6 Simple steps to an Effective Web Strategy
It was a pleasure working with Okyere, every step of the way he provided strong sense of direction that made our web site matching online brand for our services. Tony Quaye, NDK Financial Services Ltd
With a historic worldwide recession looming and unpredictable business climate a certainty; the most appropriate thing for most businesses to do; is to utilize the internet, but to do so requires an appropriate and correctly executed web strategy. An effective web strategy serves to provide real value for your company or you risk wasting time and limited resources. In this article, 6 very simple steps have been outlined to help you create an effective and measurable web strategy that will help your company remain flexible but focused on your business objectives.
What do you think is an essential part of any web strategy? Let us know in the comments!
1. Establish Goals
A web strategy isn’t an end in itself – what are your long term business goals? How will your website (or any other online project) support these goals?
NOT a goal: “We need to get on Facebook” or “We need a website”
GOAL: “We want to reach new customers” or “We want to differentiate our products from our competitors”
With a specific and realistic objective in mind, a strategy can be created that is flexible in the face of the latest changes in business and technology but still focused on your goals. And without your company’s goals, your strategy will be impossible to measure (see step 6)
2. Understand your Audience
Getting to know your customers is a basic but essential stage of any online project (and offline projects, for that matter!). By gaining insight into your online audience, your company can offer something valuable and relevant for your customers in return, like a social media page to interact with customers, weekly deals or discounts emailed to loyal clients, or a continuity offer.
Create Customer Profiles
Start by creating a profile for each of your target audience segments, including current and potential customers. Collect and include data on your current customers, such as how they purchase from or interact with your company; their preferred methods of communication; and their purchase history, and keep this information up to date.
Find Customer Data
Use the web to find other info on your audience(s), including:
- website analytics to see where visitors are coming from and how they find your site
- online surveys and polls through your website or an email newsletter
- monitoring social media for complaints/compliments/comments about your company, brand or industry
- tracking online forums where your target audience communicates with one another
Also track your competitors and who they are targeting. Can you offer something better to their target audience? Or maybe your company can target a different group that your competitors are neglecting?
3. Think Beyond Design
Design is often considered the most essential element of a website. The image and branding of an company is important, of course, but what about the functionality of the site? How will the website support your long-term business goals?
Take a moment and forget about fonts, colours and what you want out of the website and consider the user’s experience.
- Who are your target audiences?
- What do these customer segments want from your website?
- Do you have a way to find out this information, or are you working off assumptions?
Once you have determined your targeted customer segments and the level of information you need to provide to these customers, the layout and design of the site can focus on the user experience rather than only branding and image. At this stage, the design can then guide the user between each relevant section of the website in order to achieve a desired outcome.
4. Form a Content Strategy
A content strategy plan can be an intensive step in your web strategy, but it’s essential because it feeds into so many other aspects of your strategy, including design, search engine marketing and search engine optimisation, and social media. It’s always tempting to push content back to the last stages of a website or online project but this can lead to numerous problems:
- mangling the content to match the design
- forgetting important details for the sake of time
- missing out on big SEO opportunities
- compromising on your message and the information you share with customers.
To establish a content strategy an company must plan for the creation, upkeep and use (and re-use) of content. And remember: “content” is more than just the text on a website – it’s also video, audio, documents, blogs and images.
Create content: As mentioned above, think about what various customer segments are going to be looking for on your website and build content around this information. This will also help form your SEO strategy, including what customers need and search for and the language they use to search.
Maintain content: The upkeep of content is just as important as the creation of content. For any piece of content, like news or blogs, you have to determine the long-term maintenance of the site, like who will be responsible for creating and uploading the content; who will be responding to any comments or feedback you receive; who will keep the content up to date; and how often will you post information like news and blogs.
A recent update from Google regarding its “freshness algorithm” also emphasises the importance of relevant content like blogs and videos. The latest content not only positions your company as a thought leader but can also improve your search results.
Repurpose content: Re-using content in other digital (or offline) channels doesn’t mean just posting a blog on your website then tweeting a link to the post. When you create meaningful content that is useful to your target audience, you should maximise this content across (relevant) channels – think podcasts, videos and even just a PDF to download. What media will be valuable to customers? Social media also comes into play here, but more on that below…
5. Get Social
Planning your social media strategy can be tricky business, but by laying out the foundations of your web strategy, a social media plan will start to fall into place (even if you’re not quite ready to enter the social media space just yet).
Whether you’re grudgingly accepting social media or happily bounding into this area of web strategy, forget about the latest tech trends and consider your business objectives.
6. Measure and Manage
With a realistic and specific goal in mind, you also need a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to keep your goal on track and to move your strategy into the future.
KPIs should act as a base for your web plan as you move forward. As you make mistakes and navigate the sometimes chaotic world of the web, KPIs will evolve, but having some type of metrics (whether they are simple or more in-depth) is essential to determine if your current performance is in line with your business objectives.
Saying you want to attract visitors to your site isn’t enough here; how many visitors? What type of visitors? Other examples of KPIs to measure the performance of your website could be:
- a number of visitors to the blog section of the website
- a number of newsletter registrations
- a certain amount of event bookings
- time spent on the website
Measurable benchmarks will also allow you to learn and evolve. Analyse the data and then act. Need help knowing which data is important? Or what to do with all the data you’ve collected? Consider utilising a third-party to help you sort through the often overwhelming world of analytics – or you could Get Started with complete step by step help from us!
Well, this is what I have to say for now, but… What do you think is the most important aspect of a web plan? Your comments are welcome.
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