How to Make Websites that Matter
The Situation ⚙️
Imagine trying to walk into a business and the door taking two minutes to open. Once we are finally able to get inside, we see that the place is a total disaster. The interior looks like it were decorated in the early 2000s. It definitely hasn't been cleaned since it was built. The products are scattered across the floor. Finding what we need is like finding a needle in a haystack. We want to avoid all of this and just talk to a customer service representative, but we're a little worried about touching the service bell since it looks like we could catch a virus from it.
More often than not, people virtually experience brands long before having any type of physical interaction with their people, products, or places. While even basic websites with solid design can function as a useful sales tool or product showcase, the truth is, many companies don't think of their digital platforms in the same way that they think of their sales/marketing team or storefront. For instance, it would be unacceptable for it to take hours for an in-store customer service representative to get back to a customer who asked a question, but online it is standard.
When done correctly, websites allow us to build a virtual brand experience that dollar for dollar quickly surpasses the traditional in-person efforts' quality and functionality. Suppose for $20K per year; you could hire an employee who knows your products/services inside and out, presents to consumers 24/7, tracks customer's habits, provides real-time answers to customer questions, and, most importantly, inspire brand engagement/devotion. Would you jump on that opportunity? At Stilling, we would too, which is why building that "employee" is our product.
The Setup 🔔
So, how do we build a website that does this work for us? Let's start by defining how we want it to help us and what goals we would like to accomplish. After that, we'll need to think about how we want our platform's content to interact with and engage consumers. Every team is different, so we'll need to evaluate how we will manage our website and then pick a management system that fits our work style. Last, but certainly not least, we have to determine ways that will help people find our website. Like a large sign at a brick-and-mortar location, users have to discover our website before visiting it.
Defining Goals for a Website ✅
Before touching a piece of design software or a line of code, we have to determine what our site will do for us. With that, there should be some standards we can measure against to help us track the effectiveness of our website in accomplishing these tasks.
Determine Your Main Goal
A website's main goal should be the same as the company’s main objective. For example, if you are a coffee shop, your main goal would be to sell more coffee. Don't stop there. Why and how your company does what it does is just as important; it distinguishes your brand.
Make a Hierarchical Structure of Other Goals
While the Sales Team may be looking for new ways to communicate with potential clients, the HR Team may be looking for methods to share critical safety information with employees. It is crucial to hear voices from every team to understand their wants and needs. Missing any necessary functionality that is required of the site can lead to costly add-ons in the future or a janky user experience depending on how the new features are integrated. Deciding what information and features are most and least important will create a road map for the website. Often, the more important features can be budgeted for and implemented right away, while less critical functionality can be planned for, but built in later on.
Why and How to Track Your Site’s Goals
Websites are too big of an investment to simply build them and hope for the best. Without tracking, there's no way to justify our efforts, see where we can improve, and understand where we have been succeeding. Analytics make it fairly simple to see what is happening on websites. Analytics can track things like page views, user flows, buttons clicks, and user information.
A B2B Example
Let's say we just launched a new product that uses a proprietary manufacturing method that makes it far superior to our competition. We built an awesome page on the website dedicated to this product. We believe that if our current client base understands this new product, it will be clear to see how it will benefit them and lead to purchases. We don't sell online, so we have to direct users on the website to send our Sales Team an email or call.
Currently, our largest audience is our social following, so we started to push out social posts that hype our new product with a link to the product page on the website. We are kind of worried that some of our clients aren't on social media, though, so we also set up an email blast that links to this product page. After a month, we want to see how people react to our efforts and if it has lead to any calls or emails. In analytics, we can start by checking to see if people are responding to our social post and email blasts by checking what website/app traffic to the new page is coming from.
Since it is critical for our clients to understand this new product, we also want to check how much time users spend on the page. We know it takes at least five minutes to read the page, so if we see users are spending less time than that, we can start to understand where we are losing them. Lastly, we can check to see how many users followed our call to action buttons and submitted emails or tapped to call. Users will often copy/paste an email address or phone number outside of our website. For that reason, our sales team needs to find where their inquiries are stemming from.
Side Note: Google My Business
If you are a B2C company with a brick-and-mortar location, it is absolutely critical that you set up and track a Google My Business Account for your company. Google My Business is basically a command center for your business's presence on Google Products. It is where you can control business details like hours and locations, provide photos and reviews for users searching in Google Search or Google Maps, track how many people are viewing your business on Google, and a whole lot more. It can be easy to miss, but it is even easier to setup.
How to Craft and Structure Interesting Content That Makes Your Website Meaningful ✏️
The biggest problem with the internet currently is that it is filled with junk. There isn't a secret to succeeding in the digital world. It is quite simple, make stuff that entertains people.
“Wait just a second here! We make plastic components for heavy machinery, there is nothing entertaining about what we do.”
So what if you don't make hoverboards or flying vehicles? Remember that show, "How It's Made" or "Dirty Jobs?" Every product or service can be interesting, based on how it is presented. More importantly, our products and services don't have to interest everyone, just our consumers. Our consumers should have a predisposed interest in our subject since it is typically part of their everyday lives (even if it's slight). Whether our products/services fit into their morning routine or their supply chain at work, we must understand how we are connected. That connection is what gives us relevance. That relevance is what we need to capitalize on to show our value.
Too often, websites involve dreadfully dry lists of things like products, services, leadership, and contact information. Can you imagine walking into a store and the customer service rep coming up and stating things in a similar format? More likely than not, the consumer knows approximately what product they need, why they should choose our company is what matters.
Our company makes a commercial toilet bowl cleaner. First and foremost, we will need to find ways for potential clients to discover us. Let's say our consumer is a maintenance supervisor who buys cleaning products for their teams to use. Most importantly, this consumer is concerned with keeping their staff safe, happy, and healthy. Knowing this, we post a weekly video centered around how to handle various commercial cleaning products safely and correctly. Rather than sending some corny sales emails, we can now connect with this consumer in a way that feeds their interests and simultaneously makes our company look like a resource rather than a faceless supplier. (It is also, more or less, what I am doing by typing this article 😉)
Content’s Relationship with User Experience
Now that we know what makes great content, we have to put it in the right places so that consumers can both find and understand it. We again will want to create a sort of hierarchy that places what we believe to be our most valuable information first. Think of landing pages as storefronts. They should be beautiful and contain only the most critical information to prevent scaring off people with a mess of text.
Treat specifications and finer details like a shirt tag. They should be easy to find, but should not distract from the beauty of the product. Your site's navigation should clearly direct users to the different departments of your site. Once within those departments, a user must be able to find what they are looking for quickly.
To blog or not to blog
Many small to medium-sized marketing and design shops will encourage clients to take part in "content marketing" (which is more or less blogging). When taken seriously and approached in a fun way, it can be effective. Let's get this straight, though; blogging will not work if the content is lame and not taken seriously. As we mentioned earlier, people want to be entertained, not bored to death. It's easy to let a blog slip into a weekly or monthly corporate rant on subjects that nobody cares about (especially the person writing them). Our advice is to experiment. Content marketing doesn't have to be blogging; it can be social media, YouTube, podcasting, or even making a consistent effort to participate in your industry's community. Find a way to share your brand's voice that your team enjoys, because if you don't enjoy the format, it's likely to fade away.
Two Ways to Drive Traffic to a Sweet New Website 🚗
We've made it; our website is live! Once people get to this thing, we're bound to make some sales. Right?!
Hold your horses. People don't just arrive at websites. For a website to be successful, an equal amount of thought and time need to be put into finding ways to drive people to it. Think about it like this; we don't exit the freeway to get gas if we don't see a sign for it ahead. On the internet, there is plenty of traffic. Similarly, there are more than enough gas stations. The two most common ways to drive traffic to your site are using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and social media. *If you're looking for more gas station analogies, be sure to keep reading.*
So we're driving down the road, and we are low on fuel. We're searching for the nearest place to stop because we don't have time to waste. We see an exit ramp and a huge Quick Stop sign towering above all the others, and it looks to be the closest to the exit.
Due to the visibility and ease of access, that's our stop. This is the exact concept of SEO. The main thing to remember with SEO is what the first letter stands for, search. When searching for something, we want to find it and find it as fast as possible. This means our brand has to show up toward the top of the stack (a.k.a. "have the tallest sign") on Google Search. Optimizing for search is often an ongoing effort since other site owners are always battling to show up on top too.
Back to our gas station analogies... A road sign (or SEO) is a great tool to catch people's attention initially, but what about people who already know what businesses lie ahead? Social media is a great tool to continuously and intimately connect with those who already know our brand is out there. Sure, we can be discovered on social, but if our social content can continuously engage an existing crowd, it should easily attract some new viewers.
We won't dive deeply into social strategy here, since that is a subject in itself, but we'll talk about social media's relationship to our website. Our website should be the most intimate, feature-rich, and detailed virtual setting for our brand. The standard social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn) encourage bite-sized interactions. To drive traffic to our site, we need to make those bites really tasty (social media = flavortown) and leave users longing for more. Once users are looking for more, we need to clearly define how they can find it and, more importantly, we need to be able to provide it.
Recapping This Beast of an Article
It's clear that websites require a lot of consideration, but remembering a few steps discussed above can go a long way. We must start our websites with its goals in-hand to make sure we can determine how to build our site, see the value it brings, and track its success. Our content has to be structured and thoughtful to produce a great user experience and engage our users.
Does your website need some work? ✌️
Hopefully, this guide assured you that your website is on the right track. However if you feel the exact opposite, you are not alone. The good news is that you are now aware of specific areas that can be improved within your digital marketing. If you would like an evaluation of your current site or digital tactics, shoot us a message! We would love to help get things off the ground, even if we’re not the final destination.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please reach out if you have any questions or comments on what we’ve written. Furthermore, if there are other subjects you’d like to learn or read about that are within our wheelhouse, we love suggestions.Read more thoughts