Signs that a Website is Underperforming

Every website will need at least some occasional analysis and maybe a few tweaks to keep it performing as it should. Fortunately, there are some typical signs that can indicate trouble and less-than-stellar performance. All of these items can be fixed or improved in order to give the site a boost and to generate better results.

Here is a look at some of the most common warning signs.

1. Poor Conversion Rates

When it comes to evaluating a website or blog, there are a number of different conversion rates that can be applicable. Of course, each one should be taken in the context of the goals of your site and what you’re trying to accomplish to determine what conversion rates are most relevant to you.

Some example conversion rates:

  • Visitors to sales
  • Visitors to subscribers
  • Visitors to downloads
  • Visitors to newsletter signups
  • Visitors to contact form inquiries
  • Click-through rates on ads

If your conversion rates are dropping you may need to make some adjustments to the site to improve performance. In order to effectively impact these issues you’ll need to be able to identify the cause of the poor conversion rate and improve in that particular area. For example, if your blog is getting a lot of visitors but no subscribers you could try some of the following depending on your situation: change the location of the RSS subscription link to a more prominent location, offer email subscriptions in addition to RSS, offer a full feed instead of excerpts, include a brief message before or after posts encouraging a subscription, or focus on creating highly-focused content that will appeal to your target audience.

2. Poor Search Engine Traffic, Decreasing Search Engine Traffic, or Decreased Rankings

While search engine traffic is not easy to build, it is the lifeblood of many successful websites. If yours has been around for a while and is struggling to get much love from the search engines, maybe you need to evaluate the SEO. If you are consistently working on improving the site or adding new content, the search traffic should be generally increasing. If you’re seeing extended times of decreased search engine traffic this is a red flag that your site needs some improvements.

To remedy the problem you may need to make some basic changes to the coding of the site, create new pages that are optimized for specific search phrases, build some links, or you may need to get a fresh start by redesigning the site to be more search engine-friendly.


3. High Bounce Rate, Low Pageviews Per Visitor, and Few Returning Visitors

All of these issues are signs that a site is doing a poor job of retaining visitors. You’ll see different people throw out numbers that are indicative of problems in terms of bounce rate and pageviews, but really this is heavily dependant on the specifics of your site and your traffic sources. If your site is getting a high percentage of its visitors from social media, these numbers are going to be less than spectacular. Visitors coming from other sources, such as a link from another site that recommends you, should stick around a bit longer on average.

If your site has been around for a while it can be helpful to take a look at the big picture. Several months ago I was surprised when I looked at six months worth of stats to see that the bounce rate had increased and average pageviews had decreased. The changes over six months were pretty subtle, but the big picture was a clear sign that things needed to be improved.

4. No Plan for Attracting Repeat Visitors

Getting visitors to come back regularly rarely just happens on its own. Planning is needed in order to develop a website with sticky content that makes visitors want to come back in a few days or a few weeks. There are any number of potential methods, including a blog, news updates, games, contests and giveaways, free tools and resources. Think about the sites that you visit on a regular basis. What is it that makes you keep coming back?

Without a plan for drawing repeat visitors a website is likely to struggle to build traffic and a loyal following. With a plan, you can create a site that holds interest and as a result is much more effective.

5. A High Percentage of Traffic from One Source

Regardless of where your visitors are coming from (Google, social media, PPC, etc.), diversity is needed for security. If you’re getting an unusually high percentage of your visitors from Google, an algorithm change or an unexpected penalty could have serious implications. With a greater diversity of traffic, the impact will be less significant and you’ll benefit from greater security.

6. Traffic Only from One Search Engine

In addition to looking at your traffic sources as a whole, if a very high percentage of your search traffic is coming from one search engine, you could benefit from some improvements with other search engines. Because Google has so many more searches each day than all the other search engines, it’s not at all unusual to see most of your search traffic coming from Google, but ideally there will also be some visitors coming from Yahoo!, MSN, and some others.

7. Very Low Percentage of Direct Traffic

Unless your site is new, you should be getting some repeat visitors that are coming directly to your site rather than arriving via a search engine or a link from another website. Many of your repeat visitors will come directly. For this reason new websites will start with very little direct traffic until they have built a following. A lack of direct traffic shows that a site is not memorable and not on the minds of past visitors. Those who come directly to your site will be looking for something specific or they will be loyal visitors, so it can be a very high quality type of visitor.

8. Abandoned Shopping Carts

Successful e-commerce sites will track how many sales they are losing through shopping carts that are abandoned before the purchase is made. Improving this will obviously have a big impact on revenues. These numbers can be a good indicator when something is not quite right or not user-friendly with the site’s shopping experience.

9. Nothing to Engage Visitors

A website that performs well will always have some method for engaging visitors. Of course, your strategy will depend on your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish by engaging your visitors, but there must be something significant about the site that makes visitors take notice and remember the experience on the site.

10. No Discernable Benefits

Many businesses have a website built because it’s the thing to do, but they don’t really stop to think about how their business is being improved by having the website. If you’re spending time and money having a website built, you should be getting something specific out of it. Maybe you are selling a product or service, displaying a portfolio, building your brand, or using it as a lead generator, but you should be getting some specific benefit from the site. If the site is just there because you need an internet presence, it’s probably not doing much for the business.

11. Lots of Questions/Inquiries from Visitors that Aren’t Addressed on the Site

You’ll always get some questions from visitors that will be addressed on your site (that they missed) and some that are not addressed. While it’s impossible to cover everything any of your visitors could possibly want to know on your site, if you are getting the same types of questions repeatedly the website could be doing a more effective job of communicating (unless you’re deliberately trying to receive these questions in order to get in contact with visitors).

Most websites have a frequently asked questions page, and effective websites will often go beyond this by using effective copy to answer questions from visitors without an email. Take a moment to evaluate the questions that you are getting. If some visitors are sending these questions to you, chances are other visitors have the same questions, they just don’t take the time to ask.

12. Lots of Question/Inquiries that Are Addressed on the Site

On the other hand, if you’re getting a lot of emails that are already answered on the site, the site is probably not doing a good job of getting these questions and answers in front of readers. Maybe the FAQ page is difficult to find or poorly organized. You may want to include a link before your contact form requesting that visitors check the FAQ before submitting a question to be sure that it has not been answered already.

What’s Your Opinion?

What methods do you use to gauge the performance of a website?

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11 Responses

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  • Web Design Michael Janik, August 12, 2008

    I don’t think that traffic from one search engine is a sign that a site is not performing well. You can be very successful if Google lists you with a good keyword on the first page.

  • Vandelay Design, August 12, 2008

    Michael,
    I don’t think it’s necessarily a sign that the site isn’t performing well, but I do think it’s a sign that there’s room for improvement. To me there is a difference.

  • Adido, August 14, 2008

    Well most of the traffic comes through Google (over 90% in many cases).

    That does not mean there is wrong with web design

  • Vandelay Design, August 14, 2008

    Adido,
    Over 90% of the traffic coming from any source is unstable. That doesn’t reflect on the design of the site, but it is a performance issue.

  • shirl huban, August 24, 2008

    The part of attracting repeat visitors with a planis a awesome idea

  • hotels, August 29, 2008

    I absolute do agree the 4th point!

  • Pagerank Checker, June 8, 2009

    You have a great blog here and it is Nice to read some well written posts that have some relevancy…keep up the good work ;)

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