3 ways your website is sabotaging your marketing efforts

Have a strategy, think on your feet and never lose sight of user experience, says Zengenti

Is your website holding back your marketing efforts? In these uncertain times, where the ‘new normal’ seems to change week by week, it’s essential that you can get your message out with the minimum of effort – both for you and for your audience. Here are three areas we find hold a lot of institutions back.

1. You don’t have a cohesive content strategy

You know how it goes. A stakeholder will approach you with the example of another university doing something new and insist that your institution needs to do the same – whether it’s a good fit for you or not. A lack of strategy often leads to this kind of reactionary decision-making. If you’re lucky, this produces short-term results, but it’s not a basis for sustainable growth.

Having a well-documented strategy makes it easier to push back when stakeholders make spur-of-the-moment requests and helps preserve resources for content that supports your organisational objectives.
If your focus is student recruitment, for example, your site should be showcasing the things that your research shows students prioritise the most – course content, academic reputation, and employment rates. On the other hand, if you don’t have a problem with student recruitment, but you have identified a need to maintain or increase your brand and reputation, you may decide to concentrate on highlighting how your latest research is solving real-world problems. Ultimately, it comes down to identifying your organisation’s priorities, finding out what your users’ needs are, and aligning the two.

2. You can’t react quickly enough

Whilst a reactionary culture can be stifling, sometimes you do need to respond quickly
to events. Such as when you’re left with more clearing spaces than you were expecting, a news story unexpectedly goes viral, or amidst the ever-changing reality of a global pandemic.

Teams often struggle with this because their current CMS or front-end website technologies make it difficult to make changes. This is usually because their CMS stores content in an inflexible format, it uses a restrictive templating system, or its infrastructure makes it difficult to deploy code changes.

You can avoid these problems by adopting an agile approach to web development and choosing cloud technologies that support this way of working. Version control, automated testing, and other continuous delivery principles allow your developers to release new website features with less risk and to quickly make improvements based on real-world feedback. An added bonus of this approach is that it offers an appealing working environment for developers, so you’ll find it easier to hire and retain talented team members.

3. You’re offering a poor mobile experience

One of the biggest barriers to a good user experience is performance – how fast your website loads. This is an issue on any device, but the effects are amplified on mobile because visitors will often be using 3G or 4G data rather than super-fast broadband. Fortunately the fixes are often quite straightforward.

Reducing the number and size of images on key pages will have a big impact on page speed. Images contain a lot of data and can take time to download. Download your images, compress them using software such as Kraken or ImageOptim, and then reupload them to your site.

While you’re at it, cut the number of scripts on your pages. All of the analytics, personalization, and other tracking scripts that you add to a page increase the amount of JavaScript that has to be downloaded by a user’s browser. Any essential scripts should be deferred or loaded asynchronously.

Finally, use caching technologies to make your site load faster for returning visitors. Sites on our platform use Varnish to cache site content on a visitor’s device. Customers that switch to our cloud hosting platform with Varnish and HTTP2 regularly see loading times drop from over 5 seconds to under 200 milliseconds.

Get in touch

This barely scratches the surface of the many ways you can optimise your site to support your marketing efforts in these challenging times. If you’d like to get in touch and discuss any of these ideas, leave me a message at www.zengenti.com/contact and I’ll get back to you.

Ryan Bromley, content strategist, Zengenti

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