Winchester Mystery House

Is Your Brand’s Website a Winchester Mystery House?

By: Sophie Maerowitz

July 24, 2018

Building and maintaining an effective website requires some soul-searching. While a successful donation campaign or high number of form fills is cause for celebration, it’s often what isn’t working that gets overlooked, whether you’re updating an existing site or launching a new one.

Cassie Katz, director of marketing at Professional Services Council (PSC), a trade association for the government technology and professional services industry, jokingly compares a bad website to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Calif., famous for its eccentric and haphazard construction, including stairways and doors leading nowhere.

Katz, who recently oversaw the relaunch of her company website, discovered an overabundance of outgoing site referrals, dead ends and a lack of calls-to-action.

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Using Google Analytics, Katz was able to see what was stopping audiences from accessing PSC’s resources and staying on the website. Katz’s subsequent website overhaul increased users’ session duration and inbound leads and reduced the number of users jumping ship to other sites.

Below, Katz’s proven tips for improving your website’s SEO, thereby avoiding a Winchester Mystery House scenario:

Determine least-viewed pages. Katz encourages communicators to use tools like Google Analytics to investigate how long users are staying on a site, as well as what pages they’re ignoring altogether. Katz says this data is useful in making recommendations for how to alter the pages that need more love.

Consolidate pages. “Our old webpage was text heavy with more than 40 options to choose from. Data guided the decision to reduce the number of options,” says Katz. (PSC’s site has since traded 40 blue text hyperlinks for 13 links with visuals.) 

Determine pages where users drop off. “Landing pages used to go to dead ends. Users would download what they wanted and then leave the website,” Katz says. These dead ends, often PDFs, stopped users from returning to PSC’s core site.

Create CTAs. Create capture pages containing calls to action. Tease what the user will get, but require capture information in order to download (read more, register, contact, etc.). PSC’s site now includes comprehensive pages with multiple calls to action based on users’ interest level. This creates a barrier to capture user information before information is provided from the brand, Katz says.

Follow Cassie: @CassieKatz

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