I made a list. I checked it at least twice.
If you were to check-off each item on the list, that’d be nice.
Actually, I created an eBook and called it “21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website.” My mission in 2012 was to get your eyeballs on it. It’s free (available still) and my way of helping you create the best possible jumping-off point to achieve success in online marketing: a sharp website, of course.
The sixth and final page of “21 Pointers” (it’s a concise document) is a 21-point checklist to help you take inventory of where you are and where you need to be. Here today, I’ve sprinkled some Christmas cheer on it and offer it to you as my holiday gift.
[You might print it, scroll n’ roll it, tie a red ribbon around it and stick it in a few stockings or inboxes around the office.]
These are the keys, many of them anyway, to achieving effective online marketing.
Have you surveyed and scoured the websites of your peers and leaders in your market? This is your best starting point.
Naughty: Taking your competition for granted.
Nice: Allowing other companies to help establish the most effective online marketing tactics and inspire ideas.
You need to know exactly who will visit your site—or at least who you want to become customers and advocates of your brand.
Naughty: Blowing off the “personification” step.
Nice: Creating useful profiles to help the content creation team understand how to push their buttons.
Document and get consensus on your objectives or don’t waste a dime going forward.
Naughty: Vague, assumptive objectives.
Nice: Specific, quantifiable goals that you can later measure against to determine if you’ve fallen short of, met or exceeded them.
Your website must be built on a content management system.
Naughty: Continuing to host an old-fashioned html or flash-based site. It will keep you from going forward.
Nice: Using WordPress, another popular CMS, or an integrated solution, which features a CMS.
You don’t need a big expensive contract with an SEO shyster, but if you understand and apply the basics, you have no business in online marketing in the first place.
Naughty: The “we'll get to SEO later” strategy.
Nice: A shortlist of strategically chosen, researched, and documented keywords upon which your ENTIRE marketing strategy will be based.
Your website makes it easy to get anywhere on it—from anywhere on it.
Naughty: Deep, hierarchical sites… fancy menu schemes… hidden pages.
Nice: Arriving at any page in one to three clicks.
Do you have a clear call to action on every page?
Naughty: Forcing your visitor to guess what to do next.
Nice: Featuring compelling offers and showing your visitors exactly how to take action on them.
Thou shalt have a plan to perpetually increase the quality and quantity of valuable information for the rest of time.
Naughty: Static websites. Rarely updated websites. Pushy websites. All will fail.
Nice: A content marketing oriented website approach that demonstrates your reason for being is to help your customers achieve their goals.
There are a lot of great website copywriters, but there’s just ONE way to write an effective website. Focus on the customer.
Naughty: Excessive use of your company name, “we,” “us,” or “me.”
Nice: The word “YOU.” Use it. You-tility. Deliver it.
Newsflash: your site needs a blog (assuming of course, you aim to build traffic and community).
Naughty: No blog? No good. Confusing Facebook, Tumblr or a news page as a blog. Not good either.
Nice: You publish and promote a great blog—on your domain—updated at least weekly.
Your website should offer visitors opportunities to interact.
Naughty: Websites that are one-way streets, a.k.a. brochures.
Nice: Comment boxes, forums, forms, surveys, suggestion boxes, reviews, share buttons.
If your company is not active on two or more social media sites where your market connects and communicates you deserve the obsolescence coming your way.
Naughty: “This fad will blow over."
Nice: At least one person on your team is taking social media as serious as the phone and email and engaged in it every day.
The best websites showcase customers, their stories, and their use of your solutions in the real world.
Naughty: Not acknowledging your customers who ARE your business.
Nice: Stories your prospects can relate to.
Perhaps pay-per-click advertising is an optional item on the checklist. However, if you want to succeed in search fast and leverage knowledge from your investment in AdWords to inform your free, organic search efforts, PPC is the way.
Naughty: Doing PPC without understanding how it works. (Translate: burning money.)
Nice: A create, test, analyze and refine approach to PPC. (Translate: ROI.)
Everyone has a smartphone or will soon. Looking forward, there is absolutely no justification for not serving their mobile needs.
Naughty: Allowing your big screen only approach to live another year.
Nice: Incorporating mobile strategies, apps, and responsive design into your online marketing plan to help customers regardless of what screen they’re looking at.
Your website is double penalized if it loads slowly. First, the search engines will lower your ranking. Second, visitors will bail.
Naughty: Loading up your site with flash, animations, video, audio or anything that prevents it from load times under 3 seconds.
Nice: Testing your website for performance and putting experts on the job.
It’s amazing and sad how billions of websites look like hell. If anything reflects your brand—or is your brand—it’s your website.
Naughty: Cluttered web pages, rank layouts, and skank imagery.
Nice: Simple, elegant pages featuring ample whitespace that abide by the principles of website usability (i.e. heatmaps, eye tracking, etc.)
Your website should be written, designed and programmed by website professionals.
Naughty: Cutting corners on your website, the foundation of your marketing.
Nice: A team featuring at least one talented copywriter, designer and programmer collaborates with the marketing director to do the job well.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. (Bet you’ve heard that before.) Your online marketing success depends on analytics.
Naughty: Shunning analytics because it’s complex or boring.
Nice: Establishing meaningful metrics and putting in place free and/or paid analytical tools to deliver the indicators you need to refine your website.
Specific components of your website, such as offers, forms, content, and even static pages, can be improved by testing alternate versions against each other.
Naughty: Flying blind with a disregard for what does and doesn’t work.
Nice: Systematic A/B tests that determine how a design, headline, offer, or some key component performs relative to an alternative approach.
Make no mistake. Bigger is better. Your website should be perpetually expanded.
Naughty: Static websites are nearly useless.
Nice: People, plans and processes are in place to regularly deliver more valuable content on your website.
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