“THE NEW WEBSITE LOOKS GREAT!”
Is this the most sought after compliment for those launching a new website or what?
While it may be flattering and complimentary to the site designers and producers, it’s far from the most effective way to measure a website’s quality—or value.
Like many others, we write, design and produce websites. We also do a lot more to educate and enable our customers to realize the most business value from their site. Almost without exception, most businesses come to us thinking they just need a website. Virtually all don’t have a clue why their new website is NOT the single outcome they need.
It’s still surprising to us that what a website looks like is usually the most important attribute that so many are fixated on. What’s more, the interpretative or vague language that they use to describe their elusive vision always adds some degree of confusion to what they really need.
Time to recalibrate the desired outcome?
So what should you focus on if you’re going to “redo” a website?
Below is a short summary of essential qualities that need to be integrated for a website to deliver ongoing value to a business.
Don’t mistake pretty for an idea
Might as well check this off the list right away. After a site is launched and visitors are directed to the URL, people react in an emotional nano second to what they see.
So it’s not unreasonable to require a successful website to clearly present an “idea” that encapsulates the business value of the site in both words and pictures.
Strategy embedded in the positioning + HTML
Is the strategy and brand positioning obvious? If not, it’s questionable if a site will succeed.
That’s because when you tell a story that others identify with, they see it as their own. People are drawn to the story attached to your brand. And if you give them something to believe in with a deeper and clear meaning, you’ll instantly separate your site from the sea of others clamoring for everyone’s limited attention.
Without this fundamental component integrated into the website development process, it’s a virtual guarantee that the site will go off course. The result is your prospects will never “get” your value or why they should consider you over someone else.
Copy is last to get read
Words and content matter. Perhaps more than ever. Because words are the universal communication medium that everyone understands. Especially those who are visually illiterate or unable to discern the difference between and aesthetically constructed website and a cluttered and confused alternative.
If your site uses poorly written, overly wordy or excessively long copy, chances are it will be passed over. Or worse, dismissed as boring. Studies confirm that online content is only skimmed. Therefore, you better make it easy for someone to drill into your copy and understand how you're going to help them with their challenge.
More than ever, mobile matters
Make no mistake, mobile is the internet access point of choice for more and more online visitors. While many still think that a laptop or desktop experience matters most, recent data from Google demands that you adjust your perspective.
Nearly 50% of online access today is from mobile devices. So what your web experience is more than likely will be the mobile experience of most of your visitors. Better get that right with a responsive website that's optimized for presentation on smart phones, tablets and a growing list of mobile devices.
An invisible differentiator: SEO
What someone can’t see in many cases is more important what they can. If a site, and all of the content in it, isn’t optimized for search, it becomes questionable if anyone will ever find it. That means integrating all the best SEO practices and connecting all your content with thorough keyword integration.
Site speed and performance count
The tactical mechanics of site speed matter—a lot. Using tools like Pingdom or Google page speed, and others, it’s relatively easy to access how fast your site is performing when visitors hit a URL on any device.
A slow page load can make the difference between keeping a visitor on your site and sending them away, never to return. Ther web hosting service, content management system and development platform you build a site with must be right from the outset of a new website program.
If you build your site on a robust platform like WordPress, and use a web hosting service like WPengine that’s optimized for serving up dynamic content rapidly with great page load speeds, your visitor experience will be dramatically improved.
Integrated lead generation, nurturing + analytics
If your site is no more than a digital brochure, you’ve missed a critical opportunity. An online property should work hard to help you identify and qualify leads, automatically nurture them and then help you to turn them into paying customers.
By definition, this requires a robust marketing automation platform integrated into your site that captures visitor data, measures visitor interaction with your content, ranks leads that are captured and automatically sends leads more content that they will find relevant or valuable.
When these components and technologies are properly deployed and consistently used, the result delivers long term value and measurable ROI for just about any website. But be forewarned, these sophisticated capabilities are not for novices. They require proven software and experienced resources to integrate, configure, maintain and sustain them every month. Without that, trouble may be just around the corner.
Where to from here?
For any business, online marketing, including developing a website, is not a one time event that only needs a limited infusion of time, resources and capital to meet a launch date. Like never before, online marketing changes quickly and continuously. Therefore it’s reasonable to ask “Who will you turn to guide you through the website development process and the ever-changing environment of online marketing?”
Look to those who have demonstrable success with their clients. And check out their references and work product before you add them to a short list. But most of all, seek those who talk straight, walk the talk that they tell others to follow. Dismiss anyone who tells you they’re experts in everything.
Where are you with your online marketing? Are you having success? Or have you been in extended triage mode trying to clean up or recover from the train wreck that your expert consultant caused. Please share your results.