Posted on August 13, 2020
As the leading digital marketing agency specializing in the retail energy industry, we regularly review the industry’s digital footprint in order to identify areas for improvement.
In July 2020, we conducted an audit of over 200 fuel and HVAC companies’ websites. The results were alarming! Our research revealed that 92% of the websites we analyzed were not optimized for business growth.
Remember, your business’s website is the face of your company. It’s your customer service team, your marketing team, your public relations team and your sales team. It’s a first impression that’s judged in a fraction of a second, and what it says about your business can lead to business growth or it can cause you to lose cold, hard cash.
In this day and age, no one should be left wondering whether a website is still important. Still, our audit found that many fuel companies have not grasped the significance of having an optimized website.
These best practices will ensure that your website is helping your business, rather than hurting it.
Today, more than 91% of consumers use the internet to look for goods and services. When someone comes to your website, you have less than one second to capture a customer’s interest. Furthermore, if the user experience (sometimes called UX) is poor, 88% of online consumers will not return.
The only way to know if your prospects are having a poor experience is to study your analytics. Measure what people do when they come to your website, how many pages they view and how long they stay.
A negative user experience can be the result of several possible missteps, including the following:
In addition to the items listed above, one offense deserves a bit more attention: a site that’s outdated. Technology changes rapidly and websites look “old” quickly. From design to functionality, a website should be audited every three to four years for a redesign or update.
What makes a customer choose to do business with you? Fuel companies often struggle to tell their stories. They emphasize their delivery fleet and family history, but when every fuel business shares a similar story, the content no longer resonates.
Before designing a website, it’s important to understand what your business differentiators are. Do you sell on price? Customer service? Are you the highest-rated fuel company in your area? Do you have a specialization? Does your staff have a high level of expertise? Do you guarantee quality or service standards?
Knowing your differentiator will allow you to build loyalty among your current customer base while simultaneously acquiring new customers. And the best place to tell the story of your differentiator is where customers encounter you the first time: your website.
The top five search results on Google get 70% of the clicks. With that in mind, how do you ensure that your business appears on the first page? The answer is search engine optimization (SEO) and content.
At their core, Google and other search engines are built to direct users to the information they need. A customer searches for information on a topic and the search engine fetches that information via an algorithm. While the algorithm does an excellent job, it’s not perfect and needs guidance. That’s where SEO comes in. SEO “speaks” the algorithm’s language in order to increase your website’s visibility.
While SEO itself may be complex, understanding why it’s important is pretty straightforward. In 2019, Warm Thoughts Communications redesigned a Massachusetts-based fuel company’s website and overhauled its SEO. By about six months later, the site’s organic traffic had increased by 41.9%. Organic traffic does not include pay-per-click or other advertisements but reflects how visitors find your website via search engines.
For more information on what SEO entails, please visit our blog post, “Keyword Research: The Most Important Step to SEO.”
Customers know when businesses prioritize them. This is great news, but here’s the catch: They also when you’re not prioritizing them. Here are a few ways this issue can reveal itself:
A website’s design should have the customer at the center. It needs to be simple enough that anyone can navigate it, while prioritizing the information that’s most important for customers to find.
For some businesses, a website is an afterthought. It has a photo of a fuel truck, a chunky paragraph about what the business does and a phone number. While a fuel truck can be a sense of pride for a business owner, most customers aren’t that interested.
Even more disheartening is that of the 200 websites we audited, nearly all of them had a picture of a truck on their homepage. For a customer who’s trying to decide who to do business with, it’s very difficult to tell businesses apart if they all have the same approach to their web design.
Truck photos aside, the websites were also poorly designed, resembling something built in a 2005 web design course. Staying on top of all digital design and functionality trends is hard when you’re running a business, but that business will be a lot harder to run if you don’t have someone on your team who’s running your digital strategy. This is where it may make good business sense for you to enlist outside help.
According to Womply research, bad reviews online have a significant effect on your revenue. A business with a 1- to 1.5-star rating reports 33% less revenue than the average enterprise. And Forbes reports that 94% of consumers avoid a company with bad reviews. Don’t let this be your business.
Customer reviews and social media allow the customer to have a voice—this is an essential element of customer acquisition. In fact, 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business and 84% trust online reviews as much as—or more than—personal recommendations. Reviews also allow you to listen to your customer so you can identify areas for improvement or areas where you’re excelling.
Creating—or improving—your online reputation is a form of marketing that allows you to compete with other businesses. It builds credibility and relationships with your customers, which is why it should be incorporated into your web design.
Your online reputation cannot just “be.” It needs to be managed. Including reviews on your website is great if they’re mostly positive but what if they’re mostly negative? In that case, it’s imperative that you respond to customers and manage your online reputation. Nine out of 10 customers will make a purchasing decision based on reviews and only 14% of consumers will even consider buying from a business that has two stars or less. One in five consumers won’t purchase from a business after reading even one negative review.
Taking a proactive approach to managing your digital presence, starting with your website, is essential for generating growth. Without a plan that incorporates the technology and tools currently available to digital marketers, you’re leaving opportunities on the table.