Whether it’s because Google's search algorithm changed to favor mobile-friendly sites, or your analytics report is stagnant month after month or you’re rebranding, anytime you need to rebuild your website you may feel the urge to scream “Nooooooo!” It was probably a painful process to build your website in the first place and the thought at reliving that all again can instill dread or sheer panic.
Here’s why you need to take the plunge. You know that just because you build it doesn’t mean your audience will come. A website needs to not just exist, it needs to perform. And as part of an integrated social and interactive landscape, it can no longer survive as the lone outpost for your marketing efforts. Search, social media content, and blogging (to name a few) need to be integrated as part of the entire buyer's journey from casual visitor to loyal customer.
Your website acts as an online basecamp to all of the traffic from blogs, social media, organic and paid search. It is the single source where your visitors can convert into leads or sales.
To begin the process of planning your website 'transformation' into an essential piece of your online marketing strategy, there are 4 key areas to focus your efforts on to ensure success:
- Get found online
- Design and usability
So, here’s what’s involved in these four areas of focus.
1. Get found online
If you were a seventh-grader with a crush on someone new, your first step would be to get noticed by that person, right? It’s the same with your website.
A great website isn’t so great if no one visits it. Attracting potential customers is at the very top of the sales funnel, and it is key to driving your digital marketing strategy. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an absolute must-have to any website strategy, but it takes hard work and consistency when aiming for the top spot. SEO is more than just keyword phrases—SEO includes inbound links and on-page SEO. Together, these critical steps in optimizing your website for search engines will help your website get found.
2. Design & Usability
Now that you’re generating some good traffic by getting found online, your next focus is getting that traffic to stay on your website. It depends on the industry, but most websites have a 30-60% bounce rate on average. (!) This means a large majority of web traffic entering your website leaves without navigating to any other pages.
When you finally do get noticed, you want to make a good first impression. Like when you first catch someone’s eye in biology class, appearance and good behavior matter. Only in this case, your website speaks for you. You want it to make a great first impression that says they have come to the right place and that you (or your company) are trustworthy, friendly and everything you say you are (and more). In fact, an in-depth study from Stanford University and Consumer Web Watch found that a website's design was more important than credibility. Beau Brendler, director of Consumer Web Watch noted: “While consumers say they judge on substance, these studies demonstrate that consumers judge on aesthetics, and get distracted by bells and whistles.” That being said, after you've made a good first impression, you'd better have substance to back it up. Consumer Reports has some great guidelines for promoting website credibility.
An appealing visual design is important, but it’s not as important as making sure your website is easy to navigate and offers the right information. If people can’t easily find what they are looking for, they’ll bail. And it’s much harder to get them to visit again if their first experience was frustrating.
Quality content will attract visitors to your site, but you still only have a few seconds to capture their attention and get them to the next step. Good content consists of relevant messaging presented in human terms that educates or otherwise provides value to your audience. For free.
But doesn’t that mean you are giving something of value away without subjecting visitors to your sales pitch first? Yes. Content marketing is all about giving value—not selling.
Remember at this step in the buyer’s journey, you’re laying the groundwork for a long-lasting relationship by letting your audience see who you are and what you so generously have to offer them. Remember that first crush you had in seventh grade? You don’t want to scare prospects away by coming on too strong. But you do want them to be intrigued by you because you always have something relevant to say or a funny story to share.
Blogging regularly or posting shareable content like videos is a great way to keep your visitors interested and keep them coming to your site.
Now that you know what it takes to drive traffic and engage visitors with great content, the next step is to get your visitors to convert from a prospect into a lead. Always give them a reason—like a special offer—to give you their phone number or an email address so you can contact them with more offers they’d like. And always be clear about what you expect them to do next.
An effective call to action will lead your intended to the next step. Instead of a vague “we should hang out sometime” (the marketing equivalent of sending them to the homepage on your website), your call to action should be personal and directed to what your target audience is interested in. Phrasing your call to action to a specific “do you want to go to the homecoming dance with me?” will help speed you along to that first date and a long-lasting relationship (which in middle school might be all of two weeks). But in marketing terms, you’re converting a prospect into a lead with a specific offer with a landing page where your prospect can give you clues where to reach them.
Now, does that sound so hard? Once you muster up the courage to go for it, asking a date to the dance or rebuilding your website is really just a matter of following the right steps. But, exactly how do you do that? What do you say? How should you look to make the right first impression?
If you take all of these steps toward building a successful website that helps drive leads, you’ll have a much surer chance of getting your audience to dance with you.