Little Houses – Company name redacted, this is a pseudonym.
VRHomeDesign – Company name redacted, this is a pseudonym.
Little Houses has the building blocks of a successful site but it is missing the planning that a website needs to bring it all together. Because of this the flow of the website is disjointed and the messaging unfocused.
Clear business goals along with objectives and KPIs, identifying target audiences, an understanding of the competitive landscape of the industry, and knowing what differentiates Little Houses from the competitors are needed. This type of planning will guide the website’s messaging and structure as well as help in developing a strong marketing plan.
This report begins with a few key areas that need attention. I explain general best practices in each area as well as cover how the website stands up to those best practices and some guidance on how to improve. This content is meant to help with the site redesign phase after proper planning is done and helps highlight why proper planning is so crucial.
Some of the recommendations I give are somewhat vague because they depend on the goals and objectives that still need to be laid out.
To help with the planning stage I have included a website planning guide at the end of the report.
Whether the planning process is done formally with a report of simply a worksheet exercise and discussion by key stakeholders depends on the companies preference. Regardless this is an important step in creating a focused optimized website.
It must be clear to everyone working on the website what they are working towards so that everyone speaks with the same voice and is moving towards the same goal.
2. Site Redesign and Content Planning
Little Houses is a small site that already has quality images and a professional style. Because of this, the redesign needs only to focus on creating an on-site sales funnel and SEO.
The hard work here is planning. Every element of the site needs to work towards the outlined goals. Implementing the planned changes will mostly consist of changing website copy and layout and adding a few key pages.
A Website should be set up to sell
Sales funnels can be made using lots of tactics but it is important to consider the website itself as a sales funnel. When a visitor lands on the website we want to direct them to make a purchase or at least to take a small step towards a purchase such as downloading concept plans or checking out the homes in VRHomeDesign. Taking a step towards building a relationship with the company such as signing up for a newsletter or following Little Houses on social can also be seen as a success.
How do you make a site a strong sales funnel?
Without data, we can only take an educated guess as to how to optimize the website as a sales funnel. Once the website is laid out using best practices and intuition we can then use visitor data to fine-tune the site.
Some factors that should be considered when designing Little Houses to maximize conversions are:
How is the site presently doing as an on-site sales funnel?
The biggest problem the site has in this area is too many CTAs. Each page contains lots of actions a visitor can take with purchasing the plans being one of the less prominent ones. There are CTAs to download free concept plans, contact Little Houses, try and customize the plans in VRHomeDesign , and purchase the plans littered throughout the site. There are 5 CTAs just for VRHomeDesign on this three-page website.
Although it doesn’t fully address the problem, one simple way to reduce the CTAs per page is by moving the contact section to its own page. Visitors are used to seeing the contact page in the menu or even the footer and will easily find it there if they need it.
Besides the high number of CTAs on the site, there is also a skewed priority towards less valuable secondary goals as opposed to the primary goal of sales. I believe that the big push towards sending users to VRHomeDesign is counter-productive and should be refocused on sales. I talk more about my reasons for this in the VRHomeDesign section below but I mention it here to stress the need for more focused CTAs.
A bit about SEO
The main goal of search engines is to present searchers with the most relevant pages possible. Although the algorithm of how they do this is constantly changing, the most important approach to SEO is to have high-quality content that is relevant to visitors’ searches. Keywords play a big part here but before exploring keywords it is a good idea to consider your visitors and your business goals.
Keeping the answers to these questions in mind as content and site structure is planned. The good thing is that a site that is set up so visitors can easily find information is also one that is set up well for search engines.
How is the site presently set up for SEO?
The site as it stands is not well set up for search engines. It consists of only three pages, home and a page for each tiny house design, the menu is confusing and the content is thin.
What changes need to be made to fix this?
I recommend that the site add some pages to communicate in more detail important information to visitors and increase SEO. The new pages would focus on key areas that are identified as important to visitors and/or have a high search volume. The topics for these pages would be determined during the planning and the redesign stages as well as from keyword planning.
When designing the site structure think of the the home page as an introduction to the site. It is a summary of all the key points with internal links to pages that go deeper into specific topics. The menu should be used to organize additional pages. The additional pages will have more focused detailed content. These pages will help visitors learn more as well as help SEO by offering content that can rank for specific search queries. Having internal links, a well-organized menu structure, and meaningful focused content broken up into pages are all important for SEO.
Non .com TLD’s
.com is the preferred TLD. Although search engines will not reduce rankings due solely to a non .com TLD, these less common domains are used more frequently by spam sites and are not recognized by some visitors therefore they may affect click-through rate.
A good alternative to .com when the .com is not available is .net because it is almost as recognizable as a .com. I see the domain name littlehouses.net redirects to little.houses. Since these two domain names are owned by the same person I imagine both are yours. I recommend using littlehouses.net
What makes great website content?
Great website content is scannable, concise, and communicates well thought out messages.
Specific tactics that make content great are:
How is Little Houses performing?
Little Houses site contains a lot of headings that are meant to be catchy, not meaningful, it does not have clear messaging and focuses on selling VRHomeDesign more than selling the tiny home plans. Many key benefits are not communicated well such as architect approval of the plans.
What key benefits should be focused on will depend on the target audience that is identified in the planning stage and from understanding where Little Houses stands against competitors. Once these are determined the content throughout the site should be written to focus on these points.
The site includes a lot of headings, that do not communicate anything meaningful. Headings not only are key for visitors who scan content they are also especially important for SEO.
A few of the headings that are not ideal include:
Is Little Houses mainly for rental income?
The message of building a tiny home for rental income appears prominently on the site with the main heading being “Maximize your rental income”. Building a tiny home for rental income is a new opportunity that could successfully draw in visitors and purchases but unless this is the main target audience I recommend keeping this messaging out of the main headline. A page dedicated to this topic and related keywords would be a good way to draw in this audience without assuming it is the only target audience.
If the company has decided that the tiny home rental niche is what they are targeting I recommend that this messaging is the main point throughout the the site. Social media should also reflect that target audience.
More content is dedicated to selling VRHomeDesign than the tiny home plans
VRHomeDesign is a great tool for Little Houses to use in their marketing yet it is important that the messaging around VRHomeDesign is used to compliment Little Houses not detract from it. Presently roughly half of the website is dedicated to encouraging visitors to try VRHomeDesign. In the VRHomeDesign section, I cover this area in more detail but this is an important consideration when content is being planned.
Why is building trust important for e-commerce websites?
All e-commerce sites need to have an air of trustworthiness but this is especially true with high ticket items like the plans on Little Houses. Users need to know that the company can be trusted before they can feel comfortable making a purchase.
How can Little Houses build more trustworthiness?
Little Houses already does several things that make the site come across as trustworthy such as having a real address listed on the site, making it easy to contact the site owners, and having a professional-looking design. Yet trustworthiness can be improved even further by increasing transparency about the company and creating a likeable company persona.
Little Houses doesn’t currently have an about page. An about page is meant to inform visitors about the company and its operations. They are a standard part of most websites that visitors have come to expect.
About pages can include a wide range of information. Some ideas Little Houses might consider are:
The idea is to show that it is a real business run by relatable people that can be trusted to supply a high-quality product.
If there is a lot of content to communicate on the about page it can be broken up into multiple pages. This could be an opportunity to make keyword-targeted pages that could be valuable for SEO.
Messaging Throughout the site
Trustworthiness can also be communicated throughout the site by adding copy that conveys credibility. This might be done by stressing the fact that plans are architect approved, ready to hand over to a builder, used by x number of people, testimonials, or any other messaging or content that proves the website’s legitimacy.
This report does not cover off-site marketing in great detail but it is worth noting that the idea of building trustworthiness should be extended to social media and the same likeable company persona that is displayed on the website should be found there.
Presently the social media accounts are very impersonal and contain mostly VRHomeDesign images. Although I think the VRHomeDesign images are valuable on social and elsewhere, original images that show the company’s personality should also be included.
VRHomeDesign can be great for Little Houses but not how it used right now
VRHomeDesign offers Little Houses visitors the unique ability to envision their new home on their property before finalizing the plans. The app and business partnership is an asset to Little Houses but not how it is being used on the site right now.
The messaging for VRHomeDesign is competing with the Little Houses messaging, and there are too many ways the visitor can be removed from the Little Houses sales funnel and get distracted by the complicated paths to use VRHomeDesign.
What is wrong with how VRHomeDesign is being used right now?
VRHomeDesign presently has a big place on the website. The logo is used a lot and the CTA to try the app is all over the site. Not only is the amount of space that VRHomeDesign takes on the website problematic but how it is integrated is highly flawed.
Some of the issues with how VRHomeDesign is integrated with Little Houses are:
How to use VRHomeDesign better
Right now there are two secondary goals, downloading free concept plans and customizing the plans in VRHomeDesign. Both the routes give users a better picture of what the tiny homes look like. Sometimes offering visitors too many paths to explore a product pre-purchase can discourage sales as it extends the consideration stage.
Because of this, it is wise to choose one path to focus on, either downloading concept plans or trying the plans in VRHomeDesign. My recommendation is to offer free concept plans on the site for visitors that need more to decide if they will purchase and include the ability to use VRHomeDesign to customize plans as one of the benefits of Little Houses.
I lean towards focusing on the free concept plans over VRHomeDesign because of its simplicity. I feel the more complicated process of using VRHomeDesign could be a disincentive to purchase. The videos on the site show the capabilities of this technology allowing users to know that if they purchase they will be able to visualize and customize their plans before they build. This means VRHomeDesign can be an incentive to purchase without drawing users into a complicated process that detracts from the sales process.
This guide is meant to help the company create a plan that will support the website redesign and marketing activities.
If any areas prove difficult to answer I recommend taking a guess. There may be areas that need more research but often a general idea will be enough to guide initial website direction and then visitor data can be used in the future to optimize the site.
This could be a mission statement or lists of values. This information will be used to guide the company persona and create an about page.
Goals are high-level broad things the company hopes to accomplish. Aim for one main goal with one to three secondary goals.
Most e-commerce sites will set increasing sales as the primary goal.
Some possible secondary goals for Little Houses are:
Objectives are specific, measurable, time specified aims. Objectives are connected to one of the goals chosen.
For example: Goal: Becoming an authoritative online resource for tiny homes information
Objective: Create a blog with 20 high-quality articles by June 2020.
When we know who we are trying to reach with our site it becomes easier to make messaging that sells. The audience can be defined by demographics, location, psychographics, or behaviours. Most companies have one primary audience and one or more secondary audiences.
Exploring the competitive landscape for a website can be a formal process with a market research report or it can be more casual, a mix of opinions, and web browsing. It’s a good idea to pay attention to what other websites similar to yours do well and poorly and what they charge for their product.
What Differentiates Little Houses from the Competitors
After the competition has been explored you should have an idea of where your company fits in. Understanding what makes you unique and special is important because it affects what messaging should be focused on. List all the key benefits of Little Houses’ plans.
Social Media Deployment
For the Social Media Management I work with a local company named Vibrant Social. I work directly with them to steer the “feel” of the campaign to make sure the copy, images, and every post conform to the strategies we are running. Set-up is pretty minimal and monthly fee depends on how much content needs to be created.
Aside from this I’d recommend running Facebook ads with the data you collect when the Facebook Pixel is installed. I would also recommend starting an AdWords campaign to jump start the SEO process and start capitalizing on direct search results. The more people who hit your site, the more people you start to track and can send ads to. We can even get it down to the point where we’re sending ads to everyone in Windsor who is similar to the people who fill out a registration form on your website. There’s a lot we can do with the data you currently have, but it’s important to start tracking more data and pushing ads directly to the people you’re tracking.
Even though the recommended strategy includes everything mentioned above, we can roll this out in any order and prioritize what needs to get done first. This strategy is the optimal strategy, it’s not the only strategy. We can work with you to customize what you need done for you and what I can train you to do yourself. As we move forward I hope to show you as much as I can so we can start to formulate strategies together. I appreciate your time.