I’ve been helping businesses to specify their requirements in relation to web sites as effective sales and marketing tools for over 10 years and in that time – apart from the tech, little has changed – until now (well, when I say now, I mean over the last couple of years). If you’re currently looking at improving your website or are in the process of building a new site, then take note, the world has changed and due to the rise (and rise) of Social Media your website today performs a very different role to what it did a few years ago.
1) How well are you currently performing online?
And I don’t just mean traffic to the website, but looking at individual channels into the site – What are the bounce and exit rates? Where is most of your traffic coming from?
How many people are converting to one action against one of your defined key performance indicators? Without this information there’s really no point at even looking to change your web site.
2) What is the extent of your Digital estate?
Is it just a website? Have you engaged in other digitial channels? How active are you in these? What’s working well and not so well? Are they the right channels for your business?
3) How does your website fit into this picture?
Your website is no longer an island in a digital ocean with passing traffic from the odd reference on a 3rd party website or search engines delivering traffic based on key terms – your website should be bang in the middle of the shipping lane, with traffic directed towards it from multiple sources. Your website increasingly is not the place where decisions are made, but more often than not will be made outwith your site, with the site itself just nailing the “sale”.
Having said that we’re not there quite yet, so you still have to consider how your website stacks up, how it interacts, but you also have to be aware that individual pages of your site will be referenced across the web and so each key entry page has to work as hard as the Home page, with consistently placed calls to action (although these may vary based on what you’re trying to achieve on any given page). You need to think of your site as a series of landing pages.
4) What are your competitors up to?
This is very often missed and shouldn’t be, as it gives great insight in to how your competitors interact with their customers. You can use some of the free tools out there such as Yahoo site explorer (http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/uk/) to see what 3rd party links they have pointing into them, a keyword density analyser (I use http://www.ranks.nl/tools/spider.html) to see what they’ve optimised individual pages for, and one of the Social Media monitoring tools (there are loads – Addictomatic/ Twazzup etc) to get a feel for what their customers are saying about them and where they are saying it.
5) What’s the purpose of your site?
Strange question? But I see so many sites that have absolutely no purpose whatsoever other than to look good in the developer’s portfolio. You need to really think what you want to get out of your site, set KPIs so you know when it’s been successful. You also need to understand how the website fits in to your other online activity.
6) Who are your customers? What do they want? Where do they hang out online?
Persona development is key to delivering to your customers the information they want (and the information you want them to know) in the environment that they frequent. There are lots of great articles on persona development and that may be worth exploring in a future blog post, but in essence – consider your top 3 types of customer (there’ll be more, but lets focus on the key ones) – who are they? How tech savvy are they? How do they want information delivered? What are the triggers that will make them engage?
You’ll end up with a profile of your key customers and that’s as good a place as any to start building content which addresses their issues.
7) Content, Content, Content
You may think that you have the greatest website on earth, but is this where your primary engagement with your customers will take place?
I’ve recently undertaken an excercise with a couple of clients whereby we got a large sheet of paper (very high tech I know!) and written down the left column all the information (based on the personans) that we believe customers want to know as well as information that we need to tell them. Across the top we then put up their entire digital estate – blog/ Facebook, youtube, flickR etc. We didn’t take this for granted, we saw based on previous interactions which were working best, others which weren’t working as well and others we hadn’t considered up until the persona exercise. We then decided for each piece of information where it sat and what purpose it performed.
Let’s take an example – “recipes” – the call to action takes place on the website where the recipe is downloaded and they sign up to receive regular recipe updates, but the activity to get them to this point takes place across You Tube (“watch the video on how to make the recipe”); Facebook (“lets discuss the recipe and other ways of making it”); Twitter (Tweets relating to the recipe having just been made and how successful or otherwise it turned out) …..you get the idea.
Lots of websites have great content which never sees the light of day and there are plenty of other places on the web that would just love to have your Presentation, Whitepaper, Press Release, Video, Images – the list goes on – don’t let your content hide on your site, get it out there (a number of my clients use PixelPipe – http://pixelpipe.com).
9) Ensure that even if your primary call to action is not fulfilled that an engagement mechanism is
This may be “Sign up for a weekly digest of information”; “Use our RSS feed”; “Follow us on Twitter”; “Like us on Facebook” etc). By allowing the customer to engage on their terms, you then have the opportunity to engage with them.
Lastly, you need to be able to be able to make decisions and refine your strategy – you can’t do this without measurements in place. Decide at the outset what your KPIs are and what you’re going to measure and then review regularly to ensure that you’re on-message.