low traffic site is to spend forever tinkering with it and making small tweaks and optimizations. I've mentioned this syndrome before, when talking about chameleon themes: you can easily get distracted by tiny details and lose sight of what really matters.
On a low traffic site, the rule is: only fix things that are broken.
This is an important rule because there's not much you can intuit about a website, without seeing some testing data. Sure, you can ask an expert and you'll get an elaborate and detailed answer about all the things you should improve and optimize. But the best any expert can do is measure. And the second best thing is just guessing.
Even for an expert, there's not much you can intuit about website optimization. You can either guess or measure.
To follow the "only fix what's broken" rule, we have to first ask: what's the definition of "broken" in this context?
Here's what I go with: something's broken when you can be almost certain that fixing it will improve the site's performance and user experience, even without testing.
- Slow page loads - there's a mountain of data that shows faster sites perform better. This is something you can optimize without having to test the effects. It will also help you get more effective traffic.
- Broken forms and buttons - click on a buy button and nothing happens? Submit a form and an error message appears? These are things you can fix knowing for sure that it will improve the site.
- Severe lack of clarity - is the text almost unreadably small? Are the purchase buttons tiny and almost indistinguishable from the background? Is there no indication of what the website is about? These are big issues that you can fix with relatively little time invested.
- Conflicting calls to action - are the important calls to action crowded out by social buttons, email signup forms, RSS signup forms, social widgets, feedback forms and more? Reduce the number of calls to action to improve the clarity on the page.
- Huge sliders - just like with slow page loads, there's a mountain of data that shows how auto-forwarding sliders are bad for your site's performance. Removing them and replacing them with something (anything) else is a pretty safe bet.
A secondary rule is: fix the BIG problems first, the smaller problems later.
Step 2: Usability Testing
Remember that even with no traffic at all, you can get some insights into how your website will be perceived by future visitors. The way to do this is through usability testing.
Instead of getting a big pile of data about real users and how they interact with your site, you ask a few individuals to look at or use your site and then give you some feedback about it.
Some tests you can try:
- 5 second test - show someone a screenshot of your homepage (or any landing page) for just 5 seconds. Then ask them what they think the website is about and what they remember seeing on the page.
- Click test - show one screen and provide one task. For example "where would you click to learn more about this product?" A good thing about this test is that you can do it even with a design mockup, before implementing anything on your site.
- Navigation test - give your user a specific task and watch how they try to accomplish it. For example: "purchase the product called xyz."
What's important about these tests is that they are always based on actions. Seeing where someone clicks or how they try to accomplish a task on your website is far more useful than asking them about their preference.
Base your website tests on actions, not opinions.
Here are the usability testing tools you can use:
- Your mom - ask your mom, or a friend, or a random person you just passed on the street to take a look at your site and give you some feedback. You can even just give them a task - "try to buy a product" - and just watch as the struggle and fumble their way through your site. Painful and very educational.
- Usabilityhub - perform tests for other users to earn credits, then cash them in to have other users test your site.
- UserTesting - get feedback from a trained tester in the form of a narrated video, as the tester uses your site.
- TryMyUI - another video recording and user feedback service.
- Loop11 - on-site and remote testing tools.
Remember: step 1 still applies! Don't get bogged down in endless user testing. Only use this tool to verify in broad strokes that your website makes sense to real people. More testing comes later!
Step 3: Create 1 Funnel & Drive Traffic
As you might have noticed, I'm a big fan of rapid implementation. You don't need a perfect website. You don't even need a single perfect page.
All you need is one funnel that's just barely good enough to convert a visitor into a lead or customer. That's it.
Your goal is to create one simple funnel that isn't broken (see step 1) and then focus 100% of your effort on getting more traffic.
Like I mentioned before (and perhaps over-emphasized in the video), the biggest risk here lies in spending far too much time tinkering, optimizing, tweaking etc. Don't fall into that trap. Instead, do the bare minimum of optimization and then start driving traffic. Either buy it or start aggressively building organic and referral traffic (go on a guest posting spree, reach out to anyone and everyone in your niche etc.).
Get it Done
So, there you have it: a simple strategy for a commonly asked question.
Here's an even shorter version: skip steps 1 and 2, ignore the site and just build one decent landing page and start driving traffic to it. What matters is that you get it done and work towards getting enough traffic to make A/B testing viable. Because that's where the real fun begins!
Let me know your thoughts and questions about this topic by leaving a comment below!