If you’re planning your first website, whether you’re doing it yourself or contracting it out, you’ll want to avoid making the same mistakes as millions of others have done.
If you’ve already got a website and you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’ve realised that your website is not doing what you need it to do for you. Getting results.
Every business wants their website to deliver results. Results you can see. Results you can measure.
To achieve them, don’t rush into anything. Plan your website really carefully; it’s worth the effort.
Start with two cardinal rules.
Rule 1 – look at your website as if you were a customer
OK, you haven’t built it yet (or the one that you have doesn’t do it for you), so what I mean is design it from the viewpoint of how you would want a customer to react to it. Obvious, huh? You’d be surprised how many people don’t do it, though.
Start by looking at lots of other websites – especially those of your competitors, and those of similar sorts of business. If you were a potential customer, what would you think? If you were the owner of that business, what would you want the viewer to do?
You’d certainly want them to do SOMETHING. Click! Whether it’s buy, request more information or simply investigate other pages on the website first, you want the viewer to click on something. That’s usually termed a “Call to Action”.
What Calls to Action would work best for you?
Which of the other websites you look at interest you enough to want to click on something? What is it? Can you use that idea?
This is also the stage where help is good and easy to get. Ask colleagues and friends to look and tell you the websites they find interesting and the ones that wash over them (or even repel them!).
While you’re taking a critical look at other people’s websites, it’s also worth considering anything you see that discourages you from clicking. Some websites shoot themselves in the foot by making it too difficult or putting doubts in the mind of the viewer. If you just want to see a bit more detail on the next page, do you really want to type in your name, email and phone number first?
Rule 2 – Content is King
One thing you’ll really understand and appreciate after critiquing other websites (and your own, if you already have one) is that the ONLY critical element is the content – quantity, quality and style.
The text needs to be in good English. Grammatical and spelling errors may not concern you, but your audience will care. Avoid jargon, technical words and – above all – TLAs, those Three Letter Acronyms that you may use all day long but that some of your audience won’t understand.
Text needs to be clear, easy to understand and engaging. Use short sentences. Make your story interesting and exciting. If you’re not a natural author, it’s really worth investing in contracting one to edit your own draft – make sure you choose one that specialises in “commercial prose”.
What about SEO?
You’ll read lots about the importance of getting the content right for SEO – Seach Engine Optimisation. Truth is, nobody knows the magic that will consistently get your website to the top of the Google ranking. The algorithms keep getting tweaked, so even if you make it there tomorrow, you may be languishing on page 5 next week.
But what will definitely help is sticking to the points above about Quantity, Quality and Style, and making sure that you include – early and often – all the words that are key to your product or service.
Which all leads on to your…
Basically, that means putting down on paper exactly what you want to achieve with your website. Remember that Call to Action! Keep thinking – what will engage the audience and make them want to click?
You’ll need to define all these things:
- What audience do you want to attract?
- How will they find your website?
- What is the primary purpose of the website – selling (e-commerce) or informing?
- What action do you want every visitor to your website to take?
- How will you measure success?
- How will you measure failure? (the times that people you want to click through look at your website but don’t engage)
Yes, I know you are aching to get started on the website itself, and want it online yesterday – but trust me, it’s really worthwhile concentrating and spending the time and effort on planning your Content Strategy before you get started.
Does it all sound too difficult? It’s not really. Start drafting your Content Plan now, and in my next article in this series I’ll help you explore and answer all the points above. Then, I’ll help you prepare your content and get it ready to be turned into a great, super-successful website for you.
Meanwhile, remember this – it’s all about Content.