A Step-by-Step Guide to Planning a Great Website

Building-a-Website1-300x207Every smart marketer knows the importance of an effective website. But there’s a big difference between a good site and a great one.

A great website is the foundation of a smart marketing strategy. It supports your brand promise and differentiates you from competitors. It delivers high-value information that demonstrates your capabilities and makes people want to do business with you. And if you’re a business-to-business (B2B) marketer, it’s probably also your best tool for lead generation, according to new research by Demandbase and Focus Research on eMarketer.

So how do you create a great website? It’s all in the planning.

Here’s the planning guide we use when creating new websites for clients of our Cleveland marketing agency.

Your Goals

  • Why is a website important to your business?
  • What are your goals for the site and how will you measure its effectiveness?
  • What role does your website play in your sales and marketing plan? Brand awareness and positioning? An information resource for buyers and specifiers? A storefront? A lead generator? Community building?

Your Brand

  • What does your brand stand for? What do people expect from their interaction with your brand and how can you meet those expectations on your website?
  • How are you communicating your brand in other marketing channels? What types of images and messages should be integrated into your new site for branding consistency?

Your Market

  • Who are the most important audiences for your website? Why do these people come to your site? What are they looking for?
  • Are they typically first-time visitors or repeat visitors? Do they already know you or do business with you or are they trying to learn about you?
  • Where do people go on your current site? Which pages get the most hits and most engagement?

Your Marketing Strategy

  • What is your overall marketing strategy? What channels and tactics are you using to promote your company and products?
  • How can your website integrate with and support your other marketing initiatives? For example, can your site be a response channel for direct mail and email marketing campaigns? Serve as the repository for content you share via social media? Promote events? Highlight special offers?

Content

  • What content belongs on your site to convey your capabilities and the value you provide to your customers?
  • What’s the best way to deliver that content on the site? Explanatory text? Case studies? Testimonials? How-to information? Product demos? Newsletters? Video? Photos? Charts? Diagrams? Presentations? A blog? Podcasts?

Search Engine Optimization

  • Which keywords will you use to drive search engine rankings and content creation?
  • Are there specific products, services, or geographic regions that should be the focus of text?
  • How will you add content in the future to continue your SEO initiatives?

Offers and Engagement

  • What can you offer site visitors to generate a response and get their permission for future communications?
  • How can you spur visitor engagement? Think of actions you can measure, such as requesting information, sharing your site with others, posting a comment, following you on social media, subscribing to your blog, or signing up for your RSS feed.

Functionality and Navigation

  • What actions will visitors want to take on your site, such as ordering products, chatting with a representative, getting more information, finding a dealer or retail location, or logging into their account? Which of these actions should be prominently featured on your home page?
  • Do you need to provide password-protected access for customers?
  • What inbound and outbound links belong on the site?
  • How will your site look and function on a mobile device?

Sources of Site Traffic

  • How do you plan to drive traffic to your site? Social media? Pay per click? Promotion in other media? Organic search?
  • How will you use marketing to bring people to your site?
  • What can you do to encourage return traffic?

Your Competitors

  • Which of your competitors are doing web marketing well? What aspects of their sites do you like?
  • Which competitors should you track for comparative search engine rankings?

Marketers: What other questions should be part of the website planning process? Share your ideas here.

Thanks to Barb Cagley of EXP for valuable contributions to this post.

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