Blog - Spartan Website Design | Expert Digital Marketing Services Exeter | UK

Specialising in proven eCommerce websites for online retailers.

SINCE 2007

How to Improve Your Website Load times & Increase Conversions

As web developers we see a lot of sites which have slow load times, creating a huge knock on effect on bounce rates, conversions and enquiries. Google reports that every second it takes your site or products to load, it will increase the number of people who drop off, with 53% of mobile site visitors leaving a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.

So what can you do to reach that optimum 3 second or less load time? There’s several things you can do to improve load times and in this blog post we cover a few of the main ones.

Reduce Image Size

Images are key to an effective website, but the smaller your files, the faster they’ll load and the lower your overall load times will be.If you can get your files to the smallest they can be, without sacrificing quality you can make big improvements to your load times. Prepare your images (reduce the physical size and file size) to ensure the dimensions are no larger than required, and the file sizes are reasonable for your purposes.

Reduce the Number of Content Pieces Per Page

When it comes to your website, less is more. Removing unnecessary formatting, whitespace, and code from files, as well as combining them are a good ways to improve load time. If all that sounds too complicated, reduce the number of elements on a page. The fewer elements on a page, the fewer HTTP requests a browser will need to make the page render and the faster it will load.

Optimise the Way Files Load

Loading files asynchronously (rather than loading synchronously, or one at a time) can speed up your pages. When a browser loads a page, it moves from top to bottom, so if your files load asynchronously the page will look fully functional, even if lower down content is still loading. If you have a WordPress site you can change the settings quite easily, otherwise you might need to contact your web developer for advice.

Reduce DNS response times

A DNS (Domain Name System) is a server with a database of IP addresses and their associated hostnames. When a user types a URL into their browser, a DNS server is what translates that URL into the IP address that indicates its location online.

One of the biggest factors in how quickly your page loads is the amount of time your DNS lookup takes.The amount of time this step takes depends on how fast your DNS provider is. Try this free DNS speed comparison tool on your website and if your DNS provider is slow, it may be time to switch to a faster DNS provider.

Enable Compression

Compressing files is one of the easiest ways to reduce load times and enabling compression with Gzip means you can reduce download time significantly.Most web servers can compress files in Gzip format before sending them for download, either by calling a third-party module or using built-in routines. If you’re not sure if your site has Gzip enabled use this online tool to check.

Reduce redirects

Whilst redirects are often necessary when you move and delete pages, having too many of them can negatively impact speed, particularly on mobile devices. Ideally, site owners would eliminate them entirely, but since this is often impossible it’s best to keep them to a minimum.

Use Screaming Frog to identify all of the redirects currently on your site and make sure that they serve a necessary purpose. If you find any redirect chains (redirects that point to other redirected pages) you can then edit your .htaccess file to point all of your redirected pages directly to the most recent versions of that page.

Today, it’s critical that marketers design fast web experiences across all industry sectors to satisfy customer’s ‘right now’ expectations. A few extra seconds load time could have a huge impact on your ability to engage visitors and make sales, so it’s worth taking the time to make improvements. If you need help creating a website with faster load times get in touch.

4 Reasons Why Your Website Isn’t Working

When it comes to the customer experience today, ‘fast and frictionless’ are the words to bear in mind. The more barriers your website presents to a smooth experience, the more likely it is that your customers will simply move on. If you think your website is not performing as well as could be expected, it could be due to some or all of the following issues.

Complex Navigation

It should be easy for potential customers to get where they want to go on your website. If your offering feels unclear, your site navigation complex or the length of time to get to the checkout page too long and onerous, your customers may lose interest.

Look at your website through your customers eyes and see if there are any ways in which navigation could be improved. Imagine you have a product in mind and see how many clicks it takes you to get from the homepage to the product you’re interested in and then on to the checkout page (or other destination page). If it takes more than 3 or 4 clicks to get to the product page and more than 8 or 9 in total to get to the purchase complete page there is room for improvement.

Long Load Times

With the growing popularity of portable devices, browsing behavior has changed dramatically over the last few years and today’s consumers expect fast load times. People might be browsing whilst on the move: perhaps they want to make a quick purchase or look something up in the few minutes between leaving work and walking to the car. For every second it takes your site or products to load, it will increase the number of people who drop off. According to Google, 53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.

To help with load times, simply compressing images and text can be a game changer. Google suggests that25% of pages could save more than 250KB and 10% can save more than 1MB that way.

Besides the fact that slow load times are off-putting for site visitors, a slow site can also lead to a negative ranking factor on Google.

Too Much Text

Today’s visitors have a short attention span and if your website has too much text, it can be distracting. Visitors want to quickly understand what your business offers and big blocks of text can be too much to take in. Good quality, well chosen images can often replace a lot of text, and a copywriter can help you avoid getting bogged down in content.

Broken or Illogical Links

There’s nothing more frustrating than links which result in an error 404 page or images of products which aren’t clickable at all. This is basic stuff, but it’s surprising how often errors exist. Go through your website on a regular basis and check all your links work. Also make sure your links take people to the logical next step in their journey. If you run online ads, they need to take people to the page most relevant to their search query (ideally a specific product page, for example, and not the homepage).

We hope you found this blog post useful and it helped to illuminate possible areas of improvement on your website. To talk to us about improving your website, get in touch.

5 Ways to Increase Retail Sales this Summer

With summer approaching, how do you make sure your products are at the fingertips of the modern customer, whether they’re browsing from a laptop at work or from a mobile phone on the beach? In this blog post we share some top tips on getting your website and digital marketing activities up to speed so you can maximise sales this summer.

1. Create a Great Online Experience

Is your website up to the job? If you want to retain your customer’s interest once you have attracted them, you need a website which is responsive (resizes depending on what device it is viewed on), is easy to modify (so you can update prices and stock easily), provides you easily with all the stats you need (so you can easily see what your most popular products are and order more stock) and provides a seamless, user friendly experience. Make sure that all of your products use great images and share key product information and that your load times are fast. There’s a lot of competition online, if your website feels slow and clunky you’re liable to get left behind.

2. Be Top of the Search Results

Do the Google test and type into the Google search engine (in an incognito window) what a potential buyer might be looking for on your website. If you come up on page 2, or worse, not at all, it’s vital that you enhance your Google presence.  As well as improving your SEO to help with organic search results, use Search Ads and Google Shopping to attract people searching for your products.

Any online retailer would be well advised to use Google Shopping. It’s ideal for showcasing your products, making it easy for people to buy. Many people start with Google Shopping and might not ever make it onto the search results if they find what they are looking for.

3. Ad Budget and Settings

Are you running Google Adwords campaigns? If so, it is worth reviewing the setup of your Ad campaigns. Are the settings matching your target audience? Make sure your location targeting is set up correctly to concentrate your efforts where your products sell best. Are your Search Ads appearing within the top 4 positions, or do you need to increase your bids? Or it could be that you’re paying too much for your search terms.

It is also worth monitoring search queries on a weekly basis. It doesn’t take long to do this, and by knocking out irrelevant keywords used when people search for your products, you can really help to minimise wasted clicks and get the maximum return on your budget.

4. Bring Customers Back

Customers are likely to research several products or brands online before making a decision about what to buy. They might visit several websites, so it’s important to remind them who you are once they’re left, preferably before they’ve made their decision on what to buy. There are some great plugins you can add to your retail site to help lower cart abandonment rates and bring customers back to finish their purchase. This works well if people were merely distracted whilst checking out, rather than having a complete change of heart. The Auto Abandonment module plugin sends an automatic follow up by email to those who abandoned their basket. Read more about it on our previous blog post How to Improve Abandon Cart Stats.

Remarketing is also a powerful tool. It works by retargeting your website customers with adverts about your business as they browse the web. Remarketing ads can be set up within both Google Adwords and in your Facebook Ad Manager. For your ads to show on Facebook, install your Facebook pixel code onto your website. Read our blog post on Google Remarketing. Don’t let potential customers forget your website!

5. Stay Ahead on Social Media

Make sure your social media accounts are linked to your website – people will often head over to social media to see what people are saying about your brand before buying. Use social media to raise awareness of your brand and products, mentioning their key features, benefits and endorsements.

Social Media advertising is also a great way to reach beyond your existing audience and increase web visitors and sales. You can do very detailed targeting on both Twitter and Facebook: narrowing down your audience by location, age, interests and job titles.

We hope you found these tips helpful and we wish you a busy trading period this summer. We specialise in eCommerce websites that makes it easier to sell, so get in touch to find out how we can help.

Top Tips to Improve your Business’ Online Presence

In our last blog post we looked at ways to improve your website homepage, in this post we discuss how to improve your overall internet presence. Read on for our top tips on making sure your business stands out and generates sales and enquiries.

1) Drive Traffic

A beautiful and well-designed website is a great start, but if you have little traffic your site is not performing its role as a lead generator. You need to be actively driving traffic to your website by using social media, email marketing and Google advertising to bring your target audience to your website. If your organic reach is low or needs a boost, use paid advertising to drive relevant traffic to your website.

2) Keep Content Up to Date

If someone arrives on your site and it has out of date content (e.g. summer clothes featured instead of the new winter selection) you are going to lose interest from potential customers. It’s also a good idea to have new content added to your website in the form of a news section or blog. This gives previous visitors a reason to return as well as attracting new ones.

3) Improve SEO

When writing content for your website make sure you incorporate keywords relevant to your business and publish accurate product descriptions. This will increase the likelihood of your website or product page appearing in search results. A blog also benefits your site by creating extra pages for Google indexing. This, along with the use of relevant keywords, lets Google know you’re an authority in your area and helps to get you page 1 presence.

4) Offer a Great User Experience

Is your branding well designed and your copy clear? Does your website look good when viewed on any device? To give your visitors the best experience of your website it needs to be responsive to whichever device they are using to browse. Read our blog post on responsive websites to find out more.

You also need to invest time in making sure your copy is clear and appealing and your images of high quality. Ensure it’s easy for your customers to either buy or get in touch in as few clicks and data entry as possible. If it’s hard to find out where to contact you, your site is hard to navigate or it takes 20 clicks to get to the point of sale, you probably don’t get many online enquiries or sales.

5) Increase Online Reviews

Do you have any online reviews? Peer to peer reviews have exploded in importance over the last few years and if you don’t have any this is probably effecting your sales or enquiry rate. Make sure getting customer reviews on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or one of the third party sites like TrustPilot is part of your marketing strategy.

6) Respond Quickly

The digital age has increased customer expectations on response times. If you have contact forms, social media accounts and email marketing campaigns you need to ensure somebody is checking for incoming enquiries and responding quickly, especially if you want to attract good reviews.

7) Be where your Target Audience are

Analyse your target audience and where they spend time online. Is there anywhere else online you could have a presence which might be worthwhile? Or could you increase your presence on existing platforms? If you’re a B2C organisation it’s likely you are on Facebook, but it could be that it’s worth expanding your presence on Facebook by posting more regularly, posting slightly different content, starting a group or using live streaming. Facebook are pushing groups as a way for businesses to interact with Facebook users more this year, as well as encouraging more self-created content, particularly video and live streaming.

We hope you found these tips useful. For help improving your website or attracting potential customers to it, get in touch.

 

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Website Homepage

Your homepage is often the first impression a potential customer has of your business and the experience they have when they land on your homepage can make or break their decision to do business with you. The job of the homepage is to reflect, at a glance, what your business does, to reassure your visitors you are a reliable provider of what they are looking for, and to give a great first impression through a design and user experience which reflects your USP and place in the market. There are several key areas to think about when looking at your homepage with a critical eye.

Is your Homepage Navigation Clear?
Once visitors land on your homepage do they know what to do next? They won’t know what pages to view next or what actions to take if you don’t provide them with direction. Nurture your users with clear navigation and intuitive calls-to-action which help solve their problems as well as providing them with solutions. If you sell women’s clothing for example, it needs to be easy to get to the item of clothing they are looking for (or to be inspired) from your homepage.

Does Your Homepage Look Good on All Devices?
To give your visitors the best experience of your website it needs to be responsive to whichever device they are using to browse. A responsive website automatically reshapes and resizes itself depending on the device your site is being viewed on, as well as adjusting the navigable elements to suit the device (such as simplifying menu bars and product displays for a mobile). Read our blog post on responsive websites to find out more.

Are your Visuals Appealing to your Audience?
If you expect a visitor to invest in your brand you need to make sure you’ve invested in it too. This means a well designed logo and high quality images which show off you, your staff or your products in the best possible light. Don’t be tempted to have a go at product photography, use a professional photographer who has experience in your field of work.
Is your Content Simple and Powerful?
A new website visitor needs to get a feel for your offering in just a few seconds, so your copy needs to be clear and appealing. Avoid the use of jargon or ambiguous terminology and don’t waffle! Say what you do and state your mission clearly. The homepage is the place to give a great first impression, not your company history, so keep to the point. If you’re not great with words, use a copywriter.

Can you Gain Trust Easily?
Whether your brand is new or old, people don’t trust so much what you say about your company, they trust what other people say. They need reassurance that your brand is genuine, especially if they are expected to make a payment online. It’s all about peer to peer reviews these days and this trend is growing, so you need to make it easy for people to see endorsements when they arrive on your homepage. You can pay for third party review sites like Trust Pilot or Feefo, but you can also collect reviews from Facebook and embed them onto your site or include a customer quote. Your social media channels help to gain trust in your brand since they offer a way for potential customers to find out more about you. Make sure you link to your social media channels from your homepage and keep them updated with relevant, interesting content which reflect your brand and values.

A warning sign that your website homepage is not performing well is an extremely high bounce rate (over 70). If you are getting lots of visitors to your website and they are mostly leaving after just a few seconds on your homepage something is wrong!

Here at Spartan we’re experts in creating websites which provide an excellent user experience, so get in touch here if you are concerned about your existing website and want to chat through your options.

How will GDPR affect your business?

In three months time, a new regulation is coming into force and replacing the Data Protection Act. This year, on May 25th The General Data Protection Act (GDPR) will be considered the new law and you will need to be compliant or you will face major fines; 4% of your global revenue or £20 million- whichever is greater. But this is nothing to worry about as at Spartan Website Design, we are here to help…

GDPR is there to help enhance your security and make sure your data and business is protected. This will mean that all your software will need to be up-to-date to ensure the protection of your devices. This will benefit your business as you will be at less of a risk of a cyber attack.

If your business processes any personal data or information then you will need to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). They will have the authority to look at your data protection systems and processes to make sure you are being compliant to GDPR. Alongside this, they will have the authority to remove data and find data in a secure manner. Consumers will now have the right to be forgotten- so if they request any personal data you have on them, you will need to produce this within 1 month and allow them the option to remove the record.

Your website as a business will need to change too. When GDPR comes into action, your Cookie Policy will need an opt-out button to allow people who visit your site to decide whether to opt-in and let your website store their cookies, or they can opt-out. This means you will need a new Cookie banner on your website; with the option of reading the policy and deciding whether to accept or reject it.

For more information about GDPR, you can visit the ICO website or give us a call on 01392 539448 to talk about your website being secure.

Exciting News for Spartan Website Design

Firstly, Happy New Year from all of us at Spartan Website Design – can you really believe it is now 2018? Between all of the projects we’re working on for our existing clients, and welcoming new clients, 2017 seemed to go by in a flash!

Well, in the spirit of the “New Year, New You” mantra that seems to prevail at this time of year, we wanted to share some really exciting news that will see a slight change (for the better!) here at Spartan – We have new owners!

Our new owners currently run a marketing, branding and website design agency in Northamptonshire and have a fantastic in house team of developers, designers, marketers and account managers who are all passionate about websites, design & marketing!

Spartan will retain a presence in Exeter, offering bespoke eCommerce website services to business throughout the region but will now also have a head office in Northamptonshire meaning we can now offer more business throughout the UK, cost effective eCommerce websites and digital marketing solutions.

Website design has become a fundamental way to promote your business or market your product. With 92% of the UK population having regular access to the internet – more than ever, there is a real importance in ensuring you have an accessible platform for your clients and customers. GuruFocus, who have reported on The Office of National Statistics, outline that online sales grew by 21.3% in 2016 and over 30% in 2017 – showing a growing trend for consumers shopping online.

Furthermore, GuruFocus report that by 2018, 18% of all retail sales will take place online and by 2040, it is thought 95% of purchases will be facilitated by e-commerce. With greater choice online for consumers, it shows just how important it will be to ensure your business not only has an online shop, but that it is on a website which is easy to navigate with clear product choices and that is safe and secure to check out on. Without this, businesses will be sure to lose out on valuable business – which is vital when more consumers are moving away from the high streets and on to the World Wide Web.

With a new head office brimming with designers, developers and account managers – we’re all extremely excited at the prospect of working with a whole host of new businesses.

To our existing clients – nothing will be changing… just a few more of us which means more knowledge & expertise and more resources, making us a better agency for your businesses needs!

To talk to the team about the changes at Spartan or to have a chat about an exciting new project just give us a call on 01392 539448.

 

10 Ways for Online Retailers to Increase Christmas Sales

If you’re a retailer, it’s essential to make sure your website and digital marketing activities are in place to maximise online Xmas sales. In this blog post we share some top tips on getting prepared to maximise sales this Christmas.

1. Website

Is your website up to the job? If you want to retain your customer’s interest once you have attracted them, you need a website which is responsive (resizes depending on what device it is viewed on), is easy to modify (so you can update prices and stock easily), provides you easily with all the stats you need (so you can easily see what your most popular products are and order more stock) and provides a seamless, user friendly experience. Make sure that all of your products use great images and share key product information. There’s a lot of competition out there at Christmas, so if your website isn’t working for you, it’s time to change it!

2. Cart Abandonment Rates

To lower the dreaded cart abandonment stats this Christmas, there are some great plugins you can add to your retail site to help bring customers back to finish their purchase. This works well if people were merely distracted whilst checking out, rather than having a complete change of heart. The Auto Abandonment module plugin sends an automatic follow up by email to those who abandoned their basket. Read more about it on our previous blog post here. (https://www.spartanwebsitedesign.co.uk/2017/07/24/improve-abandon-cart-stats/)

3. Google Presence

Do the Google test and type into the Google search engine (in an incognito window) what a potential buyer might be looking for on your website. If you come up on page 2, or worse, not at all, it’s vital that you enhance your Google presence.  As well as improving your SEO to help with organic search results, use Search Ads and Google Shopping to attract people searching for your products.

4. Ad Budget and Settings

If you’re already running Google Adwords campaigns it is worth upping your spend over the Christmas period to increase your sales. Don’t forget to make sure you have enough stock to deal with an increase in sales!

It is also worth reviewing the setup of your Ad campaigns. Are the settings matching your target audience? Make sure your location targeting is set up correctly to concentrate your efforts where your products sell best. Are your Search Ads appearing within the top 4 positions, or do you need to increase your bids? Or it could be that you’re paying too much for your search terms.

5. Monitor Search Queries

Are you monitoring search queries on a weekly basis? It doesn’t take long to do this, and by knocking out irrelevant keywords used when people search for your products, you can really help to minimise wasted clicks and get the maximum return on your budget.

6. Be Visible and Visual in the Search Results

Any online retailer would be well advised to use Google Shopping. It’s ideal for showcasing your products, making it easy for people to buy. Many people start with Google Shopping and might not ever make it onto the search results if they find what they are looking for.

7. Social Media Content Planning

It’s almost a dead cert that you’ll already be using social media to raise awareness of your brand and products. Plan ahead and make sure that in the lead up to Christmas you push your popular products by mentioning their key features, benefits and endorsements. Make sure your social media accounts are linked to your website – people will often head over to social media to see what people are saying about your brand before buying. Don’t forget to keep your customers well informed across all of your social media platforms regarding the last postage days on last minute orders.

8. Social Media Advertising

Don’t just rely on Google Ads. Social Media advertising is also a great way to reach beyond your existing audience and increase web visitors and sales. You can do very detailed targeting on both Twitter and Facebook: narrowing down your audience by location, age, interests and job titles.

9. Stay Top of People’s Minds

People do a lot of browsing in the run up to Christmas, looking for the ideal gifts. If you want to make sure people are reminded of your products, remarketing is a powerful tool. Remarketing works by retargeting your website customers with adverts about your business as they browse the web. Remarketing ads can be set up within both Google Adwords and in your Facebook Ad Manager. For your ads to show on Facebook, install your Facebook pixel code onto your website. Read our blog post on remarketing here (https://www.spartanwebsitedesign.co.uk/2017/06/29/google-remarketing/). Don’t let potential customers forget your website!

10.  Email Marketing

Do you have an email marketing list? If so you should be planning your content for the Christmas run-up period now. Use your enewsletter over the next few months to push your popular products, explaining their key features and benefits. Make sure you send an e-shot in early December regarding last postage days, so your customers don’t miss out. Also ensure your newsletter sign up link is on your website so visitors can easily join your list.

We hope you found these tips helpful and we wish you a busy trading period in the run up to Christmas. If you need a more user friendly eCommerce website that makes it easier to sell, it’s what we specialise in, so get in touch and find out how we can help.

Top Tips for Creating SEO Powered Content

Do you think about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) when creating content for your website? Does the topic of SEO bore you, worry you, feel too abstract or make you think it’s something for the IT gurus to worry about? If you’re a content creator for your business, SEO should be a major factor in every single word, sentence and page you write for your website. In this blog post we’ll be sharing our top tips on how to create web content to help you get in the coveted top organic search results for your most relevant keywords.

1) Keyword research. Do you have a list of the keywords connected with your business, the keywords that potential customers will actually use? If not, it’s time to develop one and ensure these words get frequent use in your web content. Although obvious repetition and keyword cramming is to be avoided, it’s worth staying focussed on what your main keywords are and naturally weaving them into your writing.

2) Images. Whenever you use images make sure they are relevant, eye catching and purposeful. Make sure you have filled in the image title and description, as well as the alt text, which should describe what’s on the image. This is great for SEO purposes since Google places a relatively high value on alt text to determine what is on the image and also to determine the topic of surrounding text. It also makes your image accessible, since screen readers for the blind and visually impaired will read out the alt text.

3) Links. Referencing other reputable websites and featuring recent material, is a great way of increasing your chances of being found by search engines. Keep up to date with links though – there’s no point adding a link if it’s broken.

4) Write well. Copywriting is a skill, and if it’s not one you possess it’s time to learn, or to pass the content creation work onto somebody else. To keep your reader’s interest, your content needs to have a natural flow – blog posts where readers get bored quickly and bounce off after a few second won’t do you many favours. Make sure you avoid spelling mistakes and grammatical errors too, else it won’t do your reputation much good.

5) Short Paragraphs. A general rule of thumb when writing web content is to keep your paragraphs short, aiming for around two to five sentences. This helps you stay focussed on what you really need to say and makes them visually more accessible to the reader.  Even if you are writing a lengthy blog post, it’s a good idea to use short paragraphs to avoid losing your reader’s attention.

6) Subdivide your content. As with short paragraphs, another way to keep your reader’s attention and help them to focus is to use subheadings, lists or bullet points. This also helps you, the author, to stay focussed and hopefully, to naturally gather in more relevant keywords into your content.

7) Write Relevant Content. Finally, nothing beats writing relevant content. This might seem obvious, but a recent study revealed that 72% of marketers said relevant content creation is the most effective tactic when creating an SEO strategy, so it’s worth staying on topic.

If you have any other tips for improving the SEO worthiness of web content, let us know.  In the meantime, if you need help improving your website, get in touch.

How To Improve Your Abandon Cart Stats

We all know the frustration of looking at the web stats and seeing the, sometimes large, proportion of customers who got as far as the cart and then whoosh, disappeared. Where did they go? Was dinner calling, lunch break up, a giant hot air balloon landing in their back garden momentarily distracting them from their purchase? It’s hard to know in most cases what prevents someone from completing their purchase, but there are some useful tools which can help bring those people back from their state of abandon to become a fully fledged, signed-up customer.

One thing to ensure is that your website has the checkout experience as smooth and easy as possible, otherwise it’s possible your ‘almost customer’ lost interest in pursuing their purchase. Your website needs to be easy to select the product, simple to see and click on the basket and ensuring the checkout experience is as easy as possible.

So if, despite your best efforts, you’re still seeing people drop out before they finish their purchase, it’s time to intervene. As well as Google Remarketing, which we covered in our last blog post, there are some great plugins you can add to your retail site to help bring customers back to finish their purchase. One allows you to auto email people who got as far as entering their email address to remind them their basket is waiting. This is very effective and does work to draw people back who were merely distracted during the checkout process rather than having a complete change of heart.

We hope you found this blog post useful. For help with setting up an effective online route to purchase and all aspects of the creation of an online retail website, get in touch.

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