Guest blog from web design agency Pedalo…
Get your membership website performing at its best with these 14 top tips:
- Produce great content
Web content is any material on your website that people can see and/or engage with, including web pages, articles, blogs, videos, infographics, testimonials and webinars. Producing regular new/updated content is a vital component of site success as it demonstrates the great work you do, helps search engines find your site, and enables you to connect with both existing and potential members. For excellent content, think about what your members will be interested in and create that – and then ensure you share it widely via email newsletters and social media as well as on your website.
- Optimise metadata
Metadata is a summary of what’s on a webpage. It’s used by search engines – both to decide if your webpage is relevant and to display to users in their search results. The most important website metadata is the title tag and meta description – these are often created automatically but can be improved and optimised in the back-end of your site. Great metadata is brief, clear, relevant and persuasive. It should encourage people to click onto your content, contain the keywords that people are searching for, and be different for every webpage.
- Maximise SEO
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your website so that it’s displayed higher up in search engine results pages. With billions of search engine searches made every day, it’s a key way to bring traffic – and therefore new members – to your website. SEO is a specialist area in itself – read this beginner’s guide to SEO or this list of the top 10 SEO success factors for more detail. A great start is optimising metadata (as explained above) and ensuring search engines can find your site by creating an XML sitemap. You can also ask members to link to your site from their own websites, as these backlinks help search engines know that your site is highly regarded and therefore worth displaying high up in search results.
- Ensure mobile compatibility
With mobile browsing accounting for more than half of internet traffic, having a responsive or mobile-friendly site is vital for any membership organisation. A responsive website reacts to its environment – whether it’s mobile, tablet or desktop – and changes the browsing experience accordingly, whilst mobile (friendly) sites are separate versions of desktop sites designed specifically for mobile. To check your mobile compatibility, use the free Google mobile test tool. Mobile compatibility can be improved by making buttons larger and clearer, avoiding pop-ups, compressing images and turning off background videos.
- Check functionality
When was the last time you checked everything on your site was working correctly? Functionality testing means making sure that all of your features and content are displaying and functioning effectively, both from a front-end member perspective and in terms of back-end administration. Test your site’s functionality with Nibbler as well as manually checking the functionality of webforms, search boxes, calls to action and payment processes. Don’t forget to check everything both on desktop and mobile/tablet.
- Get secure
Security isn’t the most exciting performance fix but it is key to website success. You need regular website software updates to fix bugs/issues and protect your site from hacking. Without this, any vulnerabilities can be exploited, enabling hackers to access data, send spam and/or make website code changes, with potentially severe consequences. Check your Content Management System dashboard or ask your web provider whether your site is up to date, and if not, install the latest software version. Website security can also be maximised by using anti-virus protection and encrypting your site with HTTPS.
- Boost page speed
Page speed is how quickly your web pages are displayed to users. This is a key area of website performance as people may leave your site or avoid signing up as a member if pages load too slowly. In fact, just a one second delay in page loading has been shown to decrease satisfaction by 16%. Use Google PageSpeed to check your site. You can improve page speed by: compressing images, using a photo editor such as Photoshop; enabling caching, which allows web browsers to ‘remember’ items from your website; and activating AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to maximise mobile speed.
- Fix broken links
A broken link is a link to a webpage that doesn’t work, both leaving members frustrated and negatively impacting your website’s search engine rankings. You can check for and amend broken links with Dr Link Check. Also, make sure you have a great 404 error message which informs members when pages are unavailable and provides options to help them reach other relevant content.
- Ensure accessibility
Web accessibility means ensuring your website can be accessed and enjoyed by all users, including those with disabilities. To make your site accessible, ensure text is written in plain English, displayed in a legible font, and is clearly contrasted with the background behind. Also, use a logical layout and site structure, and provide information in different formats – such as audio clips, videos and images – where possible. The Gov.uk website has more information about accessibility for specific user groups.
- Get browser-compatible
There are a vast number of different browsers and operating systems available, and each has its own method for interpreting and ‘translating’ your website’s code. Cross-browser compatibility means that your website can be displayed correctly and is fully functional for users across most browsers. You can test your site’s browser compatibility with Browserling. Issues can usually be remedied by simplifying website code and removing anything unnecessary to make your site easier for browsers to ‘translate’.
- Check data protection compliance
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018. To ensure your website complies, member data needs to be stored securely, kept accurate and removed when no longer needed. You need to have an up-to-date privacy notice on your website explaining why data is collected, who it will be shared with and how long it will be kept for. The notice should also state that members can contact the Information Commissioners Office in case of any problems.
- Integrate with social media
Social media integration means linking your website with your social media channels to create a streamlined experience for members. Make sure your site includes feeds displaying your latest social posts as well as ‘share’ and ‘follow’ buttons so that members can share content and follow your social channels with a simple click. Embedding member photos, tweets and social posts on your website is also a great way to encourage social media engagement.
- Review analytics
Website analytics are the measurement and analysis of data about how people are accessing, using and engaging with your site. Consider what are you trying to achieve with your website and how success can be measured – are you focusing on member sign-ups, member engagement or something else? Collect relevant data (and not just page views and bounce rate!) using tools such as Google Analytics. You can review this data and use it to make changes to optimise your site. Over time, you’ll need to keep reviewing your website objectives, collecting relevant data and making informed edits.
- Prepare for the worst
Finally, make sure you’re prepared in case the worst happens with a website backup. This is a copy of all your site’s files and information, which can be used to reinstate the website in case of a problem such as accidental file deletion or a virus. You should regularly check the quality of backups to ensure files are being stored effectively and are not corrupt. Also, ensure that backups are made regularly enough to prevent you losing too much data.
Pedalo is an award-winning supplier of websites for membership organisations with more than 18 years of experience. It provides website design, maintenance and systems integration with a focus on increasing member sign-ups, engagement and retention. If you’d like help optimising your membership website’s performance, visit the Pedalo website.