I talk with business owners all the time about the impact a good website should have on business. Unfortunately for many, the facts show their sites aren’t doing much at all to help their business, instead they’ve become just another way to spend the money they have less and less of.
I’ve made this list of 10 things I feel all website owners should know so it might help get more sites on the right path online.
- Who is the competition
- Who are the customers (users, visitors) & more importantly, what do they want
- Why the website matters & how it will continue to matter (relevance to your audience)
- What is the website personality and tone of voice
- Technically, how is the site performing
- Monetarily, how is the site performing
- Competitively, how is the site performing
- What is the website’s purpose (information, entertainment, lead gen, direct revenue, etc.)
- What about the site is worthy of recommendation or sharing with others socially
- At what point will the website be over your head
This list will be available in two formats, the free brief breakdown you’ll read below and an expanded format with greater detail and diy exercises available via download as a whitepaper (coming soon).
1. Who is the competition?
Knowing who the competition is offers many benefits but it is what you do with that knowledge that will send you either on a path of failure or one of success. Some words of caution, copy competitors at your own risk. Just because your competitor is doing something doesn’t mean you ought to also. Many companies lose their identity by adopting too much from the competition. Don’t lose yourself trying to become what appears to be popular with consumers.
Your competitors are the companies that get between you and your prospects. If somebody is selling snake oil and hurting your potential clients in the process, know about it, rise above it, and dominate through selling the benefits of choosing You instead.
2. Who is your customer?
Who really wants what you’ve got? Is your product or service a necessity or luxury? Does it benefit one person at a time or many all at once? If you’re unclear about who can buy your stuff, you’ll waste tons of time selling to people that cannot. Once you know who, learn why they buy. Knowing your customer’s motivations for visiting your website will be key in developing the right content to speak to those motivations.
Example: Why does a golfer buy a ‘driver’ to add to his golf clubs? He wants to his the ball longer distances. It’s not important that the club is painted blue, what matters is – if I buy this ‘driver’, I’ll hit 20% longer drives.
3. Why does your site matter?
Are you doing good, are you trusted in a often skepticized industry, is there important information you will make available on the website that has a positive impact in some way? Ultimately, you ought to be proud of the ways your product or service is making a difference. Understanding those moments and nurturing them into a company ‘way of life’ can do wonders for your brand. Websites as extensions of the brand, can connect with your audience in a way that goes well beyond the product itself. Think of Apple, ‘think different’ right? In fact, the connection Apple Inc. has with their audience is so strong that people world wide ‘must have’ whatever they make. It almost doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is, they just gotta have it, usually the day it becomes available.
4. What is the personality or tone of voice of your website?
Do you like being talked down to? I didn’t think so, neither does your website traffic. If your website had an actual voice, if it physically spoke to your visitors, would it sound like Mother Theresa or Mister T? It’s important to commit to developing content with personality and in a tone of voice that properly represents your company’s core values. This one isn’t very hard to understand, but often in practice it’s hard to maintain – it requires a true commitment.
Writing this caused me to look in the mirror, yeah even we need reminders from time to time.
Site Performance, how is the site doing…
A websites technical performance is easily measured through download tests, page speed analysis, validation tools & user experience testing. The various tests available to website owners are in place to help identify the wins and losses that occur over time on a website. Metrics like traffic volume, keywords, traffic sources and conversion are all very important factors that will help you to grade a site’s overall technical performance. Answering a few simple questions like, ‘does it load in all browsers?’ , ‘is it being found in search?’ or ‘does it comply with best practices and webmaster guidelines?’ will tell you a lot about a site’s overall value and it’s ability to generate revenue and stay competitive.
In terms of conversion specifically, how well are you doing? Websites rarely get placed online to collect dust but over time so many end up that way. Understand what your site is online to do and track whether or not it’s doing it’s job. While tracking conversion is important, it can not fix or improve things all by itself. Problems with conversion can be the result of many different factors, color, trust, layout, errors, etc. Sometimes the offer isn’t good enough. Other times the offer is fine, and the consumers just don’t believe it’s trustworthy. Working through alternative designs or layouts and testing their individual impact on the goal is in some cases the only way to improve a webpage’s monetary performance.
Know where you stand in the marketplace. If bad things are being said about your competition, make an effort to make sure the areas of weakness for the competition are areas of strength for you. If bad things are being said about you, it’s probably time to focus on some reputation management and possibly some repair.
8. What is the site’s purpose?
Why was the website built? What do you need to communicate to your specific demographic? Whatever the purpose was for building the site, do you feel like it’s really doing it’s job? With every website, there is bound to be areas that need improvement, things that can be done to improve the conversion of site visitors into informed users, leads or buyers. However, if you’re unclear about what purpose your website has, you’ll never really be able to set your compass in a specific direction of improvement.
9. What about the website is worthy of recommendation or sharing with others?
If your website doesn’t present any unique value to visitors I would argue that there is very little reason for anyone to participate with it. If there is little actual value to your website no one will recommend it to their friends or make an effort to share it socially.
If you’re not a user of ‘social media’ (facebook, twitter, etc) and don’t spend lots of time online, I’m sure this one might sound a little silly to you. I guarantee there is nothing silly about it. It’s not a fad or a joke, the reality of social media and its impact on business growth is such a big deal, some companies have completely abandoned their traditional advertising (newspapers, phone books, billboards, radio & tv) to pursue social media as the chosen advertising platform for growing their business. We take calls from business owners regularly that have this one objective in mind, and we project the volume of those calls to only increase.
10. At what point will the website be over your head?
What are you good at? There are bound to be portions of your internet marketing that you will feel very comfortable having under your direction and others you’ll feel overwhelmed trying to learn. We suggest finding someone you can trust to do the portions you aren’t comfortable doing. We could even make a case for choosing only one thing to be responsible for and delegating the rest, but that’s probably a topic for a whole separate post.
I love the saying ‘…a jack of all trades but a master of none’ because it illustrates a problem I believe too many business owners find themselves in, especially in relation to operating a website. All too often business owners hold onto big pieces of their business too long. A company website is clearly one of the bigger pieces. And while the fear to let go is understandable, it’s also potentially the one thing preventing their website’s success.
If you’re a business owner and are having trouble answering the questions above, I’d suggest turning to the web professional you trust to get their help answering them. If you don’t have someone to turn to, take time to perform due diligence in finding a web professional; ask for references, check past client cases and seek out their online reputation. Having a company you can trust when things get complicated is invaluable.