The most important thing to do if you’re going to start looking after a website, or have one built, is to understand the why, who, what and how of it all. The most important question being ‘Why does this website exist?’
If you can answer all these questions below, then you’re qualified to move onto the next lesson.
WHY does this website exist?
Whilst humans can spend many hours pondering on the reasons behind their existence, websites were made by humans. For a purpose. And this must not be forgotten.
More often than not, reasons for why businesses have websites is to generate an income. This is either by selling a product or service.
You can generate income via your website in several ways (please note, this is not an extensive list):
- By selling a service or product directly via your website.
- By encouraging people to sign up to an email list so that you can target customers directly. You can also use this as a way to get more useful data such as address, telephone number, interests etc from your customers which will increase the accuracy of your targeted marketing.
- By encouraging users to download a resource or guide that will increase your reputation in your field. You may even hold back your download in exchange for more information from the user.
- By selling advertising space on your website.
- By including a ‘donate’ button on your website. You don’t have to be a charity to have one of these. If you’re providing content that your readers find valuable, they can be encouraged to donate money to keep your website going. If you’re a charity, then you can obviously also ask for money to be donated.
- By including content or links to another website that other companies pay for.
Depending on the business, one or more of the above tactics can be used.
TASK: Write down all the things that you want your website or the section that you manage, to do, in order of priority.
WHO is the website aimed at?
If your answer is everyone, rethink.
Your website should have been built with a target audience/s in mind. Once you understand who this is, you can begin to find out more about their behavior online and adapt your website and its content for them.
TASK – Once you have identified your target audience, think about the other types of websites they would visit also and see how those are laid out and the site functionality. What do they do differently to you? Identify the elements of other sites that you like and those that you don’t.
HOW am I driving traffic to my website?
It’s all very well having a website but that doesn’t mean people will automatically flock to it. With an estimated 186 million active websites (interestingly, apparently there are 447 million inactive websites) there are more websites in total than any one person can visit in a lifestyle. What are the chances that they visit yours?
TASK: Write a list of all the different ways you hear about a website and why you visit them. Do you visit a website because you’ve seen a good advert? Do you use Google to find different websites? Do you visit a website because of a recommendation? Or a status update on Facebook?
Another ‘how’ is ‘how does my website work?’ If you’re the content manager for your website, you need to know inside and out what your website can do in its present state, and what it cannot. How will you be updating your website? Using a Content Management System? Or do you have web developers? If you’re using a content management system, do you know how to use it to its full potential? It may sound silly but there are a lot of people out there with a hugely powerful CMS behind their website using only a small percentage of its worth.
If you or your company want a website and if you answer yes to any of the below reasons for having one, rethink. Or talk to someone who knows more about digital marketing than you. If you get a website built ‘just for the sake of it’ and without having pinned down answers to the above questions, it is likely you will be wasting time and money on a useless venture. There is nothing more frustrating asking someone why they have a website and for them not to know.
If you agree with any of the following, do not invest in a website just yet.
- My competitor has a website
- Everyone else has a website
- I want to have a URL on my business card
- I’m not sure why I need one but I can get it for free
WHAT do I want people to do once they come to my website?
Congratulations for getting people to come to your website. The hard work doesn’t end there however, as visitors need to be clear what the website’s expectation of them is.
If you have one or more target audiences, is it easy for them to understand which sections of the site are dedicated to them?
What is the action that you want your user to take on your site? Is your website easy for the user to navigate and find what they’re looking for?
Once you are comfortable answering the why, who, what and how of your websites, you’re ready to move onto Lesson Two: Training your website to work for you >