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How to Create a Website Strategy

By Greg Cargopoulos

A website strategy is a deliberate, long-term plan that allows you to design a website with specific objectives and goals in mind. Just as all businesses need a plan, websites need a strategy.

All websites should exist to serve some sort of purpose, and those with an effective strategy behind them function as a way to achieve that purpose. Depending on the objectives of the business, this could be to make sales, provide information or services, increase your number of sign-ups, or just about anything else.

The exact strategies for these different business objectives will differ, but there are elements that all website strategies share. They outline the direction the website will go in and have an end result in mind, as well as being an extension of your marketing strategy.

Gorgeous interfaces designed with no greater purpose in mind aren’t strategic. Websites need more than just aesthetically pleasing graphics, and that’s where strategy comes in.

When you’re strategic, you create a journey towards the ultimate goal the website aims to achieve.

So, before worrying about designing, developing, or anything else, take the time to devise a strategy that’s right for your website.

 

Website Strategy Diagram

Image Source: Bluewire Media

 

Why is it important for your website to have a strategy?

As mentioned, it helps you to outline the purpose of your website and to set and achieve goals for your business.

If you focus solely on what your business wants out of a website, you may alienate your customers and neglect their needs. Likewise, focusing only on the customer may mean missing out on business growth.

Having a website strategy allows you to:

  • Align your online presence with your overall brand and business.
  • Increase sales, conversions, and sign-ups.
  • Tailor your messaging to your audience, which is how you’ll convey your value to potential customers.
  • Measure progress in order to grow and scale up your business.
  • Retain targeted customers that are right for you, rather than only receiving random site visits.
  • Connect with your audience in the right ways.
  • Effectively present information and increase functionality.

These days, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to create a beautiful looking website, but that doesn’t mean you’re creating a functional or effective one. With the amount of websites out there all looking the same, not to mention those of your competitors, you need to be able to stand out in the digital environment.

In addition to all this, your digital marketing relies on your website strategy too.

You can put loads of effort into your social media marketing and spend a ton on well-researched, well-targeted ad campaigns, but if the website you’re sending people to isn’t cohesive, all that hard work to attract your audience will have been for nothing. 

How to Develop the Right Website Strategy

Whether you’re re-designing the website, or starting from scratch, it’s important that you follow a strategic process.

Designing, building, and optimizing all come secondary. Start by giving your strategy some serious consideration by following these steps:

1. Research

In the very beginning, you’re going to require in-depth information that will be essential to planning out your strategy. This involves getting to know your business, the industry and your competitors, and your clients.

Undertake some of the following actions during this research and discovery phase:

  • Conduct interviews with stakeholders to understand the requirements of your business. Talk with numerous departments, including sales, marketing, IT, and customer support. Find out their expectations early on so you can consider how the website could help meet their targets.
  • Look at competitor's websites. What are the strengths and weaknesses of similar business sites? Don’t focus so much on the visuals and graphics, but rather the content, organization, navigation, and how they present information.
  • While researching those in the market or industry your business is in, see if your website could find a point of difference or solve a problem others have failed to. Think about areas you could improve or ways you could set yourself apart.
  • Research your target audience. Create personas, send out surveys, and find out what your customers or clients need from your website.

If you’re redesigning, you can also:

  • Study existing traffic patterns to determine what your website is doing right and what needs to be changed.
  • Audit your existing web content to see what has helped your business and been beneficial to your users. A lot of your content may no longer be relevant and have to be deleted, but oftentimes it can be re-written or updated.

2. Define Objectives

Defining your objectives gives your website a clear purpose and mission. Knowing what they are early on plays a huge role in the success of your website. In fact, Forbes has listed unidentified business objectives as one of the top reasons that so many websites fail.

The most common objectives are to increase sales and revenue, create brand awareness, enhance customer experience and satisfaction, and attract and retain more clients.

The objectives you set will come from considering both the user and the business. The aim is to find a happy medium between what your audience wants and what your business needs. One or the other won’t do.

 

Business Objectives

Image Source: Katalyst Creative Group

3. Set Goals

Goals are precise, measured actions you need to take to carry out your objectives. Don’t just have a vague idea of your website’s purpose — determine what it can achieve and how.

The stakeholders and teams you’ve spoken to may have provided a figure they’re trying to reach. When creating goals, think about how your website can help to achieve those targets for the business.

Make sure you focus on how you can achieve your objectives and don’t get stuck setting vanity goals. Increasing traffic is great, but if it’s not resulting in sales or leads, it’s just a number and not really the best outcome.

Set your goals according to the strategic, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely criteria.

  • What exactly do you want to accomplish? If your objective was to enhance customer experience, by how much? Put a percentage on this if you can. Example: Increase customer satisfaction by 10%.
  • What kind of measures can you set in order to know that your goal is being achieved? Example: Survey customers before and after redesign to test their satisfaction levels.
  • Is what you’re trying to achieve realistic? Don’t be too ambitious too soon, but don’t set the bar too low either. Example: Studies suggest that increased user functionality can enhance customer experience and increase satisfaction.
  • Is this goal going to help the business meet its targets, or the needs of stakeholders? Example: This goal will help meet the CEO’s target of raising the customer retention rate by 10%.
  • What’s a reasonable time in which you can achieve this goal? Establishing an end date from the beginning will help you measure results and avoid dragging on too long. Example: Following redesign, customer satisfaction levels should increase immediately, with one month required for follow-up surveys.
 
S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Image Source: Smarter Website Owner

4. Determine Messaging and Content

Your messaging needs to be tailored to your audience, while still reflecting the needs of the business. Your website is a way to engage with current or potential customers, so content must be relevant to them.

By now, you know the audience you’re targeting. Determine the best ways to interact with them by asking the following questions:

  • What kind of journey will you take your audience on?
  • What kind of language resonates with your audience?
  • How will you build trust with your audience?
  • What are you trying to convey to your audience?
  • How will your content help to achieve your goals?

The kind of content you’ll create depends on what kind of landing page you’re sending users to. Yes, there’s more than one type of landing page.

If your objective is driving traffic and educating, you’ll want to keep your audience engaged through various types of content, be it blog posts, videos, and infographics. There will also generally be a fair few links to other pages on your website to encourage your audience to stick around and explore.

If the purpose of your website is to make sales, you’ll need to focus on long-form content that showcases benefits, builds trust, gets users to keep scrolling, and motivates them to take immediate action.

If your aim is to procure newsletter signups, the landing page will contain less content. Instead, it’ll center around a form, or maybe it’ll be a splash page. You may also want to offer free downloads such as worksheets in exchange for their email address.

Learn about the various types of landing pages to see which ones will work best for your website’s purpose.

What about other pages on your site that users may not necessarily visit first?

If clients are always calling or emailing asking the same questions, your website could do with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. You can find out the type of content and web pages you may need via a content gap analysis.

Don’t create content without a purpose, or without knowing who it’s for. Everything on your website should exist as a way to achieve the goals of the business.

5. Measure Success

Your previously set objectives and goals give meaning to your analytics. How will you analyze your web traffic and visitor behavior if you don’t know what it means to your business?

Here you are able to find out if your strategy is working as intended, and see what changes can be made to your website to better achieve your goals.

When you’re first starting out, measuring the success of your website strategy can be as simple as the free Google Analytics software. Pay attention to engagement and conversion metrics, but dig deeper rather than just looking at the numbers.

Maybe you’re receiving longer visits, but is that because users are struggling to understand your messaging or failing to find the information they’re looking for? Make sure that an increase in page views isn’t due to a fault in your navigation, messaging, or content.

You can also use heatmaps to gain insights into user behavior. Seeing the way visitors interact with your interface will give you an idea of how to further improve your website strategy.

Above all, remember the famous quote: "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."

Conclusion

Remember, website design will only be successful if you’re intentional and have specific, measurable goals set.

Without a strategy, your website will never live up to its full potential. Allow your website to grow your reach, sales, customers, and business overall by developing an effective and tailor-made strategy.

However, don’t let yourself get too stressed out and avoid taking action. Take your time going through the five steps outlined, and repeatedly ask yourself throughout the process, “What’s the end purpose?”

 

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Greg Cargopoulos

Greg Cargopoulos