By Clara Daly, Interactive Communications Director
My parents, boomers, have always had an interest in technology. They’ve lived and traveled all over the world, remember giant CRT monitors, and used endless floppy disks to save single documents. I’ve been able to watch their reactions to the ever-changing digital world we find ourselves in, and how they’ve embraced it, along with the difficulties and challenges it has presented them.
It was two years ago that my mom suggested a large format keyboard as a birthday present, the sort with large keys and dimmable LED lighting. A few years prior, I had taught them how to increase text size in their browsers. Now whenever I stop by to visit, either Wikipedia or IMDB is open at a size I could read from across the room.
The day I set up their wireless internet and bought them Netflix was yet another game changer. They poured over the selection of sci-fi movies they’d grown up on, but some of the buttons and internal menus on the new Blu-ray player weren’t as intuitive to them as I found them. They were eager and willing to learn. In fact, recipe books and reference books were becoming a rarer thing in their house since they discovered they could find anything they wanted within minutes on Google. But, some of the paths to make the most out of these new convenient digital resources, while clear to me, caused hurdles and frustrations for them.
Thanks to my parents’ early recognition that the digital realm was going to be a hugely fascinating field, I had generous exposure to it while growing up. Now I work in the tech sector, specifically creating media, designs and websites aimed at the senior demographic. Here is what I found along the way to create a senior friendly website.
1) Do not underestimate seniors’ tech experience
Seniors have had plenty of exposure to technology, through their jobs, family members and community groups. Do not make the assumption that you can neglect your digital presence. The number of people utilizing the internet—be it via smart phones, laptops, desktops, or tablets—is growing exponentially, and seniors are no exception.
Your first touch may be an online ad, a directory listing, or from a Google maps location. Whatever the case, your print efforts can support your digital ones, but do not neglect digital efforts. Seniors are using the internet, and the aging boomer generation is using it even more than their predecessors.
2) Test with real people
You probably already have some kind of digital presence. But is it doing everything you’d like it to be doing? Say your conversion rates are low and your bounce rates are high. Maybe you’re targeting your audience well, but once you get a prospect on your site, they aren’t staying. Why? To find out, you need to do some testing, ideally with the exact demographic who will be using your site or service. This is where working with a consulting group or agency can help. We have the experience, data, analytics and metrics to back our decision-making. But, you can also do a little bit of testing on your own.
There’s some great heatmapping software out there, like CrazyEgg and Hotjar that allow you to watch, record and track visitor interactions with your website. Eye tracking software becomes incredibly expensive and normally requires outsourcing, but with studies showing 84-88% of mouse movements directly correlate to the eye’s movements on a screen, heatmapping can make a tremendous difference.
When you start to recognize patterns in behavior, and identify potential issues, utilize A/B testing. You can do some testing for free via Google Experiments (inside Google Analytics) so long as you have access to a bit of code. Make small changes to your site, based on your heat mapping findings, and actually test them out. Roll out the successful changes, and continue to watch, test, and refine.
3) Remember accessibility
Just like my example of my intelligent, capable parents having difficulty with certain things, remember that your prospects and audience may need some extra tools at their availability. When we age, our eyesight and fine motor control are often the first things to suffer.
Ensure your text size is adjustable through buttons or a widget, right on screen, before ever having to scroll down. Make certain that your links and buttons are high contrast, and use a secondary method of visual distinction to separate them from the text, like an underline or italic font. Do not rely on mouseover or hover interactions on your website to reveal cues to someone looking at your website. And, keep your buttons large and bold. Buttons are another opportunity for a call-to-action so don’t waste it. Is the word “Submit” really engaging your prospect? Rather, write “Send my free white paper!” It’s often small, thoughtful changes, discovered through research and subsequent testing that can make impressive differences in your traffic retention.
Ensure your website is mobile friendly, both for the ease of access as well as your search rankings. Having a mobile-friendly site is absolutely critical. While it may take time and monetary investment to update your site to become responsive, it’s money well-spent. Speaking of-
4) Don’t ignore SEO/SEM
Just because you are a niche market, a non-profit, or at a nearly full census, there is no reason not to abide by best practices. Put yourself in a good position for later on, especially as some of the best SEO tactics require time. Not everyone knows exactly what they’re looking for when considering retirement options, and particularly potential digital leads early on in their search could become hot leads with well-organized Pay-Per-Click advertising, remarketing, and directory listings.
Do your research on your prospects, find out your demographics, and geo-target your advertising. Utilize negative keywords to help pare down to qualified leads, and ensure your website is using sitemaps, meta tags and clean architecture to show up in Google exactly the way you want it to. With Google Panda and Penguin, long gone are the days of being able to make the top search results from keyword stuffing. Thin text-redundant websites are being penalized and semantic, conversational search queries (referred to as long-tail keywords) are taking over. Your potential prospect isn’t a robot. They are typing in real questions, looking for real information. Know that, look at your Analytics, and never stop adjusting and refining. Moz is a great place to start on your search.
One of the best things you can do for your SEO is to host a blog. Keep it fresh, keep it updated, and write posts to answer the questions people are asking. Provide the information they want and need. Without your prospects, you don’t have a product to sell or a service to provide. Prospects come first. When you’ve earned your digital prospects’ trust and speak with authority, that’s when the engagement really begins.
5) Create quality content.
To follow up on my last point, creating quality content is one of the big rules of the web right now, no matter your demographic. Content-marketing is highly valued by search engines in terms of ranking, and it’s also the current climate of marketing and sales in 2016.
People have access to more choices than ever before. If you bury your information in a difficult to navigate site, or you aren’t paying attention to your search terms, prospects won’t find the information they are looking for, and they will go elsewhere. It can be a little scary, giving up some hard earned secrets, some information held tight as your only bargaining chip to get someone into the sales office. You don’t have to give away everything, but you need to be generous. You need to trust that by sharing, from a place of generosity and authority, you will build brand loyalty, and that your prospects will come to you.
For more information on how you can improve your sales team, contact Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013.
Attending LeadingAge National? Be sure to attend our sessions, Predictive Modeling: Identifying the Prospects Most Likely to Buy, and Staying Competitive and Preparing for the Future. See you in Indianapolis!