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Ask me about optimizing marketing websites! SEO, CRO, UX, WordPress plugins!

Hello! I’m Kristi, a Product Marketing Manager at Pantheon. Before joining the team, I was a Pantheon customer for 8+ years.

Since my very first job at age 16, I’ve been making websites. I was a nerdy kid building websites in my parents’ basement in the late ‘90s. I remember Angelfire and table layouts! I fell in love with this craft, and I have been fortunate enough to make it my career.

In past roles, I designed, built, and optimized websites. It was my job to make marketing websites more effective, whether that was attracting the right traffic (SEO), making a better experience (design, UX), or motivating visitors to take an action (conversion rate optimization).

My favorite tools are WordPress, RankMath, Sketch, and (of course) Pantheon. I’m also passionate about usability and have studied digital psychology.

Let’s chat!

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What’s the most commonly overlooked and easiest fix for SEO that you typically see?

Also, what’s your best recommendation for a design psychology/UX book?

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What’s your favorite conversion rate optimization tip? And what’s your current preferred tool for analyzing conversion rates on a marketing website?

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What’s your favorite conversion rate optimization tip? And what’s your current preferred tool for analyzing conversion rates on a marketing website?

Great question! Before I answer, I have to give this very necessary disclaimer about conversion rate optimization. Best practices can provide a good starting point, but they don’t always apply to everyone. It’s super important to always validate with your own audience through testing or data collection. Each business/website has a unique situation, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to conversion rate optimization.

That said, my No. 1 tip is to focus on clarity. When it comes to conversion, clarity is so much more important than being clever. When someone lands on your website, they should immediately understand what you offer and who it’s for. This simple thing is often overlooked, but it can have a big impact on your conversion rates. The easiest way is to clearly state this information in the header copy on your home page.

For a good example of this, check out Stripe’s home page. At the time of this post, the subheading on their home page reads: “Millions of companies of all sizes—from startups to Fortune 500s—use Stripe’s software and APIs to accept payments, send payouts, and manage their businesses online.” That one sentences provides so much information about who uses Stripe (all company sizes from startup to Fortune 500), and how they use it (to accept payments, etc). They also work in some social proof by mentioning their millions of customers.

A related next step would be to tell the visitor why they should care, which is where your value prop and unique differentiators come in. That requires a solid understanding of your audience and what they actually care about.

Imagine every visitor to your site asking these questions:

  • What is this?
  • Is this for me?
  • Why should I care?

If your home page clearly answers these questions, you’re off to a good start!

Another tip is to use your navigation wisely. You can give a lot of information about your product or company with the words you put in your navigation.

As far as preferred tool: Nothing beats trusty Google Analytics! I couldn’t optimize a site without it. But I also use and like HotJar. HotJar provides some of the insights that can be difficult to uncover with analytics alone. I use the heatmap and survey features the most. That’s another good conversion tip: If you are wondering something about your audience, just ask! An on-page survey is a great way to get information.

Edited to add the question at the beginning of the post, so it’s easier for other readers.

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What’s the most commonly overlooked and easiest fix for SEO that you typically see?

I wouldn’t say it’s an easy thing to fix, but keyword research is one of the most overlooked areas in my experience. If you focus too much on technical SEO aspects and not enough on building quality content around pre-selected keywords or phrases, that can be a big mistake. Keyword research is about evaluating interest in a topic, but it’s also about looking at competing content, identifying gaps, and figuring out where you could realistically rank. And then strategically going after those areas. After that, it gets a bit more formulaic, and you can follow a set of rules about where to place those keywords (H1, meta description, subheads, image alt tags, etc). On-page optimization is so much easier when you’ve done your homework, aka keyword research! :slight_smile:

Keyword research also exposes valuable information about your audience — what questions they ask, what specific information they are seeking. Similar to conversion rate optimization, there’s nothing more valuable than a deep understanding of your audience.

Here’s a great resource to learn more about keyword research: The SEO Keyword Research Master Guide by Moz

Also, what’s your best recommendation for a design psychology/UX book?

Nielsen Norman Group is a great resource for evidence-backed UX guidelines and research, but also check out the work of these neuromarketing/behavioral scientists:

  • Robert Cialdini - “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”

  • Brian Cugelman - Website: AlterSpark

  • Roger Dooley - “Brainfluence”

  • Susan Weinschenk - “100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People” and “How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the Art and Science of Persuasion and Motivation”

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Have you always followed your dreams? Or have you ever left that path and come back to meet up with them later in your career? (h/t Mitch Hedburg )

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Have you always followed your dreams? Or have you ever left that path and come back to meet up with them later in your career? (h/t Mitch Hedburg )

I wish I had a prize that I could award you for phrasing your question in the form of Mitch Hedberg joke. Well done!!

Because I am extra, I am going to attempt to give a sincere response. :smiley:

When it comes to following dreams… that’s not always a clear thing. And it changes. So I have always followed my curiosity.

Sometimes that has caused me to pivot and go in different directions in my career (ex: away from website design and toward SEO). It means shifting from the safe and known, and going into new areas where I’m less confident and have much to learn. And every time that happens, it ultimately ends up being a wise decision.

I want to mention this because I know people who are early in their careers, and I’ve witnessed them putting extreme pressure on themselves to… figure it all out. To map out the perfect career path and then never deviate from it. I have found life is way more enjoyable and work is more satisfying if you follow your curiosity, even if that means taking some risks. Embrace being a lifelong learner.

My only real regret is that I still haven’t figured out how to make homemade Sprite. They say the recipe is lemon and lime, but there’s more to it than that.

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Hey @kristi.whitman :wave:

Thanks for popping in to host this weeks AMA! I am super interested in learning more about UX in general. What is your approach to making websites and platforms accessible to all user groups, including users with visual, hearing, and motor disabilities? I feel like this is also something @carolyn is really passionate about & likely has thoughts around :slight_smile: Do you know any beginner tools/resources for someone who is interested in learning more about UX/UI?

Alsoooo when you learn how to make your own Sprite, please share! :clap:

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What is your approach to making websites and platforms accessible to all user groups, including users with visual, hearing, and motor disabilities?

Hi McKenna! There’s a lot to consider with accessibility, but one key concept is ensuring that content is separate from design. This allows the user to change how the content is displayed, based on their needs or preferences. For example, they can make the text larger, change the typeface, adjust the contrast, listen to the content with a screen reader, or navigate the site using only a keyboard.

This is why you would want to generally avoid putting text within an image file, since the user can’t change how that text is displayed. (Note: If using text in an image, we should always offer a text caption. And an alt tag!) Consistency is another important aspect of accessibility. Consistency is a powerful design tool that can provide structure and make your web content easier to understand.

Here’s a basic checklist, by no means comprehensive:

  • Add alternative text for images
  • Include captions for video content
  • Design with adequate contrast (and allow user to adjust contrast)
  • Follow recommended sizes for default body text (and allow user to adjust text size)
  • Make form fields visible and ideally include the field labels directly above the form field
  • Write meaningful page titles
  • Make link text meaningful and descriptive
  • Design so that a user can navigate site using only a keyboard

The A11Y Project has a much more complete list. W3C and accessibility.gov are additional resources to learn more. And WebAIM has useful some tools for evaluating your website for accessibility. They also provide specific suggestions on improvements to make.

Do you know any beginner tools/resources for someone who is interested in learning more about UX/UI?

I consider myself to be a UX practitioner, but am by no means an expert! Much of what I know about user-focused design stems from earlier in my career when I did a lot of usability lab testing as part of my job as a web designer. I learned so much by watching real people use websites and applications to complete tasks or find information. Highly recommend it, if you ever get the chance to visit a usability testing lab or take part in a usability study.

Of course, usability testing is only one aspect of UX. For anyone who wants to learn UX today, there are a plethora of courses online - many of which are free. InVision has an e-course that is delivered by email. Learnux.io also has really good info! Skillshare and Udemy have paid options, or you can find really good information on Youtube. (Would post more links, but Discuss is only allowing me 2 links per post.)

In general, I would say start with the basics and learn UX and design principles before moving into learning specific tools, applications, or techniques.

Oh! And if you can, find a UX and design mentor! Mine happens to be in this group – @chuckmallott Chuck, please feel free to chime in if you have any additional advice or resources for someone learning UX. :slight_smile:

@McKennaR : Here are two more tools that I love:

  • UsabilityHub - For remote user testing, in a variety of formats. I especially love the 5 Second Test option!
  • FlowMapp - Super fun tool for making site maps, customer journey maps, etc. And you get one project for free, so you can try it out!
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These are awesome, thank you so much for sharing!!