The reality of the matter, though, is that many websites lack important information/key functionality/user-friendly elements and fall short on overall aesthetics. These shortcomings can hinder business goals and future growth. This is why I feel like I owe it to clients and colleagues to be honest with them regarding their websites if I notice that there are areas where the sites may be falling short. As the owner of an internet marketing company, I sometimes come across situations where all of the best marketing efforts in the world are not going to make a difference because the website we’re being asked to optimize just will not convert traffic into leads or buyers. It is in these situations where I basically have to tell a business owner that his/her baby is ugly.
1. Be Nice
Being mean or abrasive is no way to treat clients and it certainly will not endear them to you in the face of difficult information. You do not want to be hurtful – bear in mind that they likely put in many long hours or work to accomplish what you are about to tear down. Be pleasant and back up your feedback or suggestions with anecdotal evidence and scientific research data. Don’t make it seem like YOU hate their website – make it seem like the industry implies that improvements can be made.
Good: “Your website might benefit from a color scheme that’s more in line with the rest of your industry to create a connection with searchers who are doing research on competitors’ sites as well.”
Bad: “Did you combine your two favorite colors to make this background shade or something? I’ve never seen this color on a professional website.”
2. Be Specific
As a marketing professional or web designer, you look at a lot more websites than your clients and study them in much more depth to boot. This means that if you give generalized feedback, it can be misconstrued or misinterpreted by anyone who has less experience than you do. Rather than using vague language, make specific comments about the site’s functionality or individual elements.
Good: “Reorganizing your homepage to give shoppers an opportunity to watch a video of your invention is use and read reviews from satisfied customers would be a better layout to encourage people to interact with your content.”
Bad: “Your site should really be more engaging.”
3. Be Constructive
Unless you have actionable recommendations that you can make, don’t say anything about their website. Simply calling the website “bad,” “unprofessional,” “unconvincing” or “disorganized” will come off as a slight unless you have some constructive feedback. Focus in on precise changes that you would recommend making and always include the why. You are more likely to get buy in if someone understands the reasoning behind what he/she is doing, rather than simply asking for blind trust.
Good: “Without mentioning your value proposition on your homepage, new visitors won’t know why they should choose your products over your competitors’ products.”
Bad: “Your whole homepage is just kind of boring. I see it and I’m like meh, who cares about these products?”
4. Be Patient
Change takes time so you need to be patient. You may make a whole list of recommendations, but that doesn’t mean that they will be completely quickly. Many website owners have someone else help them with work on their site and these changes may need to go through that person or company before they are executed. Just because all of your suggested changes are not made overnight, does not mean that the site owner doesn’t care about the site or your opinions about it.
Good: “I noticed that up updated the slideshow like I recommended – it’s looking great now. I’m looking forward to seeing the other homepage changes implemented as well!”
Bad: “You still haven’t made all of the changes I suggested. Did you actually want the site to start converting?
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!