Every time I see articles that focus on designing for new apps (like Gutenberg, Wordpress' next-gen editor), the latest design trends (like flat design), or visuals that are supposedly “outside the box” (meaning non-standardized) I have to roll my eyes just a little bit.
I’m not saying these things don’t matter - because they do - but that they should they take a back seat to a few other things. You know, the ones that make you money.
Here are three key elements of your strategy that absolutely cannot be overlooked.
1. Understanding Purpose
Before anything has been drawn or written for your website, you should know what the site's purpose will be. In other words, you should be able to describe who the website is for, and what you want those visitors to do after they’ve arrived.
This is an area where a lot of web designers will make assumptions, but that’s not a great way to build what should be the cornerstone of your sales, marketing, PR, and recruiting campaigns. Instead of thinking that you know what buyers want, or what you have to give them, it’s much better to map things out in advance.
One of the tools we leverage to accomplish this is the marketing persona (or avatar, or ideal client... pick whichever jargon you prefer). Before anything else, we take the time to brainstorm and research the influencers and decision-makers our clients need to appeal to.
The more we know about them, the easier it is to put ourselves in their shoes and get into their heads. That, in turn, makes it easier for us to develop the compelling content and sales funnels that are so crucial to online lead generation.
Until you know who your customers are, what they want, and where you can find them, any website you build is just a piece of art, not a functional part of your business.
2. UX-friendly Website Design
The way you put a website together, and how the finished product looks, is important, but smart website design is more than choosing the right layouts, fonts, and color schemes. It’s also about aligning your marketing goals with the buyer personas.
That means thinking about user interaction and traffic flows so they steer visitors towards igniting positive conversions or purchases. It means choosing the right content management system and creating pages that are stable and fully compatible with mobile devices. And it means generating content that fits with all of these considerations, and demonstrates the ways in which you differ from your competitors.
Those are thoughts that aren’t necessarily mentioned in articles about web design trends, but they are fundamentals that can be easily overlooked. It doesn’t matter how flashy your website is if it wasn’t created with performance and growth in mind.
Form and function go together. Your website has to be visually appealing, but it also needs to be structured in a way that’s consistent with what you are actually trying to accomplish.
3. Activation and Engagement
Even in 2018, a lot of business owners and executives assume that a good website will generate its own traffic and interest. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. It takes a lot of work to interest your prospects and get them to take action.
Activation is commonly thought of as pertaining directly to social media and related content-driven activity. Certainly, you do want to be a thought leader on your blog and a regular source of insights through your social media accounts. These will help you to stay involved in conversations with your customers or clients, and to drive search engine traffic to your website.
However, when it’s done correctly, activation is so much more. It can involve participating in or hosting events, getting mentioned or featured in the media (online or off), and looking for more ways to bring people into the picture and start conversations.
Your activation strategy might include meet ups and face-to-face networking that is just as important as a content or ad strategy. Each of these activities matters because they reinforce each other, and because the benefits of thinking outside the blog-and-promote formula can be immediate.
It goes without saying that you should make the most of content and social engagement when you launch a new website, but you don’t necessarily have to stop there. Inexperienced marketers will do nothing to promote their site, and their better or more ambitious counterparts will keep creating content and starting discussions. Only the best, however, blend the strategies while experimenting with other ways to keep meeting new prospects and sparking their curiosity.
Is Your Website Working On All Three Levels?
For many years, it was enough to have a website that looked like it was professionally designed. Now, searchers and customers are getting smarter and more discriminating - they want to find companies that understand their needs, and demand more in terms of information and engagement.
If your website isn’t delivering that kind of value, it’s going to affect your ability to form relationships and generate leads.
A version of this post was first published on the KAYAK Online Marketing blog.