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If you somehow stumble upon this article, chances are you either have problems with your current website or are in the process of creating a new website for your business.
Over the course of 15 years, I have worked on hundreds of websites in various industries. I learned a few things, mostly through painful experience, that you may find useful in avoiding common mistakes and learning some better practices to improve your next website project.
While it's completely fine to have a website just for the sake of having a website, it's a complete waste of money and time in my humble opinion. If you only need a website to put on your business card, read no further. I strongly recommend you select a simple, ready-made website with the ability to change a few basic things to fit your purpose. My firm belief is that a website is an investment that should return measurable and profitable revenue. Despite this, I don't consider websites to be sources of passive income. Getting anything out of it requires time and money—as with most things.
Keep reading to get some benefit from your website. We'll be dealing with a lot of information, so be aware that it will be a long article. Even though I try to keep everything short and sweet, there are many important aspects to cover. By the end of this article, you'll be more informed about website design and marketing than ever, and you'll be better equipped for success.
Despite the fact that a website can accomplish many different tasks and objectives, having too many goals will prove overwhelming. Wanting to do too many things may overcomplicate your planning process, bump your cost, and confuse your visitors. Overcrowding your website with multiple touchpoints may make it difficult for your visitors to navigate. The majority of users leave a site if they cannot find what they need within a reasonable amount of time.
While it's good to aim for the star, you should also be realistic. I recommend sticking with S.M.A.R.T goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. Some example of these goals are:
Question to ask yourself: What are the top 3 goals/actions that I want my website visitors to perform?
You have your goals, now what? Just like a fisherman whose goal is to catch fish, you now need to know what the fish want. By understanding your fish (erm, I mean audience), you know what bait (I mean value proposition) to get their attention.
Knowing your audience also allows you to put a value proposition that can capture their attention and trigger a conversation.
Here's a tip: don't be greedy. I have seen business owners who tried to define their target audience as "every human on earth", or "people from 18 to 80 years old". When you try to reach out to everyone, you end up with no one. For audiences with very different needs, it is important to clearly define your navigation flow in order to avoid confusing them. In some cases, it's better to create an additional website(s) just for that.
Question to ask yourself: What are my customers' preferences? Am I giving them what they want, not what I want?
Well duh. Obviously, you have a plan. Right? You already know how the role your website will play in your overall marketing and sales process right? You should know how to measure your return on investment for the website right? Otherwise, how do you know the amount of money and time you can invest in your website?
Don't worry too much about all the tools you will need when you first launch. Whenever possible, I strongly recommend doing all the work by hand first. Streamline a marketing process (the funnel) to collect, nurture, and push sales. Manually send out emails, measure how they respond, and change strategy if necessary. As soon as you have figured out a solid process that works for you, then you can investigate tools that can help you automate that process.
Question to ask yourself: What role will my website play in my overall marketing strategy? Am I prepared to spend money, effort, and cross-team coordination to make my website the centerpiece of my marketing game?
To make the best out of your investment, you need to know exactly how much you are willing to invest first. Are you wanting champagne with a beer budget? You may risk getting very bad champagne in that case. Better aim for getting a really good beer with a beer budget.
Cheaper is not always better and more expensive options may not always give you what you want (or can afford). It is better to work with a company that is honest and transparent about what it can deliver and why. Making an informed decision will save time and money in the long run. We have a very informative article which describes various website solutions available on the market and the pros and cons of each option.
Question to ask yourself: What are the things that I must absolutely have and what is the maximum that I am willing to pay?
In the event that you are comfortable managing your own website, ensure that it comes with easy and efficient ways to update information. If you save a few minutes per article post, you can free up a few hours a week, which you could then use for other more productive activities.
Even if you plan to do everything yourself, it's best to make sure you can get help when you need it. Some website agencies may not offer more than technical support, or may not prioritize such service. At Nilead, we host, maintain, backup, and provide technical support all in one single hosting package. We also provide website design, data entry, customization support at a transparent and upfront cost.
Question to ask yourself: Will I update my site content or have someone else do it for me? Do I need a system that allows me to change everything I need without technical skills?
It's time to create your website, there are a few things that you should make a priority, and accessibility is on top of the list.
Question to ask yourself: How will your customers access your website? Do you need to serve different versions of your site to your visitors depending on the devices they are using and the connection speed they have?
When you build a website, you want people to find it. First, you need to think about ranking on search results for relevant keywords. Your website development company should have enough experience to guide you through this step. They may even help you with the initial setup of your website's essential Search Engine Optimization (SEO) configuration.
Many website development firms will also provide SEO services, others may offer to link you with their SEO partners, or willing to work with SEO agencies of your choice. At Nilead we often recommend our clients to pick local SEO partners who have a deep understanding of the market and target audience. We offer FREE technical support as well as affordable managed service to help them launch their marketing campaigns. We have an article for complete beginners to get a basic understanding of SEO.
The next step is to get listed on Google Business, Bing Business, and other local listings that are relevant to your business.
Question to ask yourself: How do my target audience often look for the type of products and services that I offer?
Smartphones are popular with your target audience? If they do, they are likely to visit your site on the phone at least once even if they ultimately make the final purchase on a laptop or desktop.
A layout designed only for desktops may not work well on devices with a smaller screen, text may be impossible to read. Responsive means the design automatically adapts to the user’s screen. A responsive website works well for all devices including mobiles and tablets.
Check out our responsive vs adaptive design article if you want to get more information about different options.
Question to ask yourself: Which device is most likely to be used to access my website?
Web users are often frustrated by the long loading times of websites. The rise of mobile devices has allowed people to access content everywhere, on many different platforms. They expect the results of desired content to be delivered quickly anywhere, anytime.
When they don't get it, they usually bounce. People hate waiting for websites to load and they react by simply going to another website instead.
Question to ask yourself: How long will my visitors wait until they decide to close the tab? Note: Some industries may afford more wait time than others. B2B customers tend to be a bit more patient than B2C customers.
If you have more than 5 pages on your website, you need to organize your content. When designing your website, navigation is key. The navigation system is essentially the map that displays the core places users can visit. It's how users can easily dive deeper into areas such as your services, products, blog, etc. Most of your visitors will not visit more than 2-3 pages, make that count. Ensure that you have prepared different flows to let them get what they look for as quickly as possible before losing them forever.
An unorganized or confusing navigation interface is the worst thing you can find on a site. Overcrowding your navigation, using vague or confusing hypertext, and lack of organization can make it difficult for your visitors to find where they were looking.
Question to ask yourself: Can my visitors find what they want easily within a maximum of 3 clicks?
The value proposition tells your visitors what and why you do what you do. You should align your value proposition with your goals, your strength, and your target audience's desire. If possible, include your value proposition in your headline on your home page. Not every visitor will see your homepage, add your proposition to relevant pages such as about or blog post pages as well. Let the potential customers know exactly what they will be getting if they hire you, buy your product, subscribe to your newsletter, or read your blog.
Question to ask yourself: What do I have to offer and why people should choose me instead of someone else?
The most difficult task is breaking the ice. Once you get your customers started talking, you get a lead that you can start nurturing. I find it best to just act human, try small talk, offer something of value to get their interest.
Is there something that you can offer to your customers that will get them to talk to you or about you? Sometimes it's simpler than you think. For example, if you own a restaurant, perhaps you can share the tips to find and buy fresh ingredients, or some recipes that are not so secret? Check our article on Content Marketing for Beginners to get more ideas.
Question to ask yourself: What can I offer to get people to talk to me or talk about me?
Depending on your business, there should be various suitable Social Media channels to interact with your customers. If you are in the nail salon business, you can include the latest Instagram posts directly on your website. If you are in the textile industry, you can post content on Linkedin or share new designs to Pinterest. Even in traditional industries, you can get creative and build content to improve your brand's social image.
Question to ask yourself: Which social media channels that my direct or in-direct customers may frequent? How can I use these channels to build my brand's image and generate traffic back to my website?
Many believe that email marketing is a thing of the past now that there are so many tools available. Since we receive so many emails every day, it is understandable that most people no longer believe that email marketing will bring them any results. I agree if you send people only unwanted content.
Well-written emails sent to the recipients who request them can be very successful. As email becomes so cheap, an email blast can be extremely powerful, and even moderate success can result in significant traffic increases. Keep in mind that you should not bombard your recipients with emails about everything that happens at your business.
Question to ask yourself: What kind of content can benefit my intended audience and my business at the same time?
Your website may have many pages with so much distraction on each page. A landing page is a web page created specifically to receive traffic often driven by off-site digital marketing efforts. It should expand on the ads' copy and deliver on the ads' promise.
A well-designed landing page will increase ROI by compelling the page visitors to perform the desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for the company's newsletter. The connection between the ad and landing page helps drive conversions by creating a two-pronged message. A targeted audience will find what they expect to find on the page, so they will stay on the page longer and will respond more favorably to a call to action.
Check my other article to know more about landing page and how to use to maximize your ads spending.
Question to ask yourself: Am I driving traffic to my homepage or a web page with too much distraction? Am I struggling with a low number of leads despite high ad spending?
Your leads may come from different sources and may interact with you via different channels (website, social media, SMS, phone, chat, email). If you are already using a CRM system, check if you can integrate your website's data into the system. It can be very useful for your sales staff to know that a certain lead has visited some specific web pages or opened certain emails.
If you are not ready to spend a massive amount of money on big tools such as HubSpot yet, you can check if there is a simpler, cheaper way to get started first. Nilead platform, for example, has a built-in CRM system that can help to track your users' interaction with your website, landing pages, forms, and emails.
Question to ask yourself: How should I utilize the data I collect on my website in a meaningful way toward my goals?
If your visitors keep asking the same questions, can you create a quick blog post to assist them? If you provide a service that needs a quotation, can you create a simple calculator to help your leads estimating the cost before contacting you?
Chat bots are useful to provide instant support, especially when your team is away. Keep in mind that most people want to speak to a real person, so the chat bot should not be the only point of contact. To create meaningful conversation scripts, all chat bots currently available on the market require input and setup by a team with deep knowledge of the products and audience.
Automation tools can assist in sending out emails, reminding support staff of pending tickets, reminding customers of pending invoices, and more. You should only invest time and money in these tools when you have a working, scriptable process that can be automated.
Question to ask yourself: Are there any repetitive tasks that can be automated to free up my team's time?
With so many analytics tools available (both free and commercial), it's easy to measure anything and everything on your website. You can start with adding Analytics code on your website (such as Google Analytics) to get some insight such as:
The Microsoft Clarity tool, for example, can record the users' interactions on your website and replay them later. You may find it tedious to check all these sessions, but do take the time to find out how users interact with your site. My habit is to check these sessions every two weeks for common problems and make improvements where possible.
Don't let vanity metrics derail your team's focus on the business goal. Metrics like Facebook fans and press release returns might impress folks, but they are rarely indicative of revenue.
Question to ask yourself: Which action(s) should I track to measure the success of my marketing effort? Are these actions aligned with the general goals and user flows that I have?
There are literally billions of websites out there. There can be millions of websites competing with you in the same industry. It's difficult to reach the top. Don't be afraid to test new ideas and see which one works, throw 'em up against the wall and see which ones stick.
I'm not saying that you should blindly go do every crazy thing out there. Do your research properly. Put in a solid system to measure the success (or failure) of each campaign, but don't shy away from trying new things. A modern website builder like Nilead will let you deploy new elements, forms, landing pages to quickly test and optimize for better results.
Question to ask yourself: What else can I try to get more visitors and leads?
Vu Nguyen is an entrepreneur, developer, and founder of Nilead. He loves backend website development and has experience in eCommerce (owning an online store as well as being a developer), Search Engine Optimization, UX Design, and Content Strategy.
Since 2005, Vu has headed and overseen UX design teams for projects in corporations, start-ups, individuals, etc., regardless of their size. He has been involved in both the creative and technical aspects of each project - from ideation to concept and vision, prototype building to detailed design, and build-up to deployment.